A Day in the Life of a Pool Builder Grunt

Throughout my blogging experience I have geared my posts toward teaching my readers about the different aspects of owning/having a vinyl liner in ground pool built.  Today’s post will be the 67th post I have written.  I have covered topics related to pool safety, from how to keep you children physically safe while in the pool, to how to prevent recreational water illnesses.  I have discussed topics related to specific products as well as covering more general topics like choosing a heat pump or gas heater for you pool.  I certainly hope that what I have written thus far has given people some insight into the swimming pool world.  However out of all of these topics I have covered I have yet to write about the pool builder grunt.  Today, just for a change of pace I want to give my readers a look into the life of the average pool builder grunt.

I would venture to say that the majority of professional pool builders consist of a crew of at least 5 workers.  Some builders, depending on the size of their company and the volume of pools they build each year may have several crews.  Within the crews you will likely find that there are one or two workers that act as the bosses on the job.  Typically there will be one person who is heading up the job.  They may be the owner of the company or they may be the “project manager”.  Basically beyond that the rest of the crew consists of what I would call grunt workers.  These individuals are those that do what they are asked to do and have little say in the way the build should progress.  In an effort to clear things up a little better I will go through my own experience as a pool builder.  I think that this will give you a better understanding of how a pool company works.  At this point in the post you might be questioning why you would even care.  The reason is that I think that it is just as important to understand the lives of these workers as it is to understand the process of what they are doing.

When I started building pools years ago I came into the company knowing nothing about pool building or construction for that matter.  The only thing that I had going for me is that I was a reliable employee and had a good attitude.  I went in my first day with an understanding that the work I was about to do was going to be harder than any job that I had ever done before.  However I didn’t realize just how hard it would be.  The process of building a pool is a very physically enduring at times.  Some days all you do is work your butt off.  What makes it a bit more difficult is that you are doing this throughout the heat of the day.  I live in northern Indiana but let me tell you that we get some very hot summer days in which the heat index reaches 108 or so.  In addition to that when you are down in a hole surrounded by very reflective steel the temperature rises even more.  So after my first day I seriously contemplated looking for something different.  However I thought to myself that due to the physical nature of the job if I stuck to it for a while then the compensation would get better.  When I started I was making just barely above minimum wage.  In addition to that I was a seasonal employee and got laid off every November.  I received no benefits like health care, vacation time, sick days, or personal days.  It was the perfect job for me at the time because I was in school and figured that I could at least work my way up a little bit in pay and after receiving my degree I could move on to something better.  Well I busted my butt for a few years without getting a raise.  At that point I took on a second job at a local radio station as a remote technician.  That certainly helped me out financially but definitely made time management a bit more difficult.  There were days in which I would have to wake up at 5:30am to be at work by 6 building pools until about 4:00pm when I would have to leave to attend class.  After class I would have to go to the radio station to pick up the remote equipment and drive to a location where the DJ would be broadcasting from for a few hours to set up the equipment.  After the broadcast I would load up the equipment and drive back to the station to unload and get home around midnight to do whatever homework I had or study until about 2:00am.  Then I  would wake up a few hours later to do it all again.  That is how my life went for a while, and I imagine that there are other pool builder grunts that are currently in the same situation.

It took about three years or so before I got a raise at the pool company.  That is when I again stepped up my game and took it upon myself to do the jobs that others didn’t want to do or that I wasn’t trusted to do in the past.  Then one summer I got a call from my brother asking if there were any position open at the pool company.  It turned out that a friend of ours was looking for something new and had experience in construction.  I knew that he would be a good fit with the company and would thrive there.  In addition to construction experience he had an immense knowledge of all things technical.  He was basically a pool building whiz and just didn’t know it yet.  After I got off the phone with my brother I called my boss and told him the situation.  He told me to have my friend put his application in.  I called my friend and told him to put in his app.  After that call I got a call from my boss telling me to have my friend call the owner on his cell.  The next morning when I arrived at work I saw my friend sitting there ready to work.  I was right about the fact that he would do well in the company.  It wasn’t but a few months that he was making more money than me.  I know that you aren’t supposed to talk about your wages with your fellow employees but this was my friend and actually more like my brother.  In fact we were so close that in my younger days I was in a band that was named after him.  At first I was a little upset but, in reality it made perfect sense.  He had a better understanding about the process and how things went together.  Also come to find out shortly after, he was making like 3 cents more than me.  What that did was light a fire under me.  I realized that this was the person that I should base my work ethic off of.  He was always ready to go and nothing intimidated him when it came to work.  He would go about doing something new as if he had been doing it for years.  That is exactly what I did.  I took on everything they threw at me with confidence and it paid off.  I began to get raises and more responsibility.  My friend and I always stayed within a few cents from each other and things went on like that for a while.

The day finally came when I graduated with a bachelors degree.  I was still working at the pool company without benefits and getting laid off each winter.  Then something happened that changed everything.  I got news that I was going to be a daddy.  That is when the second fire was lit under me.  I went to my boss and told him that I needed year round employment with a raise and benefits or I would have to find something different in a hurry.  I made my case by detailing the progress I had made over the last seven years all the while working at another job and attending school.  I described my dedication to the company by returning each year.  Unfortunately I was not able to continue building pools full time.  Instead I was transferred to the service side of the company.  I received year round employment and health benefits.  I was relieved that I finally had something worthwhile that would allow me to take care of my new family.  At the same time I was a little sad that I no longer got to work with my friends on the construction side of things.

I spent the next summer doing nothing but liner replacements and while I was happy that I was finally making more money and had health benefits for my son I was unhappy doing the work I was doing.  I could never see myself as a liner replacement guy in my 40’s or anything and meanwhile I now had this degree that I wasn’t using.  At that point I decided it was time for another change.  That is when I got into my current position and I could’t be happier.  I am finally using my degree, and I don’t go home smelling like something that came from the black lagoon everyday.  I am also gaining more knowledge everyday and I am in the position to pass on that knowledge to my customers.

You know for every high there is a low.  In all my excitement with my new job I feel that I am slowly losing touch with those guys I worked with for so long.  I used to see them every day.  In regard to that friend who I based my work ethic off of, I used to hang out with him every Wednesday evening.  Then it got to the point where I would only be able to make it out every once in a while.  Then something terrible happened.  I was sitting at my desk one morning when I got a call from my former boss from the pool company.  Initially I spoke to him like I used to in a light hearted manner, but after he began to speak I could sense the seriousness in his voice.  He said that he had bad news, and that my friend who had been like a brother to me and whom I based my entire work ethic off of was found dead in his house that morning.  This is one of those things that is impossible to wrap your head around at first.  I mean I had just saw him at my wedding, and before that at my bachelor party, and before that at my 30th birthday, and he was there the day I proposed to my wife.  A friend like that just doesn’t pass away out of nowhere.  It turned out that his girlfriend had shot him in the head shortly after he told her that she had to move out of his house.

The reason I am willing to disclose this information is because I know that some people often overlook the human aspect of a grunt worker.  When it comes to something like building a pool, the customer is paying a fairly substantial amount of money and wants the best.  They can often overlook the fact that the workers in their backyard are people.  It sounds weird to say that but I think that it is true.  If the homeowner has a problem or question they go to the owner of the company.  They don’t talk to the worker.  They often don’t express their gratitude for a job well done.

I will always remember my friend as the man who taught me the importance of a strong work ethic.  I take every challenge that comes my way head on because I know by the years of watching him that if you attack a challenge with confidence you will rarely fail at it.  He was a very good worker and a very good friend.  I would have liked to see more people tell him that while he was here because I know he would have appreciated it.

Please don’t take the people building your pool for granted.  They are working hard to give you something that will bring you and your family a lot of happiness for years and years.  More often than not they are not doing it because they make big bucks, because most of them probably make just enough to get by.  They are doing it because it is rewarding.  They take a plain old backyard and turn it into a beautiful space.  One of my favorite things about the job was when I got to see the looks on the faces of the homeowners kids when they finally got to jump in for the first time.

Salt Water Pools – The Pros and Cons

It seems that more and more people are requesting salt water pools these days, but what is a salt water pool and how does it benefit you?

First and foremost I think that it is important to understand that the salt in a saltwater pool is there to create chlorine.  But wait a minute, you may be thinking that the salt replaces the chlorine which is what makes the pool more healthy to swim in.  Well if that is what you are thinking I am sorry but you have been misinformed.  A “saltwater pool” is not much different from a regular chlorine treated pool.  To give you a better understanding lets go through the process that a chlorine treated pool undertakes.  First after filling your pool with water you will have to add some pool shock.  This is basically chlorine that gets directly poured into the pool.  Next the water flows through the skimmers, and main drains and enters the pump.  From there is is forced through the filter where the majority of debris is removed.  Next it will either flow through the heating element like the gas heater or heat pump, and finally through what is known as a chlorinator.  Some systems may not have a chlorinator but many pools being built have them today.  This is an in line chlorine feeder.  It is plumbed into the system, and chlorine tablets are placed inside so that when the water passes through it becomes rich with chlorine.  The chlorine is what sanitizes the pool and keeps it clean and healthy for swimmers.  Now like anything else in this world, excess can have a different effect.  Too much chlorine in the pool can cause itchy skin, burning eyes, rashes, and other types of skin related issues.  It can also damage the pool liner if left unbalanced for too long.  This is why it is very important to maintain proper water chemistry at all times.  If the water chemistry is spot on then a lot of these issues won’t be much of a problem.

So this brings me to the “salt water pool”.  Don’t let that name fool you, it is not going to be like swimming in the ocean.  You may not even be able to tell that there is salt in the pool.  That is because the amount of salt in the pool is very small compared to the volume of water.  To get the exact amount for your pool it is best to go to your local pool supply store and talk to one of their professionals.  As I have said before, this type of pool is not much different than a typical chlorine treated pool.  It undergoes the same filtering process.  The water flows through the main drains and skimmers, then enters the pump, next it flows through the filter, and then into the heating element.  The last part is where it gets a little different.  Instead of flowing through a chlorinator where it would become chlorine rich, it will flow through what is called a salt cell.  Within this salt cell the water goes through an electrolysis process.  To avoid going through a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo this process basically converts the salt in the pool to chlorine which then gets used to sanitize the pool, then shortly there after the different elements merge back together to form the salt again.  This process repeats itself over and over again to keep the pool water clean.

There are some benefits to having a “salt water pool”.  The first thing that I will mention is that the salt will never have to be replaced, that is unless the pool is completely drained.  The only thing that you might have to do is add a bit here and there to keep it at the proper level.  When it comes to adding anything to your pool water it really is better to have it be salt rather than a harsh chemical like chlorine.  I know that most people have enough sense to not pour chlorine on themselves but accidents do happen and when they do it would be better to have a dusting of salt on you rather than a splash of chlorine.  The use of this technology will save you money on chemicals in the long
run but how much will it cost to repair the damage caused by the salt?  Now you know that a salt water pool still uses chlorine to clean the water and that the benefits are that you don’t have to directly handle the chlorine, and that it might save you money on chemicals.  So what are the cons to having a salt water pool?

As far as I can tell there is really only one downside to having a salt water pool.  Unfortunately it is a relatively large problem.  If you live in the northern states you are probably aware that many states use salt on the roads in the winter time to melt the ice, well except Ohio, they use beet juice.  Anyway that salt they put on the roads gets up underneath our vehicles and begins to oxidize.  Many car dealerships offer to sell you an undercoating for the car to help prevent this type of oxidation.  The point is that salt causes rust.  If you have a salt water pool then you are running the risk of having any metallic element of the pool prematurely rust away.  The fact is that many vinyl liner in ground swimming pools being built today consist of steel walls, aluminum coping, steel hand rails, aluminum or bronze rail sockets, auto covers full of metal parts, steel steps, zinc screws, steel screws, steel bolts, nuts and really the majority of what holds the pool together is metal.  I have seen instances where a one year old pool has had problems with rusting to the point where it needed to be addressed right away.  That meant that the liner had to be replaced and the pool owner had to pay for a new one not to mention the expense they took on to repair the rusted area.  The fact is that regardless if your pool is salt or chlorine, if it is composed of steel walls then it will inevitably begin to rust.  Don’t get to discouraged quite yet.  There is still hope.

To help alleviate some of these issues Only Alpha Pool Products has come up with a composite wall that is not affected by oxidation problems.  It is truly the pool of the future.  Many builders are beginning to offer this pool system.  However there are still some builders that prefer the steel wall pools.  Well Only Alpha has got you covered there as well.  You might be thinking that steel is steel.  Especially if you are a builder and you are reading this.  Well you are somewhat correct.

The industry standard for a steel wall pool is G35 14 gauge steel.  That is what almost every if not all manufacturers use, but Only Alpha has the upper hand here as well.  While all the steel being used to build pools is galvanized, Only Alpha has taken another step forward.  They have created another layer of protection beyond the standard galvanization, and it has revolutionized the vinyl liner steel wall pool industry and has their competitors scratching their heads.  This process will certainly prolong the life of their steel wall pools well past the life of their competitors.  However, it is still steel and it will inevitably rust.

My recommendation for anyone who is thinking about getting a salt water pool would be to first make sure they are getting a composite pool wall preferably from Only Alpha Pool Products simply because they make the best quality non-corrosive swimming pool wall in the industry.  This will help keep the corrosion down that the salt in the water will create.

How to Get the Most out of Your Swimming Pool Season

Here in northern Indiana and most northern states I’m sure, we have a relatively short period of time in which we can use our swimming pools.  Typically our season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  So we really have about 3 months in which we use our pools the most.  Many people aim to have their pools closed by Labor Day, and they don’t re-open them until the following Memorial Day.  There are exceptions to this as well.  However for most people this is the way it goes every year with their pools.  So how do we get the most out of our pools?  Lets start with extending the season a bit.

Their are a couple ways in which the pool season can be extended by a pool owner.  I know that not all pool owners are interested in extending the season but some may be.  It all depends on how likely you are going to use your pool when the air temp is not the warmest.  The obvious thing to do is to have an indoor pool.  While this may be obvious, it is not very practical or even attainable for most people.  The next idea is to heat your pool with a gas heater rather than a heat pump.

Using a gas heater may cost a bit more but it will prolong the swimming season.  A heat pump
uses the air temperature around it to heat the pool.  This is just fine when the air temperature around it is in the 80’s or 90’s but if the air temp is below 65 then it will not do much for your pool.  A gas heater on the other hand will heat your pool in any temperature.  This is because it relies on the use of natural gas or propane to heat the water.  This will allow you to get an early start on the year and allow you to keep your pool open well past Labor Day.  The down side to this is that in colder temperatures you will likely need to run your heater almost constantly.  As soon as you turn your heater off the cold air will suck the heat out of the water very quickly.  Running your heater this much will cost you quite a bit of money.  However there is a way in which to reduce the amount you run your heater yet still maintain warmer water temperatures.  Really there are a couple of ways.

First and foremost the average vinyl liner inground pool will lose heat through the walls of the pool.  Many pool walls are made of galvanized steel and the steel is not the best insulator.  If the ground outside the pool is cold then that cold will transfer right through the walls of the pool and affect the temperature of the water.  However Only Alpha Pool Products’ composite pool wall is a very efficient insulator and will help to keep your water at the desired temperature.  So if you haven’t had the pool built yet you may want to look for a builder that installs Only Alpha’s pools.

Another way you can keep the heat in your pool is to have a Automatic Pool Cover installed on the pool.  This will most definitely help keep the heat in the pool.  These types of pool covers are becoming more and more popular partly due to the fact that they are so good at keeping heat in the pool.  The benefit comes from being able to easily open and close the pool.  Now pool owners are able to close the pool each night, or anytime the pool is not in use.  By having this ability they are able to protect the heated water from the cool nights and lock in all the heat of the day.  When you combine this technology with a gas heater you will have the luxury of keeping your pool open well into the fall without running into a problem.

When thinking about ways to get the most out of your pool another thing that comes to mind is maintenance.  There is nothing more irritating than having to spend a lot of time and money on maintaining your pool.  The best way to avoid this is to periodically check your chemical levels and keep them where they need to be.  Once they get too far out of whack it can be difficult to get them back and you will be spending more time maintaining your pool than enjoying it.

Another thing you can do is more for you and the family.  Use your pool, plan events ahead of time to give the kids something to look forward to.  Have pool parties for your friends, eat dinner outside by the pool from time to time, and just spend your free time pool side.  You can even think of fun games for the kids to play in the pool.  For the parents having a beautiful in ground pool in your backyard is the perfect setting for a romantic evening with a candle lit dinner and drinks by the pool.  The possibilities that arise when you have your very own in ground pool are endless.

For more swimming pool information please check out my other posts.  They all relate to the wonderful world of the in ground swimming pool, and I try to cover every topic.  If you have any thoughts or questions about any of the information in these post please don’t hesitate to ask.

Trust Your Pool Builder – Many ways to build a pool

There are many ways and different techniques that are used to build a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool.  The basic process is for the most part the same from builder to builder but each builder has different things they do that are specific to them.  Today I want to talk about the building process again and what types of things builders do differently from one to the other.  To do this I am going to go through the build process and as I get to something that varies from one builder to the next I will go into more detail about it.  Keep in mind there are several ways to do things in the pool building world and they all work just fine.

To begin the builder will mark out where the pool will go in relation to the house and yard.  Getting the orientation of the pool right is the first step in the process after the initial agreement to build had been made.  This is pretty consistent across the board of builders.  They will use stakes and paint to mark out where the pool goes and in which direction the steps will be facing.  Next comes the dig.  The dig may vary a bit from builder to builder, and more so when it comes to free form pools.  With a free form pool the dig drawing will have a lot of different measurements on it that the builder will follow when marking out the pool.  These measurements are important to get right if the builder intends to use that drawing to order the liner from.  Now because that is the case some builders are very particular as to making sure that all the measurements are correct.  On the other hand some builders will be more concerned with just getting the pool to fit the hole.  You have to understand that with a free form pool there is some adjustment that can be made.  Once the wall panels are bolted together you could easily move a section of the wall in or out.  Some builders use this to their advantage and instead of relying on the specific measurements they will move the walls in or out to fit the hole the best they can.  Then when it comes to the liner they will take new measurements to go off of and have the liner made to fit the pool rather than trying to build the pool to fit the liner.  Either way works just fine and the end result is still a beautiful pool.  Another thing that differs from builder to builder is the way they go about setting the wall panels.

The way that I am accustom to setting panels is to just bolt them together on the ground and work my way from one side of the step all the way around until I get back to the step on the other side.  Some other builders will go ahead and set blocks or spikes to the correct height and then set the panels on top of them as they bolt them together.  I have seen this several times in the past and I think that doing this makes bolting the panels together a bit easier, but every builder that I have seen do this will also double check the height of the panels with a transit at the end and have to do some adjustment anyway.  Its hard to tell if doing this saves time, wastes time, or equals out.  I suppose it also depends on the dig as well.  In reality if the pool is level in the end it doesn’t really matter how they go about it.  Another thing that I have noticed is a difference in they way and products builders do and use to do the bottom of the pool.

When it comes to the bottom of the pool there are two main types of material builders will use to make the bottom.  Some builders will use a sand/cement mix, while others use vermiculite.  Regardless of the product they use they will still trowel it out so that it is nice and smooth.  Some builders will put down a layer of stone and put the bottom material right on top of it.  Typically when you dig down 8 or 9 feet you will get some ground water.  Depending on the severity of the ground water builders will have to do something to ensure that it doesn’t effect the bottom process.  I have seen builders simply bury a five gallon bucket full of little holes so that they can easily pump out all the water right before they trowel the very bottom and drop the liner.  If the ground water is really bad then some builders will bury a line in the stone that will remain under the pool so they can pump out any water after the liner is is.  There is also a difference in when the bottom will be done.  Some builders do the bottom directly after they backfill the pool and before they pour the concrete deck around the pool, and some will pour the concrete before they do the bottom.  I always did the bottom last, for a couple reasons.  One is that it was just easier than having to clean concrete off the liner or out of the pool, and two is because there is less of a chance to puncture the liner if you wait until the end.  Again I suppose both ways work just fine and ultimately it is up to the builder to decide when and how they are going to do the bottom.

These are just some differences in the way that pool builders operate.  I am not saying that one way is right and one is wrong, just that they are different.  I think you should be aware of them in case you were to have a pool built and expect it to go one way and not the other.  The bottom line is that if the pool gets finished and looks amazing then however they did it must work just fine.  As a former builder I know what it is like to have a homeowner breathing down you neck about the way you are doing things, and I know first hand how frustrating it can be, so let the person you hire to build your pool do what they do and trust that it will look phenomenal in the end.  If you have picked a good builder then there is nothing to worry about.  These builders have likely been doing this for some time and know what they are doing.

Who can I trust to build my pool

In the most recent copy of Pool and Spa News there was an article about an installer up in Michigan who has received a bad review by the BBB.  This has sparked a concern from other builders in the area.  At this point you might be wondering why these other builders have a problem with this one guy getting a bad review.  That is what the topic of this post is going to be about.  Granted this installer does above ground but the same applies to in ground builders as well.

You may or may not know that building an in ground swimming pool represents a pretty significant investment.  With that kind of investment consumers want to make sure that they are getting the best quality possible.  This makes absolute sense, when you are spending a lot of money on something you want to make sure that it is the best that it can be.  Aside from the product itself I think that for most people this concept also relates to the builder as well.  If someone is spending a lot of money on a pool they will likely want the person building it to be reliable.  In my opinion the best way to make sure that you are getting the best quality of build out of your pool builder you have to do the research ahead of time.  Below are some things to look for in a pool builder.
1) Make sure they have a store front – I know that some people might think that this is irrelevant but the fact is that if the builder has a store that they work out of they are likely paying rent to use the location or they own the property and or building they are working out of.  This means that they are more likely to be responsible and reliable.  No offense to anyone but a company called Jed’s Swimmin Pools and is ran out of the back of a pick up truck may not be the company you want to trust to take your hard earned money and in return give you an elegant, well build in ground pool.
2) Look for reviews online – If they have been installing swimming pools for a decent amount of time then someone along the way has written a review and posted it to the internet somewhere.  You’d be amazed at what you can find on the internet.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I searched for something and not had any results.  It may take some digging but with some persistence you will find what you are looking for.
3) Have you heard of them? – Typically there will be at least one builder near you that is bigger than the rest.  What makes them bigger than the rest is that they do more in sales.  Now either they sell cheap pools or they do quality work.  More than likely if they have been around for a while it is because they do quality work.  Remember if they sell cheap pools than someone would likely have something bad to say about them and you will be able to find it on the internet.
4) Are they well established? – I know that in my area there is one builder that stands out from the rest and that is because they have been in business since the 70’s.  A builder that has been building in ground pools for that long is likely to be a decent builder, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business.
5) Ask around – There are many people you can talk to about pool builders.  For the most part pool builders sub out some of the work to other companies.  It may be a trucking company to come and pick up loads of dirt, it might be a concrete company, or concrete workers, or an electrician.  These are all people you can talk to about their building quality.  However the best source is someone who already has one of their pools.
These are just a few ways that you can protect your investment from questionable builders.  Now, back to the installer in the article.  It seems that this installer has had several complaints by customers recently.  One of which involves someone who paid him and the job was never finished.  Only the excavation was complete but the pool was never built.  The customer has since requested a refund and is still waiting on it.  Since then this customer has had to purchase a pool elsewhere and have another company come out to install it.
It is things like that which give pool builders a bad rep.  Let me assure you that not every pool builder out there is this way.  This is the concern of the other pool builders in that area.  They see this one guy not coming through on what he promised to do and in turn that fear that people will begin to associate that one guy with the rest of the pool building world.  They feel that consumers will see them all in the same light.
This is so far from the truth.  I am a former builder myself.  I worked for a larger pool company for almost ten years and I found that the owner of the company was very true to his word.  However, you must understand that if a builder gives you specific dates of when they will start and when they will finish, it will be dependent on the weather, and you can’t hold the builder responsible because it rains.  Aside from that a good builder will make sure to keep you in the loop as far as what is going on and what the next step is.

Vinyl Liner Inground Pools – Step Options

Today I am going to discuss the different types of steps that you can get in your vinyl liner inground swimming pool.  If my memory serves me correctly I may have discussed this a bit in a previous post.  Today I will go into more detail about each particular type of step.  There are four main types of steps that are available to you.  They are thermoplastic, acrylic fiberglass, and two types of liner over steps, the permanent form design and the straight tread design.

To begin I want to start with the thermoplastic step.  This type of step is made by heating a sheet of thermoplastic material making it malleable and easily manipulated and forming it to a step mold.  Once the material cools, it again becomes rigid making the solid step for the pool.  This type of step is in my opinion the least desirable for your pool.  You must understand that this type of material is susceptible to heat.  It can be recycled over and over again due to the fact that when heated it can again be formed into any shape.  This means that it can potentially become warped or mis-shaped after it has been installed in your pool.  I would be a little bit irritated if I spent all that money on a pool to have my step eventually warp.  I am not saying that it would definitely happen or that it happens often, but what I am saying is that there is the potential for it to occur.  This type of step uses a gasket, and strap system to keep the liner in place and ensure that there are no leaks.

Another type of step is the Acrylic Fiberglass step.  This type of step is a bit more structurally sound than the thermoplastic step.  It is not as susceptible to heat like the thermoplastic step.  However depending on the manufacturer the quality of the step may be sub par.  I know that some manufacturers use talc as a filler product to save money on the cost of making the step.  The problem with this is that it weakens the steps.  Other manufacturers like Only Alpha Pool Products use absolutely no filler material in the composition of the step.  In fact they use eight layers of material in the manufacturing process to ensure that the step is of the highest quality possible.  Both the thermoplastic step and the acrylic fiberglass step use standard PVC support legs to aid in the support of the step.  Like the thermoplastic step, the acrylic fiberglass step uses the gasket and strap system to keep the liner in place and ensure it doesn’t leak.

Both of these types of steps have been used for years in vinyl liner inground swimming pools, however there are some drawbacks to this type of step.  One is that these type of steps are limited in the color they are available.  Also there is a limitation to the style of the step and placement in the pool.

Another potential problem comes with the gasket and strap system.  You have to understand that for these steps a section of the liner has to be cut out and screwed to the step.  By simply cutting and putting holes in the liner you have the potential for leaks.  However most pool builders take the upmost care in cutting in the steps of the pool to make sure that they do not leak, and even if there is a leak the builder should make the necessary repair to correct it.  These are things that you have to think about when deciding what kind of steps you want in your pool.

The next two types of steps are the liner over style.  Which is just the way it sounds, the liner gets installed over the step.  I think that these are my favorite type of steps that are available.  There are two types to choose from as well.

Straight Tread Design

First is the straight tread design.  This type of step is made entirely out of steel or non-corrosive material, depending on the pool.  If you have read my other blog posts you know that vinyl liner inground pool walls can be made out of steel or a non-corrosive material and that there are differences in these materials depending on the manufacturer of them.  I am not going to get into that today, but if you are curious as to what the differences are please just check out my other blog posts about the types of vinyl liner inground swimming pools.  The point is that depending on what your pool is made of, the straight form design steps will likewise be made of the same material.  This design will include the riser and the tread of the step made out of either steel or the non-corrosive material.  The liner will be held in place at the point where the tread meets the riser by either a bead track or rods and clips.  The bead track is basically an opening in the corner where the bead of the steps can be tucked into to secure the liner.

The Liner will be made with a “bead” in the corners of the steps in order to secure the liner to the steps.  The rod and clip design uses fiberglass rods that get slipped into a pocket on the underside of the liner where the treads meet the risers of the steps.  This type of design will allow you to have as many color options as there are liner designs available.  There are a couple drawbacks to the straight tread design as well that should be addressed.  One is that they are somewhat limited to their shape.  The other is that depending on the builder there may be voids underneath the step resulting in areas that may flex or feel “spongy”.  This is because this type of step relies heavily on the backfill underneath to aid in their support.  Usually these steps come with support legs that get installed underneath them for support, but the spaces between the support legs rely on the backfill for support.  If the builder doesn’t properly backfill the step then you will likely be able to feel where the spaces between the support legs are.

Permanent Form Design

The other type of liner over step is what is commonly referred to as the permanent form design.  This is absolutely my favorite type of step due to the fact that it is the most customizable and can be made to any shape you want.  The difference is that the riser portions of the step are the only things made from steel or non-corrosive material.  All of the treads will be concrete or pool bottom mix depending on the builder (I prefer concrete).  Being that there are no treads initially, the builder has the opportunity to backfill them completely and ensure that they are structurally stable.  What the builder will do is fill the steps up with a non-compacting material like stone chips, or pea gravel leaving the top few inches open to fill with concrete.  This will give you the most stable type of step available for your in ground vinyl liner pool.  This type of step also uses the bead track or the rods and clips to secure the liner to the corners where the risers meet the treads.  If I you are thinking about having a vinyl liner inground pool built I would recommend getting the permanent form design liner over steps with the bead track option.

Rod and Clip
Bead Track

I personally think that the bead track option is better than the rod and clip due to the fact that you will never be able to feel where the bead is whereas with the rod and clip it will be obvious where the rods are in the steps.  It may seem kind of trivial but in my experience it is these types of things that you will be concerned with after the fact.

Thermo Plastic

Take a look at these next few photos to give you an idea of what the finished products will look like.

Acrylic Fiberglass
Straight Tread (Liner Over)
Permanent Form (Liner Over)

Replacing a Liner – How a Pool Professional Does it

I was recently asked how easy it is to replace a vinyl liner for an in ground pool by yourself.  I replied the best I could given the amount of space I was allotted for my reply.  I feel as though if given more space I could give a little more detail about the subject so replacing a vinyl liner will be the topic of this post.  This way I will have the ability to better explain things and maybe cover a bit more than I was able to in my reply.

In the past I have written posts about how to maintain your vinyl liner, and when to change out the liner, but I have yet to write about how to replace the liner.  First of all I want to say that replacing a liner is not necessarily the easiest thing to do, especially if it is your first time doing it.  For this type of project I would recommend hiring a pool professional to do it.  The liner itself is fairly delicate and represents a significant investment.  In addition to that this is probably the most important element of your swimming pool.  Most pool professionals will guarantee their work and take responsibility for any damage that may occur to the liner.  If you were to do it yourself and damage the liner than you will have toe either purchase a new liner depending on the extent of the damage or live with a leaky liner in your pool.  So how does a pool professional replace a vinyl liner in an in ground swimming pool?

I am going to go about this as if you are someone who has absolutely no idea of how this process works.  That being said some of the things I mention might seem like common sense and completely obvious, and I am certainly not intending to insult your intelligence or talk down to you.  I am just going to go through it step by step.

Step 1

Drain the pool – All of the water needs to be removed from the pool before you can remove the old liner.  You will also want to make sure you turn off your equipment.  You don’t want your pump to kick on without any water in the pool.  That would be bad, and could damage the pump and other components of the equipment.

 

Step 2
Remove the old liner – For this step most pool professionals will cut the liner into sections.  This will make it easier to handle and at this point there is no need to try and salvage the old liner.  I know that some pool owners might want to keep it for some reason.  I had one customer ask to keep it to make a “slip and slide” for their kids.  This is not typically a problem, but I will caution you that if it is an older liner then it will likely be somewhat brittle and may have very sharp edges.  I have been cut by a liner in the past and it is equivalent to a bad paper cut.  Also while removing the liner they will be careful as they move around in the pool.  At this time the liner will be fairly slick, and even the bottom under the liner will be likely be very slick.  At this point they will likely remove all the fittings and light in the pool being careful not to lose any screws.

Step 3
Pressure test the lines – Depending on the company and if there are a couple workers on site they might do this at the same time as the liner is being removed.  This step is especially important if the pool is fairly old and had gone through a few winters.  Pressure testing the lines will reveal if any of them have a leak.  With the liner already out of the pool, this is an ideal time to check the lines as any repairs needed will be easier to make without a liner in the pool.

 

Step 4
Clean up the bottom – There will likely be some algae and small debris on the bottom that will need to be removed.  For this step a hose or broom will work well.  They will also make sure that the hose pressure is not too high while doing this.  High pressure can damage the bottom and require more work to repair.  Usually at this time, if there are a couple workers on the job, one of them will be running the hose while the other is removing the water from the deep end.  Depending on the condition of the pool this step can be rather off putting.  I have replaced liners in the past where the owner had just moved in and the previous owner didn’t take care of the pool.  If that is the case you might find some dead creatures in the water and have to remove them.  Not my favorite part especially if you are standing in the water with them.

Here you can see the dark areas where repairs have been made

Step 5
Access and repair the bottom – Most pool bottoms are made of one of two mixtures, either vermiculite and cement or sand and cement.  Either way repairs may need to be made.  In most cases after removing the liner ground water will start to seep into the pool.  This is normal and something that will have to be dealt with.  Typically there is groundwater around the pool all the time but goes unnoticed until the liner is removed, this is because the weight of the water in the pool holds the ground water back, but sometimes in the corners of the pool the ground water can come up through the mix and “wash out” the bottom in that area.  This is where repairs will need to be made.  In some cases, with older pools when your remove the old liner the mix will stick to the bottom of the liner and come up with it when it is removed.  This is another example of when a repair is needed.  This step can be the most time consuming part of the whole process depending on the extent of the repair needed.  I  have seen some pools in which the entire bottom needed to be repaired.  This is unfortunate in that it adds additional costs to the project and the repairs may need to wait until the ground water subsides enough to make them.  Sometimes if the groundwater is flowing in quick enough any repair made on the bottom will just be washed out.  Typically the ground water will slow down enough or completely stop after enough time passes.  This can take a few days depending on how much water is in the ground around the pool.  Remember that there is commonly water in the ground around the pool and once the old liner comes out it now has a place to flow.  Once it subsides and the repairs are made the new liner can be installed.

Step 6
Install the new liner – Again the bottom needs to be free of any debris before installing the new liner.  Any piece of debris left behind will feel much larger once the liner is over it, and in the hot summer sun it is not much fun to have to crawl underneath a liner to remove a tiny piece of debris.  Now that the bottom is completely free of debris the new liner can go into the pool.  At this point the liner will be unboxed and unfolded.  I find it easier to unfold the liner from the shallow end to the deep end.  Typically the liner will be marked on the backside to distinguish the different parts of the pool.  There will usually be a sticker in the center of the shallow end identifying it as the shallow end.  There will also be markings or stickers identifying where the break points are.  If these are in place as the liner is installed then there will likely be minimal adjustment needed once the liner is completely in the pool.  Once the liner is in place you might see the workers place vacuum hoses behind the liner in the deep and shallow ends.  This will remove all the air behind the liner and cause the liner to suck back into all the nooks and crannies of the pool.  Doing this will allow the workers to be sure that the liner is properly oriented in the pool.

Step 7
Cut in – This is the part of the process that needs to be done with extreme care.  At this point all of the returns, main drains, skimmers, lights, steps, and benches and whatever other features are in the pool will be cut out.  These cuts need to be exact otherwise there is the potential for a leak.  Being that the liner is in the pool the screw holes will not be visible and the workers will rely on their sense of touch to determine where the screw holes are exactly.  Each fitting will be perfectly cut out and step area will be removed.  Once that is finished they can now start filling the pool.

Step 8
Fill the pool – At this point it is time to start the hose or call in the water truck.  Once the pool is full the equipment can be turned on again and you are ready to swim in the next few days, depending on your tolerance to cold water.  You will also want to let your pump run for at least 24 hours and then test the water to find out what chemicals are needed.

Pool Pumps – How To

I have written about a lot of different topics relating to swimming pools.  Mainly due to the fact that the purpose of this blog is to inform you, the reader of all things related to swimming pools.  I have geared the posts toward the pool owner rather than the pool professional.  This is due to the fact that as a pool professional they are more than likely already aware of everything that I am trying to relay in this blog.  Keeping that in mind, today I want to discuss the pool pump.  I know that in the past I have touched on certain aspects of these things but today I will approach it from a different perspective and that is through the eyes of the swimming pool owner.  A homeowner that is getting their first pool will often times start to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the new information they get regarding their pool.  It is almost like watching a baby see something amazing like fire works for the first time.  They are not sure what it is or does for sure but they know that they like it.  Hopefully with today’s post I can alleviate some of the fear that a new pool owner may be feeling in regard to their pool equipment.  So being that the pump is the first step to the system I will start there.

The pool pump is the device that brings the water from the pool and sends it through the filter and heater/heat pump.  It is also the thing that is generally making the most noise.  Take a look at the diagram to the left.  You will see that the pump consists of several different parts.  Those parts are pretty much standard on all pumps regardless of brand.  This particular pump has two or three inch inlet/outlets.  This is ideal in that the pump will not have to work as hard to draw the water from the pool.  Think of it as if you were drinking through a straw.  If you drink through a really narrow straw like one of those coffee stir sticks you will have to suck rather hard to get any fluid to your mouth.  Conversely, if you drink through a large straw like one of those you might get with a fountain drink at the gas station you will find that you do not have to put much effort into it to get very good results.  It is the same for pool pumps, well pool plumbing in general.  The larger the pipes, the easier it is for your equipment to work.  This will increase the flow and cut down on noise and vibrations from your pump.  Anyway notice that the pump has two main parts to it, the pump body and the motor.  These are separated by the seal plate.  The two parts are also considered the dry end and the wet end.  Basically the motor is what draws the water from the pool into the pump body.  The seal plate is what keeps the water from entering the motor.  The motor is powered by electricity and obviously water and electricity don’t mix, so the seal plate is a very important component to the pump.  There are some other things going on internally as well that you should know about.

The picture to the right shows the element known as the diffuser.  What this does is controls the characteristics of the water by decreasing the speed and increasing the pressure.  This allows the pump to send the water through the filter and the heater/heat pump more easily.

This next picture on the left shows both the wear ring and the impeller.  The impeller is attached to the motor shaft which spins when the pump is running.  This spinning is what creates the suction and draws the water from the pool.  The wear ring is basically a barrier between the impeller and the diffuser.  This protects both the diffuser and impeller from premature failure due to friction and heat.  Without it you would likely have to frequently replace the impeller or diffuser.

Next we have the picture on the right which shows the motor shaft and what is known as the mechanical seal.  These are located behind the impeller which is located behind the diffuser.  As I said before the motor shaft is connected to the impeller.  The seal goes around the motor shaft and is what keeps the water from entering the “dry end” of the pump.  The item in my hand in this picture is another seal which also goes around the motor shaft and aids in keeping water out of the motor.  Without these two seals in place you would have water entering the motor and causing damage.  These seals will need to replaced from time to time.  Extended dry runs of the pump will increase the potential for damage to the seals.  You will know that the seals need replaced if you see water coming from the motor end of the pump.  The motor has bearing in it that need to be kept dry.  If you get water through the motor of the pump then the bearings will be susceptible to corrosion.  You will know that the bearings are going out by the fact that the pump will become much louder than before.

Now these motors come in several different sizes.  Commonly pool pumps will range from 1HP to 2HP. (1 horsepower and 2 horsepower)  There are others available but most residential pools will use 1, 1.5, or 2HP pumps.  Typically the more HP you have in your pump, the more expensive it will be.  Figuring out what size pump you will need on your pool gets kind of tricky, and in my opinion is best left up to the builder to decide.  This is another reason why it is important to use a trustworthy builder from a highly regarded company to build your pool.

Most pool pumps will give you a gpm rating or gallons per minute.  To figure out how many gpm your pump must be capable of producing you will have to do some math.  You need to figure out your approximate pool volume in gallons.  Use the equation length X width X depth.  Most modern in ground pools have a shallow and a deep end if this is the case then you will first have to determine the average depth of the pool.  For that you simply have to take the deep end measurement and add it to the shallow end measurement and then divide the result by 2.

For instance if your pool has an 8′ deep end and a 4′ shallow end then you add 8+4 which = 12 and divide by 2 which gives you 6.  6 is would be the average depth of the pool, so to figure out the total approximate volume you take the length X the width X the average depth.  For example if your pool is 20′ wide X 40′ Long then you would take 40 X 20 X 6 = 48,000gal.

To get the gpm of the pump you will need for a pool that size you need to take the pool volume and divide it by the turnover time.  A turnover as it relates to pools is when the pump has successfully pumped out all the water in the pool and put it back.  Typically you want this to happen every eight or ten hours.  So to get the gpm you take the 48,000gal divided by 8 = 6,000 then take the 6,000 and divide by 60 = 100.  So you will need a pump capable of pumping at a rate of 100 gallons minimum per minute to achieve a turnover every 8 hours.

But we can’t stop there we now need to figure out the maximum flow rate for the plumbing.  The maximum flow rated is determined by the size of the plumbing used.  For instance the maximum flow through a 1.5″ pvc pipe is 44 gallons per minute.  So you will need to count the number of intake lines to determine the maximum flow rate.  For each 2″ intake you will get a maximum flow of 73 gpm to the pump.  For a 1.5″ intake you will get a maximum flow of 42 gpm.

This will give you a good idea as to if the pump you have is sufficient for the size of pool or if it is over kill.  In all honesty there are a few other things that come into play when sizing pumps but to keep from overloading anyone today I am going to leave it at this.  If you want more information on pump sizing you can find a lot of information on line.  I found some of this information at http://www.poolplaza.com

For other information pertaining to in ground swimming pools and specifically vinyl liner in ground swimming pools please check out my other posts.  I have written about many different topics.  If there is a topic I have not yet covered that you would like me to discuss please feel free to let me know.

Swimming on the 4th of July

Well folks July 4th is just a couple days away.   We all know that this day is in celebration of the United States of America’s freedom, but in all honesty for most people I think that this holiday has somewhat transformed into a day to get family and friends together to enjoy the day in the company of loved ones.  To some people the idea of this day losing its original meaning is absurd, but let’s think about it for a second.  We have the freedom to celebrate however we may choose… Within reason of course and that is what makes it so wonderful.  My family is one of those that celebrates this day by spending time together.  All my brothers and sisters are now grown and my parents are both retired and we have all gone our own ways, but on the 4th of July we all get together for the day and do what most families do.  We cook out on the grill, spend time in the pool, and in the evening we all go out and watch the fireworks light up the night sky.  We all know why this holiday exists and we teach our children the same thing.  However there is no denying the fact that this day is a perfect day to do something together.  I am certain that many families across the country will be doing the same thing.  What I want you to realize is that you are able to do this because people once fought for it.  The same way people today are fighting for it.  I think we sometimes take our freedom for granted without realizing what goes into it each and every day.  Now being that this blog is intended to relay information about swimming pools, I feel as though I should say something about them.

The fact is that without the freedom that we have, many of those who have a pool may not have had the opportunity to get one.  For me, I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer afternoon than in the pool with my wife and baby boy.  My son just turned one and everything he sees is still brand new to him, but so far nothing has gotten the reaction that being in the pool has gotten.  One of my favorite thing to do is to see his face when I show him something new.  Each time his eyes gets wide and a huge smile stretches across his face, it also brings a smile to mine.  The pool is something that he has taken a special liking to more so than anything else.  He is all smiles the minute he gets in, unfortunately that smile turns into a huge fit when it’s time to get out.  However the entire time we are in the pool it’s like something I have never seen.  In just a matter of a week or so he was able to maneuver around the pool by kicking his legs.  That is something that I had never seen.  A little baby being so at home in the water that it is like second nature to him.  This is his first summer in the pool and I seriously think that he will be able to swim by the end of the season.

I know that this post doesn’t pertain to any specific product or idea related to swimming pools but I just wanted to share because I feel that in today’s world where everyone is worried about the future and what lies ahead for us as a country, it is important to enjoy the things in life that hold the most value.  To me that is the time I get to spend with my family, and on July 4th that is where I will be.  We will be in the pool in the afternoon and we will go see the fireworks that evening, and I will cherish every second of it.  To some it may look like I am misunderstanding the meaning of why we celebrate this day but I know that without our independence days like this might not exist.  I don’t think that we have to prove our patriotism to anyone by wearing red white a blue, or spending a fortune on fireworks because I know that when I see a family all together enjoying the day, they are in turn celebrating for the right reasons.

From my family to yours, have a safe and wonderful Independence Day.