Grand Forks Herald Design a Home: Grand Forks couple design addition, pool as unique home enhancement

It’s a 900-square-foot poolhouse and guesthouse addition to the home they built in 2016 on the city’s south end.

“We’re not really lake people, but we like to be outside in the summer,” said Mark Barclay.

He and Aly decided to build an in-ground pool in their backyard, and provide a bathroom so people would not have to traipse through the house.

The idea for the pool house “started as an outdoor bathroom,” said Mark, who has a real estate license but no construction background. He began by searching for plans for tiny houses and cabins.

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The couple broke ground on the project May 2, 2020, and “made dozens and dozens of revisions” in the process of building it. The project was completed in November. The 24-by-18-foot custom-built house, with a full basement, not only accommodates people using the pool but also serves as a private retreat for out-of-town guests.

“If somebody needs a place to stay, they have their own privacy, they can come and go as they please,” Mark said.

“It is connected to the foundation of our house and has its own central air, so it’s considered an addition,” he said. “It looks exactly like our house — in miniature.”

“I like to have a project,” said Mark, who also collects pinball machines and arcade games to fix up and sell. He also has built a golf simulator in his garage.

Two-story structure

For this addition, since they needed to dig down about seven feet to accommodate the plumbing for the structure, it made sense to create a lower level of living space, Mark said.

The pool house can double as a living quarters for visiting relatives and friends. It offers guests a private space, with every amenity — a combination sitting, dining and kitchen space furnished with two comfortable club chairs; a high-top table with seating for four; full-size stainless steel appliances, including a stove, refrigerator and dishwasher; upper and lower cabinets; and a full-size kitchen sink.

The vinyl plank flooring and other surfaces are completely waterproof, easing any concerns about dripping swimmers who run in from the pool, Mark said. Nothing will be damaged “no matter how wet anyone is who comes in.”

Two large, wall-mounted TV screens allow viewers to watch sporting events and other shows. The main floor also features a combined full bathroom and laundry room, and a pantry, which doubles as a mechanical room housing the electrical panel. The addition has a tankless water heater and its own furnace.

“It was tricky to figure out furnishings, but it still needed to be functional and have dining space,” said Aly, who designed the interior spaces.

Her contemporary pallet — anchored with cream, black, white and tan — imbues the space with a calm, relaxed feel.

The addition’s lower level features a queen-size bed on one end of the room, which feels spacious thanks to its high ceiling. Centered on one wall is an inviting couch that beckons the visitor to sit and relax, situated as it is directly across from a 70-inch wall-mounted TV screen.

“We come down here sometimes and watch movies,” Mark said.

Set into the ceiling, can lighting casts a soft glow, eliminating the need for excessive table- or floor-lamps and maintaining a simple, uncluttered atmosphere. An egress window, facing the pool, not only allows for a generous amount of sunlight to brighten the lower level, it also satisfies the city’s building code to ensure a safe exit in case of an emergency.

Meeting city building code requirements was among the numerous considerations while planning and building the addition. In the planning stages, “we went through all the city channels,” Mark said. Neighbors were made aware of, but did not object to, the project — some even helped with some of the physical labor, he said.

Project challenges

Among the most daunting challenges of this project was supplying the utilities to the addition, Mark said. “The utilities had to come off our existing house.”

The couple had to upgrade the BTU capacity of their natural gas line from 250,000 to 1.25 million, he said.

“Trying to get plumbing here was complicated,” he said, noting that he worked with Economy Plumbing to find the best solution.

He also worked with the True Comfort Heating and Cooling on the design of the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. The T.K. Construction LLC firm built the structure, said Mark, who helped with some of the work, including framing and shingling.

Enlisting the services of companies to work on the project was not always easy, Mark said. Some were reluctant to accept work on aspects that were unfamiliar.

“It’s easier to take on jobs you know,” Mark said. “If it’s not something they do every day, they were not inclined to take on the job, especially when the pandemic started” and more people began to launch their own home improvement projects.

Among other vendors who worked on the project were All Pro Electric, Northland Custom Woodworking, Northern Lumber, and Tim Shea’s Nursery and Landscaping.

Along with the many exterior tasks was putting up a fence around the backyard, shielding it as a construction zone, and restoring the landscaping and the grass after the fact, he said.

A refreshing pool

The 18-by-40-foot pool, built by My Aquatic Services, was being built at the same time as the pool house addition. It holds 25,000 gallons and ranges in depth from three to eight feet. The heated pool has been in use for a few weeks, Mark said, providing a refreshing respite from the suddenly sizzling temps that marched in with June.

The electronically-controlled pool cover recedes into the pool wall with the touch of a digital code on a keypad. All the pool equipment “is out of sight, out of mind,” he said.

“The pool is used pretty much every day,” Mark said, noting that it is filled with salt water, which is easier to manage than a chlorine pool.

“It’s a lot less harsh than a typical chlorine pool,” he said.

“We even snuck in a ‘pool day’ last October,” Aly said.

The Barclays, who have an 8-year-old daughter, can foresee the pool being used by kids in the neighborhood, they said.

“Kids can come over and, supervised, safely swim,” Mark said. The pool’s “auto cover” also acts as a “safety cover,” he said. It can hold up to 5,000 pounds.

The area has built-in speakers everywhere and is lit by surrounding spotlights to accommodate evening swims.

“I wanted to customize everything,” Mark said. “It took weeks and weeks and weeks just to plan the pool, from the steps to the liner to the walls to the auto cover to the equipment to clean the pool.”

As he looks back on it, Mark said they were fortunate to have ordered building materials in March 2020, before the onset of the pandemic, when supplies were easier to obtain “and before everybody started building pools last year because of COVID.”

“We were ahead of the curve — luckily, because lumber would be more expensive and harder to get now,” he said.

The project “was a lot of work to figure out the logistics of everything,” Mark said, and he did not take time off from his job to do it. He received an estimate that shows the value of the home has increased “by about 85% of what we invested,” Mark said.

The two-story addition has “already gotten quite a bit of use,” he said. “It’s become its own little social gathering spot. The guys sit out in the pool house and watch football.

“It turned out exactly how we wanted it.”