Coffee heat rising

The Big Pool Decision: Stay or Go?

Am I crazy? This idea is beginning to make more and more sense to me: Get rid of the backyard swimming pool. Tear it out and replace it with a nice xeriscapic garden.

You’ll recall that I drew out about 10 grand to resurface the pool, since its 16-year-old plaster was coming off in divots. I elected to have Swimming Pool Service & Repair, my favorite pool dudes, apply PebbleSheen in a dark blue color.

BIG mistake. Actually, it’s the biggest mistake I’ve made in 40 years of homeownership. The dark color absorbs so much solar heat that the water temp is about at bathtub level, which cultivates algae and bacteria in vast legions. The water is hazy with microorganisms, the walls — whose surface is now too coarse to brush effectively — grow coats of mustard algae, and the only way to control that seems to be to apply several gallons of liquid chlorine every day and to run the circulation through the main drain 24/7.

Well, running that pump 24 hours a day jacked up the power bill by $100, and that doesn’t reflect what it will cost to run it like that for 30 days — we’ve only been doing this for a little over two weeks. The Depot charges $6.87 for two gallons of liquid chlorine, and the soda ash runs…I don’t recall offhand, but I think I paid $50 for the last bucket of it from Leslie’s. None of these efforts works for more than a few hours.

I can’t afford to pay some $215 a month for chlorine ($6.87 x 31 days) plus maybe $200 extra a month on the power bill plus God only knows how much more for other chemicals and $50 per visit from the only pool guy who seems to have anything like a clue. I can’t swim in the pool — can’t go in it with the chlorine levels through the stratosphere, nor do I care to jump into water that looks like someone poured Starlac into it. And trying to deal with this stuff has me out there about once an hour from dawn to dusk, struggling with the thing. I’m pouring stupid amounts of money and annoying amounts of unavailing work into a hole in the ground that I can’t even use.

By the way: Yes, I do know how to maintain a swimming pool. I’ve been doing it for 16 years in this house and did it for 10 years in another house. NEVER did I have problems that even vaguely approach this fiasco.

So…I’m now seriously thinking that the time has come to have the pool demolished and filled in. Jackhammering out the KoolDeck, replacing it with desert landscaping, and planting a specimen Desert Museum paloverde in dirt dumped into the hole would make a nice garden out there, and it would require almost zero maintenance. I figure the project would cost about 10 grand. This, since I just spent that much to have the goddamn thing resurfaced, is in the “holy sh!t” category.

However…assuming the current expenses continue, on average, then the job would pay for itself in about two years. Videlicet: assuming an average electric bill increase of $150/month (if the issue subsides enough that it’s unnecessary to run the pump 24 hours a day in the winter), the annual cost of chlorine, power, soda ash, and service from the pool guys would come to $5556. If it “only” costs $10,000 to fill in the pool, the savings on the present out-of-control costs would be made up in one year and nine months (1.79 years).

Since the pump is unlikely to hold up very much longer under the current abuse, this figure is no doubt conservative. It doesn’t count the cost of water to keep the thing topped up, or the $150 every three or four months to have someone come and clean the filter. Or the cost of draining it and refilling with clean water every few years.

Am I crazy? Yes, no, maybe??

I realize that removing the pool will damage the property value of the house. However…

  • With any luck at all, I intend to live in this house until I die. I figure that will be another 10 to 12 years.
  • Lowering the property value will also lower the property taxes, which are pushing the limit of what I can afford to pay, especially with the mad gentrification going on in the neighborhood now.
  • Some buyers don’t want a pool, and so the proposition that no pool = lower sale price is questionable.
  • If I do manage to stay in the house until I croak over, then what do I care how much it will sell for?
  • Less property management labor will mean I can afford to stay in the house longer, which will keep living expenses down.

Is that a sane calculation?

And where will the ten thousand dollars come from? Well, I can either draw it down out of investments (which I’d prefer not to do) or I could take out a loan against the house. I already have a $3,000 line of credit at the beloved credit union. I’m sure they’d lend me ten grand without a blink. Right now the interest rate on a home equity loan is 5%; they’re too cagey to post the rates for personal loans. For that matter, the Copyeditor’s Desk has ten grand just sitting right there in its little bank account.

I don’t want to do something stupid and self-destructive out of frustration. What do you think about the advisability of this scheme?