JORDAN GERARD/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS Bob and Dawn Hansen of Spring Grove stand on their newly constructed patio, which features an outdoor fireplace and brick oven.
JORDAN GERARD/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS Bob and Dawn Hansen of Spring Grove stand on their newly constructed patio, which features an outdoor fireplace and brick oven.
What does one do with a swimming pool that’s only in use on a few 90 degree-plus days during the summer and the kids do not live at home anymore?

Turn it into a fireplace and pizza oven patio area for bonfires, cooking and entertaining, of course.

Bob and Dawn Hansen, owners of Spring Grove Soda, did just that. The idea was talked about for years, previously, but it wasn’t talked about seriously until two years ago.

“We always wanted a fireplace, but we had no place in the house for one,” Bob said.

The former 27-feet-in-diameter, five-and-a-half-to-six-feet-deep pool was in place for about eight years.

“We were not just going to leave it sit and not use the pool in our 60s,” Bob said. “It was way too much upkeep.”

He added they started with the fireplace idea and it grew from there to add a pizza oven and a concrete patio large enough for entertaining friends and family.

“An outdoor kitchen cooking space would be nice, but that’s not real in our climate,” Dawn said. “It doesn’t really work, so we had to adapt. That’s where the thought of the pizza oven came in.”

They started to put their idea to reality and called a few contractors who could do that kind of work. Many of them recommended a Rochester-based company that sold materials for patios.

“We didn’t really want to go outside of town [for contractors],” Bob said. “We started talking to Russ [Gerard] and other people. He [Russ] had time and thought he could do it. He was pretty excited to do it.”

The entire project took about three weeks to complete. The first challenge was cutting off the deck that wrapped around the pool and pouring the first part of the patio, which happened four months ago.

“We poured the first part and thought it was enough, but it didn’t go all the way across the [existing] deck,” Bob said.

After more concrete was added to line up with the existing deck, Gerard started putting together the concrete tumbled stones to form seat walls, pillars, the fireplace, the wood box and base for the pizza oven, which took about a week.

The pillars would be installed with glass blocks and a light inside. A stone cap on top of another layer of stones protects the lights from the elements.

Finally, decorative landscaping rock was added around the patio and Bob and Dawn plan to add a vegetable garden, flowerbeds and plants.

“We’ll put some mums out there. They’ll get big and flower out and look really nice,” Bob said.

Their new fireplace patio and pizza oven was complete. The fireplace worked great for their bonfires because the smoke went out through the chimney and not toward them as it had before.

There was one more thing that had to be done: test the pizza oven.

“It didn’t come with any instructions or recipes,” Dawn said about the pizza-making process. “We found recipes online, watched how-to videos . . . that was helpful.”

They cooked three pizzas. The first one was bad and a bit burned, the second was good and had a smoky or wood flavor to it, but the third one fell apart, Dawn added.

“The fire placement has to be on the side so it goes over the top,” Dawn said. “The oven got cold in between pizzas. It was a challenge.”

The challenge didn’t discourage them, though. A few of the videos said the oven needs to be between 400 and 500 degrees, but one said 800 degrees to get the rocks good and hot.

After the oven is hot, it only takes about one minute to two minutes to cook it, Bob said.

“About 450 degrees works really good. You have to get it to temperature and leave it there for a while,” he added. “That’s part of the fun of it. A little trial and error.”

Dawn said they also have to be light with toppings and thin crust cooked well.

The Hansens look forward to utilizing their outdoor space in the coming months and next spring. They know it will be a feature that will be more practical for them than their swimming pool.