Pools 101 Annapolis MD
Designer / Architect, Remodeler
Chrysalis Award, Home Builders Association of Maryland, Maryland Improvement Contractors Association, NAHB - Certified Aging In-Place Specialist, National Association of the Remodeling Industry, Qualified Remodeler Top 500
Custom Builder, Remodeler
2008 CotY Awards, National Association of the Remodeling Industry, National Kitchen and Bath Association, Professional Remodeler Best of the Best Design Award
What’s more inviting than a swimming pool on a hot day? A pool provides terrific recreation, unbeatable exercise, relaxation, and relief from summer heat for the entire family. But, they take lots of preventive maintenance, and you must take steps to ensure that they are safe. Otherwise, they can be hazardous, and an expensive headache to repair and restore.
Going Off the Deep End
So you’re thinking of adding a pool. Or perhaps you’ve recently purchased a home, and it already features a pool. Wow! Your very own swimming pool! Then you start to hear about test-strips, bromine, alkalinity, and ph balancing, and suddenly that pool doesn’t look quite so inviting anymore. But wait, there’s more! There are complicated procedures for both opening your pool in spring, and closing your pool in fall. There are black, green, and yellow algae, there’s bacteria, and now that pool looks downright frightening.
Don’t despair. Yes, there’s a lot to learn, and having a pool does represent a significant responsibility, but caring for a pool is a lot simpler than it may seem at first blush. If you have a few minutes, once or twice a week, then you can quickly master the basics and easily do it yourself.
Know Your Pools
In the broadest sense, pools are either above ground or in-ground.
Above-ground pools sit flush on the ground, and typically consist of a round frame, supporting a soft, plastic form. Though by far the least expensive choice, they have shorter life spans, are far more prone to leaks and punctures, and less aesthetically appealing than in-ground models.
In-ground pools are excavated, a form is poured with rebar and concrete, and the surface is then finished with plaster, ceramic tile, or synthetic coatings. Pools can be made into any shape you want, but they generally fall into a few basic categories—round, rectangular, or free form. Inexpensive pools, or play-pools, are often shallower, with a depth of no more than five feet. The deeper you dig, the more the price goes up, and diving pools, as deeper pools are often called, can be very expensive to install.
Both types hold water, and both will do the trick when the mercury starts to climb. But, now, how do you keep that water clean and clear?
Stock it With Trout
No, no, no, that would be silly. What you really need is a pump filter that will circulate your water, removing particulates and foreign matter in the process. There are three different kinds of filters to choose from: Sand, Cartridge, or Diatomaceous Earth. Each has its pros and cons, but cartridge filters have an edge with their lower maintenance requirements.
Another decision to make is whether to use a chemical system or a saltwater system to sterilize your water. Chemical systems depend upon regularly adding chlorine to your pool. Chlorine is toxic, and has dramatically increased in cost in recent years. On the other hand, saltwater systems only require you to add ordinary salt, which is then converted through electrolysis into chlorine. Saltwater systems are a bit of a new wrinkle here in the states, but are quite popular in other countries, where they can claim as much as 90% of the market.
If you are adding a pool to your home, you would might consider installing a saltwater system, as they are more environmentally friendly, easier to maintain, and less expensive to operate than chemical pools. If you have an existing pool that uses a chemical system, converting it to a saltwater system will set you back about $2,000 including installation, but you will likely make up the expense in a only a couple of years. You’ll also enjoy easier care in the meantime.
The Nuts & Bolts of Care
A swimming pool is a great example of the value of preventive maintenance. While regular care is fairly simple and relatively inexpensive, deferred maintenance can cause costly problems—and some of those preventable issues, such as algae, can be maddeningly persistent once established. Here are the absolute bare bones of caring for your pool:
- Test the water often.
- Based on that test, balance the water accordingly with the appropriate additives.
- Turn off the pump and empty any filter baskets around the pool.
- Backwash your system at least once a week to keep the filter clean. Always follow your pool pump manufacturer’s instructions for regular maintenance.
- Monitor the pool for any foreign matter that may have fallen into the pool and remove it. Leaves and insects can not only clog the filter, but can also stain the bottom of your pool.
- Add water to replace what has been lost to evaporation and backwashing.
Pool Finance 101
If you’re thinking of adding a pool, be aware that installation of an in-ground pool typically costs—at the low end—about $20,000. Once you start adding any features, upgrades, or unforeseen construction difficulties, those numbers can easily double.
And, once your pool is completed, your on-going maintenance costs can be significant as well. With a chemical pool, you will need to purchase additives, which can get expensive. How much you spend varies widely due to a number of factors including the number of people using the pool, weather conditions, and the size and volume of the pool. Add to that the cost of electricity to run your pool pump for 8-12 hours a day, and the cost of replenishing water lost to evaporation and backwashing, which can effectively double your water bill. Taken together, these expenses can easily run to hundreds of dollars a month.
Pool Safety is Vital
There’s no sense beating around the bush: Pools can be deadly. Despite well-funded public awareness programs, children drown in pools every year. Under no circumstances should you ever leave your children unsupervised in a pool area for even a moment. Drownings are typically silent and take less than 5 minutes. If you have small children or pets, then you absolutely must take steps to prevent their access to the pool.
Many cities require the installation of pool fencing, or lockable covers to keep little ones out, and in some parts of the country you may be subject to an inspection by the city to ensure compliance with local regulations.
Hire a Pro
If you don’t have the time or inclination to deal with all of this, finding a service professional to mind the upkeep on your pool is easy, and the fees are typically what you would pay for a lawn service. If you can afford it, hiring a pool service means that the only decision you have to make is what color bathing suit to wear.
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