If you live in an area which experiences warm weather all year, or love to swim when the weather gets warmer in spring and summer, you might start to think that owning your own pool would be the perfect way to cool down, tone up, and have fun with family and friends.
If your backyard seems the perfect place to install a new pool and deck so you can enjoy fun, relaxation and a healthy lifestyle, then installing a pool might be a sound investment that will add value to your home and be an amenity that you can enjoy for years to come; however, a lot of people think about buying a pool but do not realize the cost and maintenance involved.
As a finance writer, Jim is always interested in ways to help people save money and invest wisely. He also loves owning a swimming pool, but can be a voice of reason to give readers a reality check about exactly what installing and owning a pool involves. Diana lives in Florida and has had a pool for over 20 years. As she has also worked for several pool installation and maintenance companies, writing about pool maintenance in addition to usual writing about do-it-yourself projects around the home seemed like a logical fit.
In this guide, we want to help beginners to the world of pools start their decision process in an informed way, with the pros and cons of pool ownership, and whether or not a pool is a good investment that can add value to a home. Then we will discuss the essentials of pool maintenance for safety for your family first, and for the protection of your investment second.
In this way, we hope to help you avoid any health issues with your new pool and any disastrous mistakes that can cost you a lot of money. We will begin with a realistic look at the pros and cons of owning a swimming pool.
THE PROS AND CONS OF OWNING A SWIMMING POOL
Owning a swimming pool is a dream for many homeowners, since it is considered to be a luxury item not only in terms of the cost to install it, but the cost of maintaining it. There are various kinds of pools, from a small play pool for the children, to an above-ground pool, a recessed pool, or even a heated pool.
A pool can be a substantial investment in your home, but it can also be a form of entertainment for the whole family and even the neighbors. It can also be an excellent keep-fit aid for people of all ages, particularly older people. Swimming and water aerobics are two ways to get a good workout without putting any stress or impact on joints, but as great as swimming can be for your health, safety needs to come first at all times, since carelessness around or in the water can kill.
In addition, there are a variety of considerations to take into account before buying a pool or having it installed. Depending on where you live, it might be something that you would be able to use all year round, or you might only be able to use it during the warmer months.
There are several pros and cons to owning a swimming pool. First, we look at the advantages. A pool can help you cool off in the warm weather, entertain the children if you supervise them, and be a great aid to fitness and relaxation. A heated pool can be used all year round to enjoy the many benefits of swimming.
If you have children who don’t know how to swim yet, having a swimming pool can be quite dangerous. Only an inch of water can drown a child because they do not have the muscle control to be able to push themselves up out of the water. Even if your child knows he or she can’t swim, it’s still very easy to slip and fall into the pool if you have an in-ground pool. The pool can become a big safety hazard for both children and animals, including wildlife. Baby animals and even adult ones can fall into the pool and drown unless you go the expensive of putting a fence around it.
A lot of people justify owning a swimming pool by telling themselves they will recoup the cost in the home’s increased value. The truth of the matter is that in most cases, the cost of building and then maintaining the pool cancels out any hope of ever recouping its cost. Add to it the cost of safety gates and you will need to spend a great deal of money to set up the pool initially.
You might also consider that you are saving a good deal of money on gym membership fees for the whole family and the wear and tear on your car going back and forth to the pool with the children, but the swimming pool needs to be well-maintained in order to not turn into a health hazard for anyone who uses it. If you don’t maintain your pool properly, it can be dangerous for your family, pets and wildlife. High chlorine levels or high pH levels can be damaging to eyes and respiratory systems, and to those of animals as well who might fall into it or go for a swim.
If your pumps aren’t working well, bacteria can grow and cause all sorts of health issues. Testing the water in the pool, and keeping it free of insects and algae, are regular chores that need to be performed on a regular basis. If you do not have the time or patience to do this, you will need to pay someone to maintain the pool so that it is safe for family and friends to swim in.
These are the main pros and cons in relation to considering whether or not to get a swimming pool for your home. In the next chapter, we will discuss the costs involved both in terms of setting one up and maintaining one on a regular basis.
HOW MUCH DOES A SWIMMING POOL COST?
A small paddle pool or quick-set pool is your cheapest pool option, but it is suitable only for cooling off small children in warm weather; the children can’t swim in one, just paddle if they are small. You need the time and money to be able to fill it with water, and you can’t leave the water more than a day or two because of the dangers of bacteria and insects starting to accumulate.
An above-ground swimming pool is the next most affordable option because there is no digging involved or custom-building from scratch. The swimming pool sets are all pre-built and you can choose one that will fit in your yard and is the appropriate depth for swimming. They will not be very large, but you can certainly enjoy pool parties with the children and friends in an above-ground pool that is large enough.
They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and in a number of styles. The ground usually has to be completely flat, and the pool will usually require supports (buttresses), which will help the sides of the pool withstand the weight of the water, which can run to thousands of gallons depending upon the size of the pool. A small pool can run about $2,000, while a large one can be as much as $10,000 to install. If you want to build new wood decking around your pool, that will usually cost between $2,500 and $5,000, and a gate and protective fencing about the same amount again depending on the quality of the items you choose.
There are many important considerations that you need to take into account when deciding to buy and install an above-ground pool. First, you need to think about what the frame of the pool is made from. Some are made of aluminum, while others are made of galvanized steel. Then there is the lining to be taken into consideration.
There are two types of liners. With the overlap type, the vinyl liner is draped over the vertical pool wall and then held in place by top rails. With the more expensive beaded liner, there is a thickened preformed fold along the edge of the liner that is pressed into place on the pool wall. The liners also come in different thicknesses, styles and colors, with thicker, more ornate liners costing more than the standard blue liner.
The extras added to the pool, such as the top rail and the ladder, can all start to add up in price, but they are also essential safety features that you will not want to skimp on.
Placing your pool upon the correct site is critical. It is not something that you will just be able to pick up and move any time you wish. You need a nearby source of power to run the pump, and you should not install your pool under trees, power lines or telephone lines. The bigger the pool, the bigger the area that has to be leveled and cleared, and of course the less space in the backyard you will have for other purposes.
Above-ground pools are typically installed on a firm bed of sand, and the cost of site preparation can range from a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more. Round pools are usually buttress-free, and oval pools can be either buttressed or buttress-free. Buttress-free pools are engineered to withstand that pressure without diagonal supports.
Those with buttressed walls have diagonal bracing along the sides to counteract the pressure of the water so that the pool does not collapse. Diagonal supports for buttressed walls can take an extra three feet on each side for the supports, making the remaining area of backyard even smaller. When calculating the size of the pool, therefore, you need to deduct 36 inches from each side of the measurements you have taken to get the correct size for a buttressed pool.
Deciding on the proper filter and filter pump is also important. There are three filter types: sand, cartridge and diatomaceous earth, D.E. for short. A sand filter will trap particles down to a microscopic 20 microns in size. (To give you a sense of how well it filters, the diameter of a human hair is 75 to 100 microns.) A cartridge filter will trap particles down to 10 microns, and a D.E. filter down to 3 or 4 microns. In this way, you can be sure that almost everything you don’t want floating in your pool will be caught by the filter.
Sand filters are the most common type sold in above-ground pool packages, but those who want the highest filtration will pay the extra for the cartridge or D.E. filters; however, as we have said, with a filtration that is over one-third smaller than the average human hair, a sand filter should work just fine and save you a good deal of money.
The filter pump will usually run on standard 110-volt household electricity, but higher-powered pumps may need a 220-volt circuit, which may involve re-wiring. No matter which voltage is required, it is important to provide a safe source of power. You will need to check with your local code enforcement department to determine what is required in your area; don’t leave it to the pool builder to check.
In terms of where to situate the pool, you need to think of safety at all times. You do not want to have debris from trees constantly showering down into the pool, and you should ensure that there is no risk of power lines or phone lines falling into the pool and electrocuting anyone in the water. The pool also has to have a constant power source to keep the pump working and perhaps even to heat the pool, but as always, electricity and water do not mix, so you need to be certain that all safety measures are in place and that the wiring is sound and not exposed and susceptible to splashing or damage.
In-ground pools also come in a range of options. The easiest choice is a fiberglass pool, which is pre-built and simply lowered into a hole in the ground. The construction crew will come to your house, dig out the ground, then install the pool. Because the pool is pre-built, the whole process is much faster and cheaper than a more customized job, but it is certainly not cheap. A fiberglass pool will cost approximately $12,000 to $20,000 for a medium-sized pool. A large pool will cost between $15,000 and $30,000. This will include the installation and the pool itself, though you may have to purchase other additions such as pool lights and pool covers.
You will also want to have fencing or screening around the pool for protection to prevent anyone from falling in. The screening can also keep out a lot of debris, wildlife and insects and give you some privacy from the neighbors. An awning overhead will allow everyone to enjoy the pool for hours and avoid sunburn.
Building a custom pool out of shotcrete (sometimes referred to as gunite) or concrete will enable you to design your pool exactly the way you want it to be built. A construction crew will come in, dig out the hole, then use rebar and wire to create the foundation for the pool. They will then use shotcrete or concrete to create the pool from scratch. This is both the most time consuming and the most expensive option. It will usually cost a minimum of $25,000 for a moderate-sized pool, not including tiling or any automated cleaning functions for the pool. If you’re looking at a larger pool that has automatic cleaning functions, then the cost will be closer to $50,000.
As you can tell, the range is vast. You can have the pleasure of owning a small pool for as little as $2,000, or you can go all out and buy a custom-built luxury pool for $50,000 or more. As with everything that you buy, comparison shopping is key. The first thing you need to compare is the cost of the pool. If it is a pre-built pool, you should compare size, shape, and amount of water it holds and the other equipment needed, such as the pump and heating.
Then there is the labor involved. This will be the most expensive part of the pool installation and you will want to get the best price you can for good workmanship. If the fiberglass gets punctured or the tiling is done poorly, your pool can constantly leak, becoming nothing more than a hole in the ground or, worse still, a hole down which you are constantly pouring money in terms of water, chemicals and repair. The leaks may not always be obvious but can cost you a lot long-term.
Make sure that you don’t just take a contractor’s numbers at face value. Get quotes from several different contractors to make sure you are getting the best deal. As rates between contractors can vary by as much as 30 percent, shop around carefully and get recommendations before committing to anything. Remember that both your money and the safety of your family are at stake if you choose the wrong contractor and they provide a pool which is faulty or unsafe.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO MAINTAIN A SWIMMING POOL
When you are considering the purchase of a swimming pool, make sure you take into consideration the costs on ongoing maintenance. These costs can be as high as $400 a month or as low as $100 a month, depending on your pool and how much work you want to put into maintenance.
Running the pool actively, keeping the water circulating and keeping it heated, takes a lot of electricity. You can expect to spend $50 to $75 a month on electricity when you are actively using the pool. The water also needs to be tested and then treated with chemicals in order to keep the pool bacteria and algae-free. It will cost from $20 to $30 a month for the chemicals you will need to keep your pool in great condition and safe to swim in. You will need to check your chemical levels so as not to cause burns or respiratory issues by using too much chlorine in the pool, but too little can lead to bacteria and health issues.
You can learn all you need to learn about pool chemistry and how to keep your pool in good condition on the Internet, but a lot of people still prefer to have someone else do pool servicing. This will usually cost $75 to $90 a week but does include the cost of all the chemicals.
If you have an in-ground vinyl pool, you will need to get your pool re-plastered about every 10 to 15 years. This can easily run $10,000 or more; other types of pools may need re-plastering every 20 to 30 years. This is a big expense that definitely needs to be factored in.
You can expect to spend about $2,000 over the course of 10 years to replace pumps and heaters. If you maintain a good chlorine level and the right pH levels, your pumps will last longer. If you aren’t maintaining your pool properly, the water’s chlorine and acidity will corrode the pumps faster.
Taking all of the above into consideration, an above-ground pool will be cheaper than an in-ground one, and you can bring the cost down to as low as $100 a month if you are willing to take the time to learn about pool chemistry. Taking care of the pool maintenance yourself can save a lot of money and give you a pool you can be sure will be healthy and trouble-free once you learn everything you need to know about the subject.
On the other hand, if you want to hire someone else to do it, you are going to need to spend about $300 to $400 a month. As safety should be your main consideration, if you think you will not be able to maintain the pool properly to keep down bacteria and algae, then it is best to hire professional help.
In addition to the total costs of maintaining your pool, you should also set aside about $100 a month towards a pool maintenance fund so that when equipment inevitably needs to be replaced, you will be ready. This may all sound like a lot of money per month, but if you add up what you would usually spend on entertainment and gym fees, it will not seem quite so costly.
Another thing to consider will be the costs of opening and closing the pool each year if you live in a seasonal climate. You will need a good pool cover suited to the shape of the pool and a variety of additional tools, cleaning products and chemicals. If you are going to pay a service to winterize your pool properly, or set it up for the summer, this will cost you more money than their regular pool service; therefore, you will need to budget for it carefully. (See our later chapters on winterizing and preparing your pool for the summer to get an idea of what is involved and the additional costs.)
Now that we have covered the essentials, if you are still thinking of buying a pool, in the next chapter we will discuss how to choose a swimming pool.
HOW TO CHOOSE A SWIMMING POOL
There are many different kinds of swimming pools you can choose from, depending on your budget and where you want to install the pool.
* Above-Ground Pools
This type of pool is the easiest to install. Because the pool is above ground, you don’t have to excavate the ground which makes the installation much easier and cheaper. If you have a small area or a small budget, an above-ground pool is a great option. There are many different sizes and styles from which to choose.
Having said that, there are certain special considerations to keep in mind, such as lining, materials, space required, and buttressing to hold the weight of the water of the pool. Will you have enough room for the supporting buttresses or will you opt for a more expensive buttress-free pool? If you are opting for a pool that will need to be buttressed, add three feet to your measurements to accommodate the size of the supports.
You will also need to have a level backyard surface, and it will need a sand foundation to be laid before the pool can be installed.
* In-Ground Pools
In ground pools in fiberglass and vinyl are available, but they will eventually start to leak. For example, a vinyl liner will need to be replaced about once every ten years.
The custom-built pools made out of shotcrete or concrete will be the most expensive, but the most durable. However, they will need to be tiled and you will also need to install the water pumping and drainage systems first before the pool is constructed from a wire frame and concrete or shotcrete. Once the concrete is dry, the workers will apply either plaster or paint on the pool and then tile around the whole area.
No matter which type of pool you choose, you will want to have fencing and/or decking around it in order to protect the family and any animals in your yard. You might also decide upon screening or an awning to keep bugs away and reduce the risk of sunburn. The sun’s rays reflecting off water intensify their power, leading to sunburn more quickly. Even waterproof sunscreen and sunblock will wash off after a time, so putting a cover above the pool is one good way to try to protect your family.
Start by determining the area where you want to install the pool. How big is the area? Is it level and flat? Is it close enough to a water source to be able to fill it, and to a power source to be able to heat it? Will you have enough room for a deck and fencing around it?
Compare features and materials carefully. Compare like with like in terms of size and shape and determine the best value for your budget. Also discover if you need any zoning permission to install a pool, and whether there are any issues with your property that you need to be aware of, such as sewer mains or other features underground that might affect the placement of your pool.
Once you have started comparing features and prices, it will be time to compare the quotes you will be getting from pool contractors. Get at least three quotes and be certain you know exactly what is included in the price. Then create a chart to compare the exact terms of each deal.
Get recommendations from friends as well regarding what pool they might have or which contractor they used. Be sure you understand the maintenance aspects before you make a final choice. Also ask about the pump, filtration, and heating for the pool if you plan to have any. Even in relatively warm climates, the water can become too cold to swim in, so if you plan to use it all year round, then a heater will be essential. (When Diana moved into her first home in Florida, which had a small kidney-shaped pool, she was looking forward to swimming every day, but it had no heater and it soon became too chilly to enjoy it.)
Once you have decided on all the items that you will need with your pool, it will be time to choose a swimming pool builder.
HOW TO CHOOSE A SWIMMING POOL BUILDER
Choosing a swimming pool builder will be the most important decision you ever make in reference to buying a pool. No matter what kind of pool you choose, you will be spending thousands of dollars on construction and many more dollars on maintenance over the life of the pool. Furthermore, your backyard is going to be a construction zone for three to six weeks while your pool is installed. You need to make sure the people you hire are truly competent and honest.
There are a number of ways to choose a swimming pool builder. You can find pool builders in the Yellow Pages, as well as on the Internet. Just search for “pool builder” plus the name of your city using one of the main search engines such as Google. If you live in a more rural area, enter the name of the township or the nearest large city.
If you have friends who have recently purchased a pool or had a pool built, you can also ask them for references. Ask around the office, church, or any other group you belong to. Mention that you are thinking about getting a pool installed and ask if they or anyone they know has used the services of a local builder recently. In the current economy, this is not that likely, but some people who feel that it adds value to a home might decide to go ahead with this extensive project, especially if they know their family and friends will get a lot of use out of the pool.
Another way to sort through all the builders you have to choose from is to decide to work only with a builder who also services and repairs the pools they build. If you work with a builder who doesn’t do servicing, they are more likely to do a shoddy job. If they do servicing as well, however, they will be much more likely to view you as a long-term customer rather than a one-time customer from whom they can take the money and run.
The next thing to consider is their experience. How many pools has this contractor built? How many years have they been building pools? How much experience do they have with the specific kind of pool you are looking to build?
Even an above-ground pool needs to be installed correctly to keep everyone safe and prevent leaks. They might also have recommendations about the best pools to buy based on their experience, especially if they are going to help maintain the pool. You will be looking at pools based on size, shape and style, but if they service the pools they install, they will know which brands are the most durable. Even if you have to pay a little more, this will be worth it in the long-run.
Don’t be shy about asking for references up front. Get the names of five of their past or current clients they are helping to maintain their pools, and call three of them at random to see if they are satisfied with the pools they have. Be sure to also ask about whether or not any unexpected problems arose and how good the builder was at handling them. Also ask about the maintenance work that they do and how much they are charging.
Another thing to check is whether they are a member of any swimming pool association. Do they have a Certified Service Professional (CSP) certification? What about an Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) certification? Ask them about their education. Where did they learn to build pools? What do they like most about building them or installing them? What aspects of building or installing pools are the most challenging for them?
Pay attention to the answers. This is a person you will be working with for many weeks and one whom you will be relying upon to both do a good job and cope with any unexpected events that arise in the course of installing or building your pool. Make sure they are someone you feel you can deal with regularly on a personal as well as professional level. If you get a bad vibe, then listen to your instincts and do not choose them no matter how good the price seems to be.
Another issue is clean up. Installing a pool can be a very messy business indeed, especially an in-ground one. Just think of the digger that will be needed, and the mounds of displaced dirt and soil. Who will do all that clean up? Better to ask the question now than get stuck later.
Another key consideration is work permits for the area in which you live. Will they file the paperwork for you and follow up on the permissions, or will you need to do it all yourself? This can take a lot of time and effort if you are not experienced in these areas.
In terms of your budget for your swimming pool, you will naturally want to get the most value for your money. Try to get at least three solid price quotes before deciding on the contractor. Don’t just go with the lowest price. Sometimes a high quality contractor is worth paying a little more for. Be sure that the quote is completely itemized with all of the essentials that you will need for the perfect pool. The pool and the work should be priced separately and you should have a clear idea of what the pool costs through your detailed research.
Remember to look at their payment terms in addition to the price itself. How much of a down-payment do you need to give in order for the work to start? Will you have to pay immediately upon completion of the pool, or can you pay over time?
Ask a lot of questions. Don’t feel rushed to make your decision and don’t make a choice until you have met a contractor with whom you feel completely happy. You have to weigh all the various factors and make a decision based on the contractor that you trust the most and your budget, and ongoing needs for pool maintenance.
A builder who has been in business for some time is likely to be in business years from now, not vanish as soon as they get your money, and will therefore be around for the long haul to take care of your pool. Don’t deal with subcontractors but directly with the parent company, and keep detailed records of everything that occurs as your pool is being installed in case anything goes wrong. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK A SWIMMING POOL BUILDER
1-How long have you been in business?
2-Have you been in business under any other names?
3-Are you a licensed and bonded contractor?
4-How much and what types of insurance do you have in place?
5-Are your warranties spelled out in writing?
NOTE: Do NOT deal with anyone who does not have a written warranty. Look over the coverage and the exclusions. In particular, look at the “Acts of God” coverage for things that are completely out of your control, such as storm damage.
6-Do you provide service after completion? The pool company you choose should stand by their service and their service team, so if they say no, we suggest you steer clear.
7-Will I be instructed on the operation of my pool? (If they say no, cross them off your list.)
8-Will your crews clean up on an ongoing basis and after all the work is completed? (Hint: This should include removing tire tracks from the access point when they are all done.)
9-Who is responsible for any damage to the house or the neighbor’s property? Who will repair any irrigation or sprinkler pipes that might be broken during construction due to the weight of the vehicles driving onto the property and so forth. Be sure to get this in writing.
10-Who will apply for and obtain the permits? Get this worked out early. Permits can take a while to come through and your pool may be delayed.
11-Who can you contact for references? Ask for at least five names and contact them randomly, that is, do not start at the top of the list.
12-Do they currently have any pools under construction in the area so that you can visit the site to get a good idea of what to expect?
13-Can you talk to the homeowner about their experience so far with the pool being installed?
14-Are you involved in any pending legal disputes? This is key because you do not want them to start work on your pool and then be shut down because of past misdemeanors.
There are many other questions you will want to ask which will pertain to your own home, the type of pool you will be installing, and the kind of installation that will therefore be required (above-ground versus in-ground), but these are the main ones that will help you with your initial process of interviewing builders and weeding out the good from the bad.
POOL WATER CHEMISTRY ESSENTIALS
Having good pool chemistry is critical for the health of the pool in preventing bacterial growth and algae growth, and therefore optimal safety for people swimming in the pool. There are several essential aspects you will need to know about with reference to the chemistry of your pool water.
* Picking and Using Chlorine
The first step to maintaining healthy pool chemistry is selecting the right kind of chlorine. When it comes to choosing chlorine, you really do get what you pay for. There are cheaper sticks of chlorine that you can purchase that may look a lot like the more expensive ones, but once they are in use, you will notice a big difference.
High-quality chlorine dissolves very slowly in the pool. Low-quality chlorine dissolves much more quickly and will disappear within three days. The stick may look like the same size, but with the cheaper sticks, a great deal of it will tend to be filler, and therefore you will have to use more to get the same effect as with the better quality chlorine.
The most cost effective kind of chlorine comes in three-inch tablets. If you run a smaller pool, you may choose a one-inch tablet. Aim to get a table that contains at least 85 percent of Trichloro-S-Triazinetrione, the active ingredient you need to keep your pool clean and in top condition.
* Your Chlorine Feeding System
The system that you use to feed the chlorine into your pool matters a great deal. If you just place the chlorine in your pool or put it in a skimmer, your chlorine levels will be far too high. That level of chlorine will also corrode your pump and circulation systems very quickly. Therefore, if you want to keep your pool water in balance and protect your equipment, you should purchase either an automatic feeder or a chemical feeder. Both work very well for dispersing the chlorine into the pool slowly to keep you and your pool safe.
* Maintaining the Correct pH Levels
If the pH levels are incorrect, your swimmers are going to feel as though their eyes are burning and their skin is itching when they swim in your pool, or you are going to encounter algae bloom, insects and bacteria. Therefore, you should manage your pH with the help of a pool testing kit. The ideal pH for a swimming pool is 7.4, plus or minus 0.2 pH. If you’re off by even 1 pH, the chlorine in your pool won’t be able to do its job. Bacteria and insects will be able to invade your pool freely, causing a health hazard.
Generally speaking, however, it is rare that you will have a low pH problem. Usually, your challenge will be lowering the pH levels of your pool because most people tend to overdo it on the chlorine. You can lower the pH by using granular acid (slower) or muriatic acid (faster but more dangerous.) Make sure your pump is turned on full blast when you add these chemicals.
Change the pH levels slowly and keep retesting. Don’t add excessive chemicals only to find you overshot your goal and then have to use more chemicals to bring the pH back up. Your testing kit will help you get it right so that the pool can be used as much as possible in the summer. Also keep in mind factors like evaporation, especially in high heat and humidity, and rainfall, which will alter the chemistry of your pool, particularly if you have drenching rains that fill the pool rapidly.
Maintaining healthy pool chemistry is the best way to keep your pool healthy and safe so your family can use it as often as possible without burning, stinging, or insects, algae and bacteria.
In the next chapter, we will talk more about being prepared for the types of common problems you might have with your pool once it is installed.
COMMON SWIMMING POOL PROBLEMS ONCE YOUR POOL IS INSTALLED
Swimming pools are fantastic fun for the family or for parties, but they do require quite a bit of maintenance to keep them clean and safe. If you own a pool, you will eventually run into some common swimming pool problems.
* Chlorine Levels Are Off
If the chlorine levels are off, you will have a number of problems. The first is that if the chlorine level is too high, anyone swimming in the pool could experience irritation in the eyes and on the skin, especially if they are allergic. By contrast, if the chlorine level is too low, algae can start to bloom in the water and can be very hard to get rid of. The algae will also encourage insects to come, so you should take care of this problem sooner rather than later. If it has rained heavily, your proportion of treated water to fresh rainwater can drastically change, so be sure to check the chlorine levels after any large storms and adjust your chemicals accordingly.
* Pool Filter Clogs
Another common issue is the pool filter clogging and not doing its work. If the pool filter gets clogged, the water circulation in the pool will get cut off. If the circulation gets cut off, the water will grow stagnant and bacteria and algae will have a much easier time growing. The filter can get clogged from leaves that dropped into the pool, small stones, Band-Aids and anything else that gets caught in the skimmer. You need to clean the filter regularly and also skim the pool with a net to scoop out anything you don’t want to end up in the filter.
* Leaking Air Lines
If you notice that the pool isn’t circulating properly but the pool filter is clear, then that probably means that there is a leak somewhere in the air line. It is also possible that the pump isn’t working properly. You could try to patch this up yourself with sturdy tape such as duct tape. If you’re not handy, however, you may be better off calling a professional to locate the leak for you. Again, anything that interferes with the circulation of the water will cause it to stagnate and become a home for bacteria, algae and insects. The West Nile virus, for example, was spread through insects living in stagnant water such as puddles, lakes, and pools.
* Electrical Issues
Another common reason why the water might not be circulating properly could be an electrical issue. Make sure that power is actually reaching the pump before you look into repairing or replacing the pump itself. Sometimes it could be as simple as a blown fuse or turning a circuit breaker back on. You can try to diagnose the issue yourself, but anything else involved with the pool and electricity should be considered potentially dangerous, so you should consider calling a qualified repairman if neither of those two solutions work.
* Cracked Tiles
If the tiles on the bottom of the pool crack, it is possible for water to seep out into the ground or all over your yard or deck. This could cause flooding, water damage, and a very high water bill. You can expect your pool to lose about one-quarter inch of water each day due to evaporation, and this can increase in hot and humid weather. If you constantly have to fill the pool, though, you might have a leak that needs to be taken care of. The tiles are often the best place to look. They can crack and the grout can come loose as well, causing leaks.
Fortunately, the fix for this is relatively simple. All you need to do is put some silicone in the crack or the opening in the grout. Once hardened and allowed to dry thoroughly, it should be able to keep the water out once more.
These are some of the most common issues that you will run into as a pool owner. If it is your first time owning a pool, ask the contractor who installed the pool to walk you through all the things you need to know in order to run the pool effectively without having to call for service all the time. If you don’t want to learn about all the different chemicals and testing procedures you need to run the pool properly, then you will need to hire someone to maintain your pool on a regular basis, though this will be costly.
DEALING WITH POOL PUMP ISSUES
The pool filter and pool pump are two of the most crucial elements in relation to the overall health of your pool. Together they keep the water in your pool circulating, which prevents the build-up of bacteria and algae. If the pump isn’t working properly or if the filter is clogged, your pool will quickly become a breeding ground for all kinds of organisms that can cause health issues for anyone swimming in the pool. There are a number of common pool pump issues to keep an eye out for to keep your pool clean and safe to swim in:
* The Pump Isn’t Pumping
This is a common occurrence that could be caused by a number of things. One common issue is that the skimmer basket could be clogged. Simply emptying it might be all you need to get your pump running again. If the skimmer is not clogged, then start to methodically check the various elements in the pump system. Water might not be getting into the strainer basket properly because the basket is damaged, which is allowing dirt or other debris from the outside into the pump system. This can cause jams, which makes it hard for the impeller to move. Look through the system, and if you can’t properly diagnose why the pump isn’t functioning, you will have to call a repairman.
* The Pump is Leaking Water
This is usually an easy problem to fix. The most common cause is that the thread on the fitting will get smaller over time. Redoing the fitting is very inexpensive and easy; it and can be done in about 45 minutes. It is also possible that the mechanical seal is damaged. Again, replacing this is easy, inexpensive; it takes about 45 minutes to repair.
* The Motor Turns On and Off Randomly
If the motor turns on and off all on its own, it probably means that it is overheating. Pool motors have a failsafe mechanism that will stop the pump from overheating by shutting itself down. If the motor is old and starts turning on and off on its own, that means it is time to replace it. If the motor is new, it will usually be an electrical issue. If the electricity’s voltage is too low, it will generate more heat and could trigger the shutdown. Check to make sure that there isn’t anything getting in the way of the pump’s cooling vents, which can also cause it to overheat and then trigger the failsafe mechanism.
* Your Pump is Making a Whining Sound
If the motor is making scratching or whining noises, chances are you need to replace the bearings. Unlike a door hinge, you can’t just apply lubrication or grease; the bearings have to be replaced. Fortunately, this procedure is relatively inexpensive, generally costing under $150 for both the labor and the parts needed.
These are some of the most common issues you will run into with your pool’s pump and filtration system. Keeping the pool water circulating is crucial to the overall health of your swimming pool, otherwise you will get more bacteria and algae. Algae, in particular, will attract more insects. Let’s look in the next chapter at how to deal with getting rid of insects in your swimming pool.
HOW TO GET RID OF INSECTS IN YOUR SWIMMING POOL
Insects are one of the biggest annoyances that pool owners face. Other problems, such as imbalanced pH or a leaky pump, may cause problems behind the scenes, but insects in the pool are actively annoying and can be dangerous in terms of bites, stings, and even disease (such as West Nile Disease). There are a number of ways to get rid of insects in your pool depending on the type of insect. The first thing to do is to get a pool cover if you don’t plan on using the pool for an extended period of time. This will help keep down all types of insects.
* Getting Rid of Midges
Midges are small flies that hatch near water and then swarm and bite anything that they come near. Typically, they migrate from nearby ponds, lakes or rivers to swimming pools and lay and hatch their eggs. To prevent this, the first thing you should do is ensure your pool has the right level of chlorine and is getting good circulation. For midges specifically, place a few strong lights about 20 feet away from the pool, and then turn off any lights you have around the pool. The strong lights will attract the midges and prevent them from finding the pool. In addition, if you have an in-ground pool, trim the grass around the pool. This prevents midges from hiding in the grass, as well as prevents them from laying eggs there.
* Clean Out the Catch Net Regularly
Before you turn off the filtration system each day, clean out the catch-net to get rid of anything that might be lurking in it. If you turn off the filtration system without dumping out the catch net, bugs that were caught in the net will be able to escape back out into the pool and have to be caught again. In the meantime, they can be freely proliferating in the pool. Emptying the catch net allows you to leverage your filtration system as a real tool for getting rid of insects.
* Eliminate Insect Food Sources
Some insects can’t be killed by chlorine. The best way to get rid of these types is to eliminate their food sources. There are two main food sources to think about. The first is algae. If your chlorine level has been off and you have an algae bloom, use algaecide to kill the algae in the pool. Maintain a 7.2 to 7.6 pH level and keep the chlorine at the appropriate levels once you have cleaned up the algae. This will help prevent the algae from growing again, and prevent algae-eating insects from propagating in the pool. The second food source is small insects. Use your dip net to fish out small bugs whenever you see them. This prevents them from growing into bigger bugs and spawning more in your pool.
* Luring Insects
If insects are a problem in the pool no matter what you do, a simple solution is to turn on one light near the pool and pour about two tablespoons of dish detergent near the light. Any insects lurking around the pool will be attracted to the light, get covered in the soap and die from the soap coating them. Note that this doesn’t get rid of the underlying causes of the insects, it only kills them. Insect zappers are another way to get rid of them before they ever get near your pool, and can keep you and your family from bites and stings. If you do not want to kill insects for ethical reasons, consider screening off your pool area. A screen on the top and then an awning over it will also provide shade so that you can enjoy the pool without having to constantly apply sunscreen.
These are a few different ways to get rid of the insects lurking around or in your pool. Ideally, you should address the underlying causes of the insects first. Keeping your pool well maintained should keep them away and allow you to enjoy a clean, healthy pool.
WINTERIZING YOUR POOL
If you live in a warm climate, you can use your pool year round, or put it into winter operating mode by reducing the amount of filtration time per day. You will also find that the pool needs fewer chemicals. Covering the pool, even if not winterizing, will reduce cleaning and chemical and filtering demand even further. If you have a heater, you can still use the pool, but the generally cooler temperatures will mean a different way to operate the pool.
If you live in a seasonal climate with true winters, you should have the pool winterized in the autumn. Here are the main steps to take to get your pool ready for winter.
* Balance the water chemistry:
Approximately three to seven days prior to closing the pool, adjust the water balance within the ranges below:
pH: 7.2 – 7.6
Alkalinity: 80 – 120 ppm
Calcium Hardness: 180 – 220 ppm
Then shock the pool with a Chlorine Shock or a Non-Chlorine Shock, at least 1 pound per 10,000 gallons (follow package directions). Allow the chlorine level to return to 1.0 – 3.0 ppm before adding any winter algaecide and the pool cover. Chlorine tends to break down both algaecides and pool covers, especially floating ones, so you should wait for it to settle back down.
* Remove skimmer baskets, wall fittings, cleaners, solar blankets and ladders from the pool.
Put these in a safe location during the winter. To avoid cracking, don’t coil pool cleaner hoses too tightly.
* Lower the water level in pool.
Using the filter pump or a submersible pump, lower the level 12 to 18 inches below the skimmer for mesh covers, and 3 to 6 inches below the tile for solid, floating covers. If you are using an Aquador skimmer cover on above-ground or in-ground pools for some vinyl-lined pools, the water level does not need to be lowered.
* Drain all pumping, filtering, heating and chlorinating equipment.
Every pump, filter, heater and chlorinator has drain plugs to allow water to drain out. All water must be drained or blown out or it will freeze inside and have the potential to cause it to crack. After draining, cartridge filters or D.E. filter grids should be removed and cleaned thoroughly. If the filter and pump are small enough to store indoors, this is your best option for protecting them from the winter cold. If not, using a small amount of air from a shop vacuum, compressor or Mighty Vac is good to blow out any water that may still be in the equipment before storing it outside in a plastic box or under a cover.
* Lubricate the metal parts.
When you are closing the pool in the fall, this can be a great time to lubricate the pump lid o-rings with Magic Lube. If you have a push-pull valve (also known as a slide valve) on the filter, lubricate its o-rings, too. If you have a gas heater with cast iron plugs, lubricate the threads or leave the plugs in after draining to prevent rusting.
* Clean the pool.
Skim the pool, vacuum it, and then brush it. Leaf rake/bag-type skim nets are best, since they are also useful for scooping large amounts of leaves and other debris from the pool floor. If the pool is especially silty or has lots of algae, vacuum the pool to “Waste”. This means to bypass the filter and vacuum the dirt from the floors and walls out the backwash line. This prevents constant clogging of the filter. Follow the instructions on your vacuum for the settings to vacuum to Waste. Brush the pool thoroughly. The pool should be as clean and clear as possible before covering.
* Winterize the plumbing to and from the pool.
If you have an in-ground pool, you should blow out the lines using a Mighty Vac. Blow air from the skimmer, through the equipment, and back to the pool. Then plug the lines at the pool using expansion plugs. If you don’t blow the lines, add Swimming Pool Antifreeze into the line, following the package directions carefully. For above-ground pools, you usually only need to disconnect the hoses to and from the pump and filter, and plug the wall outlets.
* Add winterizing algaecide and other floaters.
After the chlorine shock has settled down the pool water to the correct pH, you can add algaecide to the pool.
* Cover the pool.
Cover the pool as tightly as possible with a properly fitting cover which has no holes or gaps where leaves and debris may enter the pool. A mesh safety cover provides the highest protection and safety. Solid pool covers are not safe and will require a cover pump or siphon to remove rainwater and snow melt in the spring. They also require care and are not that durable. They can easily rip and tear if they are not handled carefully. Water Bags or Aqua Blocks should be used to secure an in-ground solid pool cover. Above-ground pool covers use a cable/winch device to secure the cover around the pool. Be sure you secure the cover tightly. Air Pillows are used in above-ground pools to absorb the expansion of ice inside the pool. In areas of high wind, an above-ground pool owner will also find wall bags or cover seal useful products. A leaf net is very useful if you have a lot of trees surrounding your pool.
Winterizing your pool properly is essential for protecting your investment and helping you to enjoy it for years to come by reducing the risk of damage to the pool and its accessories through harsh winter weather.
GETTING YOUR POOL READY AGAIN IN SPRING
If you live in a seasonal climate, when the warmer weather begins to arrive, you will have a fair amount of work to do in order to get your pool ready. Here is a checklist of the main tasks you must perform in order to get your pool in top condition to enjoy the pool while keeping your family safe.
* Check your pool chemical supply and replace chemicals if needed. While you are at the pool supply store, pick up a couple of test kits because you will need them to test the water.
* Clean up the area around the pool and repair any deck or patio damage. Trim grass, trees and other plants that could end up as debris in your pool.
* Use a leaf net or skimmer to remove debris and leaves from the pool cover. Then pump off standing water that may be sitting on the cover.
* Take off the cover carefully so as not to get any of the dirt, debris, or dirty water into the pool. Removing the pool cover is almost impossible for one person, so ask family members or friends to help you roll it up from end to end and help you stop it from sagging into the pool.
* Once you have removed the cover, clean it and let it dry thoroughly. Then fold it and store it in a safe place away from dampness, insects or rodents. If you plan to not use the pool for any length of time in the spring and summer, such as when going away on vacation, take the cover out, put it on the pool, and then repeat this step when you return.
* Remove any freeze plugs or other accessories used to prevent freezing. Empty water tubes if necessary.
* Check fiberglass and concrete pools for cracks and repair if needed. These might have occurred if the winter has been particularly cold.
* Fill the pool to the appropriate water level.
* Clean the pool. Remove large debris and leaves with a net. Then vacuum the pool and wash the liner.
* Make sure all your pool equipment is in good condition. Check for wear or cracks and replace anything that is damaged.
* Clean the filter if you didn’t do it when you closed the pool at the end of the previous year.
* Install the pool pump, skimmer baskets, and filters. Then connect hoses and electricity to your pool.
* Check the ladders, handrails, and diving boards for wear and tear. If there’s any damage, be sure to repair or replace them. Clean the equipment and spray the bolts with lubricant to prevent rusting before reattaching.
* Make safety a priority and test latches, locks, and fences around your pool area to stop children or animals from falling into the pool.
* Turn on the filter and let the water circulate for 8 to 12 hours to let any old water mix with new.
* Inspect the liner for leaks. Call your pool professional if you see a problem.
* Use one of the pool test kits that you purchased. Follow the instructions to test the pool water’s pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, chlorine, and so on. You can also bring a water sample to your pool professional to test the water. He or she can give you a list of steps to correctly balance the pool’s water. Keep the other kit on hand to test after any big rainstorms or if you go away on vacation, cover the pool, and then return.
* Balance the water chemistry by adding chemicals in the proper order according to the instructions in the kit.
* Retest the water or bring a sample to your pool professional to see if you need to further adjust the chemistry.
* If your water is crystal clear after following the steps above, it’s time to swim. Contact a pool professional for help if your water is cloudy or murky-looking.
Taking these steps each time you open your pool for a new season will help keep your pool well-maintained and protect your investment long-term. It will also help to keep your family safe.
SWIMMING POOL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
If you are thinking of installing a swimming pool, you should have many questions about the process and the pool itself. Here are a few commonly asked questions that Diana has come across which we might not have covered in detail in the earlier chapters of this guide, but which are important to know before proceeding with getting a swimming pool:
* Does an Above Ground Swimming Pool Require a Permit?
The answer isn’t always clear-cut. Different cities have different regulations depending upon the type of pool. It’s quite common for cities to require a permit for an above-ground pool, but it’s also quite common that one is not required. Check with your local zoning department before starting to compare swimming pool builders to be sure you know what regulations you will have to comply with.
* Do Pool Alarms Work?
Yes, but not 100 percent. Pool alarm technology has come a long way. Today pool alarms can detect when an object that weighs about the weight of a child falls into the pool and sound an alarm, but generally speaking, pool alarms should be used as an additional safety measure, not the only one. They do work, but they can’t be relied upon. Proper fencing around the perimeter and the pool itself are two of the best ways to protect your children. So can keeping the gates locked and the door the deck or pool area locked, and watching your children.
* What Should I Look for in a Construction Contract?
Any agreement made between you and your contractor should be made in writing. Any promises that aren’t in writing aren’t valid and you will have no protection of legal recourse if anything goes wrong. Make sure that all the financial agreements and expectations are spelled out in a clear manner, and that the amounts and the payment terms are clear. The exact work and materials used to construct the pool should be detailed in the contract. Make sure there’s a clause that says what happens if the contractor is late completing the work. It will help to have a lawyer look over all the documentation before signing it just to be sure that the contract you are being offered covers all of the essentials.
* Is a Swimming Pool a Health Hazard?
Having a swimming pool is safe as long as the children know how to swim and the pool is properly maintained. Improperly maintained pools can cause illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, rates of pool-related illnesses have been going up due to the number of increasing waterborne illnesses that can occur in conjunction with pools.
If you are going to buy a swimming pool, make sure you really understand how to maintain the pool to prevent bacterial growth, algae bloom and so forth. If you are not willing to learn or simply do not have the time, stay safe and get a pool service to maintain your pool. The biggest hazard is children falling into the water and drowning, but if you have a perimeter fence, a fence around the pool and a pool alarm, there will be three layers of safety precautions.
* How Often Do I Need to Service My Pool?
Ideally you should service your pool once a week. The first few weeks will be a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, servicing the pool should not take more than an hour a week. Every once in a while, something may go wrong with the chemistry of your water, such as after a lot of rain or hot weather. If that happens, then you will need to test the water and spend a bit more time on maintenance and getting the water back in balance.
* Should I Buy a Swimming Pool Cover?
If you have children who can’t swim, or if you plan on going for long periods of time without using your pool, then you should absolutely buy a cover. A mesh cover will work well and avoid the cover flooding with accumulated water and then sagging and tearing.
If you have more questions, the best place to get them answered is to talk to one of your friends or family who has had a pool for some time or to a pool professional. Most of the best ones will be happy to answer your questions free of charge. Also do your research online and use the instructions that come with the products that you are using on your pool for best results.
Owning a swimming pool can be a dream come true for some people and a nightmare for others. As with all major purchases and investments that you make throughout your lifetime, doing thorough research ahead of time will save you a lot of time, effort and money and help to ensure that if you decide to purchase and install a swimming pool, the process will be as trouble-free as possible. Swimming pools are similar to other property like cars in the sense that the maintenance you put into them will get the best performance out of them. Accidents will happen, and acts of nature, but if you have a well-maintained car or pool, you can be reasonably sure that any issues are not likely to be your fault.
Continuous maintenance each week, more thoroughly each month, and extremely thoroughly two times a year as the seasons change, can help your pool and all its fixtures, fittings, equipment and accessories stay in peak condition without too much wear and tear or damage.
In a similar manner to a car, the maintenance is about the safety of your family. A pool can be a dangerous place, both in and around it. In the case of the water quality of a pool, microscopic bacteria, spores, insect larvae and so on will proliferate in a pool and can lead to health issues. You might think you are maintaining your pool well, but one drenching rain can completely throw off the pH levels and, in particular, the chlorine, leading to algae blooms that can be difficult to get rid of. Not only are they ugly and unpleasant, they can also form the breeding ground for insects, which will then propagate and start to create more of a nuisance and even health hazard in your pool.