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How to Turn an Outdoor Swimming Pool into an Indoor Swimming Pool for the Winter – Part 1

I knew for sure I wanted my pool outdoors for the summer. Then, when it was finally ready for use the first time, it was the end of October. I decided to try swimming in it on a day by day basis. With a water temperature of 80°F and my full body swim suit, this was enjoyable most days. It was still hard to walk out into the cold, but once I had swum just a few strokes, I was usually comfortable. However, on the more windy days and the days below freezing, I had some trouble with headaches and getting cold on the parts of the body that were slightly above the surface. Still, I made it through the whole winter in the open air, even if some of my swims were limited to 20 minutes due to the elements.

When my husband offered me a garage cover as a pool cover for my April birthday, I thought it just might work. So we ordered one and set it up to make sure it had all it’s parts. One main problem still needed to be worked out, though. I didn’t want to swim in the dark. My husband suggested I look for some clear plastic material that I would be able to sew in as windows. I was pretty sure my sewing machine was not up to that task.

work room at Thunder Mountain Tent and Canvas

work room at Thunder Mountain Tent and Canvas

 

 

Fortunately, I remembered Thunder Mountain Tent and Canvas (TMTC). I called and asked if they ever sew clear plastic windows into anything. Why, yes they did! They sew them in everything from jeeps to golf carts. They had machines and work tables that could handle the masses of tent-like fabric that is the garage cover.

 

 

So, all we had to do was figure out where to place the windows. One of my main concerns was to be able to see anyone who is swimming in there. The most likely place I will be looking from in the winter is my kitchen window. I was placed at that station to give direction to my husband as he strung string around the frame to mark where the window should be. We also agreed on another window higher up on the other side, to gather more light from above.

Running string to mark desired window location, then we added about 3 inches all around.

Running string to mark desired window location, then we added about 3 inches all around.

Then, he lay the cover out on the grass and marked with masking tape where the corners of the windows would be. Since we had put the cover on the frame in April and had seen how it sat there all summer, he was confident he could mark the windows without going to the trouble of getting the cover up over the frame. We anticipated that being going harder now that the frame was arched over the pool!

This is the more crack resistant plastic glass they had.

This is the more crack resistant plastic glass they had.

 

 

The person at TMTC explained to us the different options for the plastic windows, which they actually call “glass.” There is a .09 mm thickness for windows that will not experience a lot of pressure or flapping around. But for jeep windows, for instance, there is a heavier, thicker “glass.” She has a greenhouse out of the .09 mm stuff that has done well for 3 or so winters here in Idaho.

close-up of one of the window with the masking tape still at the corners

close-up of one of the window with the masking tape still at the corners

The clear materials for these windows are vulnerable to impact when frozen. Since the pool cover will not likely be at risk for that, judging by how those type of plastic windows have held up on my husbands boat for the last 3 winters (it is stored outside with a thin fabric cover over everything), we decided to try the clear window fabric first. If it ends up cracking, there is a special material that has a cross pattern of stabilizer in it to make it crack resistant. It was more expensive and it would block more light, so it was not our first choice.

I think technically we were supposed to put the door panels on the end first, but it wouldn't matter if we couldn't get the top over, so we did that first.

I think technically we were supposed to put the door panels on the end first, but it wouldn’t matter if we couldn’t get the top over, so we did that first.

 

 

Getting the main body of the garage cover up over the frame while it was straddling the pool was much easier than we thought it would be. With just my husband, myself, and one college-age daughter we had it pulled over in about 15 minutes. It helped a lot that there was hardly any breeze. The end door panels took longer because the frame has to be partially unbolted to stick metal bars through slots. Then, it is all cinched and tied down.

 

That much canvas weight fabric is kind of heavy. Someone had to lift it from one side while it was pulled from the other. I may have been hamming it up a bit for the photo, though.

That much canvas weight fabric is kind of heavy. Someone had to lift it from one side while it was pulled from the other. I may have been hamming it up a bit for the photo, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fabric for the door on one end folds up some onto the equipment housing.

The fabric for the door on one end folds up some onto the equipment housing.

 

The windows seemed small compared to the surface area of the rest of the cover, but they let in a lot of light. Seeing out is no problem, but seeing in depends a lot on how close I am standing to it, as well as reflections off of the windows from sun and rain. The first couple of days all seemed dry inside, but when I left off the heavier weave cover that goes directly over the water, a lot of water condensed onto the inside of the garage cover. It gives me an idea of how much water is lost to evaporation when I leave the pool completely uncovered.

 

 door panel on the other end

door panel on the other end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is staying nice and warm inside the cover, just from the heat of the pool. We might have to unzip the doors once in a while to air it out. We are used to the open air and the chemical smells with the cover on are not as bad as gym pool areas I’ve frequented, but I’d just as soon not breath any more chlorine than I need to. All in all, it should make winter “outdoor” swimming much more comfortable.

portable garage used as winter cover for outdoor swimming pool so that it can be used comfortably during the cold months.

portable garage used as winter cover for outdoor swimming pool so that it can be used comfortably during the cold months.

Here is what it looks like on the inside. (There are other covers directly over the water when the pool is not in use.)

Here is what it looks like on the inside. (There are other covers directly over the water when the pool is not in use.)

Part 2 of How to Turn an Outdoor Swimming Pool into an Indoor Swimming Pool for the Winter, in which I explain how my engineer secured the cover to keep it from blowing away, can be found here.

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