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words

Richard Sarrazin

photos

Andrew Szeto

The barrier spot you spent two days fixing up got ripped out by the city, and that wooden contraption you built last summer skates like it was made of cardboard. The textbook transitions at the local park are fun, but for some reason they just don’t shine like they used to. In 2010 I finally decided to build a private pool in my rural Ottawa backyard, and I’m gonna try my best to break down how it was done. I’m hoping it plants a seed that leads to more pools popping up in backyards across the country. Maybe this is what you need in your life right now – something to focus on and something to get completely hell-bent on like a trick you want so bad. No matter what it turns out to be, it’s gonna be rad and it’s gonna be yours. After talking to master concrete park and bowl designer Luke Jouppi while his crew was out east last summer, he brought up the pool idea and it didn’t take much convincing. He assured me about how simple it can be. All I had to do is dig it out and frame it myself, then after his crew finished their last job they’d come shotcrete what I started before heading back home to BC. Wow, dream come true. Only thing is I had eight weeks to get started before their arrival. Good luck. A project like this definitely can’t be done without the help of a few good pals. Most people would plan something like this over a couple years, getting their contacts and permits in place, not to mention crunching numbers. Our plan was super rushed, but it can be done. Building your own backyard pool is not a farfetched idea if you’re organized and resourceful, especially if it’s straight-up DIY. 40

Concrete skateboarding


words

Richard Sarrazin

photos

Andrew Szeto

The barrier spot you spent two days fixing up got ripped out by the city, and that wooden contraption you built last summer skates like it was made of cardboard. The textbook transitions at the local park are fun, but for some reason they just don’t shine like they used to. In 2010 I finally decided to build a private pool in my rural Ottawa backyard, and I’m gonna try my best to break down how it was done. I’m hoping it plants a seed that leads to more pools popping up in backyards across the country. Maybe this is what you need in your life right now – something to focus on and something to get completely hell-bent on like a trick you want so bad. No matter what it turns out to be, it’s gonna be rad and it’s gonna be yours. After talking to master concrete park and bowl designer Luke Jouppi while his crew was out east last summer, he brought up the pool idea and it didn’t take much convincing. He assured me about how simple it can be. All I had to do is dig it out and frame it myself, then after his crew finished their last job they’d come shotcrete what I started before heading back home to BC. Wow, dream come true. Only thing is I had eight weeks to get started before their arrival. Good luck. A project like this definitely can’t be done without the help of a few good pals. Most people would plan something like this over a couple years, getting their contacts and permits in place, not to mention crunching numbers. Our plan was super rushed, but it can be done. Building your own backyard pool is not a farfetched idea if you’re organized and resourceful, especially if it’s straight-up DIY. 40

Concrete skateboarding


Frontside Air


Stalefish

First thing, how are you going to explain this to your neighbours? They already think you’re strange enough. You definitely want to be on their good side, so start offering to help that little old lady with small projects, and teach the kid next door how to ollie. Keep it polite. Eventually you’re going to have to be honest and tell them that the pool is not for swimming. Or you can just move to the country. Problem solved.

Don’t be stupid, it’s a free service. They send someone who will mark out the gas and phone lines with spray paint. Then you can plan a shape that works best within your space. Depending on the by-laws in your area, a permit may be necessary. We got a Pool Enclosure Permit for $150 by providing a detailed sketch with the dimensions of the backyard and the pool. Consider it as insurance if someone calls by-law with any complaints. Just go with a regular pool permit, they’re easy to get and very common. Never tell them it’s a pool for skating and make sure you follow the by-laws (fence height, distance to house, etc.) or it means being hassled. Get our paperwork in order. You’re going to want to consult with a good skatepark contractor about the design and before your prep-build. They’ll give you advice when you run into any problems because you probably will. Just try not to be a pain in the ass. 42

Concrete skateboarding

You can’t even drive standard, so how are you going to dig a giant hole with the mini-excavator and Bobcat that you rented for two days? This is when the friend-of-afriend comes in to dig for cash or beer. Dirt removal is big business and, well, dirty. Forget about dump trucks unless you know someone. They can cost up to $100-per-hour. The best bang for your buck is having one dumpster at-atime dropped off in your driveway. Do some Internetting and make some calls to find someone who is looking for clean fill (dirt), preferably close by, and split the dumpster cost with them. This is the first major ding in the cash flow. Be ready and organized as the dumpsters fill up fast and you’ll have steady traffic coming and going all day. It’s hell. We filled 12 huge dumpsters in two days while digging the hole. Puke in your hard-hat and put it back on your head, it helps! Once the rough hole is dug, cut wooden templates of the transitions you want. Fit and place them where you want, hand digging the walls to their shape. Build the frame, which will hold and shape the upper part of the pool’s walls. Pounding wooden stakes around the perimeter of the hole will hold the frame (saddles), along with the sheeting on the back of the outer wall and the top plate radius (where the coping will go). Your pool obviously needs a drain. Go with the “French Drain” – the simplest way. It is a four-inch pipe angled to a large vertical pipe that sits behind your pool. When the basin fills with water, put a sump-pump in the large vertical pipe to drain.


Frontside Invert


Now you need to form a strong base for your pool. You’ll need “A-Grade” gravel to spread over the entire surface inside of the pool. I used two dump truck loads, roughly three tons, that had to be shoveled and ‘barrowed from the driveway into the pit. With a vibrating compactor, go over the entire area and as far up the walls as possible all the while soaking the gravel with water as you’re compacting it. Six inches of compacted gravel works best. Make sure you take this into consideration when digging the hole, as you’ll also add six to eight inches of concrete surface on top of that. Aim to dig a foot deeper than where you want the pool surface to be.

The last part of preparation before adding concrete is shaping the pool with rebar. 10mm rebar works best, since it’ll have to be bent

to the shape of your templates to create your grid or cage. After you’ve done the prep, you’re ready for the shotcrete. It’s hard to get away with doing this yourself because you won’t know what the hell you’re doing. The nearest skatepark designer and builders might be able to save you the hassle of having to rent a compressor and hopper. You could go with a local pool company to do everything mentioned above, but the finished concrete usually comes out rough, lumpy and expensive, plus they’ll think you’re an idiot. Go with the skatepark contractor who speaks on the same level, because they want the pool to be good as much as you do. As for the coping, there are a few options. You can make a mold and pour your own, which is the cheapest route. You can also buy all different shapes and sizes, or even have it custom made. You just have to do the research and find what suits your budget.


Melon Grab

Our neighbours down south have lit the match, and the backyard skate scene is making the biggest comeback since the golden days of ’80s ramp building. Every skater has dreams of their own hassle-free skate spot that was built with pals. No headphones, just epic sessions with the barbeque sizzling on the side. We’ve all seen it somewhere else. How great would it be to have your own?

Heart-shape d love seat, 4/ backyard pool with 2 hips, 5/7-foot trans itions (foot of in the deep ), w ve and 44 pieces orking light, “French dr rt ain” of premium po to spend ab ol bl oc k. Willing ou 10 bros (bee t $13,000. Help from ab r, pizza and lodging prov out an understa ided), nding girlfrie nd and Vans The World/In /Top Of dependent/V olcom/Five Tattoo Shop Cents is greatly ap preciated.

Concrete skateboarding

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Sarrazin Article  

Sarrazin Article