What’s the one thing that always feels good on a hot summer’s day? Water. Running through a sprinkler, splashing in a kiddie pool, going down a slip and slide, and floating in a pool are all ways to make the summer heat mesh nicely with your body.
With five young kids seven and under, we don’t really like to go anywhere, and this stock tank pool has been an amazing cost effective addition to our yard for both us and our kids. When the temperature is above 70º F (we’ll even settle for 60º F on an early spring thaw), our kids will play in it for hours every single day. This is our third summer using it, and has held up beautifully.
They love sitting in their round doughnuts bouncing up and down, riding around on pool noodles, jumping off from the ladder, and just splashing around. My husband and I like to find a way to float and relax. When we close our eyes and feel our bodies bob around in the water, we can almost envision that we’re floating on the shores of some tropical island…until Elliot does a cannonball that is!
With our stock tank pool, homemade sandbox, garden, backyard teepee, stepping stumps, and homemade obstacle course, we are content to just stay home all summer long! *Video note: We don’t typically run the filter while kids are swimming in it. The suction is incredibly strong and can be quite shocking if you accidentally press your butt against it! 🙂
When we started researching pools last summer, I was almost tempted to buy a 12 foot Intex pool, but after reading reviews about patching pinholes and knowing that my kids like to play rough (which it couldn’t sustain), I didn’t think it sounded like a good idea.
Growing up, my Aunt Sue always had a round stock tank pool that she placed on a deck in her backyard. She always kept the water crystal clear with a filter and had it set up on a little deck. It was beautiful! We had an oval shaped horse trough pool growing up, but we never really kept it clean, and it turned into a holding tank for the tadpoles and turtles that we would catch in our nearby lake. It was still really fun though!
I scoured the Internet for some good directions for making a stock tank pool and could only find really cute pictures (that often showed crystal clear water with no filter…not possible!) without many good directions, so I hope that in this post, I can be a little more specific. Needless to say, we learned how to do everything wrong before we learned how to do everything right, so hopefully, if you’re looking to make your own stock tank pool, you can avoid some of the pitfalls we had.
- 10 Foot (diameter) Round Galvanized Steel Stock Tank Pool: An 8 foot would work too. They are typically 2 feet high – which is pretty much shorter than anyone who is really good at walking, so it’s safe for toddlers! If you want to buy something online, Amazon has these plastic 8 foots, and the hole saw kits I talk about later work on plastic as well. Stockyards Ranch Supply in Colorado also has them, and you can call for a delivery quote.
- Sand Filter Pump: You don’t have to have a pump if you’re okay with just emptying the pool when it gets dirty or using some chlorine or bromine tablets, but I highly recommend buying one for the long haul. It’s great for filtering out algae and debris, has a 24-hour timer with preset cycles for automatic operation, is low maintenance (you only need to empty out the sand every 5 years), and has a six-function control valve that lets you filter, backwash, rinse, recirculate, drain, and close the system. We bought the filter for a 16″ diameter pool. It filters 2,450 gallons per hour, and it does a very nice job, but we still need to add shock treatment or drain it completely several times over the summer. They also offer a 12″ filter that cycles through 1,600 gallons an hour and a 10″ filter that cycles through 1,050 gallons an hour. *FYI: a 10″ stock tank pool holds 1,100 gallons.
- Pool Filter Sand: We just used some sand from our sandbox, but this type of sand that I linked to was recommended by our pool filter system manual.
- *Additional Filter Systems:
- Saltwater System: It pretty much makes its own “natural” chlorine. You could use this in addition to the sand filter for optimum performance.
- Cartridge Filter Pump: If you’re looking for the cheapest option, you could get this cartridge filter pump, but you’d have to replace the filters every two weeks.
- Floating Dispenser and Bromine Tablets or Chlorine Tablets (bromine is safer than chlorine…slightly).
- Pool Water Shock: Kills bacteria and algae in one big “shock” of chlorine.
- Because of the dangers of chlorine, we try our best to avoid it. We’d prefer not to use any of these methods, but we have used the pool shock a time or two when things got bad (mainly because we didn’t use our pool filter properly). It did a fine job of killing the algae, and we just avoided the pool until it all evaporated, 24-48 hours.
- Drill: You’ll need to drill two holes into the pool if you’re going to attach a filter. As convenient as a cordless drill can be, we have had much more success with drilling projects that need a lot of power to use a corded drill. You’ll also need a hole saw kit to attach to your drill.
- Hose Conversion Adapter Kit: We got some metal hardware from the store, but the plastic ones I linked to here should work fine as well. Basically, you just need something to attach the pool filter to the hole you’ll make in the pool.
- Plumber’s Putty: This stuff is waterproof and great for plugging up all leaks! If I could do it again though, I think this epoxy would’ve worked better.
- *18″ Pool: If you’re looking for something bigger that is super easy to set up and comes with EVERYTHING you’ll need, you might want to check this out. 🙂
- Get the pool to your house! You can order a stock tank pool online and they will deliver it, or you can purchase it from a store and for a fee they can probably deliver it too. My husband knew someone who had an open trailer. They went to the store, picked it up, strapped it down, and drove it to our house.
- Prepare the pool location. You want a place that is flat and level that isn’t close to too many trees that will annoy you with their random leaves cluttering your pool. When we made our sandbox, we put an extra load where we wanted our pool, and it made an excellent base. (You don’t have to do this, it’s just a nice touch.)
- Set up the pool filter. This seems a lot more complicated than it really is, especially after you watch the instruction video, but bear with it, it’s not that bad. Basically, you’ll need to put it together and fill it with sand. You can put it on a base, but we never did and it worked just fine.
- Measure the pool filter tubes. We made the mistake of measuring the interior diameter rather than the exterior diameter of our tubes and since the drill bit needs to connect with the center, once you make a hole too small, you can’t make it bigger. This made the entire process of connecting the tubes turn into a HUGE ordeal for us (and is why you’ll notice lots of adhesive covered with cloths over our tubes). We had to get extender pieces and everything leaked in every possible place, but we eventually got it all sealed up and running great. So basically, measure twice and cut once!
- Cut two holes in the stock tank pool for the filter tubes. You’ll want to position the holes about 2-3 feet apart from each other in about the middle of the top half of the pool walls. Use a drill and a metal drill bit to cut the holes. Some protective eyewear is probably a good idea. 🙂
- Attach the hardware into the holes made in the stock tank pool. Get as snug of a fit as you can, and then seal everything up with epoxy or plumber’s putty. You might even want to put some plumber’s tape around the threads.
- Attach the pool filter tubes. Once again, get everything to fit as tight as you can then seal everything with plumber’s putty or epoxy. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to detach the tubes at the filter to drain the pool. (Plus there’s a little screw thing near the bottom of the pool that you can take out to drain the pool too.)
- Fill with water. Fill the water just above the holes to make sure they are not leaking. If they are, drain the water a bit and seal any holes. When we did this, we just used whatever sealers we could find in our house. It made a big mess, but it did the job!
Stock Tank Pool Maintenance
- Keep the junk out. We made sure to establish some rules with the kids about not putting sand or other debris into the pool and put a little foot rinsing bucket in front of the ladder. I also like using a pool skimmer about once a week or so to fish out any stray floaties. But seriously, we don’t get too strict here because it’s no fun if you start getting paranoid about every speck of dirt that might get in.
- Run the filter. Pay close attention to the owner’s manual for your filter and run all scheduled maintenance. We did a poor job of this the first year we had our pool, and as a result, the tubes filled up with green algae as did the filter, and it became very hard to keep clean. I highly recommend watching the instruction DVD that comes with your filter (if you choose to use one…you really don’t have to). It has a 24 hour timer attached, so it’s easy enough to schedule about an hour every day for the filter and rinse. Just don’t forget the backwash and rinse…very important!
- Drain it. After the first fill up during the first year of having our pool, it stayed pretty clean and clear for about 6-8 weeks. Then, it started to get a little green looking, and then like the next day we couldn’t see the bottom of the pool! When this happens, all of the shock treatment in the world won’t make a difference, and it’s better to just drain it. To drain the pool, unscrew the tubes from the filter and pull the plug out from the bottom. It will make the ground nice and swampy for the afternoon, but the water will all drain away eventually.
- Power wash it. Having a good power washer like this is useful around the house for so many reasons, but for cleaning out a dirty pool, it’s simply the best! Unless you want to be super meticulous, you won’t get every little speck, but it will dislodge most of the gunk, and the rest you can get with elbow grease.
- Scrub it. I like using this natural cleaner called Sol-U-Mel (it’s AMAZING and cleans EVERYTHING…it’s like Goof Off without the toxins). Spray, scrub, spray, scrub, spray, scrub…
- All clean! Now that the pool is nice and clean, make sure the pool filter is free from debris, and fill it up again! Check for leaks as it’s filling, and if you notice anything, a little plumber’s putty should do the trick.
Additional Pool Items
- Pool Ladder: This is the one we got, and it’s quite a bit taller than our pool, but our kids love it!
- Solar Cover: This works great to keep debris out of the pool and to warm the water. If you get this, I don’t think you need a pool cover.
- Pool Skimmer: This is great for getting out grass clippings, small leaves, and any other little floaters.
- Life Jackets: These life jackets are our favorites for the little ones (30-50 lbs) and are great for teaching kids the mechanics of swimming.
- Swimming Diapers: As much as I love to have my kids run around naked in the summer, I don’t like them peeing and pooping in our pool!
- Flotation Devices: This pool isn’t that big enough hold anything too big, but our kids have enjoyed some basic round tubes. We have also enjoyed getting some fancy full body floating devices for a really tropical experience!
- Pool Noodles: The kids have enjoyed playing with these in the pool more than anything! Scott and I like tucking one under our neck and one under our ankles and floating like we’re in the middle of the crystal clear waters of some tropical resort!
- Diving Rings and Sticks: Once kids can hold their breath underwater, these diving rings and sticks (with goggles) make for a lot of fun!
- Foot Rinsing Bucket: We like putting a large rectangular bucket in front of the ladder so that the kids will rinse their feet before going in.
If you want something sturdy and fun that will allow you to enjoy hours and hours of backyard fun in the summer sun, I highly recommend getting a stock tank pool set up. If we had gone with one of the cheap Intex pools of a similar size, we would constantly have to nag the kids to be gentle and then it would probably still pop a hole at some point anyways. This has stood up VERY well to lots of roughhousing, and I’m hoping that it will last for years to come!