First step is to drain the pool & spa. We don’t recommend doing this through the backwash as it could back up into the house. Proper way is to use a sump pump. This one has a float that shuts off the pump when the water is gone.
Here are some signs of “copper plate” on the plaster. This is caused metals in the water generally from using a copper or silver algaecide (not recommended for in ground gunite pools with plaster) or from low ph over a long period of time breaking down the copper heat exchanger in the heater.
In this pool, the plaster was so old that it had bare spots exposing the concrete underneath. It wasn’t losing water but was an “eye sore” and extremely rough.
Next step is to remove the old tile. We cut under the old tile with a 4″ grinder and a diamond blade, then we used a chipping hammer with a wide chisel bit to remove the tile.
Then we add a bed of mortar to provide a smooth surface for the new tile. This will also raise the new tile enough to give room for the new plaster to come up flush to it.
After mortar dries, we use thin set mixed with acrylic mortar admix to set the tile and gout it with “snow white” grout. The next step is to prep the pool for the new plaster.
We completely remove out all the “bubbles” in the old plaster, all loose concrete, any “spotter” tiles on the floor & steps, and chip around all fixtures in the pool and spa so the new plaster can come up flush and still be thick.
Then we apply a “bond coat” for the new plaster to grab onto.
Next step is to re-plaster. There’s many things to consider and watch for, but we will wait for another time to cover.
Immediately fill the spa first making sure it doesn’t spill over into the pool or there will be streaks. Usually takes from 30 to 45 minutes for the spa to fill. Then we fill the pool using empty water bottles to keep the hose from sitting in one spot on the floor. We run two hoses to fill the pool faster. It still takes about anywhere from 12 to 40 hours depending on the water pressure and the size of the pool.
Once the pool and spa are full, we start up the equipment and balance the chemicals in the pool water. It’s important to run the pump and filter for 24 hours. Then we brush the plaster down daily for 10-14 days.
If your water chemicals are balanced but you’re having trouble keeping the “free chlorine” levels up, here’s some things to consider:
1.)Are you running your pump long enough to run all the gallons of your pool water 2x per day?
2.)Has your filter been cleaned or backwashed lately? *Don’t always rely on the pressure gauge to determine when to clean your filter or backwash it.
3.)Is the pump basket clean of debris? Is the pump impeller free of debris? *Some pumps are designed where you can remove the basket and stick your finger in the hole (while pump is off), and feel for debris clogging the filter.
If you’ve answered yes to all these questions, then consider that your water has high nitrate and/or phosphate levels.
Phosphate became a household word in the 1970′s. This is when people started to use low-phosphate and phosphate-free laundry detergents. This was to protect lakes, streams, wetlands and other runoff areas from the detrimental effects of excess phosphate. One of these effects is unwanted algae blooms.
What’s true for lakes is also true for swimming pools. Phosphate is a natural component of most swimmer wastes. It is also present in rain water. Phosphate is persistent and does not break down naturally. Fertilizers, which may blow into the pool, have high phosphate content. For all of these reasons, pools can quickly build up high phosphate levels.
When Phosphates are Present, Algae Grows…..
Phosphate is the main ingredient in fertilizer. Phosphate is plant food, and algae are plants. If you have had persistent trouble with algae, every year – and it always seems to come back, you may have a phosphate problem in your pool. When excess phosphate is present in a swimming pool, the symptoms often include the following: cloudy, green water, slippery and slimy surfaces, mustard and green colored debris, excessive chemical consumption, poor water quality.
Remove the Phosphates and Solve the Problem……
The maximum level of phosphate in pool water should be 0.1 ppm. Once the phosphate climbs above this level, the water quality begins to decrease and slime deposits can begin. Fortunately, draining to eliminate the accumulated phosphate is no longer necessary.
Natural Chemistry’s Phos-Free is a natural mineral compound which effectively and rapidly reduces the level of phosphate in the water. Phos-Free is a natural mineral product which is non-toxic. It is safe to store and use around children.
Nitrates are a matter similar to Phosphates, but of different origin…
Their big similarity is that they are both a food source for algae. Nitrate is a plant nutrient and is present in all green plants and fertilizers. It is natural occurring and is found everywhere something is growing.
Nitrites (NO2) are a close cousin to Nitrates (NO3) and are just as much of a problem for pools, because when a Nitrite comes in contact with water, it easily gains another Oxygen atom to become a Nitrate. This additional atom gives Nitrates real stability, and makes eradication difficult. In fact, the only known way of Nitrate removal in pools practiced today is to drain a portion of the pool, and refill with water that is Nitrate free, if possible.
Where do Nitrates come from?
Rural areas – those with water wells and septic tanks are particularly prone to Nitrate contamination in pools. Fertilizer is the most common source of Nitrates in pools. Do birds and ducks make regular passes over your pool? Do they land in the pool to bathe? Birds and especially Ducks can do a real number on a pool. Rain spilling off of overhanging trees can add Nitrates to a pool, and even the acid rain itself can increase Nitrate levels. Finally, human waste, sweat, cosmetics can all bring trace Nitrates into the pool.
According to John Girvan, one of the few people to study Nitrates extensively, has said that “With nitrate in the pool,” he says, “you will get algae and other contaminants that won’t respond to normal treatment.” Some pool techs have been known to say that Nitrates “lock up chlorine”. The opposite is in fact true, the presence of Nitrate in pool water will drastically increase the sanitizer consumption. At levels as low as 10ppm of Nitrate, algae will grow even though you have used algaecide and are keeping a proper chlorine residual.
The only way to remove Nitrates from your pool water is to drain at least partially and refill with fresh water.
1.Keep correct water level in pool:
Generally, the correct water level for a pool level is the middle of the tile. Insufficient water level will cause the pump to suck air impeding the circulation and possibly lose prime thus shortening the life span of the motor and totally shut down the circulation/filtration of water in the pool.
2. Sufficient levels of chlorine & properly balance chemicals:
It’s extremely important (in my opinion) to keep it simple. I don’t recommend adding any extra additives to your water other than clarifiers, sodium bromide, phosphate remover, or “Pool Perfect” (if you have a dog that gets in the pool or use sun tan oils). The main levels to check regularly are free chlorine and PH. Total alkalinity, calcium, & stabilizer levels should not fluctuate other than build up over time. It is not necessary to check these levels weekly if they are set at proper levels and you are not losing water due to a leak in the pool or equipment. Generally, the proper levels are as follows: Free Chlorine 1.5 – 3ppm, total alkalinity 120ppm, PH 7.4 – 7.6, stabilizer 40ppm, calcium 175 – 225ppm
*these levels are recommended for gunite pools with regular plaster. Refer to your builder, tech for recommended levels with other surfaces.
3.Skimmer basket , pump basket, & pump impeller clean and free of debris:
Any one of these can impede the flow of water into the pump causing the pump to cavitate or lose prime thus interrupting the normal circulation of water throughout the pool.
4.Backwash D.E. filter once a month:
A filter full of debris can also impede the circulation of water flow throughout the pool and also contain particles of algae or bacteria that algae can feed on.
5.Run pump and filter 2 cycles per day in the summer and 1 cycle per day in the winter:
It is recommended that all the water in the pool and spa pass through the filter at least 2x a day in the hot months of the summer. For example: if your pool has 20,000 gallons and your pump is a 2 h.p. Pentair challenger, this particular pump pushes 100 gallons per minute through the filter. Here is what’s called the “turnover rate” (time it takes all the gallons of the pool/spa to pass 1x through the filter: 20,000 gallons/60 minutes = 333.333; 333.333/100 = 3.33 hours (turnover rate). It would be recommended to run your pump 6.66 hours a day during the summer months and 3.33 hours in the winter. The recommended time for the pump to run in the spring & fall varies depending on the amount of foliage that falls in the pool.
6.Point directional eyeballs of pool returns down towards pool floor:
If you use a floater to put the chlorine tabs in, the water towards the surface has higher levels of chlorine and needs to be circulated in areas below the surface in order to distribute evenly. If you have an automatic chlorine feeder, this will also ensure that the chlorine is distributed evenly throughout the pool. Remember, sunlight dissipates chlorine … the further away from the surface, the more refracted the sunlight minimizing loss of chlorine. If you do not have an automatic cleaner in the pool this will also minimize “dead spots” ( areas of the pool that do not get circulation.
7.Drain entire pool and spa every 5 – 10 years & refill with fresh water:
After a period of time, undissolved solids begin to accumulate in the water. Chlorine tablets contain stabilizer (cyanuric acid) which does not dissolve and will build up over time. Shock (calcium hypochlorite) contains calcium which also does not dissolve and will build up over time. Either one of these two can reach levels that will impede the killing power of the chlorine thus forcing you to keep high chlorine levels to keep algae from growing. In addition, either one of these two solids at high levels will cause your eyes to burn.
8.Add 1lb. fast dissolving shock and a couple squirts of sodium bromide weekly during warm temperatures:
This will essentially re-ignite the stabilized chlorine that’s already in the water. The shock (calcium hypochlorite) turns “used up” chlorine into active, bacteria killing chlorine. It is not stabilized and will dissipate rather rapidly. The sodium bromide is a chlorine booster (makes it more effective) without raising the chlorine levels. “Free chlorine” is what you want and this step will turn your ineffective chlorine into effective chlorine.
9.Pool equipment system free of air leaks:
An air leak in the suction side of the system will impede the circulation of water in the pool. It can also cause the pump to run hot or lose prime thus interrupting circulation and shorten the pump motor’s life span.
The booster pump pushes water through this particular cleaner which moves along a random pattern throughout the pool. Manufacturers such as Polaris recommend 2 – 3 hours (depending on pool size) for the cleaner to cover entire pool surface area. As the water is pumped to the cleaner, it is distributing filtered, chlorinated (if using and automatic chlorinator) water into all areas of the pool. The result is no “dead spots” which are areas of the pool due to design or insufficient amount of wall returns.
Black algae is the most stubborn algae to get rid of in swimming pools. Using algaecides sounds good, but in my experience they don’t work that well and add metals to the pool water creating the possibility of staining plaster. The effective ingredient is usually copper which used over a prolonged period of time will “copper plate” the plaster on a gunite pool.
The most effective method to get rid of black algae is to take a 3″ chlorine tab, get in the pool and using a mask or goggles and something to hold you down (ex:20 lb. rubber coated dumbbell), rub the chlorine tab directly over the spot. This will lift the black algae off and leave a little chlorine in the pores of the plaster. Wait a day, then using a metal brush (preferably a 6″ brush as it’s easier to apply more pressure), brush over the spots that have been removed. Vacuum all algae out of the pool and backwash the filter. Get it out of the the system!
It’s important to start early on before it takes over the entire pool. If the black algae has already taken over the pool, the most effective way is to drain the pool and spray bleach directly on top, let it soak for a day, then use a pressure washer to remove it. Remove all traces of algae & bleach and refill the pool.
If you follow these basic weekly steps, your pool water will be sparkling and look great throughout the summer swim season (provided that the equipment is working properly & the filter is running the proper length of time per day):
- Check the water level (proper level is the middle of the tile). This is probably the most important step of all because if the level gets lower than the skimmer throat, the pump will lose prime and not operate, resulting in the water not circulating and shorten the life span of the pump due to overheating.
- Brush the steps, benches, walls, & shallow end floor to the break. This will eliminate any trace elements of algae from forming as well as keep dirt from staining the plaster.
- Clean out skimmer baskets, pump basket, and automatic cleaner bag.
- Check the chemicals. PH is very crucial and should be kept at 7.6 (in Dallas water, we add 1 lb of soda ash per week to our pools) this keeps the ph at 7.6 providing that the total alkalinity is at 120ppm. Always keep chlorine tabs in the floater/auto chlorinator. Entire pool should be drained and refilled approx. every 5 years to eliminate buildup of solids that effect the killing power of the chlorine. Most importantly concerning chemicals in your pool water is KEEP IT SIMPLE! Stay away from adding all sorts of extra things to your water. Stay away from algaecides on pools with plaster, use fast dissolving calcium hypochlorite and sodium bromide (most algaecides use silver or copper, and metal will stain the plaster). More on this subject in future blogs.
- Once a month backwash the filter. Don’t forget to add new DE if a DE filter and water to the pool!
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. We understand there’s many variables, but these are the main weekly duties.
Several times a year I purchase new brushes for cleaning pools. For many years I’ve used an 18″ curved wall brush w/ nylon & stainless steel bristles. Recently, I purchased a brush for cleaning pools called “The Wall Whale”. In my opinion it’s by far the best brush for swimming pools on the market. It has an attachment that uses the resistance from the water to press it against the surface on the downward brush stroke. The extra large bristle get down inside the pores of the plaster cleaning like no other brush I’ve used before. If you have a little bit of algae on the walls, it is very important to get as much off as you can to prevent it from coming back. This brush along with the proper amount of quick dissolving shock helps tremendously!
Redwood expansions in the driveway and pool deck can look some what unsightly as they get old and start deteriorating. I was asked by a friend to replace his. This is what it looked like before and after as well as how I went about this task.
Understanding what’s under the concrete can make a world of difference. First of all, about every 2′ a piece of 3/8″ steel rebar should be going through the redwood. This rebar is tied into the concrete before they pour the concrete and runs through the redwood. They use “chairs” under the steel, but the redwood expansions also hold up the steel before they pour it.
In this case, I had 2″x4″ expansions already in the driveway. I lifted the wood expansion I wanted to remove using the claws on a framing hammer. Lifting it just enough to see where the rebar was (has no play), I marked the part to chisel through. Using a 1″ wood chisel and small sledge hammer, I split the redwood vertically just before the rebar. I then chiseled out around the rebar so as the move on to the next piece of that same 2″x4″ I was pulling out. Almost exactly 2′ away would be the next piece of rebar and I would chisel through there. That’s pretty much it, I made sure I cleaned out the slot really good. I highly recommend pulling the entire old expansion out.
The preparation for new redwood 2″x4″ was as follows. I first cut the length I wanted then stripped the piece lengthwise to the depth of the notch in the concrete (in order to have the finished piece flush with the concrete) using a table saw. Next step was to sand the sides down so it would fit down in the notch and be easy to pull out. I then sanded the top and took a piece of finer sand paper on a wood block to smooth out the only part that would be showing.
Final step was to apply a caulk like adhesive with a caulking gun on the sides of the notch in the concrete. I then fit the wood into the slot and the adhesive held it it. Don’t forget to spray a little weed killer or even lay plastic before installing the new piece.
2 ways to save your swimming pool coping before it’s too late.
Generally, it’s important to seal all cracks:
- between the coping (rock, brick, coping stone) and the tile. *note picture above labeled “mortar joint”.
- between the coping and the deck. *note picture above labeled “deck-o-seal”.
The “deck-o-seal” is actually a water barrier. “Deck-o-seal” is a brand name for a two part mix which is poured into the space between the coping and the deck. A sand base is used to fill up most of the space and the deck-o-seal is pored on top of the sand (rules are no deeper than the width of the joint). If applied correctly and if the deck does not move too much, this should last approximately 5 years before needing to be replaced.
If you see visible cracks in the caulking-like substance, depending on the size of the crack and length, a small amount of clear 100% silicone can be used to seal the crack as a temporary fix. Otherwise, it is recommended to remove the old deck-o-seal and replace with new.
A crack in the mortar between the coping and the tile usually starts around the skimmers and generally happens more rapidly on geometric shaped pools (45 degree angles). The crack can be cut with a 4″ – 4 1/2″ grinder and a diamond blade. This gives about a 1/8″ wide gap to reapply new mortar. If the crack is wider and the mortar starts falling out when cutting, it’s best to chip out all loose mortar and fill with new. Doing this will prevent the crack from going around the entire pool if caught early. If caught in later stages and done properly, it will gain you another 5 years before replacing the coping and tile.
**when water gets into cracks and goes below the surface, it doesn’t evaporate and will actually break down the properties of the mortar!
Check for future blogs about how to properly mix mortar that will last far longer than what you can buy premixed.
…for swimming pools with a large amount of debris and/or leaves … called the Polaris 3900 sport. In my opinion, this cleaner is not only much more efficient but will also last far longer than any other cleaner on the market. This cleaner operates with a booster pump and if your pool currently operates with a suction cleaner, then I would not recommend switching mainly from a cost effectiveness standpoint. With over 25 years experience in the swimming pool industry as a builder & service tech and experiential knowledge of just about every cleaner available, here are some main reasons why:
- all wheel drive system w/ 50% more torque than other polaris models. This gives it more ability to get around areas of the pool that otherwise would cause the cleaner to become stuck.
- wider wheels – same benefit as above because of better traction.
- 4 vacuum jets (as opposed to 3), giving the cleaner better suction allowing it to pick up debris more efficiently.
- stainless steel belt drive (as opposed to rubber) … runs better and doesn’t wear out!
- larger throat and debris bag than other units allowing it to pick up more, larger debris and reducing the amount of times between cleaning out the bag.
***This is under the assumption that I believe the polaris to be the best manufacturer of cleaners that run the return side of the system.
This unit costs about $200 more than the polaris 280, but the cost difference will be compensated for in the repairs alone not to mention the efficiency. ~