Décor & Design

Backyard Pool Renovation

Last December, when we began construction on our backyard project, we had absolutely no idea of the impact of Covid-19 and how blessed we would be to have this project completed just in time to spend our summer enjoying it safely.

When we built our home in 2016, one of the main reasons we selected this site was for the lot size. In the area where we live, home lots are relatively small, and the houses are close together. Larger lots can cost significantly more, but in this instance, there was a large lot that didn’t have an astronomical price tag. We prayed about this specific lot and building our home on it. We didn’t have the money right away, so we said it will still be there once we are ready if it’s for us. By the grace of God, it was still here, so we knew it was meant to be!

My husband, who is from St. Louis, has always dreamed of having a pool, and when we talked about our forever home, that was a must-have for him. Me, being from Southern California and growing up with pools, I was always a bit hesitant. I knew all of the work and maintenance that go into owning a pool. Growing up, my parents didn’t have a “pool guy” – I was the “pool guy!” one of my main chores was skimming the pool after school. So when we got ready to begin this project, let’s just say I wasn’t looking forward to all of the maintenance, but quickly came around when we got into the design process. 

The Deal Breaker

To begin our pool building process, we first had to sit down and talk about what we wanted.

I wanted a simple, no-frills rectangular pool. My husband, on the other hand, not so much! He definitely wanted “the works,” but in the end, my project deal-breaker really increased the scope and timeline. That deal breaker? A porcelain throne. That’s right, an outdoor half bath! Where our backyard sits, and where our guest bathroom is situated, are on complete opposite ends of the house. This would mean that every time one of our kids or their friends had to go to the bathroom, they would be traipsing their wet little bodies across the entire house. Thus, I would spend my summer days mopping the floor, and trying to keep flies out. I didn’t care if it was the size of a porta-potty, just as long as it would keep people from going in and out of the house to use the bathroom.  

Selecting the Builder

We met with several pool builders, all of whom had amazing ideas of what we could do with the backyard. While designs, flooring, and decking wowed my husband, my primary concern was where the toilet would be and how much would it all cost. When it finally came down to selecting a builder, we went with Gold Medal Pools. We loved their finishes and, more importantly, the way they made my bathroom work. Out of all of the various companies and salespeople we met with, Gold Medal was the one we met with, with a woman salesperson. She got me and understood my plight and the need for the bathroom! I compromised with my husband and gave in to a lot of his wants since he was gracious enough to agree to my insane bathroom request. For example, I felt that concrete was perfectly fine for the pool decking. I grew up tiptoeing around burning hot concrete to jump in the pool, and I felt our boys could handle the same. However, he wanted a material that would be a little kinder to the bottom of their feet (kids these days have it so easy!). We ended up selecting a limestone. We loved many of the travertine options but weren’t sure how the final pitting would look over time, and we were also concerned about how porous it could be with potential stains versus the limestone.  

Our salesperson Kimberly was amazing, she had scoped out the interior of our home during previous meetings, and so she selected finishes that complimented our style. Here’s a look at the final finishes we selected:

The Process

Starting this project, I didn’t know what to expect, but we had to live with a muddy mess for quite some time. On average, pool builds can take between 8-12 weeks. Our project, however, took longer for two reasons. First, there were complexities of adding the bathroom, and second, we started in the winter, which meant a lot of rainy days. Overall it took about 20 weeks.

There were so many steps, but here were the main ones in the process:


My husband and the boys had so much fun watching the Excavators when we began this project in late December. I stuck two of the boys chairs in front of the patio window so that they could sit and watch all day. I was thankful for the entertainment it provided!

Plumbing & Rebar

After the fun of the digging stopped, the second step was to lay the plumbing and rebar. Rebar is the steel poles that reinforce the concrete once its poured. 


Next, they sprayed the Gunite, which is the concrete of the pool.

Cabana Structure

We then had a few days of waiting on permits and lots of hammering, and then they began to build the cabana – the future home of the most essential part of this project…the bathroom! Hehe…

Tile Work

The tile was laid around the pool. We had a lot of rainy days, so things slowed down a little due to the weather. However, the bright side was that we chose to take on this project in the winter, so there was no rush or pressure on timing since we were still months away from weather warm enough to enjoy it.

Electrical and Plumbing

We then had a lot of the bones of this project completed, including all of the electrical wiring and plumbing. The backyard and side of the house remained a muddy mess. However, we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Stone Work

Next, the stone work was set around the pool and outdoor kitchen. I absolutely love the stone we selected, a bright white stone that sparkles a little when the sun shines, and a grey capping.

Cabana & Bathroom

The arbor structure (cabana) was completed, and the walls of the bathroom went up. This structure became the focus as the builders worked to ensure it had proper plumbing and electrical.


After more permitting, it was time for the decking to be laid. The term decking refers to the stone or concrete around the pool. As I mentioned, we chose limestone, so they flattened the ground, poured sand down, and then laid the stone and poured more sand to seal it.


Next, it was time to plaster the pool. We chose a product called ecoFINISH, which is supposed to be a coating over the plaster that lasts 30 years, so it was a two-step process. First, they plastered the pool, then had to wait about a week for that to settle, and then add the eco finish.


As part of the renovation process, we did some landscaping to compliment the pool and outdoor area. We added Magnolia trees along the fence for privacy and shade, palm trees behind the pool, and rocks and various flowers in the flower beds. After doing some research, I selected flowers and plants that would hopefully keep insects at bay, such as marigolds, lavender, and citronella grass. 

Final Thoughts

While the project was long, I am so thankful that we did it and am looking forward to the memories we will make here through the years. Reflecting on my initial hesitation, I genuinely believe the maintenance will be well worth it, and although my boys are only one and three now, in a few years, they will be old enough to be promoted to “pool guy.” To see how I decorated the space, stay tuned!

authentically amber backyard pool renovation before and after

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  • Reply
    May 25, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    Simply beautiful. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Robyn Gant
    May 26, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    The details of the construction of your pool and new structures were so well chronicled! You truly took the reader there through the process! Great blog!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    I love it! Now to convince my husband…lol. And the cabana with a bathroom was the perfect addition!

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      May 28, 2020 at 5:35 am

      Thank you so much! The bathroom has already come in handy with my toddler! Lol

      • Reply
        June 12, 2020 at 9:20 pm

        How do you like the limestone? Does it get dirty and stain easily? We are going back and forth between travertine and limestone!

        • Reply
          Amber Elizabeth Anderson
          June 13, 2020 at 2:47 am

          Hi Christie! I love the look of the limestone and that it’s fairly cool on the bottom of your feet even when the sun is beaming down on it. It is a bit slick when wet so we do communicate to our kids and guests to make sure they aren’t running once they get out of the pool. When we were deciding between this and travertine we preferred the limestone because there was less pitting (the finish appeared smoother). Since we selected a light color the dirt is pretty noticeable, for example we’ve had a few people working in the backyard, as soon as they walk across the decking you can see the muddy footprints (I’m not sure if that would be different with travertine, but I do think that color plays a big part). It is VERY easy to clean, we take a hose and just spray everything down and it rolls right off. I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    I absolutely love this backyard design! Thank you for the step by step details on how this beautiful transformation was done! My husband and I are looking to buy land and build our own home in the next couple of years!

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      May 28, 2020 at 5:39 am

      Thank you! Your build adventure sounds so exciting! One of the things you can do is lay plumbing into the backyard when your house is being built-even if your not planning on doing a pool right away, that way when your ready you will already have plumbing for an outdoor bathroom which should save you both time and money! Good luck!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Wow what an amazing transformation! Your backyard looks great! We’re thinking of replastering our existing pool, and possibly converting it to salt water.

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      May 28, 2020 at 5:42 am

      Thank you! We were actually considering salt water as well, and long term may end up changing ours. I’ve heard it’s much better for your skin and hair.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2020 at 4:29 am

    Amazing renovation, this is stunning! My husband and I have been obsessed with watching home renovation shows as we plan for our new home. It would be a dream to have a backyard like this!

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      May 28, 2020 at 5:44 am

      Thank you Jo! I love those shows too! That’s what really inspired me to take photos along the way and write this piece. When my husband and i were first married (before we had kids lol) that would be part of our nightly routine. It really helped us get ideas when we built our home.

  • Reply
    Colandra Smith
    December 17, 2020 at 3:25 am

    Lovely finished product!! Thanks for sharing in such detail!

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