The Pool Remodel (NOT a DIY)

Well, the day finally came. The day (actually, about two weeks) that we’ve been waiting for. The Pool was finally resurfaced. I am keeping Pool capitalized because it was just That Important.

Our entire spring and summer DIY projects were all centered around this moment. It felt like expecting a baby–all this prep and remodeling everything in the backyard for the big arrival.

First, a guy came out on a Friday morning to drain The Pool. The company asked us to keep gates unlocked and remove the pool fence, which we did. We also realized that our backyard looks sooooo much better without a pool fence around it. Dang kids. Oh well, safety first!

He hooked a hose to a pump and ran it into our sewer in the front yard. Took about a day to drain the whole thing. I should mention that I found a notice on my front door from the city, informing me that they came out and inspected my sewer and found it was in perfect working order. I guess that volume of water being drained raises red flags.

I couldn’t wait to come home from work and see The Pool after it was drained! Here are some pics. Looked like a ghetto motel pool, IMHO.


ghetto pool 6ghetto pool 4ghetto pool 5























We inspected the bowels of the deep end and were disgusted by what we found. You never really can see what lies beneath, in the deep end especially. Yeesh. Embarrassing.

ghetto pool 2

Ghetto pool

ghetto pool 9

ghetto pool 10

ghetto pool 11

ghetto pool 12


ghetto pool7

ghetto pool8
















































































So the pool was drained, and the tube sat there over the weekend. Then part of the next week. We called the company, and they thought we didn’t pick our tile out yet, but we did– months prior. So they arranged a date to come jackhammer the pool down to the substrate. I had no idea what that meant, till it was done. We warned the neighbors of the noise. The ones who answered the door, anyway. This process took a day. Here is what The Pool looked like naked:


Side note: our pool serviceperson is awesome. She totally and genuinely cares about customers and their pools. We have had her service the pool weekly for the last 12 years. She is so patient with us when we “forget” (or laze out) of performing routine maintenance on The Pool. She told us many times we need to empty the sweep regularly, especially because of the big ol’  tree in the neighbor’s yard that sheds all sorts of debris into The Pool. She also told us to regularly brush the pool (did it once in 12 years). She also declined to recommend any plastering companies, because she didn’t want to feel responsible if the deal went south. She said many companies give kick-backs to service people if they recommend their business, but she doesn’t want any part of that. Like I said, she’s awesome.

Anyway, she knows pool care inside and out, and is protective of “her” pools. When The Pool was stripped to the substrate, she noticed the broken rebar sticking out of the hole. She asked if they told us what the plan was for them. She was worried it would rust the new plaster over time. My husband asked the workers, and they said they spray with yellow….stuff…that prevents rusting, then plaster over it. Our pool serviceperson reluctantly agreed this was ok, but again, she only wants to make sure our pool (her pool) is up to par.


pool stripped 4
Yellow stuff should prevent rusting


Ok, back to the Naked Pool. It was weird- lumpy and ridge-y. I was wondering how they’d plaster over it.

Next came the tile. That also took about a day for them to remove the old, 80’s, stained (I told you we didn’t brush the pool) tile. Don’t let the screen door hit ya, tile! When I came home from work, I felt like I was gazing at a newborn when I saw the new tile! It matched our newly remodeled yard perfectly!

pool tile 4

pool tile 2pool tile 8

pool tile 3
We totally sprung for the turtle mosaic


We discovered the company grouted over the filling hole–the hole that when we turn the faucet, it fills the pool. We sorta need that. So hubby called them back and they chiseled out the majority of it for us.

We also didn’t hear anything about our pool lights we asked for. We called again, and they sent the electric guy out. We got two new LED lights. We had the choice of colored or white lights, but we chinced out at went with the cheaper white lights.

Then came the day of plaster. This was about a week and a half after The Pool was drained. I  had hubby send photos to me throughout the day because I was so anxious! When I saw the photos I was worried the color was too gray. We chose the Diamond-Brite finish, and had originally wanted a darker color We told the company we wanted “Midnight Blue”. The owner warned us about it- he said some customers were not happy with the outcome, because they said their pools ended up looking like a “Dough-Boy” pool, especially in smaller pools. Plus, the Midnight Blue was significantly more expensive.

So, we went with “Manzanillo Medium”, which was a bright teal/cobalt color. Anywho, when the plastering was being done I thought it looked too gray. But I knew when it would be filled it would look different, so I didn’t get too hyper over it. As long as the 80’s blue was gone.

So I didn’t know this, but filling The Pool can happen right after plastering. What I did not know, was that one should not wander through a recently-plastered pool while it’s  filling. Sure, the instructions said for no one to get the pool for about 10 days after plastering, but I assumed that meant swimming. So here’s what happened to Amanda.

I got home from work and noticed The Pool was filling, and the floor return covers were left off from the plasterers. They did not tell us if this was intentional or not. We tried to call, text, and email the company to find out, but it was after 5 pm. No answer. It would be hard to replace them after the pool was filled, and I was freaking out! Screwing them in underwater? No way!

So we called our pool serviceperson. Left a message, and she called back immediately. I was already in the filling pool trying to get it on. The damn thing would not go on right-the cap screws on and regular screw hold it in place. I heard my husband tell our pool serviceperson “Yeah…Amanda’s in The Pool”….then to me: “She said get out of the pool right away!” So I hustled out.

The reason why people should not go into a newly plastered pool as it’s filling is because if your feet get wet, and you walk on the plaster, it leaves a perfect footprint that will remain on the plaster for all eternity.

I was devastated. We spent $11,000 on this remodel, and I ruined it on the first day. Our pool lady came by to look at everything that same evening, but I was too ashamed to show my face. My husband said she told him not to worry about it. It gives it character. A great big ol’ footprint. NOTE: Once the pool was completely filled, the footprints disappeared. YAY!!

Another note: We called the pool company the following Monday, and they said the floor return covers were left off intentionally. They tend to leave black rings as the plaster cures. Would’ve been nice to know before I almost ruined an $11,000 project.

Anywho, The Pool was filling via a garden hose. It was actually a calculated system, this pool filling process. I assumed we would just turn on the faucet and it would fill. Nope. The garden hose has to sit on the bottom of The Pool. They attached an empty water bottle to the hose to keep it afloat as it filled. The reason is so that it would not rest on the bottom or against the sides and mar the plaster. The splashing from the pool fill hole would also mar the plaster.

So the hose ran for about 19 hours before The Pool was completely filled. Have not yet received my water bill. However, I like what it looked like so far!


pool filling 1
Looks kinda like Lake Louise….

pool fillingPool plastered


pool done 8













We were eager to test the lights once the pool was filled. Lo and behold, they did not work. We emailed the company and they told us they left off the pool light switch on the main breaker, because many people go and try to test the lights when the pool is empty–a big NO-NO! He told me to turn on the breaker and reset the CGFI or GFCI or whatever it’s called. Well, I have about 5 of them in my house, and not sure which one went to the lights. Naturally, I tried the one newly installed by the pool pump by the company’s electrician. But it did not work. Tried the rest of them in my house. Did not work. I sent a snarky email to the company the following day asking them to please come out and check it. We are not electricians, and I didn’t feel comfortable dinking around with electrical circuitry. They agreed, but of course Murphy’s Law dictates that when you ask the chemical guy to try it, it works immediately. Like literally, flipping-a-switch-immediately. We may not be electricians, but we are not stupid either. We did what we were told. Arghhh.

OK, so lights work. Now: the Chemical Drama. We paid to have the company handle the startup for a month, which was a huge relief for our pool lady (but she still came by weekly, sometimes twice a week to check on “her” pool). We were responsible for brushing the plaster three times a day. This is to remove the dust from the plaster and push it towards the pump (which ran 24/7). The chemical guy came by every other day or so the first week after plastering. It looked good, only a little cloudy which I expected.

One day we woke up and the pool was green. Green! Green like Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe. Kinda pretty, but not normal. We called the chemical guy, who said he’d be back the next day. I had a coworker tell me it could be the heat causing the chemicals to get out of whack (we had temps over 100 degrees that week).  So the guy came the following day, dumped in some chemicals, and reset the pump to run 8 hours instead of 24 hours. He said it didn’t need to run all the time at this point. My husband texted the pool lady and she said that wasn’t right, and came over to check it out. We turned the pump back on to run 24 hours. Finally, after 2 days, the color was back to normal. I did email the plastering company to let them know the company they subcontract out to let our pool turn green. Thought they should know, and I was a little peeved.

Ok so finally, after 2 weeks of hiccups, worry, and brushing (a great workout, BTW) our Pool turned a beautiful, refreshing, crystal clear, BLUE sparkling oasis. The company did a great job with The Pool, despite the communication issues (not necessarily a surprise with contractors). We are very happy with the outcome.

I am hating my house less and less……

Before and after:



Pool Brick Makeover

When we got the estimate for our pool resurfacing, I asked for the bricks surrounding the pool and planter to be removed and replaced with flagstone. That alone would have cost $5000 extra, on top of the resurfacing cost. Gulp. I decided I could live with the bricks, but wanted to give them new life. We could have waited till after the pool was resurfaced, but we’d have new tile and I didn’t want to worry about discoloring them.


Pool brick before
“Before” photo of the pool brick. And the Fatal 4-Way Handstand Competition
Pool brick before1
Note the sun-bleached and discolored brick

The poor, defenseless brick around my pool gets direct California afternoon sun, beating down on it, everyday, for the last 28 years. Most of it is sun-bleached. The brick-lined planters behind the pool gets more shade, and thus were a different shade of sun-bleachedness.

I googled brick painting and staining, and was admittedly turned off by painting. Probably because many sites I came across had brick painted white, and I didn’t like the flat, uniform look. I looked up brick staining, as I thought it would give me a more natural look, and found I needed to find out if my bricks were sealed or coated first. That would determine if it would accept a stain.

So, I performed a water test. I assumed (incorrectly) that the bricks would be unsealed, as they are right next to the pool. Sealed surfaces= slick surfaces, or so I thought. The water test proved me wrong. I poured a little water on the brick and sure enough, it beaded up rather than absorb into it. Fan-freaking-tastic.

The wonderfully robust internet yielded a few options- test a bit of lacquer thinner on it, repeat the water test, and see if it removed the sealer. Nope. The next step would be to try a commercial sealer remover. As I gazed over the 264 bricks surrounding my pool, I quickly decided I would go with paint. I was not going to even try un-sealing 264 bricks.

We took a trip to Home Depot, and the staff recommended a bonding primer first, followed by the paint. I had forgotten I already had bonding primer from my last project, and ended up buying another one (I’m not bitter).

Behr Bonding Primer

I pressure washed the bricks pretty thoroughly, and hubby trimmed the razor-sharp rosebushes and juniper branches in the planter. I took a regular nylon paintbrush and painted the bonding primer on each brick. Each. And every. Brick. Don’t panic that it looks like skim milk at first- it dries clear.

Now the color. Behr has a wide variety of concrete and masonry paint, and you can choose which finish you prefer. I wanted a low-gloss color, so I chose the “Low Luster” base and had it tinted to “Red Brick”. Pretty fitting, I think.

Porch and Patio Paint-red brick


Home Depot staff advised to use a roller, per Behr’s recommendation. I completely ignored this and bought a paintbrush as I thought it would give me more control of the color. I’m glad I did.

I taped around the perimeter of the pool, and then thought I would tape the grout in between the brick. I got through about 7 bricks when I thought “Nope. No more”. It would’ve taken me all day just to tape. So I pulled a classic Amanda move and told myself “just be careful”.

Then I painted. And painted. And painted. Then painted some more. 264 bricks. In the heat. It was the most tedious DIY project thus far. After about 50 bricks I got smart and used a cushion for my knees. Which promptly became spattered with paint. Some of the bricks had gouges and it was difficult to get the paint into, but I kind of liked the look- it looked more “aged”.

After I got all 264 bricks painted (but who’s counting?), I debated about the grout. Should I leave it gray? It didn’t look too bad, but I decided it would bother me to leave it gray. I have an earth-tone theme going in the backyard. It would bug me. Then I lightbulb fired in my exhausted brain- my leftover concrete stain! I had a half a gallon left from the patio resurfacing project. It was the lighter “Saltillo Tile” color, and I thought it would look great with the brick red color.


Behr Saltillo
Looks darker than it actually is

I started by using a 1 inch paint brush to apply the stain between the bricks. It colored the grout perfectly, and covered the “oops” paint I got onto the grout (I guess I wasn’t all that careful sometimes). However, the flyaway bristles were getting the stain on the brick. I switched to a foam applicator and it worked much better. Warning: a little concrete stain in a foam applicator goes a long way. Press the excess against the side of the can first.

Foam brush

This was the easiest part of the project, although also tedious. Per Home Depot staff, sealing is not necessary if you use bonding primer. I didn’t want to seal it anyway until after the pool is resurfaced, do I can touch up any dings the brick might sustain.

Here is the finished project!

Pool brick 2Pool brick 3Pool Brick 4Pool brick 5

Pool brick 6
Enzo figuring out the pool sweep



Pool brick 7Pool brick1