Roller coaster lover John Ivers says he never had much opportunity to visit amusement parks. So he found a novel means of enjoying the rides, building two of them in his backyard near Vincennes, Ind., using scrap metal and parts scavenged from the shop where he works.
Ivers' first coaster, The Blue Flash, features a 20-foot hill and a loop. After he built it, Ivers said, "I realized my grandkids were just toddlers and couldn't ride this. It's pretty much an adult ride. So, I had to build another coaster that they could ride." The result was Blue Too, a kid-friendly coaster, on which Ivers said he actually took his time and did a better job.
The project couldn't have been easy: The Blue Flash, which was built more quickly, took Ivers almost two years of work. But it seems to have paid off enormously. In fact, it sounds like Ivers' home has become something of an attraction. "We've met so many people because of it," he said, "which, you know, I never thought about all that in the beginning. I didn't build it for that. It was just something unique to have fun on, for the kids and grandkids, and this turned out to really be something special."
Ivers' roller coasters are an especially appealing backyard modification, but here are a range of other unusual projects that have made news on AOL Real Estate:
• An English homeowner spent 13 years digging a mine below his backyard garden as an exercise in historical understanding.
• A private equity executive who owns a former residence of Richard Nixon's irked the neighbors with his constant renovations, including the installation of a backyard hockey rink.
• A Portland, Ore., homeowner used a salvaged claw-foot bathtub to craft an outdoor spa for a fraction of the usual price.
• A landscape architect and ordained minister in Tennessee built a 10-story, 10,000-square-foot treehouse at God's urging. Featuring a chapel and an indoor basketball court, "God's treehouse" took 11 years to complete but cost only $12,000.
Amazing DIY Projects
Indiana Man Turns Backyard Into Mini-Roller Coaster Park
Jeff Fisher, an astronomy enthusiast who lives in Columbus, Ohio, originally planned to build a shed in his backyard to store his equipment. But when he and his father put their heads together, they came up with a better idea: Build a backyard observatory.
"We figured it wouldn't be THAT much harder to just go all in and build the real deal," Fisher wrote on Reddit.com. With his telescope mount put in place, he and his dad began building around it.
A friend of Fisher's had an old shed that he wanted to tear down, and Jeff took the wood from the shed to build his observatory. He also bought more wood and other materials.
Altogether, Fisher said that he spent about $1,000 for the materials to create his backyard observatory. Here, the floor of the observatory begins to take shape.
The walls begin to go up around the telescope mount. Fisher said that his dad was the one who was "the genius behind the operation. He can build anything. I told him what I wanted, he told me what to do and I did it."
Fisher created the white dome atop the observatory from scratch as well, using bendable fiberglass material that is often used for lining in a bathroom. Here, he's enlisted friends and family to hoist the dome on top of the observatory.
Coming together nicely! The observatory has a short door because Fisher wanted the telescope to be at eye level and to be able to look out of the dome doors down the horizon. "We didn't realize they were going to be that short until we started building," said Fisher, but "we did some research and found out that most homemade observatories are the same way, so we felt much better."
A view from the inside of the nearly complete observatory.
Fisher then began to build the wooden platform surrounding the deck. Almost there...
Done! Or is it? Fisher still has more planned for the observatory. "My ultimate goal is to actually make the observatory a sort of mini natural history museum...," he wrote on Reddit.
They ended up getting the project done for about $6,000 -- by doing it themselves.
They borrowed a Bobcat from a friend and began digging up their backyard -- as deep as 8 feet -- for the pool.
Gardiner's dad supervises as the hole for the first impression of the pool is dug. But now it's time to dig our the deep end.
The hole for the pool is pretty much done. Now it's time to start adding the walls.
Gardiner and his dad used hard industrial plastic to line the walls of the pool.
The completed wall with a staircase leading into the pool.
They laid a 2-inch layer of concrete along the bottom of the pool and had to let it dry for a couple of days.
After putting a vinyl lining along the interior of the pool, it's looking pretty good.
Gardiner and his dad filled in the soil around the pool, and then it was time for a sidewalk.
They framed out where they wanted the sidewalk to go around the pool and prepared to pour the concrete for it.
After planting new grass, the entire backyard was basically redone with the new sidewalk and pool. It took Gardiner and his dad from mid-August to September 2007 to build the pool. They poured the sidewalk the following spring.
Jeff Fisher isn't just an astronomy enthusiast. Back in 2005, he and a couple of friends decided to turn an external garage (which looks like it's cluttered with a few miscellaneous items) into something much more useful.
Fisher and his friends took the 15-by-35-foot space and separated it into two rooms.
An important aspect to a good recording studio is insulation. Here you can see where Fisher and his friends added the extra insulation to soundproof the room that will eventually house the instruments.
But of course, you don't want all that stuff showing. So, time to put up drywall!
And who wants to see all that ugly drywall. So ... paint!
Some more finishing touches to make the place look nice. Oh, and a door.
The live room is tastefully decorated and has more than enough room for a piano.
Fisher also fit in a drum set and several other instruments.
The control room, with a nice view into the live room.
So when she went away with her family one weekend last year, he told her that he'd be spending the time working. And that wasn't exactly a fib: She left on a Friday morning, and when she returned the following Sunday evening, he had remodeled the entire kitchen.
Nick described the original kitchen as "dingy and uninviting," with "Pepto Bismol-pink" tiles on the walls, cabinets covered on the outside with ugly tack paper and makeshift countertops that didn't have enough space.
"I didn't want to use it because I really didn't like that room," said Melissa Bylsma, 23, of the couple's old kitchen.
Over the course of the three days that his wife was gone, Bylsma peeled off the pink tiles, stripped the cabinets of their paper, ripped up the linoleum floor and took out the old countertops.
Bylsma's dad helped to rip out the old countertops that, Bylsma said, were far too small and offered inadequate space.
The new countertops, which offered double the space of the old ones, being installed by Bylsma and his dad.
The old linoleum that was on the kitchen floor is about to be ripped up.
Underneath is the home's original wood floor, all it needs is a little staining and it will look as good as new.
After Bylsma stained the wood and created the moldings for the floor, it looks like a brand new kitchen. His wife will be excited!
The completed, new kitchen: about 48 hours after Nick began working on it when his wife left the house. And when she got back after a weekend away?
"I wish I had a camera to take pictures of her," Bylsma said. "She cried tears of joy -- she was so surprised."
"I was completely shocked," Melissa Bylsma said. "I don't think I could even speak. It was such a drastic change from what we had."
Marcus Hermann of Berlin, Germany, didn't have a table to go in front of his couch. But instead of buying one, he decided to make something much cooler.
Hermann built this part of the table himself. It provides a place for the array of LED lighting used to give this table its unique TRON styling. Hermann says he was inspired by "the visual design of the movie 'Tron Legacy,' the possibility to charge my phone and listen to music from it while sitting comfortably on my couch and the fact that I didn't have a couch table so far."
Like most people, Hermann didn't have access to a precise laser cutter, so he sent his plans to Formulor, a custom fabricator, to make the black tabletop.
The tabletop with its entire cover and siding in place.
A side view of the table.
The stand houses much of the table's hardware. Besides looking cool, it provides a variety of practical touches.
Not surprisingly, it looks pretty awesome in the dark.
The table offers a phone/tablet charger in the middle with connection options available via micro USB and audio cables.