Putting In A Pool: The Process, The Cost, and All The Before & After Photos

Putting In A Pool: The Process, The Cost, and All The Before & After Photos

It’s been a full year in the making, but OUR POOL IS DONE*! Here’s where I imagine someone saying “and the crowd goes wiiiiild” (and the crowd, in this case, is the five members of our household – including Burger shaking a tiny pom-pom). Today we’ve got one HUGE post full of info about the entire process, the budget, and, of course, the finished result. We’re also answering some of the most common questions we got throughout this project.

*Well, mostly done. More on that later

Neither of us have ever lived in a house with a pool or even in an area of the country where residential pools are very common. So this was totally new territory to us, and the luxury of being able to have our very own backyard oasis is not lost on us. We’re incredibly grateful to get to enjoy this space with our family – and one of the key ways we identified it as being something we’d all love and appreciate is that for the last 5 years or so, we’ve been renting houses in Florida for spring break with backyard pools. We even followed that trend with our Costa Rica trip and we LOVED it and spent tons of time floating and swimming and doing all the pool-centric things.

We even noticed that we love to eat meals out by the pool, which has continued to be a theme now that we have one of our own. Picture this table full of pizza or PB&Js or even hot mac & cheese (I know that sounds weird, but the kids scarf it down – even on a warm day). So as cute as that demure little bowl of oranges that Sherry put here for this photo is, this table has already handled quite a few meals (hence Sherry’s favorite purchase: these shatterproof bowls & plates).

If you followed along with our move to Florida last year, you know that having a pool or the space to add one was high on our house-hunting list, just due to those aforementioned spring break trips. Pools are common in our area, but the particular house that we fell for didn’t have one, which kinda felt like a bummer at the time – although not all was lost because the lot was perfect for adding one. The real estate listing even called out that there was “room to add a pool!” or something to that effect. And in retrospect, we’re grateful to have been able to design the exact space we envisioned because we all love what we ended up with (and my dragon wife got her beloved hot tub).

The Before & Afters

Here’s the space in April of 2020, courtesy of a video that our contractor sent us (hence the graininess). It was so bare and uninteresting – basically just an unused area full of mostly weeds – that we realize in hindsight we don’t have that many before photos of it. It wasn’t much to look at.


Before photo of white house with dirt and weedy yard



Here’s another photo he sent us about a month before the photo above. This was before the house was painted white and before the interior hallway and pool door was added for direct access to the future pool area. Sadly, you can’t see as much of that beautifully weedy yard in this pic. But don’t worry, I’ve got in another angle three photos down that shows the rest.


Before photo of house brown with same empty backyard



And here’s the AFTER. Goodbye weeds, hello little backyard paradise.

Here’s a before picture looking the other direction, towards the back of our neighbor’s existing fence (that’s the darker brown one) and the new fence that we put up along our property line soon after we moved in (the lighter horizontally planked one). This is before we painted them both a muted green color (SW Halcyon Green) which you see in all of the afters (we got our neighbor’s blessing to paint the back of their fence). I’ll talk more about the fences a little later in the post, but like we said, the yard itself was mostly just weeds upon weeds.



Weed covered yard with two brown fences in the background






And now it looks like this:

If you pull back a little further and view it straight on, here’s what you see:


Curved edge pool with seating area in the background with green fences


chairs / white pillows / lounge chairs / striped pillows / umbrella / umbrella stand / similar table / wall scuppers / solar path lights

To get a better feel of the space, here’s a quick video walkthrough that we took during the daytime and at night. There’s no narration, so if you’re somewhere that you can’t watch it with sound, that’s just fine – but there’s a 2-minute dose of audio zen for you if you can. Also, see if you can spot Burger making a cameo at the very end. It’s extremely subtle.

NOTE: You can also watch the video above here on YouTube.

There’s obviously a lot to take in, and a lot to say about this process, so I’ll do my darndest to cover it all. Who am I if not extremely long-winded?

Planning Our Pool

A big inspiration for our pool was this Balinese-inspired house that we stayed in during our vacation to Costa Rica back in January of 2020. We really liked the entire vibe of this little hideaway of a pool, from the lush greenery to the small white house with a tin roof. And yes, that was definitely some foreshadowing.


Inspiration photo of small tropical pool next to white house and child in swing



We’ve learned from those various vacations over the years that our family doesn’t need a huge party pool to have a good time, which is nice because most of the lots in our neighborhood – including ours – don’t have room for massive swimming spaces. Many are just smaller hangout pools, which are sometimes called cocktail pools, lap pools, or plunge pools – and of the four pools nearest to our house on the same street, our modestly sized pool is actually the second biggest (thanks mostly to our house being shifted over on our lot, which is why our listing boasted that “room to add a pool” feature).


John in small freeform pool against stone accent retaining wall under palm plants



It really is all relative, because in another neighborhood or area our pool could be described as tiny, but at this point I think you know what we don’t really subscribe to the “bigger is better” philosophy. This has been the perfect size for us so far, and trust me, we’ve tested it by having 10 people in it (with floats and balls) and it works great. So while “supersized” wasn’t one of our pool goals, here are the things we did want to gain:

  1. Enough swimmable area for our kids and a few of their friends to play (which is why we skipped big tanning ledges or sunshelves)
  2. Room for us to float around, sometimes with friends and cold beverages (we’ve had 6 semi-massive floats in this pool and it was ridiculous and fun)
  3. A spa/hot tub area (since my hot-water-loving wife misses the jacuzzi we had at our old beach house)
  4. Something that sounds tranquil and soothing (enter the word “scuppers”, stage left)

Side view of pool accent wall with fountain sprayers and round spa in background



Because our yard wasn’t huge, we enlisted the help of a local landscape architect to help us make the most of our pool design (she knows all the local setback rules and code requirements, so she helped us navigate those parameters). She had previously helped one of our neighbors plan his pool, which is how we got her info – and she ended up suggesting several features that we really appreciate, like the curved edges around both the pool & the patio. She also suggested incorporating a retaining wall into the pool as a fountain element (those three sprayers you see below are called “scuppers” – which conjures up an image of a fisherman on a boat smoking a pipe to me for some reason). Having someone to bounce all of our ideas off of and add in her suggestions was HIGHLY HELPFUL. And she charged by the hour and spent something like 4 or 5 hours on it, so it was not expensive by any means.






Its exact size is a bit hard to describe because it’s a “freeform” pool with some organic curves, but the longest side is around 20′ long and the widest part in the other direction is about 14′ wide. Again, there are some curves in there, plus an integrated hot tub, so the swimmable area isn’t that exact dimension. But deciding on a layout was just the beginning of getting this project going…

Our Plaster, Pool Tile, And Patio Stone Picks

Most of the pools in our area are made of concrete covered with plaster, which tends to do well in our environment which has extremely sandy soil (there aren’t many fiberglass or vinyl liner pools here), so we got to skip that debate that some homeowners go through. But we did spend A LOT of time considering the color of the plaster that we wanted since it’s the material that establishes the color of your water. Although, as we learned, lots of things affect exactly how your water looks (more on that in a second).

The majority of pools in our area go for a bright blue look, and our pool builder said the three bracketed colors below (Blue Quartz, Cool Blue, and Blue) are his most popular plaster colors. Note: These are all Diamond Brite colors, which is his preferred plaster.


Screenshot of DiamondBrite Plaster color options with popular colors highlighted



However, we wanted something a little less bright blue that skewed a little lighter and a bit more blue-green, like our inspiration photo of the pool we loved in Costa Rica (that pool was all tile, btw, which isn’t really done with pools of our size because it would be incredibly expensive – hence most people doing plaster with waterline tile like ours in our area). Looking online, our eyes immediately went to sandy-colored options like Pearl and even Mojave Beige, but after seeing some samples in person, we realized they were either darker or more speckled/busy than we had envisioned, which means the entire floor and walls of the pool would look like that. Many of them also didn’t look as good with our tile picks. So…

  • Rule #1: Don’t trust the chart online! See them in person because they’re different.
  • Rule #2: Bring your tile picks to see how they look with your plaster – and get them all wet to see if they change because they’re all going to be wet all the time

In the end we chose Ivory (circled above) because a) it looked best with our selected tile & stone, b) it would keep the water looking light, and c) that entire column of colors felt more on the green-blue side versus just bright-blue like the column next to it. Obviously the water color gets darker as the water gets deeper, but you can see how bright and unspeckled our plaster looks below:


Detail photo of pool color getting darker as water gets deeper at steps Ivory DiamondBrite



The color of your water is also impacted by your tile, the time of day, cloud cover, and even the landscape it reflects (green trees, blue sky, houses, fences, etc). You’ll probably notice it changes throughout this post – including the photo above vs the one below – and even the spa looks different than the pool if the sun is hitting them differently. It will also probably skew more green as more of our landscaping fills in over time. So, point being, water color is a bit of a moving target. But we really like where we’ve ended up so far.


Angled view of small freeform pool with stairs at one end and bench across one end showing Ivory DiamondBrite plaster



You can also see from the photo above that the plaster color sort of melts into the border tile that runs around the waterline, so it’s not a big harsh line there, which is why we wanted to choose a plaster that wasn’t too speckled or dark (which would have made for more of an obvious and less smooth transition).

Here’s another shot so you can see how the plaster choice and our waterline tiles tie into the retaining wall stone and the spillover stone on the hot tub (which is also along the top of the retaining wall). And speaking of the water changing colors, see how the hot tub looks lighter and more greeny-blue than the pool in the photo below? It’s the shallower depth in the hot tub (as well as along that ledge on the left side) that does that. It’s actually pretty fun to watch things change with the depth and also with the brightness/time of day.


View of curved tile accent retaining wall covered in stone with fountains into pool


chairs / white pillows / lounge chairs / striped pillows / umbrella / umbrella stand / similar table / wall scuppers / solar path lights

The second thing most people obsess over is their tile. Some pools have lots of different tiles going on, but we just had two to pick out: our waterline tile and our retaining wall tile.

Waterline tile, as it sounds, goes along the waterline of the pool. This is to keep your water from getting a ring around the edge if/when the water ever gets scummy. Again, we went with something neutral and sand-colored to keep the vibe feeling light, relaxed, and organic. It’s called Stratos Avorio 2×2 Mosaic. We purchased it at a local tile store, so that’s just a random link I dug up. The 2×2″ size was important so it could fit around all of the curves of the pool (big tiles are great for a clean rectangular pool, but curves mean that a smaller tile is easier to maneuver in those areas).


Detail photo of accent wall stacked natural stone tile and neutral waterline tile



We wanted the wall to also have a natural look to it, so we chose a subtle stacked stone that looks more like a natural rock than some of the colorful glass mosaics that you see in a lot of pools these days. We’ve seen some really fancy pools with them, but we were aiming for a neutral tone-on-tone effect that we hoped would look calming and unified. That way the sparkling water, green fence, and landscaping could add the color. Our retaining wall tile is called Travertine Splitface, and it’s the 7×20″ size (meaning it’s a sheet of irregular sizes, rather than uniform 2×4″ or 1×4″ tiles). Ours is the Ivory color.

The last major material choice for our pool was the patio material. Some people do a different material for their coping (the border around the pool) and the surrounding patio, but we went with the same 12×24″ travertine throughout. Again, we got this locally but here’s the exact same stuff that we used.

You may have noticed we used the same material on the top of the retaining wall with the fountains and on the curved spillover between the hot tub and the pool. Some people choose different accent materials in those spots, but we were trying to keep it all tone-on-tone and layered. We really like how they look together.


Detail photo of shellstone travertine patio tile used along the side and top of tile accent wall



We did seal the patio (and the hot tub spillover and the stone that runs across the top of the retaining wall) after installation, just to be safe, and it has been great. We’re actually planning to do a whole post about that process sometime, because we tried a newer product that has been working really well so far. And it’s useful for lots of different outdoor surfaces beyond a pool patio.

The Pool Building Process & Timeline

I’ve mentioned it has taken us more than a year to get here (and we’re not 100% done – still waiting on some back-ordered spa fittings so our hot tub jets can actually bubble) so we thought it might help someone else out there to share our timeline. Especially with pools being in high demand these days (we heard they were backed up with a year-long waiting list in Richmond, VA! Like a year until you can even dig, and longer than that for completion!).

Lots of interest in pools = many pool builders who are stretched thin, and many materials that are often scarce. Heck there was even a chlorine shortage which led to a salt shortage (because people switched their pools from chlorine to salt when they couldn’t get chlorine and then people couldn’t get salt!). Thankfully it all seems to have calmed down a bit from the shortages that abounded a few months ago, so hopefully anyone embarking on a pool build won’t have as many roadblocks and missing pieces, which could definitely speed up your completion time.

June 2020: Got a quote from a local pool builder, but they only did speckled blue plaster which wouldn’t yield the water color or seamless plaster look we wanted.

July 2020: Consulted a landscape architect to help with pool design and attempt to find another pool builder who would be more flexible about plaster options.

September 2020: Hired a pool builder and submitted our final design for county approval and our building permit.



Weed covered yard with two brown fences in the background






We were feeling good at this point. Almost like we might actually have a pool before the end of 2020. In fact the pool builder said by December 1st we should be in the pool! Then we hit a HUGE delay thanks to an error with the permit submission via our pool builder (it basically sat pending for months instead of being in line to be reviewed, unbeknownst to anyone). So our story picks up in…

February 2021: Permit finally issued, material selections made, and build finally scheduled.

March 2021: The action begins and this is a busy month! First, the pool hole is dug in just a few hours.


Large dirt hole dug in backyard where pool will be constructed



Still March 2020: Then the area is framed out with wood, then rebar, and plumbing is run.


Pool hole framed out with wood and John in background with measuring tape



Still March 2020: Next came shotcrete (more on what that is here), which is applied to create the basic form of the pool. We also begin our relationship with the gross water that collects here for the next few months.


Sherry standing in concrete pool form



Things kind of ground to a halt after that. The shotcrete has to cure for several weeks before the tile can be applied. So nothing happened on the pool front for over a month, apart from us independently having a new section of fencing installed and painted so that the area would be fully enclosed to meet code. We also took care of some other code things like putting alarms on the doors and windows that lead to the pool, etc. Pool construction picked back up again in…

May 2021: The tile is completed around the waterline and along the retaining wall.


Concrete pool with tile applied around waterline and across accent retaining wall



Also May 2021: Then the coping, patio, and stone retaining wall are installed and we began to landscape around it (more on this in a bit).


Travertine coping and patio installed around concrete pool form with John sitting in unfinished spa



June 2021: Pool equipment (heater, pump, filter) is installed. The pool is plastered and we can officially fill it with water! The plaster cures better underwater, so you fill it almost immediately (within a few hours of the plaster being applied). It felt like a big moment. We even had our friends over to celebrate “The Official Turning On Of The Hose”

Note: That’s red duct tape holding a washcloth over the end of the hose, which the plaster guy added so the metal end of the hose didn’t scrape or stain the new plaster.


Sherry dangling hose into plastered pool form to begin filling with water



July 2021: The three fountains (aka: “scuppers”) that we added to the retaining wall are finally plumbed. The heater is also able to be turned on for the hot tub. You have to wait 30 days after plastering because lingering dust coming off the plaster can hurt the heating coils (see how rough and dusty the plaster looks in the photo above? Over time it gets brushed & smooths out to look a lot more uniform, which also removes any lingering dust before the heater’s turned on).

August 2021 (Present Day): Like I said above, we’re still awaiting a couple of back-ordered parts, like the fittings to make our spa jets bubble, but for most of our purposes it’s fully complete (the hot tub is still very nice when it’s hot, even without the bubbler fittings being in yet).


Completed small freeform pool filled with water with curved edges and tropical landscaping



So that’s a very rough sense of how things progressed over the last 13-ish months. At times it was thrilling and the process felt remarkably fast (our retaining wall and patio got done in 2.5 days!) and at other times it felt like the worst possible time to add this (at least ten items necessary for a pool were back-ordered throughout the process, some longer than 6 months, which is why we likely won’t have those missing spa bubbler fittings until Jan or Feb of 2022!). In every sense of the word, it was a roller coaster, but all of that makes us that much more grateful that it’s 99.9% done, and we do not take it for granted even for a second. We’d do it all again in a heartbeat. But please don’t make us.

Landscaping, Furnishing, And Other Unsung Heroes

As much as the pool itself is the centerpiece of this space, we’ve realized that many of the OTHER decisions surrounding the pool also helped this area of our home transform the way it did. So let’s dive into some of those.


Widest view of full pool with round spa stone accent wall with fountains and tropical landscaping DiamondBrite Ivory plaster



Landscaping

One of our favorite things about this project was doing the planting beds. We did it all ourselves, just using input from pros at the garden center when we dropped in to buy stuff (Sherry also swears by an app called PictureThis to plan which plants like certain lighting/water conditions and helps her identify local things that do well that we can then track down and plant ourselves). We had a few large Chinese Fan Palms delivered to gain some immediate lushness and tropical vibes, but everything else is just smaller plants that we loaded into our car across many trips to the garden center – like star jasmine, foxtail ferns, stonecrop, and red ti plants. We took about 8 trips to buy plants, gradually filling empty spots as we went.


Round pool patio area surrounded by tropical plantings Chinese palms oleander jasmine stonecrop foxtail ferns


chairs / white pillows / lounge chairs / striped pillows / umbrella / umbrella stand / similar table / solar path lights / plates

All of the smaller plants have noticeably grown since we started planting back in the spring (as soon as the patio went in we got to work) but the progress that we’re the most excited about is the jasmine along the back wall. Our neighbors already have it growing over the fence from their side, so we thought we’d join the party and train some of our own up our side. You already know we love jasmine (it grows really fast here), so we’re hopeful that by next spring this will be a big leafy wall full of flowers that smell so good that time of year.


Close up of star jasmine planted in retaining wall along fence with stonecrop foxtail ferns red ti



And that light green fluffy-looking plant is stonecrop that we planted between the jasmine, which should spill down down the retaining wall eventually too. Stay tuned to Sherry’s Instagram Stories for plant progress reports (it’s one of her favorite topics).

Retaining Walls

Speaking of the retaining walls, they were necessary due to the slope of our lot versus the others around it. The pool had to be built at the same level as our house and, as you can tell from the photo below, that put it a few feet lower than the existing ground and the bases of the fences on those two sides. Our neighbor’s houses are both on slightly higher ground than ours, so the retaining walls essentially keep dirt and debris from flowing downhill into our pool.


John standing next to framed pool hole with large dirt pile and higher fences behind him



But again, knowing a retaining wall was in our future is what birthed the idea of the accent wall with the fountains in it, so it was a lemonade out of lemons situation. The running water sounds calming and the kids love pretending they’re running a smoothie shop with different “flavors” coming out of each spout. We can turn them on and off whenever we’d like, but usually just leave them on all the time (they just recirculate the pool water like the filter does). Also you can see in the picture below how the functional gray block retaining wall that runs around those two fence sides meets the pool’s decorative fountain wall to create a huge raised planting bed for that side of the house.


Gray stone retaining wall terminating into back of stone tile accent retaining wall



We tried to be really strategic about what plants would drop the least in our pool and surrounding area, and so far everything we picked has been super low maintenance. More Chinese Fan Palms give us that enveloped tropical feeling and will grow about double the size for more privacy and coziness over time.


Small freeform pool with accent stone tile retaining wall flanked by gray block retaining wall



You might notice from the picture above that the fence appears to subtly slope down as it moves left to right. That’s because it does! Call it our one regret of this whole area, but when we had that fence installed last summer, they just followed the gradual slope of the ground (one of our other neighbor’s fences does that too, so it’s pretty common). In retrospect, we wish we had instructed them to keep the fence slats level – even though that would’ve meant incorporating a step-down at some point along the fence (maybe further up, hidden by the house). Every other fenced area that we added after that is level, and it’s just so pleasing to the eye. So you live and you learn. Luckily, it’s not super noticeable in person because there’s so much to look at, and we’re confident it’ll be even more obscured as our fan palms grow in.

Fences

As I mentioned, we were more careful to keep everything level when we had the other sections of fencing added (including the one around our bedroom fire pit area) and the one along the left side of the pool below. And since we “inherited” the fence in the back from our neighbors, it was nice to get their blessing to paint the back of it the same color as our fences (SW Halycon Green) to help unify things.


Two gray green painted wood fences surrounding pool at different heights



We actually kind of lucked out with the placement of this newest section of fence. We connected it from where the neighbor’s fence changed height (see above) to where our outdoor shower poked out from the corner of our house (below). We could’ve gone a foot higher with it (it’s only 7 feet tall) but we wanted it to connect to the outdoor shower in a logical way instead of poking up another foot in the air next to it, and we really like how it turned out.


Horizontal slat gray green wood fence around pool area with gate near house



And by some miracle – I would love to say we planned this – this fence is almost perfectly parallel to this side of the pool. Maybe that doesn’t sound impressive, but our entire house sits skewed at an angle on our rectangular lot (which is one reason we added curves to our pool’s design to hide the skewed angle of the house a lot more than something rectangular would have). So anytime something lines up like this it feels like a small miracle.

This new fence also gives us some nice privacy and really helps to define the boundary of our “oasis” back here. Plus Sherry earned another landscape bed, which is basically her currency.


Pool fence with horizontal slats and gray green paint with planting bed in front



For reference, here’s what it looks like from the other side. That beautiful huge live oak tree that holds our kids’ swing is everyone’s favorite tree on our entire lot, and it’s thankfully well in front of where the pool area spans so we didn’t have to worry we were hurting the roots with our pool dig. And those are just large stepping stones from Lowe’s that we plopped down to lead to the pool gate and the swing, but we’ll likely add a more permanent path someday. And those light sand lines coming in diagonally from the bottom left of this picture on the pine needles are tire marks from living on a sand road. Sometimes we park the car in that front area (more on living without a garage and parking in pine needles here).


View of gray green horizontal pool fence from outside with live oak tree in foreground



Aaaaaand while we’re on this side of the pool fence, let’s drop in a wider before & after. The photo below is from February of 2020, when we first laid eyes on our house. All of the bigger trees that you see in the background of our future pool area are behind it on our neighbor’s lot (they’ve since constructed a house there – you can see some glances of that here in this post).


Before photo of house with empty backyard covered in dead leaves



And here’s the same angle now! Things are obviously much greener in August than February, and some things REALLY GREW IN. That tree near our garbage can is nearly double the size! And yes, we left our dusty garbage can in the picture. #keepingitreal


After photo of house from street with green fence in the background



Hopefully that wider shot above shows you how cozy and insulated the pool area feels back there. It’s like a lush woodsy vibe on the front side of the fence…

…and then you pass through the gate into our little tropical paradise.


Small freeform pool enclosed by green fences with DiamondBrite Ivory plaster and shellstone travertine



Seating Area & Furniture

Gaining this seating area has been awesome! We debated a dining table or four lounge chairs, but so far the mix of two more upright chairs with a coffee table plus two lounge chairs has been great. Both chairs and one lounger stay in the shade of our 11-foot umbrella nearly all day, leaving that last lounger in the sun for anyone looking to warm up or dry off. We also have had a lot more than 4 people hang out here (a few kids can sit on the loungers sideways for a snack and even along the edge of the pool with their feet in) so it’s nice and flexible.


Sideview of seating area with umbrella lounge chairs and small coffee table


chair / white pillow / lounge chairs / striped pillows / umbrella / umbrella stand / similar table / plates / pitcher

This area took a little adjusting until we got it “right.” We originally tried a 9′ umbrella that didn’t provide as much shade (it also was extremely difficult to put up over time because the fabric shrunk in the sun, which was so weird, but they let us return it because I guess that happened to a bunch of other people?). This new 11-foot version has been worlds better all around. And this is the free-standing umbrella base we got for it.

We also purchased these solar LED fairy lights that are designed to go under a patio umbrella. In fact, all of the lighting here is solar powered (apart from the pool light and one sconce on the house). You can see it better in the video, but here’s a screenshot below. We’ve got our go-to solar pathway lights surrounding the patio and some more solar fairy string lights along the fence. All of the solar lights go on automatically each night, so it’s glowy back there without any effort.


Small freeform pool at night with pool lights and solar lights on



We also originally had some fabric cabana-style chairs in place of these wood & wicker ones, but they got black mildew all over the wood in under a month and we learned it was because although they were made for the outdoors, they didn’t come sealed (?!?!). We tried to pressure wash them back to looking good so we could seal them ourselves, but no dice. So these chairs – plus some outdoor pillows from Pottery Barn – have been MUCH better all around (the lounge chair pillows are also from PB). The coffee table acts as the perfect place to prop up your feet or eat a poolside lunch. I wish I could link it, but we literally bought the floor model because World Market had discontinued it! Here’s a similar table though.


Patio area in background of small freeform backyard Florida pool with round spa and curved scupper wall



We also have one more chair on the other side of the pool, since this area becomes shaded by the house in the afternoon. It also gives us another seat we can drag over if we want an extra one in the main seating area. Someday we may get a bigger, maybe egg-style chair for this area, but this works for now.


Matching wicker chair sitting on opposite end of pool among potted plants and hook towel storage



This shot is actually a great transition to talk about…

Pool Organization

The photo above is taken behind the hot tub (that’s the back of the fountain wall in the bottom corner). Note all the hooks in that picture. You literally cannot have enough hooks when it comes to all the wet bathing suits and towels that living close to the beach and having a pool creates. Along with the five hooks that you see in the picture above, we also have two in the hallway leading out to the pool (you can see that in the video we shared earlier) as well as three more around the corner of the house. And frankly, I think we could still stand to add some more!


Hook towel storage along white shed and pool skimmer hanging on hooks on house siding



You can also see our little wall of pool “tools” hanging on the side of the house in that photo above. Those are just some garage hooks that keep our brushes, pole, and skim net neatly wrangled. The gate in the background leads to where all of our pool equipment is installed. The gate also hides some ugly stuff like our generator, gas meter, and A/C unit.

Back in this corner, we’ve also got a spot for toy & float storage. Sherry DIYed a float holder using a plant pot full of white rocks with a leftover PVC pipe from the pool guys that juts out of the rocks like a submarine viewfinder and keeps them from blowing around. We learned that lesson the first day it was windy and the tubes had a pool party of their own.


Pool floats organized on PVC pipe stand behind retaining wall



Most other pool things – like towels, sunscreen, a Bluetooth speaker, etc – we keep inside in our laundry closet. Since we don’t have a big covered awning or some other totally waterproof/weatherproof area back here, it just felt like a losing battle to try to store all of the pool stuff out by the pool in some sort of bin where they might get damp or musty. Thankfully it’s a quick walk to the laundry closet from the hall that leads to the pool, so it has been fine. We duck in to use the bathroom, get snacks, etc – so it’s just as easy to grab the speaker or some towels when we need to. Speaking of Bluetooth speakers, we got this one and so far we really like it.

Miscellaneous Pool FAQs:

Do you have a foot wash or outdoor shower by the pool?

We have an outdoor shower that we love (seen here) but it’s not accessible directly from the pool (you go out the gate in the photo below and it’s to your left – which is also where we have a hose for easy foot-washing). We thought it might be annoying to have it behind the gate, but so far it hasn’t been an issue for us, mainly because we tend to head out here from inside the house (where we aren’t sandy or in need of a rinse before going into the pool). And if we return from the beach and want to go in the pool, our routine is to return our beach chairs and beach toys to the bin on the front porch – so it’s easy enough to use the outdoor shower that’s right there and then just walk to our pool sand-free and ready to swim.


Outdoor pool shower area in corner of white house with exposed pipes



We originally had plans to add a foot wash, showerhead, and/or hose bib inside the pool area itself in that corner that you see above. The plumbing for the existing outdoor shower already runs down that corner of the house (it’s the copper pipes you may have noticed in the above photo) and we figure it would be extremely easy to tap off of those. But now that it hasn’t been much of an issue we might never do that. Time will tell.

Do you have a salt or chlorine pool?

We went with a saltwater system since it’s the standard around here (almost every new pool near us is built the same way ours was and has a saltwater system). One interesting thing is that it had to be chlorine for the first month because salt can hurt the plaster while it cures. But exactly 30 days in, our pool guy arrived and literally just dumped bags of salt into the pool (which is food grade, he said you can eat it, but like… don’t be weird and drink pool water).

The main reason saltwater is standard for our area is pretty simple: a) because it’s more eco-friendly and involves fewer chemicals, b) because it’s less harsh on eyes and skin (it’s not like a salty ocean experience where your eyes burn – it’s a much lower amount of salt) and c) there is zero smell, unlike the chlorine smell we had for the first month. It’s also much less harsh on bathing suits/towels. You can read more about the differences between chlorine pools & saltwater pools here if you’re interested






What are you doing for pool safety?

Pool code here requires a fence around the pool, complete with latches that are high up so smaller kids can’t open them and self-closing springs so pool gates close firmly behind someone walking in. It also requires loud blaring siren alarms on any doors and windows that lead to the pool from inside the house. We also added a camera to our pool area that senses movement (specifically of humans, not squirrels – technology is pretty amazing) as an extra precaution. It sends an alert to our phones in the event of someone walking into the area (we temporarily disable it when we’re all out there). It’s a great safety feature as well as a security feature that gives us a lot of peace of mind. Many camera systems have this human-sensing technology now, like Ring outdoor cameras for example, if you’re looking to add more safeguards to your pool.

Are you maintaining the pool yourself?

Since we’re first-time pool owners, we’ve enlisted the help of a professional pool pro who comes weekly to vacuum the pool, balance the salt levels, and maintain the pool equipment. He has already been SOOOO helpful in making us feel knowledgeable about our system and troubleshooting a few minor issues that have popped up. We were on the fence about hiring someone at first, but are so glad we did. He also said he’s happy to teach us to do it ourselves if we ever want to take over entirely. So it’s always an option down the road. Maybe in year two of pool ownership.


Paver pathway leading to green fence gate concealing pool equipment



What kind of pool equipment do you have?

We’re still new to the world of pool systems and we largely just went with what our pool builder suggested and what we heard recommended by a few neighbors. Everyone said the same thing: go with a variable speed pump, which is a bit more expensive up front but more energy-efficient and eco-friendly over time. So that’s what we have, and it’s not very loud, works well, and we’ve been very happy with it so far. Our equipment is by Hayward too if that helps.

Is your pool heated?

Yup! We have a spa (aka: a hot tub), so heat is an important element. Otherwise, it would be a cold tub. Har-har. Almost every pool in our area, even the ones without hot tubs are heated since no one in our area “closes” their pools for the winter season like they do further north. We’ve only used the heater a few hours in the evening for the hot tub so far, since the main pool has stayed 87-91 degrees naturally from the sun. We’ll have a better sense of the cost of heating the pool once we get through the winter, but the Energy Star sticker on our gas heater estimates a cost of $8/month. We’re thinking ours might even be lower since it’s not a large pool.


Round 6' spa at the end of a small freeform heated Florida pool with DiamondBrite Ivory plaster



Is your pool “smart”?

Every pool has a controller, which is essentially a box they mount right onto the wall (or the fence in our case) near your pool equipment. Think of it like an electrical panel box, but it has all of the buttons to operate your pool, turn on the lights, turn on the spa, adjust the temperature, turn on the fountains, etc). Our controller has an antenna that allows us to operate it with a remote. The remote is also on backorder (insert my best Homer Simpson “D’OH!” here) but we bought a special receiver as a workaround that allows us to control it using an app on a smart phone. So it means that everything from the heater to the lights and the fountains can be turned on or off from our phones. It is GREAT. Highly recommend it.

The Budget

All said and done, our pool cost was roughly $45K for everything the pool builder did (so that doesn’t include the fencing, landscaping, furniture, etc) and our initial pool estimate from the other company was in the same range. While sharing our progress on Instagram Stories, we learned firsthand that pool prices can vary widely – depending on everything from the location, the size, the soil type, the chosen materials, how easily accessed the yard where you want to put the pool is, etc. The second Sherry said “the pool is costing around 45K” her DMs filled with people saying “in Texas my quote was $100K!” and “I’m in Arizona and it was $150K!”

There are definitely regional factors as well as other things that make the cost of a pool vary widely, and I think a lot of the factors that helped to keep our costs down a bit more than it would be in some other areas were location, soil, access to the dig spot, and pool size. There’s a large number of pool builders here, so many tend to price themselves competitively compared to a spot that has just one game in town (which means they can jack that price right up). Our soil is also sand (like literal beach sand), so it takes just a few hours to dig the hole. Pool builders don’t find themselves blasting away deposits of subterranean rocks, which we heard is a common thing in areas like Texas and Arizona, which quickly skyrockets the price (and can take a lot longer).


John standing next to frame pool hole during backyard Florida pool construction



We also lucked out that the area where we were adding the pool was extremely easy to access (you could drive an excavator right up to it from the street, so it wasn’t one of those situations where parts had to be craned over a house or dug by hand because a truck couldn’t fit). I’m sure the relatively modest size of our pool helped keep the total down too, just because it means less wood for framing, less shotcrete, less tile, less plaster, etc.


After photo of children playing in small freeform Florida pool with small white house in the background



So that’s ALL THE WORDS AND PICTURES about our pool build, from start to finish (well, almost finished).

Not counting whole-house renovations like our beach house or our duplex, this pool is the longest and most expensive project we’ve experienced in our 15 years of homeownership… so thank you for indulging us in this SUPER long post, and forgiving us as I’m sure we’re going to show and talk A LOT about the pool for the foreseeable future.

*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

Building An Easy Privacy Trellis (With 2 Pieces Of Wood + 1 Planter Box)

Building An Easy Privacy Trellis (With 2 Pieces Of Wood + 1 Planter Box)

BRB, just changing the name of this blog to “Solving Problems With Plants.” And I know we promised a huge pool post, but the pool is still very much in progress. Hopefully it’ll be done next month and we can write one big breakdown with approximately 473 photos. But back to how plants can not only hide ugly stuff, they can also offer some pretty great privacy, as we’re about to demonstrate below.

One of the things that contributes to our house being extra walkable to shops, parks, the beach, and restaurants is that it’s less like a sprawling suburban neighborhood due to the lots being a good deal smaller (you can read more about why a walkable neighborhood and a smaller house/lot really appealed to our family in this post).






It’s a similar feeling to our former beach house in Cape Charles, Virginia, which taught us that we really didn’t mind being that close to other homes. Even though the houses on each side of us there were nearly identical, which meant that many of our windows lined up perfectly (in fact from one of our upstairs bathrooms we could see into BOTH of the neighbors’ bathrooms on either side – but thanks to the magic of blinds it wasn’t an issue). You can read more about that house’s renovation here.






Here in Florida, our current home’s lot size is more than three times bigger than our Cape Charles lot (it’s around 4,800 square feet), but it clocks in at around eight times smaller than the one we had in Richmond (which was nearly an acre!) so it strikes a really nice balance for us. Not too much to maintain, but still roomy enough to add a pool, work in some great outdoor hangout areas, etc. And not an inch of grass to mow, which might be my favorite part. We’re also on a corner lot here, so we’re not sandwiched between two houses like our Cape Charles house was… but on this one side of the house, there’s another house that’s somewhat close:






Luckily, that house doesn’t have any windows that perfectly line up with ours – and thanks to the mature trees and the privacy fence that we added, we don’t really feel like we’re ever going to be waving at each other from inside of our respective homes. In fact, after living here a while, the only spot that we felt a little more “exposed” than we wanted was one side window upstairs, above the kids’ art desk:


Long Art Desk And Office Desk In Beachy Living Room



It’s hard to tell from the photo above because it blows out in the picture, but in person, the left side of the window behind those two chairs overlooked the house next door just a bit more than we’d like when you’re looking at it head-on (for example, when you’re sitting in the chairs at the art desk).

Yes, blinds could have easily done the trick, but we’ve really enjoyed NOT having blinds on these upstairs windows because the up-in-the-treees views from this room are otherwise quite beautiful, green, and secluded feeling (you can read more about this room here in this post).


Wide Shot of Upstairs Living Room With Big Windows To Trees



We figured there had to be a way to get that leafy enveloped feeling out this window too. So we hatched a PLAN with a capital T. What’s that spell? PLANTS!






Fortunately, our deck wraps around just enough to go under this window (it literally ends right at the edge of the window, as seen below). So we used a simple raised planter box + trellis setup to create a lush wall of greenery that blocks our view of the house next door (and their view of us).






First, we bought this 48″ raised planter box (it’s on sale right now) and primed & painted it white to blend with the house.






The raised planter box gave the plants a nice head start on getting them tall enough to actually create privacy, and the “trellis” was actually really simple to add too.






It’s just two pieces of 2×2″ lumber (also painted white) that we screwed to the outside of our deck railing. Then we just strung up some 1/16″ steel wire between the two, crisscrossing it between some evenly spaced out screw eye hooks. Sort of like a quick-and-dirty version of this wire trellis that we added at our last house.

The main difference here is that we weren’t trying to create a structured geometric pattern for the vines to follow. Our goal here was full coverage. So we just weaved the wire back and forth to create some wide X’s stacked above each other, creating a “wire ladder” of sorts to give our vining plants something to grab so they could easily grow up to the top and fill the whole thing in.






The last step was to add the stars of the show: the plants. Well, and the dirt. But who cares about dirt. The real stars are, literally, the star jasmine plants that we planted in the raised planter box, right below our freshly installed wire trellis. Jasmine does REALLY well in our area, so we knew this would be a smart bet (it’s all over everyone’s fences and pergolas and smells really good). So we just dug them in, untangled them from the stakes they came with, and gently wound them around the wire.






Then along the front of the planter box, since we still had some room we added some foxtail ferns for another layer of greenery. They also like our climate and grow to be large and full without any irrigation or high-maintenance needs, which is always a plus. To be clear, we don’t water this planter box. It just gets rain whenever that happens and it grows happily on its own, which seems to be the key for us.






We actually planted this back in the fall and hoped for the best. And so far, so good. The jasmine is already taller than the trellis in some parts! We’re just keeping an eye on it, and occasionally we “re-route” some vines along a different part of the wire to help fill in some of the bare spots (there are a few empty zones towards the top that we’re still working on filling in).






Here’s another shot of how it looks from the ground…






… and the other day we even had a chance to go inside the house next door to check things out from their vantage point (it’s under construction and we’re friendly with the builder). There are still some spots that need filling in, but it’s pretty awesome how much it already obscures that window, which used to be completely visible from this POV.






So while it’s certainly not as simple as adding a blind would have been, it only took us about an afternoon of work, and we’re thrilled that it has given us another lush view the enjoy from these upstairs windows.






And since we’re on the subject of landscaping, we thought we’d share a newer photo of the front of the house since that landscaping is filling in nicely too.






Plants here seem to be exceptionally happy, which is convenient because we don’t have irrigation but they don’t seem to mind.

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P.S. To see all the other projects we’ve done over the last year that we’ve lived here, this page has them all rounded up in one place.

How We Created A Cozy Fire Pit Area In Our Formerly Boring Side Yard

How We Created A Cozy Fire Pit Area In Our Formerly Boring Side Yard

We’ve been enjoying this fire pit hangout spot for months now, but it hasn’t been on the blog… until today. This is basically a lesson in how a fence can make a HUGE difference in defining an area, which can lead to adding some simple outdoor furnishings (in this case, it was four adirondak chairs and a fire pit – which hit the ground and instantly created an entirely new “outdoor room” for our whole family to enjoy).


Green fenced side yard with black Adirondack chairs around fire pit



We hang out here and make s’mores at least once a week (and sometimes a lot more than that), so it has been a very welcome addition. Especially during a time when everyone is spending A LOT of time at home, so something novel and new like this bonus hangout zone feels extra special We even made s’mores for dessert on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, so it’s quickly becoming quite the family tradition.

Here it is even before we got the fence painted. I’m telling you, the chairs and the fit pit hit the ground, and we were immediately SO EXCITED to start using them right away.


Family sitting around fire pit with unpainted fence



We also now consider ourselves to be s’more aficionados, so we can tell you all sorts of fun mashups we’ve tried, like cookies instead of graham crackers, peanut butter cups on top of the Hershey’s chocolate bars – and maybe our favorite alteration: Andes mints instead of chocolate (I know that sounds weird, but trust me on this).

Here’s the setup at night with the fence painted. You know John has our string lights on a smart outdoor plug so they automatically come on at dusk, which draws us outside like moths to a flame.


Nighttime view of fenced side yard with black Adirondack chairs around fire pit



And here’s the new view from our bedroom during the day, which is about 780% better than what it used to be (we used to just look out onto the street). From the very beginning, we envisioned creating this private little patio off of our bedroom for enjoying some adult hangout time after the kids went to bed, which definitely happens, but with the addition of the fire pit, we also all get to enjoy this area together – which is even better.


View of fire pit area through open french doors in bedroom



Remember how I said the view got about 780% better? Well, this is what that area looked like without the fence. Our house is on a corner, and was mostly just a field of dreams pine needles bordered by the street on two sides. We always envisioned fencing in this area thanks to our neighbor up the street who has a similar situation and their fence made allll the difference.


Side yard are before fence was installed



Here we are now, with the fence added and painted (the color is Halcyon Green by Sherwin Williams, which changes colors all day long – hence appearing greener or lighter in some of these photos, depending on the cloud cover, time of day, etc).


Side yard with blue-green painted horizontal fence



The hue below is probably what it looks like most often (it seems bluer than usual in the photo above, likely because the sun was behind a bunch of clouds). We were aiming for a nice calming color that layers into the greenery outside without feeling too loud and crazy or too boring, and we’re really happy with it. Note: our friend’s kitchen cabinets are this same color and they look amazing! You can see them here.


Blue-green painted horizontal fence around side yard with long steps leading up to bedroom



As for the details on the chairs and the fire pit, this is the exact fire pit that we purchased. We really wanted a substantial solid-looking one, and finding a pit that’s a whopping 30″ wide with a nice clean concrete-looking bowl wasn’t easy – especially at this price point. We’ve used it a ton and so far we’re really happy with it.


Detail of faux stone fire pit with burnt logs in it



You can see in that photo above that the fire pit is sitting on a large square concrete paver (it’s easiest to spot the gray corner of it to the right of the base in the photo above). Here’s a closer shot below:


Detail of stone paver patio underneath fire pit



The fire pit instructions make it clear that it shouldn’t sit directly on a wood deck, and recommend setting it on a concrete base, so we slid a big concrete paver under ours. The white part of the bowl doesn’t really heat up at all (the metal one that actually holds the flaming logs up top does for sure though!) but we’re a fan of following directions. So we wanted to point that out for anyone else who gets one. You don’t just want to set it down on pine needles or a pile of leaves or old wood… aka: kindling.

As for the chairs, these are the exact ones that we bought. We were aiming for zero maintenance, so their no-rot fade-resistant construction was appealing, and their eco-friendly design is cool too (they’re actually made from a blend of plastics which includes recycled milk jugs and detergent bottles!).


Painted fenced side yard with black Adirondack chairs around fire pit with potted plants



They’re also super comfortable (the extremely good reviews are what tipped the scales for us to choose these out of 679 options – and they’re accurate – these chairs are GOOD). Like none of us want to get up and go to bed once we sit down. We stay in them for hours, even when the fire dies down to glowing embers and we definitely should go to bed.

So that’s basically the story of how a fence plus some simple outdoor furniture created yet another spot outside for us to enjoy. And let me tell you, when you intentionally choose to have a lot less indoor space… AND you move somewhere warmer in the hopes of spending a lot more time outside… maximizing your outdoor zones is one of the best things you can do! Not only does it give you more space to spread out and enjoy beyond the walls of your house, but it draws you outside all the time too.


Trees around fenced side yard with black Adirondack chairs around fire pit



As for how we get to the fire pit area, we can access it from the glass doors in our bedroom, or from the front door, since we added this gate that swings open to let people in right here by our rain chain.


Side gate open next to bedroom stairs allowing access out of fenced side yard



Here’s the view from that gate as you enter the fire pit area. I love that little decorative garden ball next to our big white planter (we found the ball at a local garden center, and have about a million of these large affordable white planters around our house). The garden ball (here’s a similar one) is almost exactly the same color as our patina’d rain chain (here’s a similar one of those) and they’re both a deeper/brighter version of the fence color so it’s really calming to have those tones layered throughout this area.


View through gate fence next to blue-green pot and rain chain



Here’s a closer shot of my beloved glazed garden ball, just for kicks.


Large potted plant in the corner of side yard fence along with patina green gazing ball



Oh and to orient you a bit more, here’s the hanging tent we added for the kids (more on that in this post) so you can get a better feel for this side of the house as a whole.


View of side yard and covered side porch with hanging tent swing



And because a video walk-through is basically worth 1,000 photos, here’s a quick spin around the fire pit area:

Note: You can also view this video on YouTube, where you can turn on auto-generated closed captions if that’s helpful for you.

Ok, now we can sleep at night knowing that this area that we love has finally been documented on the blog. Unless we’re currently sitting in the adirondack chairs, in which case we are tired but also very comfy so we will keep putting off getting up for a few more hours.

P.S. You can see every single update that we’ve made to this house over the last 9 months in this spot. From the exterior updates to each indoor room, there has been lots of progress.

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How To Hang An Outdoor Daybed (On Video!)

How To Hang An Outdoor Daybed (On Video!)

Last week we shared how we built the DIY outdoor hanging daybed that we installed on our front porch. And as promised, I’m back to share how we hung it since, if you’re like me, hanging things that are meant to support the full weight of a human body (or two!) can make you a little nervous.

It was actually extremely easy to do. So easy that we did it more than once (ha!) so that it resulted in the smoothest and most non-tipsy sway possible (our first hanging attempt made it tip forward and backwards a bit, which wasn’t ideal). Thankfully the second attempt worked like a charm. Plus it meant we could document the entire thing for you, so you can just skip right to doing it the better way on the first try.

Here’s how it looked when you last saw it, after our initial hanging attempt:


Two Kids Reading On Either End Of White Hanging Daybed Swing



We mentioned were going to rehang it in last week’s post, because almost immediately after hanging it with just two ceiling hooks, we realized that suspending it that way made the daybed swing front-to-back a bit more than we hoped, like an actual swing you’d find on a playground. When you sat on the front edge it was prone to tip forward.

When you laid on it you felt like you were rocking back-and-forth in a very shallow U-motion. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but we had envisioned more of a subtle swaying motion where the bed stayed level and flat the entire time. And we knew that would be the result of upgrading to four hooks in the ceiling. And thankfully, it worked!




Outdoor Hanging Daybed Hung With Rope In Four Spots Under Covered Porch Ceiling









The bed can still gently sway, but no more pitching forward and back like it’s an actual swing. Everyone stays level and flat while reclining, reading, or hanging out – and we couldn’t be happier with the result.

So it might seem like a small detail, but securing the daybed from four ceiling spots was a big improvement, and it’s even easier to understand on video, which is why we filmed the whole process. The video below covers everything from what hardware we used, how to account for the rope relaxing (it does quite a bit!), and why you shouldn’t be scared of complicated knots (which is something that I came to terms with as we filmed this). It definitely goes down as one of our weirder videos (I had no idea Sherry would laugh so hard when I explained what sold me on the smaller eye hooks that attach to the daybed), so hopefully you’ll find it helpful and/or entertaining:

Note: You can also view this video on YouTube, where you can turn on auto-generated closed captions if that’s helpful for you.

If you aren’t able to watch the video at the moment, I’ll cover some of the basics in the following paragraphs, but the video is especially explanatory, so come back and watch it whenever you’re actually planning to hang your daybed to hopefully error-proof your experience. You’ll also catch the difference between literal and figurative statements – and how that can DRAMATICALLY change the meaning of a sentence.

Daybed Hanging Materials

Just like the hanging process itself, the material list is pretty simple:


Natural hemp rope bundle for hanging daybed



Be warned that this rope DOES STRETCH under the weight of your daybed and your body. So you need to hang your daybed significantly higher than your desired final height, which is where the 5-gallon buckets come in. You can see a true demonstration of this fact in the video above (they’re really helpful).

How To Hang Your Daybed

When researching methods to hang our daybed, we saw a bunch of different tutorials that all recommend one common detail: propping up your daybed with 5-gallon buckets during the hanging process (like this one and this one). Just as many of them warn, it will seem too high. But as you saw in our video, once the buckets are removed at the end, and you sit on your daybed, the rope relaxes to a much better height. So don’t skip that detail or your end result will be a crazy low (and maybe ground-skimming) daybed. Did you see how much it drops in our video? It’s almost unbelievable how many inches the ropes can relax in a second or two.


John constructed one side arm on hanging daybed



We used some heavy-duty screw eye hooks in our ceiling, being sure to screw them into a strong support beam. We have the benefit of an exposed porch ceiling, but if you don’t, use a stud finder to locate a solid spot to hang your daybed. We installed one hook for each corner of the daybed, being careful to place them at the exact same spacing as the hooks on the bed below it.

Tying Your Rope

We tied our rope through these eye hooks using a midshipman’s hitch knot because it’s an adjustable knot, meaning we would be able to tweak the height if our daybed ever became unlevel. I demonstrate how we tied them in the video (nice and slow for you to follow along at home) – or you can reference a tutorial like this one.


Rope knotted around screw eye hook in ceiling of covered porch



We used slightly smaller screw eye hooks on the bottom that were the perfect size to thread our 3/4″ rope through. Be sure to drill pilot holes before attaching them. Another tip is that you can use a screwdriver like a lever to help you twist it fully into your daybed (like you see below):


Turning eyehook in hanging daybed using long screwdriver



With the rope already tied to the top eye hook, we threaded it through the bottom and cut off the excess, leaving about two feet of extra rope at the bottom, just to be safe. Before tying the bottom knots, we used a tape measure to make sure our daybed was placed exactly where we wanted it (centered in the space) and that it wasn’t sitting crooked or skewed to one side. Then we just used a basic pretzel knot (I’m pretty sure that’s not the technical name) tightened right below the eye hook on the bottom of each corner.


Typing pretzel knot on the bottom of hanging daybed under eyehook



Once we pulled all four knots tight against each of the bottom eye hooks, we removed the buckets and let the daybed hang freely. And then I sat on it. It’s an exciting, if not slightly nerve-wracking moment, especially since you’ll probably hear the rope creak loudly as it stretches and relaxes under your weight (you can see AND hear it in our video!). You’ll also probably notice that it pulls the rope tight against your bottom knots.


Frayed rope under the bottom of daybed eye hook



You can see from that picture above that we chose the fray the excess rope, trimming it so it hangs above the decking below it. You don’t want it dragging on the ground because it would likely get dirtier that way – and it would make an annoying sound if it drags as you sway.

Finishing Touches

As for if we have any issues with our daybed hitting the railing behind it, it can knock into it if you’re actively trying to do that, but if you’re just lounging on it & gently swaying, you don’t. Most porch swings & hanging daybeds are hung near some sort of railing and it’s just up to the people on them not to smash into them. We had that setup at the pink house, and it was also fine.






Our kids know it’s not some big geronimo adventure swing (they have one of those already in the yard), but just in case someone decides to come in like a wrecking ball, we did add a few of these clear furniture bumpers along the back edge, just to help protect the bed corner from getting damaged if it were to make contact.


Clear furniture bumper on backside of white hanging daybed



No one really sees this side (it’s hidden by the front of the railing – which I’m peeking over and through to get this photo), so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to add them, just for peace of mind.

So here’s the finished porch daybed as it now hangs from four anchor points in the ceiling. It’s hard to describe how much this hangout zone has improved the already awesome experience of sitting out here (we used to have some simple chairs, but it’s really nice to fully extend your legs and lounge). You can see my full leg-extension right here.




Outdoor Hanging Daybed Hung With Rope In Four Spots Under Covered Porch Ceiling









And just because we can’t resist a before and after, I thought I’d throw in this photo of the same angle, taken the day we first saw this house last February. The entire side porch was screened in and full of mildew and rotten floorboards back in those days:


Before photo of same angle with brown railings and siding and gross screening



It’s wild to think that this Friday will be exactly one year (to the day!) since we first laid eyes on this house. This porch was one of the weirdest spots at the time (it didn’t help that it was extremely rainy and dark that afternoon) and it’s awesome to see how far it has come. (If you’re going to ask if we miss the screens, the answer is no and the secret is a good outdoor ceiling fan. Mosquitoes – and bugs in general – hate flying into moving air).




Outdoor Hanging Daybed Hung With Rope In Four Spots Under Covered Porch Ceiling









Now if we could just be done with these Florida cold snaps so we can lounge out here even more, that’d be great.

K, thanks.

(Yes, our cold tolerance has been greatly reduced since moving here – to the point that 55 feels kind of cold.)

P.S. If you’d like to keep browsing our building projects and furniture upgrades, this archive is completely dedicated to them. You can also see every single update that we’ve made to this house over the last 8.5 months in this spot.

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How To Build An Outdoor Hanging Daybed

How To Build An Outdoor Hanging Daybed

Back in October we mentioned our plans to add a hanging daybed to the covered portion of our front porch and our entire family couldn’t be more excited that it’s finally done.




Two Kids Reading On Either End Of White Hanging Daybed Swing









Hanging daybeds like this are super popular in our area, and we’ve always had a soft spot for them. Is there anything better than reading/napping outside on a lazy Saturday afternoon?





John Laying Fully Stretched Out On Hanging Daybed Swing












One of the Airbnbs that we stayed at in Costa Rica last January had one that pretty much cemented our feeling that they’re just about the perfect outdoor lounge spot. Sherry and our daughter spent hours there, each leaning up against a side arm with their legs extended towards each other, reading and chatting and swaying.






Then, lo and behold, we realized that we had a near-perfect spot for one on the front porch of this house. It’s covered to protect us from rain and the hot sun. It has nice strong exposed beams to hang it from. We even have a fan right there to keep the area cool.


Blue Ceiling On Covered Porch With Ceiling Fan And Black Chairs



The only reason I say near- and not totally-perfect is that there wasn’t quite enough depth to create the typical twin-mattress-sized daybed. We could have crammed one in there, but it would’ve encroached on our often-used path to our outdoor shower, and we didn’t want to cramp that area. We also stand at that wicker storage bin and load beach chairs on and off of our backs when we’re leaving for or returning from the beach, so extra clearance there is key.


Covered Porch With Blue Ceiling And Open Door To Outdoor Shower



Thankfully the cushion that we landed on is just three inches shorter than the length of a twin mattress (still clocking in at 6′ long!), but it’s 10″ less deep, which is definitely appreciated. Even with 10″ shaved off, it’s still almost 30″ deep, which is pretty much a typical sofa cushion depth, and quite comfy (twin mattresses are significantly deeper than the average sofa). And we have plenty of clearance when we walk through to the outdoor shower or while grabbing beach chairs out of the wicker bin.



Finished White Hanging Daybed Under Covered Front Porch






That egg chair above swivels BTW, so whoever is sitting in it can rotate to face anyone who’s hanging out on the daybed. But back to the whole finding-the-goldilocks-of-daybed-cushions dilemma…

Finding An Outdoor Daybed Cushion

Even though the cushion would be covered, we still needed something that would be outdoor-friendly. My understanding from neighbors is that when someone uses a regular twin mattress, they zip it into a waterproof mattress cover and then cover that whole thing with outdoor fabric. If you’re good at sewing you might be able to make one yourself – or lots of Etsy sellers offer them (this one seems to be well-rated).

We first looked into doing something like that, but substituting the mattress for a custom-cut mildew-resistant foam pad instead. Not only was the price adding up very quickly, we also worried we’d end up with some oddly heavy or bulky cushion that would be a pain to move around whenever we needed to take it off the daybed (like in a storm or to clean it).

Then we realized that we could order a replacement outdoor cushion that’s already made for outdoor furniture and just build a daybed frame to fit that – if we could just find one that was the right size for our spot. That way it would be MADE to weather the elements, nicely tailored, ready to ship versus waiting on a custom order, and significantly less expensive than something custom-made might be! After a bit of hunting, we found this replacement cushion for the Pottery Barn Cammeray Outdoor Sofa -which was just about the perfect size, color, and material.


Angled View Of Finished Outdoor Hanging Daybed With White Cushions



So way back in August, we ordered it during an end-of-summer sale (we got the bottom cushion and three large back pillows for $399). At the time they were back-ordered and the estimated ship date was October. So much for things being ready to ship and fast. We finally got them right before Christmas.

But they were well worth the wait (FYI, they’re now shipping for mid-February delivery). They’re nice and lightweight, they dry really quickly, and so far are very easy to clean. We’ve had plenty of rain, sun, and various child-related spills, and we’re very happy with the durability and how quickly it dries out.

Materials

In addition to your mattress or cushion, here’s what else you’ll need to build your hanging daybed. The quantities below are for building our specific swing (our cushion was 28″ x 72″), so you’ll need to adjust things if you’re building one around a standard twin mattress, which I mentioned is 3″ longer and 10″ deeper (38″ x 75″). Also, if you plan to stain, not paint, your finished swing, you won’t want to buy pre-primed wood like we did.

  • Three 8′ long 2 x 4″ boards (for the frame)
  • Four 8′ long 1 x 4″ boards (for the slats)
  • Three 8′ long 1 x 8″ primed boards
  • Three 8′ long 1 x 4″ primed boards
  • Two 8′ long 1 x 3″ primed boards
  • Three 8′ long 1 x 2″ primed boards
  • A box of 2″ exterior screws
  • A bottle of exterior-grade wood glue
  • Four 5-gallon buckets
  • Eight screw eye hooks (we got these for the ceiling and these for the bed)
  • 3/4″ natural hemp rope (we got this rope in the 48-foot length)
  • Outdoor-rated paint and primer (we used semi-gloss exterior paint)

Building The Daybed Platform

I was a little nervous about constructing a hanging bed, but it turned out to be easy and extremely straightforward. When it came to figuring out the design that we wanted, we merged our experience building bunk beds at our beach house with this tutorial that we tweaked from Plank & Pillow, which has a nice clear step-by-step breakdown (and very fancy 3D renderings). Low and behold, we achieved a final look that we love, and it works really well for our space.





John Laying Fully Stretched Out On Hanging Daybed Swing












The structural core of the daybed is this simple frame made out of 2 x 4″ boards. It’s built to the exact dimensions of our seat cushion, and we connected it using outdoor screws that we had on hand. This would not only support the cushion (and those sitting on it), it would also be where our hanging hardware would eventually go into.


Screwing 2x4 wood frame together for hanging daybed



Since 2x4s aren’t the prettiest wood on the block AND we wanted the daybed’s base to look a bit more substantial, the next step would be to wrap all sizes of this frame with thicker wood. We chose 1x8s, but you could select something thicker or thinner depending on your desired look. And since we’d be painting our daybed, we purchased primed wood when possible, just to make our lives easier.


Screwing 2x4 wood frame to white 1x8 board



The only thing to consider here is how much you want your cushion or mattress to be recessed within your platform (how much is exposed vs. how much is hidden below the lip). Our cushion isn’t super thick so we wanted a minimal amount covered (nothing is worse than sitting on a bed when the mattress condenses and you scrape yourself on the bed frame). So our goal here was to have just enough of a lip to keep the cushion in place but not too much that we’d ever scrape against the lip. So before we attached the 1x8s around the side, we propped up our 2×4 frame on some scrap wood until we got the height of our lip just right.


Diagram of 2x4 frame propped up on scrap wood to determine height of outer lip



Note: you’ll also want to be sure to account for the slats that you’ll be adding to the platform in the next step, that’s why you see one resting on the frame above – to ensure that we were factoring those in as well.

So below you can see our finished frame, once all of the 1x8s were screwed on. As you saw above, we screwed from the inside of the frame, that way we didn’t have to patch holes on the outside.


Fully constructed 2x4 platform frame with white 1x8 around outside



Next, we nailed in a bunch of cheap 1×4″ boards that we cut to size, creating our own DIY platform bed slats.


Nailing 1x4 slat across top of platform frame



The next day we primed and later painted all of our exposed wood using the same exterior paint that we used on our outdoor trim/railings/etc (Moderne White by Sherwin Williams) – top, bottom, sides – we did it all. Maybe this was overkill, but we wanted to help protect the raw wood from the elements as much as possible.


Daybed frame fully constructed and painted white



You can also see that we propped it up on some 5-gallon buckets, which I’ll explain a little later. It actually made a certain step a whole lot easier.

Building The Daybed Arms

The construction of the arms and the side rails of your daybed is largely personal preference, and in our case we wanted to mimic the horizontal railings that we have around our house. We also opted to NOT build a back rail, (we just did two end rails, but not a third rail along the back side) which I realize might seem like a controversial decision.





John Laying Fully Stretched Out On Hanging Daybed Swing












We worried it would just encourage us all to sit against it, kinda like a couch, meaning we’d end up facing the house – rather than looking out towards the trees and the sunshine. Sherry & our daughter’s end-sitting experience in Costa Rica likely sealed the deal since they had a back on that daybed and didn’t use it. The choice feels pretty risk-free since we can always add one in the future if we miss it for some reason.




Two Kids Reading On Either End Of White Hanging Daybed Swing









Whether you’re adding a back or not, you still need to start this step by adding simple posts to all 4 corners of your daybed’s base. These are each made from two 1×4 boards attached at a right-angle.


Daybed arm corners finished and in place



Arm height is also personal preference, but we kept ours relatively low – just enough to support a pillow for leaning back on each side (we also carefully measured so our horizontal rails could be evenly spaced). Our corner posts were 17.25″ tall.


John constructed one side arm on hanging daybed



I should add here that any piece from here on out is attached with a combination of exterior wood glue and brad nails. The nails make it fast and easy to patch, the glue helps it hold for the long haul. You can see that I attached my 1x4s to the frame individually…


Daybed arm with wood glue about to be attached



…and then nailed them together along the edge where they met.


Nailing two corners of daybed arm together



Once my vertical posts were secured to each corner, I added the horizontal rails using 1x3s. I nailed and glued these from the inside and used some scrap wood spacers to make sure they stayed level while I attached them (you can spot the spacers in each corner below – they’re just small blocks of wood that I cut to the right side and put in each corner below the rail I was nailing – but they pll right out and can be used on all sides as you go around).


Nailing lower horizontal rail to daybed arm from the inside edge



I repeated that same step with my upper horizontal rail, making sure it was flush with the top of my vertical posts.


Attaching upper horizontal rail connected two corner pieces



Next, we attached another 1×4″ board across the top to create a flat arm rest of sorts.


Nailing top piece to daybed arm



The last little detail we added was a 1×2″ board along the bottom edge of the frame, between all 4 corner posts. This was purely decorative, so could totally be skipped or tweaked depending on what final look you’re going for.


Nailing 1x2 trim piece along the bottom edge of hanging daybed



Once everything was constructed, we wood-filled our nail holes, sanded them smooth, caulked the seams, and painted everything with that same outdoor paint (SW Moderne White in a semi-gloss finish).


Sanding wood filler on daybed with ryobi palm sander



Once everything was dry, we were ready to hang it!

Hanging The Outdoor Daybed

I’m actually going to write a separate post about how we hung the daybed because we tried a couple of different methods – hanging from two anchor points (as you see below) and later hanging it from four anchor points (which had a lot more benefits). We made a detailed video to show you exactly what worked the best to save you time, trouble, and money (our multiple hanging attempts meant that we had to purchase the rope twice and that we wasted a stupid amount of time on a subpar initial method).



Finished White Hanging Daybed Under Covered Front Porch






If you just want the material details so you can order it while we get that post together for you, we used this 3/4″ natural hemp rope, heavy-duty eye hooks (these in the ceiling, these in the bed), and some basic knots.


Natural hemp rope bundle for hanging daybed



The rope was easy to cut with regular scissors and it does stretch out a bit under the weight of the bed, but that’s where those buckets come in handy. I read in several places that your daybed will feel a little too high when it’s propped up on the 5-gallon buckets, but they keep it level and help with placement. And once you tie your ropes and remove the buckets, your rope relaxes (ours did within the first use – once some weight was put on the daybed) and it ends up at the perfect height.


Typing pretzel knot on the bottom of hanging daybed under eyehook



I’ll get into more detail in a follow-up post, but the main thing is to make sure you find joists or other strong anchor points within your porch ceiling that you can trust. We were lucky that our ceiling is mostly exposed so we had lots of visible anchor points to choose from.


Angled View Of Finished Outdoor Hanging Daybed With White Cushions



Even though the hanging method in these photos didn’t end up being our favorite – now that everything is rehung, this spot is quickly becoming one of our favorite places to lounge around. We’ve been lucky enough to have several warm days over the last couple of weeks to actually enjoy it!



View Of White Hanging Daybed Swing Under Covered Porch Through Open French Doors






Thanks to our 6′ cushion, it’s plenty comfortable for two people to sit upright at either end with their legs tucked under them, or out like this:




Two Kids Reading On Either End Of White Hanging Daybed Swing









It’s even big enough for a certain 6′ tall dad to sprawl all the way out on:





John Laying Fully Stretched Out On Hanging Daybed Swing












Budget

Apart from the cushion, the project was pretty budget-friendly. And I still feel like getting a long outdoor couch cushion, plus 3 matching oversized pillows for $399 was a pretty good find (we’ve got the 3rd pillow stored under our bed as a spare).


Side View Of Finished White Hanging Daybed With Cream Cushion



Here’s the cost breakdown:

  • Wood: $150
  • Buckets: $14
  • Eye hooks: $25
  • Rope: $28
  • TOTAL: $217

And when you add the outdoor cushion set for $399, that brings us to a grand total of $616, which isn’t cheap, but considering that many custom made ones (like these) are in the $1000-2400 range (!!!), this is a great way to get it done for 1/4 to 1/2 the price.



View Of White Hanging Daybed Swing Under Covered Porch Through Open French Doors






Also please know that more than showing you how to hang a daybed the right way (to save you time & money) – our next post is going to be a fantastic example of why we will never have an HGTV show. The video… let’s just say it’s one continuous outtake. So there’s that to look forward to.

Want to keep browsing our building projects and furniture upgrades? This archive is completely dedicated to them. You can also see every single project and update we’ve done to this house over the last 8 months in this spot.

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