Water Seeks Its Own Level – Building Inspectors, Bondo and Unexpected Events.

The building inspector never showed.  So I decided to go ahead and start building the fence in the hole without the approval on the hole.  Couldn’t afford losing another construction day, summer was running out.  Approving a hole seemed rather stupid to me anyway.  I called the building inspector’s office on Monday, left a message, Tuesday, left a message, Wednesday, left a message, and they never called me back.  I went to my daughter’s front window on Thursday, pulled the permit out of the window and threw it in the trash bin out front.  They never contacted me about the pool again, and the house has been sold five times since then without any issues that I know about.  I decided right then and there I was never going to bother with permits again and I haven’t. 

So the “fence” construction was going pretty well.  Each section had four rows of treated 2X6 between the posts and a 3′ X 8′ piece of three-quarter plywood covered the outside.  All nails and screws had to be galvanized and covered with a thin layer of “Bondo” then sanded smooth.  What was interesting about the “Bondo” step was that this substance is pretty much exclusively used to repair body panels on vehicles.  Well not anymore.  It seems that carpenters discovered that “Bondo,” as the name implies, will bond to wood pretty well and can be shaped, sanded and painted to match the surrounding material.

“Bondo” is a two-part putty.  It’s a registered trademark, worldwide, and like “Kleenex” and “Jello” has become the name of the thing, instead of the product name. You mix a polyester resin with a hardner, in this case an organic peroxide, and you have about 5-10 minutes to spread this stuff out before it hardens.  Once hardened it can be sanded smooth.  The idea in the pool construction was to take out any imperfections, smooth and fill the plywood seams, and any indentions from nails and screws allowing for a smooth finish to the pool sides.  Even more importantly, in the unlikely event that any of the nails or screws would work loose, this would keep them from puncturing the liner.

“Bondo” fumes are pretty toxic and that peroxide hardner stuff can burn the skin in prolonged contact.  Gloves, a mask and proper ventilation are recommended when mixing and applying the stuff.  Of course, I used neither of those things, but I did mix the stuff outside.

There, that wasn’t so bad was it?  Who gives a damn about “Bondo” right?  Well the reason I bring it up is because it took more time to “Bondo,” smooth and sand the imperfections and seams than it did to build the whole damn structure.  Looking back on it now, I should have used the stacked block method.  It would have been cheaper and less labor intensive…really.  And down the road, harder to take the pool out.  More about that later.

Our next step was to dig the deep end.  Now, the pool was designed to be a 3′ depth all over, or a deep end could be built for diving.  A more expensive liner and more digging was needed for a deep end.  I chose the extra effort and cost to be able to dive into the pool.  Two string lines were attached across the front and back of what would be the deep end, and four 7 1/2′ string lines were attached to those, with a weight on the ends.  We dug a hole under each weighted string until the string hung free, then dug out all around the four holes to form the sloped walls and 3′ x 3′ flat bottom of the deep end.  Luckily most of the dirt was used to back-fill the shallow end which I had accidentally excavated a foot deeper than necessary.  We got a little carried away at a “Pool Digging BBQ.”  If you’ve never been to one, it’s similar to a “Painting Party,” or even a “Tree Decorating Party.”

Back-filling the "too deep" shallow end with the dirt from the deep end. Kevin and his wife again. You can see the string line in the foreground, and the Coors Light on the wall. The beer of choice. You can also see the pool wall here, but the Bondo isn't in yet.

Mrs. Coyne again. She didn't want Kevin out of her sight so we put her to work.

The deep-end dig. Notice there are three beer cans on the wall.

There's Wally again. Digging well into the night. Looks like a miner.

The hole is finished. That round silver thing to the left of my head will come in to play later. If you look closely you can see the string lines we used to dig the deep end. Bondo on the seams left, right and just behind me.

The next step in the pool construction was going to involve a lot of help.  We were going to plaster an inch thick concrete floor and install a foam wall liner.  The last steps before installing the vinyl liner and filling the pool.  It was mid-August.  I had a crew of six on hand that Saturday, rented a cement mixer, had all the materials ready, and we started by installing the foam pad to the wall of the pool using a construction adhesive.  Again, in hindsight, I would have done two things before starting this project.  The first is I would have figured out that construction adhesive squirted out the end of a caulking gun leaves a noticeable ridge line in a foam liner when it dries, unless it is smoothed out before applying the foam.  The second thing is I would have checked the weather forecast.  The other thing that happened the next day was truly unexpected.

Putting in the foam liner. The day is still dry at this point. Yep, the cooler is full of beer.

Another view. That's me in the stripped shirt, doing more supervising than work. You can see the Bondo at the top of the seam to the left.

We feel accomplished, and are posing. You can see the pool skimmer in the upper left.

The liner was glued on with little problem except the afore-mentioned failure to smooth out the adhesive.  I just watched my crew of friends do it, they were having such a good time.  Then we started mixing the concrete.  The idea was to have two at the mixer, two bringing the loads of concrete to the pool and two of us in the hole spreading the stuff out.  With a certain amount of forethought, we started at the deep end.  The first wheelbarrow of concrete arrived and was dumped in the bottom of the hole.  We tried to put it on the dirt walls but it wouldn’t stick.  After several failed attempts, we ended up with a lump of concrete in the bottom of the hole.  The decision was that the concrete was mixed too dry.  Not enough water.

The next batch came out the consistency of pancake batter and, although easy to spread, it slid right down the sloped sides of the deep end to the bottom.  We smoothed it out on the bottom and let it set.  The next load from the mixer came faster than we expected and was dumped in the middle of the smoothed out section before we could stop them.

“Hold up,” I shouted.  “We need to get this right.”  We had wasted two hours and six bags of concrete.

After a little trial and error we were able to get the concrete the consistency of putty and were able to spread it neatly in the deep end of the pool an inch thick or there about.  We had been at it for four hours.  Three of the crew had to leave, (or wanted the hell out of there) so that left three of us to finish the larger shallow end of the pool.  It was getting dark, and not because it was getting late.  It was clouding up.

So we started to move faster to get the roughly 320 sq. feet of concrete plastered to the floor of the hole.  We managed it in roughly two hours.  It looked good.  Workable.  Starting to set up.  And then it rained.

No, it wasn’t just rain.  It was cats and dogs and frogs.  And of course the wind started blowing.  The three of us covered the shallow end with a tarp, cleaned up and hoped for the best.  We sat in the garage with the door open drinking the rest of the beer.

On Sunday, I was on my own.  All my help had plans or church, or just didn’t want to do this anymore.  I worked most of the morning fixing the damage caused by the rain, and then the phone rang.




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2 responses to “Water Seeks Its Own Level – Building Inspectors, Bondo and Unexpected Events.

  1. Dear Lord, this is torture. I’m trying to type while wiping my eyes from tears of laughter. Plus I have to wait for the next installment. And you still have the same friends and family, right?

    • No. I moved from the house within a year after the pool was completed. Divorced for the second time from the same woman. The pool actually played a part in that, but I shant go into it just yet. I moved from Rio Rancho over 23 years ago, so have lost touch with almost all the friends who attended the “Pool Diggin’ Parties” and helped with the project. I’m pretty sure Wally, is still the across-the-street neighbor though.

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