This above-ground pool is a great idea, especially if you have young kids. It’s made by Zodiac, the well-known French manufacturer of high-end inflatable watercraft. It features high-tech materials and great engineering, but the idea is about as simple as they come: a very, very big inner tube with a bottom attached. Every surface is soft and forgiving. There are no metal parts or sharp corners inside or out that can cause injuries. And, because the side-wall tube is so wide, kids can run around it and jump into the pool from anywhere they want. The older crowd can sit on the sides and dangle their feet in the water, or lie back and sunbathe in comfort. No extra perimeter decking is required.
This side-wall tube can functions as a deck because it’s so firm. A 160-pound adult walking along the top barely depresses the surface. This firmness is the result of the system used to fill the pool with water. As you’ll see later, there are two holes in the inside surface of the tube that must be plugged with removable discs before you start inflating it with air. Once the sides are inflated, you fill the pool with water and then you remove the discs that separate the air-filled tube from the water-filled pool. Water immediately rushes into the side walls. Because air is a gas and can be compressed, the water keeps filling the sides until the air is so compressed that it won’t let in any more water. At this point, the side-wall tube is nearly rock hard and can support anyone who walks on it.
Another great, kid-friendly feature of this pool is its floating skimmer. Usually the skimmer is fixed to the side of the pool and the water level inside the pool must remain at the skimmer height for the circulation system to work properly. Because this skimmer floats on the surface of the water, you can adjust the water level to suit the height of your children. When they’re small, you can keep the water level low. As they mature, you can raise the level.
The pool model we installed is called the Ovline 3000. Its oval shape measures about 30 ft. from end to end and 21 ft. across. Its internal swimming area is about 24 ft. long x 12 ft. wide, with a maximum water depth of 4 ft. This pool costs about $6500, including the pump, filter, skimmer, an underwater repair kit and the ladder shown. Zodiac has many other pools ranging in size from the 12-ft.-dia. Toopy wading pool ($800), up to a huge 55-ft.-long x 27-ft.-wide rectangular model called the Hippo 65 ($11,000) that can be special ordered.
All in all, this pool design has a lot going for it. It’s even easy to install. If we had to do it again, two of us could finish the entire project in one day. There were, however, some glitches that made things harder than they had to by had to be. First, the manufacturer’s installation directions were astonishingly incomplete. (Zodiac says they’ll be working on better directions soon.) And, an important part, an adapter for hooking a standard shop vacuum hose to the inflation port, was missing. A lot of time was wasted cobbling something else together. It’s also fair to say that the company could have been more responsive. Phone calls, letters and e-mail almost always languished in the ether. Fortunately, dealing with the national distributor, Comfaire Products (144 Nugget Dr, Charlton, MA 01507) was much more rewarding. Both Zodiac and Comfaire can be reached at the manufacturer's website, www.zodiac.com.(Editor's Note: while this product information dates to 2001, the process of installing a pool is still useful if you're using another model.)
This project was originally published in the May 2001 issue of Popular Mechanics
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