In which I convert a used swing set to a not-quite-deck for our pool

Anybody want to hear a rambling story about a pool improvement project of dubious value? I got you covered. 

Early last spring, we saw the pandemic writing on the wall and splurged on an above-ground pool to get us through the summer. It was a great! No regrets! (Well, the kids have regrets, because I forced them to dig rocks in the hot hot son for many weeks, but they did eventually get a pool out of it, plus plenty of invaluable “my parents are so cruel”stories.)

The only drawback was that the only way to get in and out of the pool was via a wobbly A-frame ladder, so you could either be completely in the water, or completely out of the water, but there wasn’t really any in between, i.e. lounging by the water while you keep your kids from drowning.

And I couldn’t do this:

Sitting in the sun and dangling your feet in the water is the main reason for owning a pool!  And no, I can’t sit on the top of the ladder and do it, because my hips don’t fit, okay? You go have ten kids and then squeeze yourself into the top of a ladder. 

So this year, I decided to build a deck. Yay, easy, fun! Then I got a look at lumber prices, and decided, well! Wow! My goodness! Maybe a used deck, then. I obsessively refreshed Facebook Marketplace pool deck listings all day long and had my heart broken over and over again. Lots of other people apparently had the same idea this summer, and so I finally gave up.

I cycled through progressively stupider ideas for some kind, any kind of platform to go next to the pool (maybe builder’s scaffolding! Maybe rotten and splintery wooden pallets that I collect a few at a time over the course of several years and ignore the fact that they’re soaked with industrial chemicals! Maybe those metal cage things they use to secure maple sap collection tubs! MAYBE AN OLD TRAIN CAR!!) Even I could tell these were dumb ideas.

However, I noticed that there were plenty of used play structures made of pressurized wood for sale, and they were quite cheap, even if you factor in rental of a pickup truck. I got a great deal on one in good condition. My first plan was to replace our old play structure with this slightly less old one, and convert the old one into a pool thing, but that was a bridge too far, dumbness-wise. So I lugged the platform part of the new-old play structure into the yard and set aside the slide and swings and appendages, and here is what I did to the platform:

First I reinforced the uprights. The platform part of a play structure is not designed to stand on its own; it’s supposed to have a slide and a whole other section with swings attached to it, so it was wobbly. I used some scrap pressurized wood, cut the ends into angles, and screwed a piece diagonally across each of the four sides. This made it much more stable. 

Now I needed a way to get up there. After many false tries with various kinds of ladders and steps, I ended up re-attaching the original climbing wall to one side. This is not ideal for adults, but it’s strong and it works well enough.

To one side, I attached ten large bicycle hooks for towels, swimsuits, etc. 

Actually I did this part first, because I wanted instant gratification. This part alone was worth the effort of the whole project, as the kids had been just dropping their wet towels in the dirt, and then not picking them up because ew, they’re wet and dirty. And then the dog was eating them.

I used duct tape to attach an umbrella to one upright, and Flex Tape to attach two solar-powered spotlights to the two uprights that face the pool, for night swimming. NIGHT SWIMMING.  Actually there is something wrong with them, even though I didn’t buy the cheapest kind, but eventually, NIGHT SWIMMING.

Then I used zip ties to attach a basket to a spot that already had holes drilled in it. This is a place for sun block and bug spray or books, and it’s a secure place for a phone and/or speaker for music. 

To the other side, I attached two shelves, for books, drinks, etc. I used the kind of shelf bracket with a hook at the end, designed to hold a closet rod, so we can keep the pool skimmer and brush there. 

You can reach the shelves when you’re inside on the platform. Corrie is quite taken with the idea of poolside a bowl of fruit.

Notice there is a stray sock. There is always a stray sock. 

And that’s it! Here’s the whole thing:

It’s kind of stupid, and far from luxurious, but it works, and I didn’t spend a lot of money on it, and I didn’t cry at all when I was working on it. Now I can sit down and have a clear view of the whole pool, get some shade if I want, and have a place to put drinks or sunglasses or whatever. It’s sort of a deluxe lifeguard chair, I guess. And I can do this:

I told the kids I would never turn down a foot massage, but Corrie was being really creepy about it, so I guess I have my limits after all. 

Haven’t decided what to put in the space underneath the platform yet (there’s a reason we didn’t put the pump and filter underneath, but I forget what it was). Maybe a tub or deck box to keep toys in, or possibly a trash can.  I’m trying to convince Damien we can attach a pool slide to the pool side, but he believes that would end in a collapsed pool and a rush of 9,000 gallons of water that carries your children away, and he’s usually right about these things. 

How about you? Got any dumb projects this summer? Got any pressurized wood? Got any pallets? Got any dirty towels? Got any duck food? 

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14 thoughts on “In which I convert a used swing set to a not-quite-deck for our pool”

  1. I love this! I am considering the same thing and when i googled it I came across yours. My husband isn’t convinced but I am!!! I am curious if you have made any upgrades or adjustments to it since?

    1. No, I haven’t. It’s done its job, and continues to be less-than-luxurious, but it’s handy for storage and is still better than a real deck that we don’t have because we can’t afford it, haha.

  2. I saw those hooks and immediately began reading the whole post aloud to my family. We are all very impressed (though my husband, incidentally one of 9 children so his instinct on these things is generally very good) is concerned you have just built a high dive platform with hooks in it.

  3. Adorable.

    I’m jelly. This was the year that I’d absolutely promised the kids to resurrect the pool.

    Alas, back to drought mode. 🙁

  4. I am VERY impressed, but what’s more, my husband is impressed, and he actually knows things. Well done!

  5. All I can think of when I read “night swimming” is how the mosquitos would EAT ME ALIVE. (They are bad here in Texas and my blood is their very very favorite.)

  6. this seems pretty much brilliant to me. I mean, you could repeat it two times more and you’ll have a deck stretching around half the pool.

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