From Pools to Power Lines

Outfitting your outdoors can be fun and exciting. Just plan ahead to be sure to avoid the fireworks.

Spring is just a prelude to Wisconsin’s main attraction: summer. That’s when we flock to cabins, hit the greens and sail the lakes. But we can’t be out and about all the time, so we need to dedicate some space to the season in our own back yards. 

There’s no better way to make a summer splash than with a pool. In-ground pools can be costly and lengthy endeavors, but aboveground pools are easier on the pocketbook and have a more expeditious timeline, says Rene Huston, owner of Madison and Sun Prairie pool retailer Patio Pleasures

Homeowners can go from decision to dive-in for less than $4,000 in about two weeks. Some models—if they’re in stock—can even be installed in as little as a day. Do it yourself and you can shave around $1,500 off that price tag, Huston says, although the timeline might get a little longer.

“About fifty percent of our customers install their own pools,” she says. “Installing an aboveground pool isn’t hard. It just takes some extra hands and time.”

Huston says pool technology is constantly evolving, which means that today’s pools are more durable and easier to maintain than ever before. “All of our systems are designed to help our clients spend more time in the water and not as much time on maintenance,” Huston says. 

And if you’re just in it for the fun, Patio Pleasures even offers maintenance packages so that homeowners don’t have to worry about water quality or keeping the pool clean. They will open and close your pool, add chemicals, vacuum and brush the pool, test water samples and wash the backing. “All that is for the people who don’t want to do much with their pool but swim in it,” Huston says. 

For those who would rather soak than swim, spas are a popular choice, Huston says. It isn’t summer just yet, and there are always plenty of cool and cold days on the calendar. 

Huston says spas are also increasingly popular among athletes who use them as part of their overall training plans. “High school athletics are also becoming so competitive that we are seeing a trend in parents purchasing a spa for not only great family time together but also for their kids to use as a recovery from the grueling sports season,” she says. 

 And the technophiles will love to know that both pools and spas can be app-controlled. That means you can adjust water temperature and lighting from your phone or tablet, and your pool or spa will be ready for you as soon as you hit the driveway.

Of course, before you go plotting out the perfect spot for your pool or spa, be sure to dial 8-1-1. Digger’s Hotline is a must-call for everyone doing any kind of excavation in their yards. Despite the description, aboveground pools and spas require some digging to get the ground level, and nothing will dampen the fun faster than hitting a utility line during installation. 

Scott Nelson, forestry supervisor for Madison Gas & Electric, says you could get hurt, cause damage or rack up some hefty fees if you don’t call and then hit lines while digging. The service is free and the lines are flagged within three business days, so it’s well worth the wait to avoid the risks.

Nelson notes that his company offers homeowners other free services that can help them make good landscaping choices. An online database helps people determine which trees to plant, for example; it sorts results by myriad factors including hardiness, height, fall color, ornamental flowers or fruit, growth rate and more.

The information is critical for people planting near power lines. “Some trees can reach one hundred feet. Some only reach twenty feet,” Nelson says. “What you don’t want is trees making contact with a high-voltage power line. Trees can short out an entire neighborhood and they can be fire hazards, too.”

Most homeowners want to make good tree choices, Nelson adds, but some Madison residents are constrained by small lots and overhead power lines. Anyone who has driven through any of the city’s older neighborhoods knows what happens when the wrong tree is in the wrong place. Who hasn’t seen a maple pruned into an awkward V-shape? 

“There’s no way you can plant a tree that wants to be sixty, seventy feet tall beneath a power line and have it look good,” Nelson says. “The more people know ahead of time, the better their choices are.”

The utility’s arborists will consult with homeowners free of charge. They can offer advice regarding both pruning and planting. It’s useful for trees growing near power lines, but it applies to any shrub or tree currently in your yard or any that you are considering planting. They might even be able to suggest options that won’t fill your pool or spa with little silvery leaves come September.

-Jennifer Garrett

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