Posts/Poles installed around pool patio - best practices


Old 06-30-16, 09:19 AM
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Posts/Poles installed around pool patio - best practices

Hi All! I've referenced this site a ton in the past and now have a question and am looking of some tips:

Just got a pool. Last week I ran some string patio lights from my deck to a pole I put in the ground on the opposite side of my pool patio (don't worry, lights are not over the water). It's a 54 foot run. I used a 1/8 cable as guide wire from the deck to the pole. The pole I made is 2 foot plastic PVC in the ground to act as a sleeve. I took metal electrical conduit and put 2 feet of that in the sleeve leaving me with 8 feet above ground. In theory, it's a great idea. However, it's a long run and heavy and when I installed my lights the pole is bending. It's seem structurally fine, but it doesn't look good great and the lights are at head-level of many people.

Since I want the lights to run from my deck, then around the pool patio back to my deck, this weekend I am aiming for a more permanent solution. My idea is to buy deck posts, either 4x4 or 6x6. Hopefully I can use the 10 ft. length ones. I will bury 2 1/2 in the ground. And I am hoping that the 7.5 foot long post above ground will be structurally sound enough to be able to the run the cable between the posts.

So what do you all think? Feasible plan? Can I get away with 4x4s or should I go up to 6x6s? I want to do it right. It's Georgia clay but intend to dig the hole, pour 2 feet of concrete and cover the rest with 6 inches of dirt.

See the attached pic. In the background you can see the current light run. I drew on my intentions. The yellow line being the long run to the deck. It won't run over the water, just looks that way. Any other ideas on how to run these lights?

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Old 06-30-16, 10:29 AM
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Many 4x4 will bend and warp without any load on them so you'll take a bit of a risk just from the lumber warping. 6x6 are much more resistant to warpage but will give you a much chunkier look.

One general rule of thumb is to bury 1/3 of the post in the ground. A 12' post would be buried 4' deep leaving 8' above ground. This is a good rule of thumb in softer soils and when using steel or other high strength posts. For common 4x4 and even 6x6 when buried that deep the wood will break before it's anchorage does. So, with the proper soil you could get away with as little as 30" but if you're setting the post in uncompacted back fill you should probably go deeper.

Personally I'm a fan of steel. You can go to taller heights without bending and keep a more slender profile. Home centers may have posts for chain link fencing which is OK for shorter posts. You can check with local welding and metal fabrication shops to get tubular steel in various sizes especially if there are any factories/industry in your area. Well drilling companies also tend to have steel pipe. In coastal regions or where there are sandy soils they may have smaller sizes while in many areas where drilled wells are common 6" or larger pipe is commonly available.
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