Side Yard

June 7th, 2010

With my new found welding powers I am psyched to start welding up a fire pit, edging, shade structure and a planter for the side yard. Ambitious yes. Impossible? Maybe. I’m going to start with the fire pit and go from there.

Unfortunately the summer heat that has finally hit Hemet and with it I’ve started to wonder how we can add a small cheap pool to The Brick House. A tiny pool, just big enough to get wet and cool down in but not ambitious enough to need to meet codes and require professional installation. My sister suggested this puffy thing, but while we were in Joshua Tree last week I saw a really amazing DIY galvanized livestock tank pool. A similar version can be seen here at Waldorf Modern.

I was never really happy with what we had going on in the landscaping of the side yard, so I redesigned around the idea of installing a little DIY livestock tank pool.

I visited my local livestock supply and found that they had a 10′ and an 8′ version of the round tank.

The 8′ version is $374 and the 10′ is $560. Ouch, pricey. Delivery is only $10 though! Our house is literally right around the corner from this place and yeah, it can be a little rural around these parts. When I called the other 15 or so livestock supplies in a 50 mile radius I found that this local place was the only one that stocked a 10′ version, and surprisingly, had the best price.

Sorry for the crappy iPhone pics.

I also went to the local pool supply place to check out pumps/filters. I found this small one for about $50, but it seems like a pretty temporary solution and the filters would need to be changed every two weeks. At $10 a pop, that seems like some pricey maintenance. This Hayward unit is $269 and the filter needs to be changed yearly. This more expensive unit seems like a bit of overkill for the size of the pool. I want something in the middle, something to filter 750 gallons easily and that can be installed on a pretty permanent bases. I was also thinking of doing this whole pool with salt water instead of worrying about chemicals and such.

Needless to say the pool store workers though I was a fucking idiot. I felt like one. I’m not sure how to solve the filtration / salt water / pump situation.

If this pool idea somehow works out then we would adjust the rest of the landscape. I want to throw down pea gravel in a big L shape over a base of decomposed granite. I also want to add a Palo Verde tree with a hot rolled steel ring around the base to echo the pool shape and a big cactus in the back. Then we would use railroad ties as a stepping pathway to the pool. I found this great image of a railroad tie driveway that inspired the idea but have totally lost it. Damn you internet!

This is what it would look like when you are floating comfortably in the pool. We could get a couple of loungers to relax and sun bath nude on. No tan lines! Horrified neighbors!

We would still have a sun shade over the pool to keep it all cool and shady and the masonry wall for privacy.

I think a small pool would be really great and usable thing to have out here in the desert. It’s hot like 75% of the year and we’ve been just so desperate to take a cool dip for the last few years. So for $500 – $700 we could probably build this thing. Is it worth it? Or do we go the ugly doughboy route?

Here are some tank pool images I found over the week. I totally didn’t keep track of where I found them at because I’m a terrible blogger. I haven’t been able to track down a whole lot if info around on how to build one of these things…

That green one looks horrifying. But its got a slide!

Stupid idea or brilliant? I can’t tell yet. There is a whole lot of potential for failure.

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  1. Robyn on 06/08/2010:

    I think its an awesome idea! Youve got the wheels in my head turning now (like I need another dream project). The Waldorf site said that they dont need chemicals or ph balance- do you know why that is?

    My “simple” dream pool is at Hotel San Jose in Austin. Its very small and simple.

    I think this steel pool is a great idea and one of the best looking alternatives to all the above ground pools Ive seen so far.

  2. THE BRICK HOUSE on 06/08/2010:

    I emailed them, and they ended up going with the chemicals eventually.

    I think we might have to as well…

  3. Natalie on 06/08/2010:

    I love it! Although I’m sure that the ugly “doughboy” could have the outside adapted with a bit of steel and your new welding skills… Just thinking that if that solves the pump/filtration problem it could be an alternative.

  4. Kate F. on 06/08/2010:


    One thing about railroad ties, though–they tend to smell bad when they heat up in the sun, I guess because they’re permeated w/ tar or whatever to keep from rotting? Maybe it’s creosote. They were used all over the place for edging in my home town and I can almost feel that smell when I think about it. It might take away from the hip/oasis feel a bit!

  5. ModFruGal on 06/08/2010:

    I went to a farm where a HUGE one of those livestock tanks was converted to a pool…they build a wood deck around part of it even since it was on a bit of a slope. They skim coated the bottom with cement I’m guessing to slope the water toward the newly made drain? They used chlorine etc..but it totally worked. You can do it. Ties are a nice solution for you on that path too since it’s so dry. Out here they just rot.

  6. ModFruGal on 06/08/2010:

    BUILT even.

  7. Jenni on 06/08/2010:

    I love the idea of the steel pool — it seems to fit the aesthetic of your home much better. Way to get creative!

  8. amy h on 06/08/2010:

    I can’t remember the exact issue, but one of the recent issues of Dwell had a livestock tub in its backyard. It was a desert house, too, I believe. I like the tubs better than the puffy thing, unless you built something around the puffy thing to hide its, uh, puffiness.

  9. Kara on 06/08/2010:

    I saw the same thing in a magazine too. I don’t think it was Dwell though. And in it, they solved the filter problem. It may have been in Do it Yourself.

  10. Jaime on 06/08/2010:

    How do they stay cool? Wouldn’t the metal get very hot in the summer?

  11. April on 06/08/2010:

    It looks great on your sketchup (you’re a master at it, obviously), but if it’s really that shallow of a pool, it won’t stay cool long. It will be more like the ambient air temp…? Especially being metal.

  12. April on 06/08/2010:

    What about sinking it? Then at least you’d have the insulation of the earth for keeping it cool? But it presents a few more problems, too…

  13. Tracey on 06/08/2010:

    While my dream is to have a pool of my own one day, I can’t help feel like this one might be a set up for disappointment. Kids would like it, but wouldn’t it just sort of feel like an over-sized bathtub that requires a whole lot of work?
    Your yard layout looks so great though, and the look of the pool I agree is awesome.

    I suppose if it is just to cool off, you could build a super phat outdoor shower fairly affordably, or for that matter, a cool water feature/fountain that would run only when you want it too…make it big enough and you could run around in it!

  14. amy h on 06/08/2010:
  15. amy h on 06/08/2010:

    Another idea: if it is near a water line, just fill it up when you want to use it. Forget about trying to keep it cool or filtering it. If you keep it the size of a bathtub, it shouldn’t be too much of a waste of water. Sorry for the repeated comments — for some reason this pool is stuck in my brain this morning.

  16. amdd on 06/08/2010:

    We have an 8′ wading pool for the kids. We just empty it and refill it once a week. (Its at the top of a slope, so we can drain it by siphing with hoses. We direct the water to the garden.) During a week when it’s full, I cover it with a layer of bubble wrap I cut to fit the diameter of the pool. It keeps the leaves and bugs out.

  17. Coletta on 06/08/2010:

    OMG…DO NOT get a doughboy…those are so fucking TACKY!
    I love these metal containers. My friend had one when I was a kid and it was great. The 10 footer will look great too with all the landscaping you are doing!

    FYI on the railroad ties…make sure you get the NON-treated ones otherwise you won’t be able to walk on them from all the chemicals that ooz out of them!

  18. Jason on 06/08/2010:

    I like it aesthetically. But if you left it filled, not only would the tank itself get hot, but the water wouldn’t maintain a refreshing temperature. Stinky, tepid water in no time!

    Stop by a local farm and test the cow-water, see how hot it gets. #ewgross

  19. Shannon on 06/08/2010:

    Check your local building code before you go for it. I don’t know about Cali, but in Michigan, where I’m from, anything that can hold 24″ of water requires all the same safety stuff as a regular pool (fencing, etc.). I used to work for a building inspector who just LOVED to shut down people’s not-up-to-code pools… but in his defense, they are a very real danger to wandering children.

  20. emilie on 06/08/2010:

    just came across a joshua tree rental that has a cowboy pool
    looks great! i want one in my backyard in LA. i’m big on the idea of it being an outdoor soaking tub, where you just fill as needed and then drain to water the plants.
    check out DWELL April 20010 pg 82, blue sky prototype prefab home in yucca valley with a cowboy hot tub.

  21. emilie on 06/08/2010:

    here’s a link to the dwell pic:

  22. Ashley on 06/08/2010:

    I wish I owned a home right now, b/c I would just copy all of your ideas. The metal option looks like heaven in the desert.

  23. My grandparents had a 10′ “pool” like this when we were kids. They just rolled it out for the weekend, or the week, or whatever, then emptied it, turned it on it’s side, and stored it on the (hidden) side of the house. No pumps, no chemicals, no wasted electricity, and probably no more water waste than you would have from constantly running a pump and filtration system.

  24. Oh, and in response to Jason’s comment: It did get warm if you left it filled and in the sun for a hot weekend. Ruined me for life (I despise cold pools, even in the summer. I know, weird.)

  25. THE BRICK HOUSE on 06/08/2010:

    Emilie-I love that house and tub. I have that same pic on my tumblr!

    The owner said this is how they built it:

    As for the cowboy soak tub…we bought two galvanized livestock water tanks from a local feed store. One is five feet in diameter and the other is six feet in diameter. We then nested them, leaving a gap on both sides and on the bottom. We filled this gap with that canned spray foam to create an insulated barrier (the last three inches around the top we filled with concrete for a better aesthetic). For plumbing we simply provided two openings for filling, draining and circulating. We did not want jets since we really only wanted a soak tub. In the winter we will the tank with free hot water from our roof-top solar hot water panels and in the heat of the summer we fill the tank with cold well water. We have a small electric water heater to keep the water hot in the winter. The tanks are made by Hastings but other manufacturers make similar tanks.
    -Dave McAdam

  26. Wes on 06/08/2010:

    i want to live in google sketchup

  27. Chantel I. on 06/08/2010:

    Love the idea! Love it to pieces. As long as there isn’t much direct sun on the metal of the tub, it shouldn’t get that hot. I mean, it’s a lot of water.

    I grew up with a tacky, non-puffy, above-ground pool, and that water very rarely got close to warm, and had zero protection from the sun. It was refreshing at almost all times in the summer.

    Can’t help you with what to do about a filter though. Ours had one and it was my job to skim the grass and bugs out of the pool every morning and add the chemicals.

  28. THE BRICK HOUSE on 06/08/2010:

    In terms of the pool being outside and getting hot…it will have protection from the sun with the shade sail and the masonry wall. The late afternoon is when that area gets the hottest and those two things combined will keep it out of direct sunlight.

  29. S@sha on 06/08/2010:

    I like the idea of a stock tank and have considered doing the same thing myself. I’m in agreement with the commenter above who dislikes railroad ties because of their weird smell in hot weather… also the creosote that they are treated with can leach into the soil and its really unhealthy. Ditto for pressure treated lumber (that has arsenic in it I think). If cedar or redwood is too expensive you can probably find old beams at a local construction salvage yard and cut them to size.

  30. Airika on 06/08/2010:

    YES! Please build this. A private summer oasis sounds like just what you need to get through your busy work schedule this season.

  31. Melissa on 06/08/2010:

    I love it! We have a cabin in the country and this would be perfect. Brilliant.

  32. Patti on 06/08/2010:

    I love the idea but I do agree that is might get really hot. The metal when heated will heat up the water so fast. We have a big backyard pool here in AZ and it is already like bath water.
    I love the sideyard plans. Where do you get your butterfly chairs?

  33. THE BRICK HOUSE on 06/08/2010:

    You can get new butterfly chairs from Circa50

  34. Elise on 06/08/2010:

    I just bought a puffy pool and used the salt system…I have a ton of advice if you want it! I am feeling too lazy to type right now (I have a sinus infection and think I pulled a muscle/cracked a rib today from coughing= lazyyyyy girl!
    I can email you my phone number and you can call me and I can give you the little but of information that I just learned. The pool has been up for two weeks now and tons of learning has been going on!

  35. Emily on 06/09/2010:

    Long time lurker finally coming out.
    Just wanted to say: HELL YES. The idea is ambitious but it seems so fucking cool. Rock on.
    I love the fact that you’re thrifty…doing things on the cheap without sacrificing quality is my freakin’ motto.

  36. tx Sarah on 06/09/2010:

    I could tell you were thinking about pools by your Tumblr. Creepy.

  37. Conan on 06/09/2010:

    My neighbors up the street that have a billion little children running around all the time just bought one of those Wally-World puffy pools. They dumped it in the middle of their shitty backyard that’s full of three-foot high weeds, and let the kids play in it. I heard their mother shouting the other day–because that’s evidently the only volume she can speak at–that they had to drain it because their yard turned to mud, but one of the kids told my wife it was because they peed in it.

    Regardless, you don’t want to be associated with that sort of people, do you? Even if you hid it behind your lovely brick wall.

  38. pamela on 06/09/2010:

    you should do it!!!

  39. Tamara from Delish Mag on 06/09/2010:

    Just saw a comment about the creosote on the railroad ties and agree – maybe you could approximate the look but with cedar or something?

    Also, I love the idea for the pool! Might have to steal that one. But, I do wish the Dutchtub was bigger and small pool size. Once I wrote this post on them, and spoke to the sales rep. Maybe I’ll ask them to consider making it that way!

  40. Ace on 06/10/2010:

    Don’t do it. File pools along with boats and cottages as things that seem like fun and will get used all the time. They won’t. They suck your money. Spend the dough on something else more practical and you will be happier in the long run.

  41. heather on 06/10/2010:

    yes yes yes! you have the most amazing ideas. i’m not in the lovely desert but i want one too!
    please do this soon so i can immediately copy you. 😉

  42. Jason on 06/10/2010:

    You’ve convinced me with the cowboy tub explanation –
    DO it! Try it! It’s not the world’s biggest investment if it’s a bust.

  43. Cath on 06/11/2010:

    Our yard is fairly shady, but even on the hottest day when the stock tank is baking in direct sun for hours, the water is still freezing. My theory is that it’s reflective, besides being completely uninsulated, so it doesn’t get warm.

    But, we love the stock tank pool, and it would look great in your back yard. Go for it!

  44. madeline on 06/11/2010:

    omg. we had one when i was a kid and we LOVED it. every kid in the neighborhood would come to our house to swim..the best part was turning it into a whirlpool and floating around it like a washing machine. it wasn’t cold but it was wet and in the summer wet was enough for us.

  45. Lisa on 06/18/2010:

    Late and not related to the pool, but to the sun shade. I saw this on Overstock and was surprised by the price. I’m not sure if you’re looking yet, but here’s the link:
    You have a great writing style and I enjoy your blog. Thanks.

  46. Kathryn on 06/27/2010:

    We have had a livestock “dipping” pool in our backyard for over ten years now. Our aesthetic is very different, since we have a Victorian house in Michigan, but the deck was designed with the pool dropped in, sort of in it’s own “pod”. Ours is blue vinyl/plastic/whatever the material is. We just use an above ground pool pump and chemicals, but it isn’t a lot of work. It is an 8-foot diameter and holds about 500 gallons. There is a drain at the bottom, which of course, we have to use for the winter. This can be used, also, if we don’t keep up the maintenance and it is just easier to dump the water than treat it, and start over. This is plenty big enough to cool off in, or float on an air mattress thingy. It conforms to code, too, because it is 24″or less of water. I highly recommend doing it – we have used it a lot, even in our relatively short summers. Oh, and I forgot to say, our vinyl version was only $200. Go for it!

  47. ~~Melissa on 06/28/2010:

    I have a little pool (15′ round, 4 feet high) that made the pool store people roll their eyes and say horrid, doubtful words, but my stubbornness prevailed and I sort-of got what I wanted. Initially I wanted a converted dumpster (have you seen them?) but it would involve lifting it into our yard with a crane. Then I tried for the stock tank but it was not as deep as we wanted. I settled on a half-price seasonal pool (I know: how coventional!). I bought a Hayward sand filter and pump (intended for a permanent, larger above-ground pool) and a salt machine. I put in salt at the start of the season and that’s all it takes. The pump/filter is really powerful but it just has to circulate the water 2-3 hours a day to allow the salt machine to keep the chloride levels where they’re needed for crystal, clear water. I used to use chlorine and hated it. The salt system is so simple and non-hazzardous. My big obstacle was getting all the pipes to fit their fittings because I was using three different systems (the pool, the pump, the salter). But once we got that figured out, my inexpensive salt-water pool was ready to enjoy. We have to take the pool down for the winter. I’d love a deep stock tank that I could keep set up and filled year round. Good luck! Be stubborn! You can definitely make it work.

  48. jared on 06/29/2010:

    The dumpster pool may be worth considering. Certainly not as clean looking as what you are looking at, but pretty cool in its own right and bigger if you want a proper soak. If you can suffer the hipsters, here is a nytimes article about one:

  49. erika on 07/01/2010:

    intex makes a salt water filtration for just that size! but you prolly know that by now…

  50. Mamaholt on 01/27/2011:

    We have one in Austin, TX. It stays cold as shit even in the summer. The water, that is. The metal will burn your leg off. It’s weird, but I swear all this is true. Ours is shaded a BIT by a big tree, but nothing like your shade sail. We fill it up, swim for a few days, drain it into the garden and fill it up again when ready. The only thing i need to say that will dash your dreams of sexy stock tank lounging is that they are also slippery as all get out. Like, bust your ass slippery. Just sayin…
    We love the way ours looks; its just OK in terms of hanging out. It’s too cold for me…I hate cold water. Just do it …those things sell on CL for almost full-price. If you hate it, just sell it off. There’s really no other option unless you go the creepy hot tub with cold water route. You might look into Japanese soaking tubs…those things are the shit.

  51. Audra on 02/07/2011:

    Think it is a great idea! Your biggest challenge is going to be plumbing it all, and regardless of what size ‘pool’ you have if you don’t keep most of the chemicals right you can get serious skin infections and even get very sick. Salt would be a good way to go if you plan to keep water in it for more then a week at a time, and try to get a filter for a spa or small pool. Stay AWAY from Intex stuff, they use so many different manufactures most of their fittings can’t be found. Treat it like a small pool and you should be fine.. Sorry about the long post, parents owned a swimming pool store for years, and I worked there a long time.

  52. djgiantrobot on 05/06/2011:

    I’m about to put one of these pools in and am gathering info. I’m in Montana, so I need to heat it up but don’t want the hassle of a real hot tub. or the cost! There are a couple of wood-fire options, like the dutchtub design or the Chofu heater ( I’m thinking a nice little fire pit to sit around, and after the enjoyment of the fire, a hot soak! Love the nested insulated design for this reason. chhers.

  53. leslie donovan on 08/13/2012:

    have had a metal 10ft.stock tank for years. used an above ground pool filter and cartridge. connected to a sprinkler pump .use pvc connections..unfortunately woke up one am to find the bottom red with rust. An interaction with chlorine tablets. used one in a floater bout every 10 days. beautiful clear changing to a poly tank

  54. Christina Brine on 10/01/2012:
  55. Connie on 02/05/2013:

    Years ago in some long forgotten magazine I saw this same idea….only the people had it painted at a body shop a beautiful shade of aqua blue, and had teak steps and seats…

  56. Mandi on 04/27/2013:

    It’s been a while since you posted this and you’ve probably already solved your problem, but just wanted to say that we had one of these when we were young. I think it was around 8 feet but possibly it was the 10 foot one. It felt huge to us. We didn’t treat it. We just used the water to irrigate the lawn when it started to get gross and then filled it up again. Someone mentioned how slippery it was. So true. Maybe thats why another person mentioned skim coating the bottom with cement? I also noticed that a lot of people commented on how hot the metal would get. The average summer temp where I grew up is 110 F degrees. Yes, the rim of the pool got hot, but once we were swimming and splashing around it cooled right off. The water was never hot. And never shockingly cool when we first got in. Unless we were filling up new or swimming early morning. Mostly it was just fantastically cool in contrast to the sweltering heat. Thanks for bringing up great memories and making me seriously consider installing one myself. Good luck!

  57. Jojo on 04/27/2013:

    Wondering if you actually did make the stock tank pool and if yes would you kindly post pics and tell the details on what pump system and such. We want to do the same with a 500 gal plastic stock tank and now trying to figure out how to get it to stay clean. Thank you

  58. Brock on 05/07/2013:

    We have a 500 gallon poly tank made by behlen country and use an intex paper filter pump to keep it clean during the summer. The blue color along with a solar cover heats the water up enough to make it comfortable. You can go to to figure the amount of chlorine and algaecide you will need. Also if you put a couple tablespoons of borax in when you first fill it, the ph stays balanced.

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  66. carmie on 07/09/2014:

    Do you know if they make any that are deeper than 2 ft? I need one so my larger dog can swim in it for leg therapy..thanks

  67. Armando on 12/13/2015:

    Hi Danika! Thanks for your comment–blogging is time couinmsng, huh? I need to get some tips from you + Julie. Love this shower btw, we could use one of those too.

  68. Ann on 06/11/2016:

    Love your plans! We’re about ready to do a galvanized stock tank pool for the grandkids and like the way they look, ease of maintenance, etc. We will probably add a small filter. However, for those of you who have them, I’ve read some have had problems with leaks and/or sharp areas. Are those issues rare? Should we consider somehow treating the inside of the tank to prevent the potential for problems?

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