If you have children a garden is not complete without a paddling pool and also possibly a trampoline, especially during the summer months.
We have taken a good look round, and come up with what we think is some of the best value for money products in this enjoyable category.
Pools, Paddling Pools and Above-Ground Pools
When someone mentions a swimming pool in the same vein as their house, traditionally you might instantly think of many thousands of pounds in costs for building the pool but as technology and research moves on, these days you can get a pretty decent sized above-ground pool for a few hundred pounds! When it comes to the type of pool this really depends on the clientele that will be using it.
Smaller paddling pools are ideal for toddlers and small children as, on a hot day, it will keep them entertained for ages.
Larger family sized pools are a great way of keeping older kids busy during the long summer holidays too!
Different Types of Pools for the Garden
In essence there are four different types of pool, some details of each are as follows:
- Paddling Pools: These are typically the cheapest of all garden pools and can be purchased from most supermarkets and home stores, especially during spring and summer months. They can come in a range of sizes from 1m in diameter up to 2 or 3. Most of these types of pools are inflatable so they can easily be blown up for use or deflated so they can be packed away
- Larger Above-Ground Pools: This sort of pool tends to be a bit more expensive, ranging from a few hundred pounds up to a thousand pounds or more. Rather than being inflatable (although it is possible to get large inflatable pools), this type normally utilises a metal frame or rigid side panels to support the actual body and due to this are a little more permanent in nature. In terms of size, these pools usually start at around 2 metres in diameter and can go up to 4 or 5. Although a great, cost effective solution for a pool, due to the size and materials they are constructed from they can be a little fragile.
- Wooden Above-Ground Pools: This pool type is quite similar to the above type but instead of sitting in a metal frame or sturdy using panels to give the structure strength, this type of pool sits in a timber frame making it much stronger and more of a permanent feature. Due to this they can be constructed to almost any size (within reason)
- Sinkable Pools: Depending on the manufacturer (and their specifications) and type of pool in some cases it is possible to partially or fully sink your above ground pool in to the ground, creating a more traditional pool. As said, this is only possible where the manufacturer states that this is possible. If you attempt to install a pool like this that is not designed this way then if any issues occur then any warranties will most probably be void
Keeping your Swimming Pool Clean
Anyone that has had a paddling pool knows that if it is left for a period of time, you start to get a build up of algae and slime. As this is just a visual representation of the cleanliness of the pool, just imagine what you can't see!
In order to ensure all is clean and safe to use there are certain chemicals that can be added to the water to ensure this e.g. chlorine. If you have ever visited a public swimming pool, I'm sure at some point you have smelt chlorine in the water.
As we are not pool experts we cannot possibly advise as to what chemicals to use and in what quantities they should be used in so for this, you should contact a specialist pool maintenance company or expert in this area.
Another very important point to mention in terms of cleanliness is that of pumping and filtration. This is a must with any pool as it will ensure that the water is moved around and circulated through the filter system and cleaned to remove and dirt and debris.
One of the great benefits of an above ground pool is that the pump and filter are normally combined into one unit making then much easier to install and also much more efficient to run as opposed to having two separate units.
When it comes to the pump, one of the key factors here is horsepower. With too much power the water will be drawn through the filter too fast and won't be cleaned properly whereas one with too little power won't move the water enough.
When sizing up pool pumps, these general rules will get you there or thereabouts:
- Pools Under 24 Feet Circumference: A 1 horsepower pump is recommended
- Pools Over 24 Feet Circumference: A 1.5 horsepower pump is recommended
The above is obviously only a rough guide so please always consult an expert! Also, make sure that your pump is designed to work with an above ground pool.
The filter part of the pump and filter system essentially filters the water that is passed through it by the pump, removing any debris and dirt.
There are several different types of filter that come in a range of different sizes, depending on the size of the pool and pump. Normally, the manufacturer will partner a pump with the correct size of filter so you won't need to worry too much about this but always check before you buy that this is the case.
When it comes to the different types of filter, the most common are as follows:
- Sand: Pretty much the most common type of filter due to their cheap and cost effective price, it uses special sand called pool grade silica to filter dirt and particles from the water. Although they do clean water to a great standard they cannot remove particles smaller than 20 microns in size (1 inch = 25400 microns). As with most filters they will also need to be cleaned fairly regularly to maintain peak performance. This is done through a backwashing process
- Diatomaceous Earth (or D.E.): In terms of filtration and cleaning this type is generally regarded as the best as it can remove particles down to 1 micron in size. The filter itself is comprised of D.E powder. This powder is made up of what are essentially tiny algae-like fossils called Diatoms. When magnified, these Diatoms look like tiny sponges. Water is allowed to pass through the microscopic opens but and dirt is trapped. As with the other two types, these need to be cleaned via backwashing or hosing off. The powder itself will also need to be periodically ″re-charged″
- Cartridge: Have you ever seen a car air or oil filter (the non-metal cartridge type)? If so then you may be fairly familiar with how it operates. For those that haven't, this filter appears in a cylindrical shape, made up of polyester that is arranged in a pleat pattern. This arrangement allows for a much larger surface area. The filter works by again having the water pumped through it and the micro-fibrous nature of the polyester then traps any dirt and debris down to 10 microns in size. Clean, new cartridges tend to let a few of the smaller particles through initially but as the pores become blocked with larger items, this decreases. Again, they will need cleaning regularly (this can be done with a hose) or renewing
When not in use, it is a good idea to cover your pool using a specific pool cover. This will not only prevent leaves and air-borne dirt from collecting but will also help to retain the heat that builds up in the water. A superb solar pool cover will keep the heat in the pool overnight so the kids can jump straight back in after breakfast.
Kids love bouncing! Trampolines are so much fun and at the same time, very good exercise. The aerobics involved in bouncing about on a trampoline does exactly the same job on the heart as many "diagnosed" heart exercises including a skipping rope.....And we know which is more fun!
Almost every muscle in the body is used on a trampoline which gives you a fantastic work out with the added bonus of knowing that even 5 minutes a day can help dramatically with weight loss for all the Mums and Dads.
The kids muscles get stronger, they get fitter and all the time doing something that you will have a job getting them away from.....It's a win-win situation!
Before you buy, take some time to think about the size and shape of trampoline you would like. Buying one too small may mean that it is out-grown in a few years meaning you will have to buy a bigger one. Also think about where it is going to go. Do you have enough space for a 14 footer realistically? Or would a 12 foot provide the same bouncing fun but also a little more space in your garden?
Did you also know that most trampolines come in oval, square and rectangular shapes and not just the standard circle? Well they do and even though they may be a little more expensive a better shape might be worth the extra expense.
Staying Safe with your Trampoline
Aside from all the fun, trampolines can be quite dangerous and with this in mind any and all users need to be protected. As you can see in the image at the top of this section, this trampoline has no safety net unlike the one in the image below so a user could easily miss-time their bounce and end up in a heap on the ground.
With a good bounce, this could be the equivalent of falling from a height of nearly 10 feet that could easily result in sprains, fractures and break!
Most trampolines come out of the box with a safety net but if not they can be purchased separately from most decent DIY sheds or specialist accessory suppliers.
Other safety aspects you should think about include:
- Block Access Underneath: If possible, get some netting and run it around the sides of the frame to prevent access underneath. If someone bouncing on top does not realise there is someone under them and they jump on them this could cause serious injury!
- Keep away from Trees, Fences, Walls and other Items: Make sure that the area around the trampoline is free and that no one can bounce in to a overhanging branch or land on top of a wall or fence
- Cover the Springs: Most will come out of the box with a spring cover but if not, get one. The springs used are very strong and skin and fingers can become easily trapped between the coils
- Pad the Upright Net Supports: In most cases, any safety nets will be supported by 6 - 8 tubular metal uprights. These will need padding to prevent injury
Additionally, don't forget to anchor it down! Too much weight applied to one side all at once could easily cause your trampoline to flip over!
With the safety aspect taken care of you do not have to sit on the edge of your seat waiting for the little one to bounce on their head, just sit back and relax, watch them enjoy themselves, listen to the laughter and enjoy your gin and tonic.
Is it possible to sink my trampoline into the ground? Well, good question and the answer I am happy to say is yes you can!
Although you can, it's not quite as simple as digging a big hole and sticking it in there, it is a little more involved than that.
The volume of earth that would need to be shifted to sink a 12 foot trampoline would be huge and you would need a mini digger to dig the actual hole and at least 2 or 3 large skips to remove it. This would all come at a fair amount of expense.
A very important point to note here is about the bounce of your trampoline - The way a trampoline works is that when you bounce down and push down on the bounce mat, this then pushes and compresses the air below that then rushes out. As you begin to travel back up the air rushes back in, helping to push you up.
When sunk into the ground, the natural air and space around when above ground no longer exists so when you bounce the air cannot escape so it is compressed, decreasing the bounciness and making it seem like you are jumping on a piece of wood! There are, however, ways around this:
- Leave an Air Gap: This method involves leaving about a 12 inch gap all the way around the edge of your trampoline, between it and the surrounding soil and retaining wall (more about retaining walls shortly). This will then allow air to escape and you to achieve a great level of bounce! This does have its downsides though. With a gap, this can easily lead to small children falling into it, items being lost, trampoline movement etc.... all quite major issues. A solution for this would be to put a fence around the gap or to get some heavy duty netting to bridge the gap
- Piped Ventilation: There are quite a few examples of this online, all varying in design but essentially it involves sinking some large-bore drainage pipes around the hole (usually in 4 locations 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock) and then running them away from the hole several feet so that they can vent the air movement created through bouncing. This method can be quite effective and will also avoid the issues outlined above
One other thing to think about is drainage. A large hole in the ground will inevitably fill with water if not drained correctly causing a build up of stagnant water that will attract flies and other undesirable things and also potentially rust in the frame of your trampoline so this must be dealt with.
The best solution is to construct a French Drain in the base of the hole that will then drain any way away. Information on this can be found in our installing a French Drain project and more information on French Drains and how they work can be found here.
The final piece in the sunken trampoline puzzle is the retaining wall. This will be built all the way around the inside of your hole so that it will hold back the surrounding earth and prevent any of it from collapsing.
Ideally this will need to be made from bricks or blocks and constructed using the method outlined in this project.
On the whole, we would recommend not sinking your trampoline. There are really too many factors to be considered that could really change the way that your trampoline operates and when taking costs into consideration also (realistically £1000+) it's just not practical but if you really do want to go down this route then please make sure you plan the job correctly and consider all the items outlined above in detail.
To watch various films on gardening in general, go to our video section on gardening basics.