On Easter Sunday, 8-year-old Autumn Hufnagl discovered a few surprises tucked in with the chocolates in her Easter basket.
“The Easter Bunny brought her some pool supplies,” said Autumn’s father, Andy, a lieutenant paramedic with the Alsip fire department and resident of New Lenox. “The bunny knew about the pool.”
Hippity-hop. The pool.
The Hufnagls decided to have a 20x44 in-ground pool installed in their back yard earlier this year. The crew at Aqua Pools started the first stage of work on the project on Tuesday, April 24. And life as the Hufnagls knew it changed the minute backhoe operator Dave Cheatle scooped the first giant shovel of dirt into a dump truck parked on their lawn.
Aqua Pools has its own arsenal of heavy-duty machinery and contracts with haulers, too. The crew arrives en masse on Day 1.
“They’re either excited or petrified,” Jim Eiler Sr. said. “Well, this is a big back yard. I could take you and show you job sites that are tight. And we bring the same machinery in the back yard and we’ll be swinging over the house to load the fill-outer.
“Or we take a fiber-glass pool and we raise it up over somebody’s house and drop it in the back yard. People get scared.”
Pool Construction: Grin and Bear It
Eiler described the scene at the Hufnagl’s house as calm.
“Nobody’s reaction surprises me at all,” he said. “I just tell them, ‘Go to work. Don’t watch us.’ Jim tries to tell them, ‘Well, we’re going to do as little damage as possible.’ And I say, ‘We’re going to wreck everything in the back yard. And what I don’t get on the first try, I’ll make an extra trip to get later.’ ”
Eiler’s son, Jim Jr., works as the vice president and chief salesman for Aqua Pools. His is the voice of reason. His dad likes to bring a bit of levity to his outdoor office. Jim Sr. started building in-ground pools in 1978 in Oak Lawn. He strives to satisfy customers by delivering the best pool for the best price.
He leaves them smiling for no extra charge.
“You try not to destroy the back yard, but that’s probably the 13th semi-load of dirt that’s left this pool so far,” Jim Eiler Sr. said. “And there are six more to go.”
Jim Eiler Jr. breaks down the process of installing an in-ground pool into three steps—1. Digging a hole to meet the specs; 2. Building walls, pouring concrete and back-filling; 3. Finishing the bottom, dropping in the liner and pouring more concrete around it.
Backhoes and semis are used to dig and haul dirt away.
A typical project can run from 2½ to 4 weeks, depending on the weather and the type of liner in the pool. Jim Eiler Jr. said in-ground pools installed by Aqua Pools range in cost from $30,000 to $40,000.
“But on top of that, you’ve got your fencing and landscaping you’ve got to do,” he said. “So, depending on the size of the yard, they could spend $3,000 to $5,000 on fencing and the same thing on landscaping.
“You can really go crazy, too, and spend a lot more. But our average ticket is between $30,000 and $40,000.”
Weighing the Cost of a Pool Paradise
Sure, it’s a big investment.
Andy Hufnagl and his wife, Angela, decided the up-front cost was a small price to pay for turning their back yard into a permanent vacation destination. They’re adding some basic features to enhance the enjoyment of their pool—a heater to extend the swim season from April to September, plus LED lightning, a diving board and a slide.
Andy said pump controls and supplies such as chlorine for operating the pool will be stored in a small shed he plans to build off to the side.
“At our previous house, we had an above-ground pool,” he said. “It was much smaller than what we’re purchasing here. We like the look of an in-ground pool. It will be much nicer. And our daughter swims.
“She’s on the Lincoln-Way Gators swim team. She loves swimming. So this will give her a bigger pool to practice in and have fun with her friends.”
The fun began with the arrival of the first truck on the job site.
“They are very excited,” Jim Eiler Jr. said. “Actually, the homeowners are unhappy they couldn’t be here—they both had work. But they’re excited. We pull in with the machines. The wife is sitting there thinking, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll play hooky from work.’
“The kids this morning getting on the school bus were like, ‘Yeah, when I get home I’m going to have a big pool in my back yard.’ ”
In Autumn’s case, the hype started long before she stepped on that school bus. She was energized by the Easter bunny.
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