shipping container pool: 7 years out


well, it has been many years since i’ve posted anything at all, and as is very obvious, keeping up this blog isn’t my day job. but… the shipping container pool is still alive and well, still a lovely blue, and keeping us cool all summer long.

we have treated it, as we posted previously, like an inside out ship: rust is part of our expectation and freaking out about a few spots is not our game. we have been using (periodically) a product called water weld made by jb weld to cover small rust spots, and it is a white two-part paste epoxy that cures in about 10 minutes, even immersed in water. and about every 2-3 years we have repainted the pool with olympic’s two-part pool epoxy called zeron. i built it originally with a 1 hp pump,  a zeobrite sand filter, and a natural gas heater.  hindsight being 20/20, we should have skipped the heater.  while the pool is mostly in-ground, it isn’t totally underground, and instead of a wonderfully insulative surrounding of earth and 18  inches of concrete, we have steel.  it’s like literally heating the outdoors… so we have never used the heater.

from a pool design nerd perspective, i have really wrestled with how to get the plumbing to better mimic a normal in-ground pool.  we started out with a few assumptions: a pool made of a container could move a little bit relative to the earth around it when it wasn’t filled with water, and the plumbing might move or might break.  so i decided to put no main drain in the bottom of the pool… it was a best guess that it might break off with shifting and leave us with a very hard to fix major leak.  that said, i needed a way to pull water back to the pump, and i was super afraid to cut too many holes in the container.  over the years, the ways i’ve learned to cover and manage rust have turned out to be simple, but they didn’t look simple before i knew them.   so… for a solution that worked for quite a while (5 years) i used a suction side skimmer that floated in the pool with a vacuum hose going out and down to the bottom of the pool.  it worked.  but since it was the only suction, if it was blocked, or knocked loose by a swimmer, i would have burned out the pump.  and then about year 5/6, it really seemed like there must be a better way to do it, and i started thinking about using an in wall skimmer like a normal concrete pool, and started studying every pool i was in, everywhere.  then, i was visiting friends in denver and they took me to visit this:

which i knew existed but hadn’t seen, and it was like my pool had a twin!  (it’s now the same color blue as mine.)  and they had done the plumbing the way i had been pondering.  so…. i did this:


it took buying an above ground pool skimmer (i buy everything online at doheny’s – free shipping!), hiring a welder to cut a hole in the side of the pool and fabricate a frame, then coating and painting all the raw metal (and doing a quick recoat of the bottom of the pool since it was drained anyhow) with sani tred’s multi-step no rust paint system and then olympic’s zeron.  then, with the deck in the picture above all out of the way, the skimmer was bolted onto the side of the pool and secured to the 2×6’s that form the deck frame.  the suction line from this skimmer is a 2″ line, which increased our flow to the pump many times over… the hole from the old suction line is still at the other end of the pool and we’re now using it to vacuum the bottom.   the whole system now runs more efficiently, and in all my reading, i realized that i had been wearing the pump by having too small of an inlet line in all these years.  it made the decision making for this little improvement worth it in multiple ways.  now the pool is a no-brainer, since the filtration system can do its job with no worry from me, and does it better than ever.  the pool is now, finally, complete.


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16 Responses to “shipping container pool: 7 years out”

  1. Joe Chase and Brannon Andrews Says:

    First , you are a pool God to me. I stand in awe of your accomplishment.

    My wife and I are also considering an attempt at this on a 20ft container (we live in Central Austin). Your blog follow up has made me reconsider my initial design ( that’s a good thing ) .
    Additionally I’m working on an endless pool design that’s container friendly with M.E.s from work , I would like to get your opinion on it .

    If there is an oppourtunity we would love to take you and your wife out to dinner and hear about the experience .

    Joe C

  2. Joe Chase and Brannon Andrews Says:

    Hi Brooke , we made a mistake and realized it’s the wife (you 🙂 spear heading this project , my wife is also in awe of your project. Apologies .

  3. getsimplebox Says:

    Thanks for the update! We’ve told many people about your shipping container pool and it is helpful to see how it has held up over time. Great work and thanks for sharing!

  4. abetancort Says:

    Interesting, you mention you got a kind of “inside out ship” and I agree specially with regard to maintenance. Current modern merchant vessel bowls (below waterline) are currently being treated with silicone based “paints”.

    The feel is different from what we commonly expect from a regular paint coat, it looks more shiny and to the touch it feels like a few mm thick of a non pours, soft, somewhat slippery coat.
    Shipowners use it because in its specs for continued used on sea water, even at speeds above 25 knots, the recommended repaint cycle is every five years (no rust seen on the bowl of the vessel).

    In case that the vessel bowl gets biologically dirty (usually little because it’s non porous but can lead to a 1-2% more consumption and if oil prices are high it can amount to a lot in larger vessels), the cleanup procedure to return it to just painted state, it is simply to use high pressure sea water with detergent on dry dock and return it to sea as soon as you close the high pressure hose.

    So for your swimming pool would probably last a few more than 5 years, taking in consideration that is not salt water and you don’t have the turbulence created by a bowl sailing at 25 plus knots in the open ocean against huge waves.

    The only downside is that to apply it you need to sand blast out your current painting and leave the steel with what it’s called in Europe a 2.5 roughness grade for the marine silicone treatment to stick.

    I think it’s not used on swimming pools because most swimming pools aren’t made of steel.

    And to avoid rust on any other steel part not painted with silicone, use a sacrificial anode and change it every year or so.

  5. Renee Vargo Says:

    Fantastic addition for you home! I want one so badly for Arizona now! Happy New Years to you!

  6. Dannah Reuland Says:

    Yes ! I have obtained more information from your post than days/weeks of searching! Okay do I see a shallow end and deep end of your pool? If so how did you accomplish that? Thank you so much for all this information! Also the containers with do I deal the doors this a welding issue?…


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  8. steve pielacha Says:

    Your pool is way toooo cool!!!
    Steve in Tucson

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  14. kara holloway Says:

    How much do you estimate you have spent in the special paint total at this point for maintenance?

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