Why Do Pool Owners Do This?
The secret to easy ownership for a swimming pool is in the day to day maintenance. The better you are at maintaining the pool, both the water chemistry as well as the physical service and maintenance, the easier it will be for you - and you can expect less nasty (and expensive) surprises as well. It is common to see newer pool owners struggle at first, where older and more experienced pool owners seem to never break a sweat and their pool always looks great. A big part of this benefit from experience is in gaining the ability to prioritize what needs to be done, and more importantly, when it needs to be done. Also after many years of owning a pool you will have a much better sense about what work you need a professional to help with versus what you should be taking on for yourself.
When you first start out with taking care of a pool yourself everything requires learning. Very little of the process is intuitive and if you find yourself struggling to even get the basics like terminology down then you might benefit from reading this article intended for new pool owners. It takes a can-do attitude to own and maintain a pool, or a big sack of money, and since most people don't have big sacks of money hanging around you are forced to take on projects that are well outside of your comfort zone and experience level. Pool owners get numb to that feeling of "should I really be doing this?" and forge ahead with maintenance and repairs of all sorts...but all too often this can-do attitude and lack of experience can cause some serious issues. Something might look straight forward enough to an inexperienced pool owner but there could be seemingly small or insignificant looking steps that they overlooked, or a piece of information they simply did not know, and this can have disastrous and expensive results.
Draining Your Pool
Almost all of the service, repairs and maintenance to the structure of a pool requires that the pool be drained or at least partially drained. This means that pool owners often drain their pools to be able to do the repairs or service. The problem with this is that there are a lot of considerations that need to be made before you can begin to drain a pool. A pool professional will be familiar with these and can assess pools on an individual basis. Pool owners do not have access to the same information. Even if your neighbor had his pool drained it does not mean that you have the green light to do something similar with your pool. There could be differences that you are not appreciating as discussed in this article about how to drain a pool. As a pool industry professional I have drained thousands of pools and it still makes me nervous when I do it. I am always very careful to inspect the pool and the property and to monitor the pool throughout the draining process. I am also specific about where I will discharge the drained water from the pool. I inspect the pool and certain components at milestone water levels depending on the type of pool. It is a huge mistake when pool owners take it upon themselves to drain their pool without consulting a professional first. Many pools, like all fiberglass pools, should never be drained and doing so is very likely to cause structural failures.
Painting Your Pool
Hand in hand with draining pools is pool owners deciding to paint their pool. This is a deep technical subject with sides sharply divided as to whether it is even a good idea to paint a pool. Many pool professionals do not endorse pool paint at all as the only durable paint options all will require an expensive removal process at some point in the future. You can read more about interior surface costs and service life in this article that compares plaster versus paint. The decision to paint a pool is a potentially dubious one already but most pool owners do not appreciate enough the importance of deciding how and when to paint a pool. Even if my professional opinion was that you should have the pool painted I typically only would drain and paint a pool during the hottest and driest parts of the summer. Pool owners never seem to consider this. Especially in seasonal climate areas people open the pool in April or May and want to fix up the pool before the start of the swimming season. The problem is that pool paint like epoxy or rubber requires extensive periods of hot and predictably dry weather in order to dry out the pool shell before application, and to allow for curing after painting. Draining a pool to paint it in the spring when water tables are highest and rain is very likely is simply a mistake. At minimum you could compromise the quality of the paint from constantly dealing with rain and ground water issues, and at maximum you could experience a structural failure of your pool from draining it during a period of high water tables.
Installing Pool Equipment
It can be very tempting to buy some pool equipment online and install it yourself for maximum savings. So many people do this now that it has changed the way that the swimming pool industry operates and pool equipment manufacturers have reacted by changing which products are available online, as well as the potential warranty coverage for these items. If you choose to install your own pool equipment then you very well might be getting less warranty than you could be getting if you purchased from a local store or pool dealer. Still, for many, the cost savings is too great and they elect to buy online and install themselves...but without the benefit of experience there is the potential to make a mistake with which product you choose, or the way in which you install it. Take a look at this page about pool equipment installation reviews to see just how easy (and often) mistakes are made even by professionals. Installing the wrong pump and having it fail early is inconvenient, but installing a pump far too large, or installing a filter that is too small, or installing a chlorinator incorrectly, or installing any kind of pool heater - all of these things can be dangerous or deadly. It is important to have adequate respect for the powerful and potentially dangerous nature of pool equipment. Water, electricity, pressurized systems, chemicals and a giant gas fired heater...what could possibly go wrong?
Ignoring Water Chemistry Problems
Possibly the most underappreciated aspect of swimming pools is the importance of maintaining proper water chemistry. If you only own one or two pools in your lifetime then you will never be able to appreciate just how much good (or bad) water chemistry will affect the longevity of the pool and all associated equipment. Every pool owner knows there are ideal chemical ranges but very few endeavor to keep their water in perfect balance. In fact many pool owners ignore water chemistry readings far outside of the ideal recommended ranges. Just because the water remains (mostly) clear does not mean that the water is in perfect balance. Having your pH just a little too high or a little too low could potentially cut the service life of your heater in half. Correcting your chemicals in the wrong order or not fully understanding how the different chemicals all interact with one another can end up making you use two or three times as many pool chemicals every year then you could be using if you had a better understanding of the chemical relationship with the water. If you need to brush up on your pool and spa chemistry then start here with this water chemistry crash course. More than just color matching on a test strip if you own a pool you should learn the numbers behind water testing for free chlorine, total chlorine, pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, cyanuric acid, TDS (total dissolved solids) and phosphates. Long term mismanagement of pool water chemistry variables is probably the number one cause of early swimming pool equipment and component failure across the entire industry. If you want to get the most value out of your pool then you should definitely learn as much as you can about how to maintain your water.
Putting Off Repairs
One of the most common offences for pool owners to make is to put off repairs and maintenance that the pool needs because the cost of doing the repairs is a lot and time is needed to save up for it. The problem with this logic is that the pool does not care in the slightest that you don't have the budget to deal with the problem. Imagine the roof of your house started leaking and instead of fixing it, or making a repair, the water continued to run in through the roof for another year or two. The water damage from this would be astounding. Unfortunately with a pool all of the water damage, and leaking, is happening below the ground where you can't really see it until the problem has become pretty bad. A broken faceplate in a pool, or a big crack in the shell, leaking plumbing lines...all of these failures should be treated with as much urgency as a leaking roof on your home and yet pool owners will continue to operate the pool regularly for years like this. Pool industry professionals often need to convince pool owners to do required repairs. So often pool owners will complain of the repairs being too expensive, and yet the next time that the pool gets serviced it is noticed that there is a brand new $1000 robotic pool vacuum driving around inside the pool. There is no way that an automatic pool vacuum is as important as attending to an active pool leak. It is important to learn how to prioritize repairs, find money when you need to, and resist impulse and convenience purchases until all required service and repairs have been made to the pool. For more reading on this subject you can look at these 9 problems that pool owners ignore.
So what can you do? Aside from learning more about water chemistry, as well as learning to appreciate the technical complexity of swimming pool systems, something that all pool owners should do more often is to prevent water from getting where it is not supposed to be. If you have a crack in your pool deck then this is allowing water, both pool water and rain water, to get where it is not supposed to be. The longer this happens the worse the problems can get. Some of the worst failures for swimming pools could have been prevented by a simple bead of silicone or urethane applied every few years. Any cracks, holes or open seams on a swimming pool (above the water line) can be filled with 100% silicone. It does not last forever but it will improve the situation and limit water getting outside of the intended basin. Cracks in concrete decks, expansion joints, isolation joints and transitions in surface planes should all be seamed with a urethane flexible sealant. This product is very similar to silicone, but more durable and with a much stronger bond. It is not a replacement for silicone as the urethane will eventually fail as well as require replacement, and removal of urethane to allow for new installation is a bit of a chore. This is why silicone is better for some areas that will need reapplication in the future where it would be a problem to remove the old urethane. Both silicone and urethane are better than pool epoxy. Pool epoxy or under water epoxy dries hard, not flexible, and it is exceedingly difficult to remove, if not impossible, which means once you use epoxy you will not be able to make any further repairs to this area. For example epoxy around a leak on a pool pump threaded intake might cost you a new intake manifold, or an entire pump, where the leak could have been fixed with opening the connection and reapplication of a thread sealant. Such is the case with the examples above - sometimes servicing your pool can end up costing you more than you thought if you make the wrong decision or try to take too much work on by yourself.
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