Who Knows about Pools?

One of my motivations for starting this site is the hope that we’ll be able to get helpful feedback and advice about the many decisions we will have to be making during this process.  Whether that’s deciding between 2 paint color options or, in this case, a much bigger decision, I welcome others’ input.

When we decided to move off the lake, we knew that we would miss the water, so we pretty quickly decided that we needed to include a pool in our plans.

But neither of us has ever had a pool, so there is a ton to learn before jumping into what will be a very expensive project all its own.  Our community guidelines require an inground pool, which we would have done anyways, but before starting this research, I wasn’t familiar with the different types of pools.  Fiberglass, vinyl liner and concrete — plus some companies do hybrids of these techniques– all have their proponents.  And, of course, most people are very loyal to their preferred method and are quick to bash the others.



So, I’m hoping that people out there can provide some advice.

  • Do you have a pool or at least have you researched them?
  • What kind did you get and why?
  • Has there been anything about your pool that surprised or disappointed you?
  • If you were planning a new pool right now, what factors would push you to one pool type over another and why?
  • Any other advice?

Thanks in advance.

We will definitely keep you posted as we explore more and make some decisions.

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Stakes in the Ground!

After months of just looking at preliminary floor plans and exterior elevations, we took a small step forward this past week and actually put some stakes in the ground at our building site.  This was a completely informal exercise that I did with our designer using just approximate property lines and a tape measure, but it still made things seem that much more real.

We had a couple of main reasons for wanting to do this.  Beyond simply seeing some sort of tangible progress, we wanted to see how close we needed to be to the required setbacks to avoid a large raised mound which is planned to be the septic field and also to see what the site will look like behind the house for pool construction.

The topography of our site has been a huge consideration in every aspect of our design.  While the site we chose is flatter than many of the others in the neighborhood, it is by no means flat.  We chose it because it gave us the best option for a usable backyard including a pool, but until we put stakes in the ground, we had no idea where the pool would sit on the slope that exists.  We put the stakes in assuming the house would be as close to the road as the setbacks require and hope to get some pool contractors out before everything is buried in snow so they can get a lay of the land and we can start some planning and budgeting for that part of the project.

Incidentally, this exercise proved to me that I’m terrible at estimating sizes.  When we staked off the setback from one side and I looked at the remaining space before hitting the raised mound on which we can’t build, I said “there is no way the house will fit in that space.”  But, after measuring off the width of the proposed foundation, we have at least 10 more feet of space that will probably allow us to slide the house over a bit.  And, it is amazing at how small it feels when all you have is stakes!  The building envelope is just over 2000 square feet and about 72 feet wide, but it seemed tiny.  I know that they say rooms feel small when they are empty, and that effect apparently gets magnified when you don’t even have walls.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures to try and show you how it looks right now.

This first picture is oriented looking from what will be driveway toward the front of the house.  The stake in the middle of the frame is about where the front door will be although it will probably be a few feet higher that ground level there since the whole lot is sloping downward from where I’m standing.


This second picture is looking along the backside of the house.  The 4 stakes that are in a square represent the dining nook that will represent the back part of the foundation.  So, it starts to give a sense of the topography that exists behind the house, but it is still hard to really grasp.  The main floor, where that dining nook will actually be, will probably be 8-10 feet higher than the level where the stakes actually are.  We don’t know yet what will be in the walkout basement at that location.


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Facebook Fan Page is Live!

We are happy to announce that we have created a Facebook page specifically for this website.   Hopefully it will make it easier for you stay up to date with our progress instead of having to manually check back.  Please “Like” the page now.

We will try to remember to link to each new post there.  Also, going forward, we are going to be utilizing Facebook comments rather than the default WordPress comment system.

And, if we have all the right checkboxes checked, then any comments made on the blog should mirror back to the Facebook page and vice versa.  The magic of technology… or it might be the thing that makes me pull out my hair!

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Go Cubs Go!!



I have good reason for not posting anything recently.  The Chicago Cubs just completed an amazing playoff run and brought the World Series trophy back to the north side of Chicago after a 108-year drought.  And I just had to watch every minute that I could… and I’m so glad I did.

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and was a Cubs fan from my earliest memories.  Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player and when I wasn’t watching him, I was trying to emulate him on the field.  It’s safe to say that baseball was a huge part of my life during my early childhood.

I’m not going to claim that I’m a diehard fan or tell you that I have season tickets and never miss a game.  Quite the contrary, I’ve fallen away from the game as I’ve gotten older.  But my allegiance to the Cubs has never swayed.

I do remember thinking and hoping that Theo Epstein would be able to work his magic in Chicago the same way he did in Boston, but it still seemed so improbable.  The Cubs have always been the “lovable losers” and it seemed to so many people that they always would be.

But all of that frustration was wiped away by this season.

It was an absolutely heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat postseason that culminated in one of the greatest endings I could ever imagine.  I don’t think anyone could have dreamt up a crazier, more intense game 7 if they tried.  It seriously looked like the Cubs were purposely letting the Indians back into the game on a couple of occasions.

Perfect Hollywood drama… except that it wasn’t scripted.  It was pure and genuine competition and watching and hearing the players’ reactions as the playoffs progressed and seeing their joy and gratitude through their victory rally today reminded me much more of Little Leaguers winning it all with their friends than grown men who make 6, 7 or even 8 figures a year to play a game.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt a bit betrayed by professional sports.  Yes, of course, the players would like to win a championship, but it frequently seems that the fans are more invested in the outcome than the players are.

This year’s Cubs team, however, seems to genuinely embrace the game and recognize the significance of what they were ultimately able to accomplish–not just for themselves, but for the city as well as fans and former players, many of whom lived their whole lives and never got to see a Cubs championship.  I’m sure the fact that they are a very young team has something to do with it, but the team leadership and ultimately each individual’s character played a huge role too.

So I’d like to join the estimated 5 million people who lined the streets and packed Grant Park in Chicago today for the victory parade and rally–along with probably 10s of millions who would’ve liked to have been there– in congratulating and thanking this Cubs team and the whole organization for an amazing season.


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Why, Elon Musk, Why?!

Why does Elon Musk have to come out with such appetizing products?

I already desperately want a Tesla car, but Elon made quite a few people scream, “Take my money!” when he recently showed off some pretty amazing designs for solar shingles in conjunction with an upgraded Powerwall to store extra energy.

While building a green home is not the most important goal of this project– we’re not willing to use a technology just because it is green if it doesn’t make fiscal sense or ruins the look or function of the home– we would love to be able to incorporate it as much as possible.  If we had more land, I would totally consider installing a solar array away from the house, but we don’t have that option.  And the previously available roof panels don’t give the look we like and would very possibly not be approved by the design review committee of our neighborhood anyway.

But the new shingles shown off at Tesla’s press event on Wisteria Lane (yes, they are only available for Desperate Housewives for now) look like normal high-end shingles from the street.  It’s only from more direct angles, like the angle the sunlight would hit them, that the underlying panels become apparent.  Quite an awesome design that they report loses very little energy.

Of course, this was just a preview and who knows how they will actually look or perform in mass production.

And there’s that little issue of price.  Really no details were shared on this issue other than to say that they expect (or maybe hope) that the added cost of these solar shingles will be offset by the savings in electricity.  Unfortunately, that’s way too vague.  If it is 5 years to break even, then it probably would make sense.  After all, normal roofs are expected to last upwards of 30 or more years.  Of course, since they will have electronic components– and we all know how quickly electronics makes leaps and bounds– owners of these roofs may need and/or want to “upgrade” them much sooner.  But if I’m expected to front a big cost that I wouldn’t recoup for a decade or more, it would be a lot harder to bite.

It will be very interesting to see more of the details as these get closer to production to see how many people they really make sense for and how they actually perform.  I imagine it will be like Tesla cars: very high-end and almost a novelty to begin with and trickling down to more average consumers over a few years.

In our case, they won’t really be an option, though, because they likely won’t be available till late 2017 and we better have a roof on our project before that.  Plus I don’t think I would want to be a day 1 adopter of something like this that will definitely command a premium price.  It will be very appealing as an upgrade down the road, however.

Now, about that Powerwall…

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