9 Problems Pool Owners Ignore
If you want to avoid expensive maintenance and repair bills for your swimming pool or hot tub then you need to attend to small repairs and maintenance items before they develop into much larger, and much more expensive problems. This sounds easy enough and yet so many pool and spa owners ignore obvious signs of deficiency until it deteriorates into a problem that can not be ignored. This is not a unique problem and you can easily draw a parallel between owning and maintaining a car. If you do not change your brake pads when you are supposed to then you will also need to replace more braking components that might have otherwise been fine to stay on the car.
A pool is kind of like this however there is a much steeper penalty for putting off maintenance or repairs. Small repairs, when completed in a timely fashion, might have negligible costs. If you let it go too long then you could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars of repairs. Pools are extremely unforgiving in this regard. If you let any problem develop to the point where is negatively affects one of the critical components of the pool system, then you could be in for some punishingly expensive repair costs - and worst of all you could have avoided them completely.
Loud pump bearings - A pool pump is the heart of your swimming pool filtration system. Having to replace your pump is inconvenient however having to replace it on short notice is much worse. If you experience a sudden pump failure then you will need to immediately replace it with whatever you can get your hands on in short order. This might leave you overpaying for your next pump, or possibly not getting the brand and model of pump that you wanted. Once your pool pump dies you are officially on a ticking clock before your pool water turns green. How fast your water turns will depend on the water temperature, the amount of sun, the amount of rain, and the chemical levels in the water. For most pools 24 to 72 hours is the range at which you will see your pool first become cloudy, and then quickly transition to green.
If you can hear a metallic squealing coming from your pool pump, even if it is not all that loud, this indicates that your pump requires service, if not replacement. The newer the pump is the more likely you can just repair or replace part of the motor. Anything older than 7 to 10 years of age should probably just be replaced. Of course when it comes time to replace your filtration pump you should be looking at a variable speed pump for your replacement to benefit from enclosed motor designs that are more resistant to environmental damage that can cause loud bearings in a pump. This means that a new variable speed pump will save you money on running costs, but also will be less likely to develop bearing squeal like your current pump has now.
White stains on pool equipment - When chlorinated water leaks, and then dries, it leaves behind a telltale white, chalky residue from the salt content. If you can see salt stains running down the side of your filter, or accumulating on the pressure side connection for your pump, then this means there is an active leak in this area. Where a pool owner might see this, and know it is a leak, they will not see water accumulating on the ground and (incorrectly) assume that it is not really a big problem. A swimming pool plumbing system is a closed loop system. Any leaks in the system work against this and create a notable inefficiency in the system.
Leaking water can cause your pump to draw air, which accentuates the turbulence of the water traveling through the system...all of this contributes to energy losses and inefficiency of the plumbing system. Having leaks in the plumbing system, and equipment, for your pool is like driving a car that has a leak in the tire. Sure, you could just limp the car along...but a hole in the tire compromises the system as a whole. None of the car can work properly when one of the tires is flat. In a best case a small leak will affect the chemistry of the water and the efficiency of the filtration system. In a worst case scenario a leak in the system will be the direct cause for early equipment failure for the pump, filter, heater or peripheral items like salt chlorinators.
Leaks in the pool - The holy grail of problems that you should not be ignoring in your pool is leaks from the structure, or any unexplained water loss. Pool owners tend to rationalize water loss far too much, and test for water loss far too little. As an expert I can tell you that water level in pools can be counterintuitive to what you might expect. The rate of water loss in a stationary body of water will change quite significantly along with changing variables like water temperature, ambient air temperatures, wind direction, wind speed...it is better to just test the pool for leaks than make assumptions about a system with so many variables. Pool leak detection starts with a bucket test, which is a dead-simple test that absolutely anybody can do. If the pool loses more water than the bucket then you have a leak and you need to get to the bottom of it ASAP. Long term leaks in inground pools is the last thing you want for your pool if you are trying to avoid unexpected and expensive repair bills.
Cracks in your pool deck - If you have a concrete deck around your pool that has cracks in it then you should be taking an awfully close look at this area of your pool. Most commonly you should only develop cracks in your pool deck when you have a problem with water in this particular area. For example if there is a return line right in the area where the crack is you could make a fairy safe assumption that this return line leaks, or previously leaked and was repaired. If this is the case you should most likely see a patch where a hole was cut into the concrete deck to dig down and expose the leaking pipe section. In some cases the pipe can also be reached by tunneling from the back edge of the pool deck. If this is the case it is very likely that the pool deck would sound more hollow in this area than others as it is hard to backfill properly when digging under the pool deck from the back edge.
In addition to the crack itself being a huge, blinking sign of a potential problem, the crack also allows other problems to happen. A correctly built swimming pool system controls water at every point. A crack in the pool deck allows water to access the back side of the pool wall, as well as the fill which is under the pool deck. Over time the ingression of rain water, snow melt, and splashout from the pool will contribute to erosion of the fill under the pool deck, as well as potentially compromising other components of the pool. When chlorinated pool water gets outside of the intended pool system it can encourage corrosion of steel, like walls, or rebar in concrete, and in general cause the pool system to age poorly and prematurely. Large cracks should be exposed and filled with grout or mortar, and smaller cracks should be sealed with a concrete urethane sealant like this one.
Holes in pool liner - A vinyl pool liner creates a waterproof barrier as the interior surface of a vinyl pool. If you have a hole in your liner then this represents a breakdown in the system as a whole. Slapping a big, ugly, duct tape patch over the rip in the liner in the corner of your pool is not a solution to the problem. Really, it is not even an effective band-aid type solution as duct tape does next to nothing to prevent water from going where it wants. A band-aid solution to a hole in a vinyl liner would be a vinyl liner patch that is glued in place. If you can find all of the holes in your liner and cover them with vinyl liner patches then this is a totally acceptable repair option. The problem is that liners with one hole often have more than one, and they can be hard to find. If you don't find all of them, then your pool system remains "broken" until you do. One of the biggest mistakes that vinyl pool owners tend to make is to try to get too much service life out of their liner. If your liner is old enough that it is developing holes without specific accidental damage causing it, then it is probably time to replace the liner completely.
Coping & tile problems - Some of the very most insidious yet innocuous pool problems are with concrete pool coping and tile systems. Systems. There is a system at work with concrete pool coping and tile that controls where the water goes, and more importantly, where it can't go. If you fail to maintain the urethane coping joint sealant on a concrete pool this will allow water to get under the coping and to the back side of the concrete shell. This often results in efflorescence growth from the water passing through this non-waterproof masonry work, and this is what usually results in tiles suddenly popping off or mortar set coping stones delaminating.
Also in freezing climates allowing water under the coping and behind the walls is sure to result in delaminated coping and missing tiles by the arrival of spring. When tiles start showing up on the floor of your pool you need to investigate why this happened. Simply sticking those tiles back on with epoxy does nothing to address why those tiles are falling off in the first place. Most often, this is a failure of the urethane bead, or delaminating coping, or both. For more information about this you can read this article about how to properly fix pool tiles.
Stains in the pool - If you have stains inside of your swimming pool then this is a sign of a very serious problem happening right under your nose. There are a lot of different kinds, and colors, of stains that can develop in a pool. Almost all of them can be traced back to a failure in the pool system somewhere. For example you might have green algae on your pool walls and floor because of poor chlorine maintenance...but it also could be that while you neglected to maintain the chlorine properly, the water turned green prematurely because you also are past due for a new interior surface in your pool. If the surface of your pool is old, and rough, and porous, then it will be easier for algae and bacteria to develop, and hold on. Other stains like blue colors, browns, orange and red can all be from metals in the water. These could be from water fill sources, or they can also be from the insides of your pool equipment deteriorating from chemical damage. Do not ignore stains in your swimming pool as this might be the only warning you get about problems with your pool equipment or inadequacies with your water chemistry and water balance.
Broken filter pressure gauge - Every type, brand, make, model and size of pool filter should have a functioning pressure gauge on it. This gauge is your only point of reference to know the health and current condition of your plumbing system. When utilized correctly, the pressure gauge is how you know when it is time to service your pool filter. The pressure gauge is also how you know if your pool is experiencing a problem of some kind like a pump that has lost the ability to move water, or more importantly, a pressure in excess of 30 PSI.
Almost all pool equipment has been designed to operate within a soft limit of 30 PSI. Pool equipment should not be operated in excess of this value and there is danger to the operator to even be near a pool system operating at higher pressures than this. Many things can cause pool pressures to spike such as a blocked pipe, a failed or purposefully closed valve, or exceptionally dirty filter media. A functioning pressure gauge on your filter is your only line of defense and visual indicator of high system pressures, as well as the main way in which you should be monitoring how clean or dirty your filter is.
Pump is hard to prime - If your pool pump is a lot harder to prime than it used to be then this is a clear indication of a problem. While it is possible for the pump itself to be failing, and the source of the problem, it could also be that you have a leak somewhere in the suction line of your pool that you don't know about. Some pool leaks can be specifically elusive to find. Given the right set of circumstances you could have a significant leak in a pool system, but not actually be losing any water. It could be that instead of water leaking out, air is leaking in, and most likely the water would (or does) leak out when the pump is turned off...if the pump is turned off. If you have a suction line leak this means that your pump will need to work harder to both achieve, as well as maintain, prime. The bubbles introduced into the system should be a visual indicator of a problem but not all pool owners would notice air visible in the chamber of their pump. A pump that is suddenly difficult to prime is the only warning you will get about a potential problem brewing with your pool so you would be wise to pay attention to it.
Different people have different ideas of what constitutes "proper care" of a swimming pool. This is just like owning a car. Some people change the oil every 3000 miles, rotate the tires, bring it in for service before problems develop...while other people will drive a car until it simply stops going (or stopping) anymore. The person that is 10,000 miles past due for an oil change in their car is the same people who will develop a serious and expensive pool problem "suddenly". You have a surprising amount of control over whether your pool breaks or not and it all boils down to how much you pay attention and take action when you notice a deficiency. Just like an automobile being proactive with your repairs will almost certainly pay dividends over the service life of your pool.
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