Introduction: Easy Water Slide Upgrade
Traditionally, summer is the time when things get hot, including gardens and slides. While kids tend to like the garden when it is hot outside, they do not appreciate the baking sheet quality of a good sun-heated slide. Here, I show you how to remedy that by turning an ordinary slide into a theme-park grade* attraction - a water slide!
This Instructable is about something that I cobbled together virtually on the fly one very hot day. I had this idea floating through my head for a few years now, but it was only my kids complaining that their slide was too hot to use that I finally got around to making it - and it turned out to be rather easy to do, too!
And as always I invite you to check out my video on the subject on my YouTube channel (or right in this Instructable). Not only will you see the slide in action there, you will also get to see running water which, as we all know, is a very soothing thing to watch.
- A slide. This might be obvious, but it is important to note that this instructable is about upgrading an existing, ordinary slide to a water slide. It does not cover making or installing a slide. Also, you should be able to lift the foot of the slide up to place it inside the kiddy pool, otherwise you will either need a lot of water or to build some attachment that serves as a water collector - while that sounds complicated, there is a step further down the line about that option.
- A kiddy pool is used as reservoir, and can also double as a, well, kiddy pool for the kids to sit and play in. The one I used is a little on the small side, but it worked out alright.
- A pump that is capable of pumping water up to the top of the slide. Mine came from an old hydroponics project, and runs on 12V DC. You can use anything you like, as long as it gets the water high enough. Keep in mind that the water should flow gently, not gush down - you do not really need much pressure here.
- A power supply that is sufficient for the pump you want to use. I went with an old computer power supply, the kind that offers 5V and 12V with enough amperage to back it up, and I was lucky to have kind of a connector board to work with. I have tried a "wall wart" style plug transformer that delivered 12V but less than 1A, and the pump kept making noises but did not actually start pumping. So make sure you have something that works for your pump - unless you have one that plugs in directly into a wall outlet - in this case you should be all set.
- A length of hose to run from the bottom of the slide to the top. A little extra length would not hurt, either. Did I mention that the hose should fit the pump?
- A hose clamp can come in handy to make sure the hose then stays on the pump.
- You might also need cables and/or wires to connect everything, plus optional equipment to perform the actual connections (like luster terminals or such) - wall socket to power supply to pump, again, unless you have a pump that comes with a wall plug right away. Keep in mind that there is electricity going on! I felt confident using the power supply because I have some experience with wiring and I was only dealing with 12V DC - there were no connections on the 220V side of things to be made other than plugging it in.
- Two hand-sized pieces of wood might be necessary to save the kiddy pool.
- Depending on the type of pump you are using you might also need a piece of fly screen and a rubber band.
- Optional: duct tape (which, of course, is always useful) to fix things in place, keep them out of the way and seal them temporarily.
- I have used a screwdriver on several occasions for this project, to tighten the luster terminals as well as a hose clamp on the pump.
- Scissors were used to cut a piece of fly screen to size.
- A spring clamp can come in handy for hose placement.
*(for a sufficiently small and mediocre theme park)
Step 1: The Reservoir
Basically, this is a "plug it all in and turn it on" kind of project. So to begin, you need to place the foot of the slide into the kiddy pool, which translates to placing the kiddy pool under the foot of the slide. If your slide is bolted to the ground at the bottom end, this is obviously not an option - unless you can unbolt it without it becoming unstable (which is to say as long as the top is bolted down, too). Mine is only attached at the top so I could just lift the foot up far enough to slide the empty kiddy pool underneath.
In order to protect the pool you can (and should) place a few pieces of wood underneath the slide foot inside the pool. In our case, the slide had dug into the ground, so the extra surface of the wood allowed the bottom of the pool not to get mangled. If you have a metal slide or something that had bolts in it you might need to protect your pool from sharp edges, too.
Place the pool so that the slide is as close to the brim as possible so that the kids have enough room to play in the pool - and to slide into it without damaging it, or, worse, themselves. Check out the first image to see what I mean.
Step 2: The Pump
Attach your hose to the pump. Depending on your pump this can be achieved by simply pushing it onto a hose connector, but might also require a hose clamp to tighten it down or even specialised fittings for some proprietary connectors.
At this point I am assuming that your pump has at least a short length of cable attached to it in a waterproof fashion. Fiddling with connections that will then find themselves under water is not a good idea, neither is having any kind of plug-and-socket connection inside the pool. I assume there might be watertight versions of this, but I would prefer a built-in and factory-sealed deal any day.
If you have a pump that comes with a filter, a sieve or anything that prevents it from sucking in materials that are not water, you should consider adding a kind of protection for your pump. I used a piece of fly screen attached with a rubber band over the intake. Keep in mind to either clean it often or to add a spacer underneath it that prevents the mesh from getting sucked right onto the intake.
Your pump then needs to go inside the reservoir. You need to make sure that it has enough water to suck in at any time, i.e. that it is at least as submerged as the design calls for. The best place to put it is underneath the slide, if there is still room there. Usually, the round pool wall should give you at least a semblance of space between slide foot and said wall. If necessary, move the pool back slightly to accommodate for the pump, or place it next to the slide (but still inside the pool). Just make sure that it is out of the way - for safety reasons, and because you do not want your kids fiddling with any connections or even dials there might be.
Step 3: The Hose
Since the water is supposed to run down the slide it needs to get up first. To make sure that happens the hose needs to go up, but it also to aim downwards to direct the flow - and make for a pleasant sliding experience. The simplest way to achieve that is to tape it down with duct tape or something similar. To make it easier and more stable, though, you could also use spring clamps to hold the hose in place so that the full weight is not on the tape alone.
Keep in mind that children are bound to slide on this slide (otherwise all our hard work would be in vain), so make sure that the hose does not have any fittings or connectors on it and is as smooth as possible when you run your hand over it downwards.
You can just attach the top end and to hell with beauty and neatness - which is of course an acceptable option and a convenient excuse not to cut your hose short - or you can run the hose along the underside of the slide, attached either with pieces of duct tape or a slat that you use as a rail for the hose and somehow attach it at top and bottom for easy setup. In this szenario, you could cut the hose down to the actual length needed, or you could store any surplus together with the pump inside the reservoir.
Step 4: The Power
If you are lucky, all you need to do now is to plug in the pump and you are done. If you are not so lucky, all you need to do now is to plug in the pump and you are done - but in this case plugging it in will take a few extra steps.
Connect your external power supply of choice to the pump, and make sure to use the right polarity of applicable. There might be some hints in the manual or on the pump itself if it has some kind of plug, but you could also test this carefully by connecting both pins for a split-second (that is, connect one, then touch the other against its respective connector) to see whether the pump starts up the way you want it. This might damage the pump, so use this method at your own discretion.
Once you have the right way to connect the pump figured out use a sturdy connector like a luster terminal to make the connection last. Depending on where this terminal comes to rest in your final design you might want to give it a couple of layers of duct tape to make sure it will remain safe for at least a little while.
In my case, I had a cable with two wires come out of the pump. I connected them to a cable long enough to get me to where my power supply was waiting, and then I connected those to the appropriate leads of the power supply, those for 12V. There should be some reference on the power supply about that.
If you feel so inclined, you might also be able to use a car battery (and the appropriate care) to power the pump at an off-the-grid location.
Step 5: Hit It!
Now plug it in and turn it on (unless you have the kind of set-up that turns on automatically as soon as it is plugged in. In this case just plug it in). The water should start flowing up through the hose and create a rivulet down the slide. It may look small (or did in my case), but it is enough to keep it and the kids cool.
Just make sure that there will always be enough water for the pump in the reservoir, and maybe tell your kids that they should not splash about everywhere (slim chance of that succeeding), or at least ask them not to take the water out of the pool to play with it elsewhere. If you explain to them that the pump might break if it runs dry, they might even go for it for a little while, and it would probably be true, too.
And now you are indeed done. Your new water slide is running and cooling down, and the kids can have at it.
On a side note, I do my videos in English and German, you can check out the German version of this project here.
There are two more steps here, both with theoretical musings about two subjects that might make for a further improvement of the design, but I have not tried them myself yet. If you are not interested in those let me thank you now for checking out my Instructable,and please consider voting for it! And as always, remember to be Inspired!
Step 6: Addendum 1: Workarounds for the Boltdown
Imagine you have a slide that is bolted down on both ends with no (reasonable) way to remove those bolts. Maybe you have such a case on your hands and do not even have to imagine it. Either way, here are a few ideas that might help you to still turn your slide into a water slide.
Of course, one way would be not to use a reservoir, but that would be waisting water and potentially creating your own private swamp. Along with swamp monsters if your kids keep sliding into the mud.
This is a collection of ideas I had regarding slides that do not cooperate as fully as mine did. This is by no means a conclusive list, and if you have further ideas and solutions please post them in the comments below so others can benefit as well.
Also, keep in mind not to damage property that it not yours to wreck. I can drill holes or put screws into my slide in whichever way I see fit, although it would of course be in my best interest to keep it in working condition, lest I suffer the wrath of my kids. Do not damage someone else's property in any way, and even if you do use it in a way that does not leave any marks on it (like my original design), it is always a good move to ask the owner before you actually lay hands on their slide.
Speaking of, you could make a sieve - drill holes near the foot of the slide so that when you place the kiddy pool underneath it the water will run or drip into it. This, obviously, does damage to the slide, and you need to take great care not to create any sharp edges or corners, especially with metal slides. A larger number of small holes is preferrable to fewer large ones, and deburring them - on plastic as well as in metal - is a must. If you do this, use a paper towel and run it over the sieve section repeatedly and in both directions. If it catches anywhere, do something about that spot.
Also keep in mind that water might flow along the inside of the slide after it goes through the hole rather than dropping straight down. If you really want to take the sieve approach start with a test hole and check whether water running through will behave the way you want it to.
If it does not, you might be able to attach something to the underside of the slide to make the water flow where you want, like a piece of wood attached with appropriate glue or screws. But at this point you will need to be content with seriously improvising a solution yourself.
The in-slide water catch pocket. The idea here is to create something that will be clamped against the foot of the slide where the slope meets the ground to create a pocket where the water will flow into. This pocket is then connected to the reservoir with a hose, and should consequently be slightly higher than the reservoir to ensure that the water is flowing back to where it is supposed to be. It needs a good seal with the slide which can be achieved with creative use of caulking or rubber stuff.
More importantly, though, this pocket must not interfere with the sliding experience, i.e. there can be no way for any part of a kid sliding down the slide to get caught in it. Any number of injuries could occur if that happened, and those are never a good idea (Plus, I am not responsible for any kind of injury that stems from use of my ideas and instructions).
To achieve that, the best way to go about it is probably to catch the water as close to the ground as possible to keep anything you add to the slide as far away from the slidee's path as possible, while still maintaining an appropriate difference in height to keep the water flowing freely.
As you can see, there are many ways to cool the cat, and with a little improvisation you can make this work virtually anywhere. Let me know in the comments what you come up with!
Step 7: Addendum 2: Powerless Variations
The water slide is probably something that kids can bring themselves to have fun with, just was playing with water in general. But why not modify this idea to achieve a few more goals on top of keeping the kids busy? How about taking care of their physical fitness while at the same time saving on electricity expenses?
The idea here is to build a hand-operated pump in one of those many ways that can be found on the internet. For example, this design could be used, or this one - it is not as hard as you might think to build a working pump yourself.
Placed next to the slide, and maybe replacing the hose (or part of it) with a PVC pipe, a child could pump up some water and then slide down, or the kids could take turns pumping. This is getting beyond the scope of these musings, but you could also work with a reservoir on top that allows for a few minutes of sliding for working the pump for a while.
Of course, you can always do it in the simplest way possible - every kid gets a bucket and carries their own water up the slide.
Thanks again for checking out this Instructable, and as always, remember to be Inspired!