When should I close my Pool?

IMG_0223As a pool owner, the times of year for opening and closing your pool are entirely up to you.  However the “pool season” as defined by the industry is typically between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Many pool use this definition as their way of knowing when to open and close their pools.

This is by no means a strict rule but more of a general guideline that people can use.  Some pool owners opt to open their pools earlier in the spring, and close it later in the fall.  They can do this because they either live in an area that stays warm longer or they have a heater that is powerful enough to keep the water warm in cool ambient temperatures.

As a pool owner you just want to make sure that your pool is closed before your area reaches freezing temperatures.  When water freezes it expands and if it expands inside of your swimming pool plumbing components it can cause a lot of damage.  To avoid the potential for this to happen many people wait until after Memorial Day to open their pools, and then close them down again by Labor Day.

DSCN0635I always recommend having a pool professional do the actual opening and closing of your pool, or at the very least the closing part.  It is recommended for a couple of reasons.  First, they tend to know exactly what they are doing.  There can be quite a few steps in the process of closing a pool and if even one small step is missed the result can be dramatic.  The other reason is that many pool companies will guarantee their work.  This means that if anything does happen over the course of the winter, they will be the ones who correct it.  If you were to close your own pool and something happened then the responsibility to fix it would be yours.  Depending on what happens that responsibility can be very costly.

In my opinion the best way to avoid any sort of mishap with your swimming pool over the winter is to make sure it is opened on or after Memorial Day, and closed on or prior to Labor day.  I understand that we generally have warm days outside of that range, but like I stated before this range is more of a general guid line.  Also it is always best to have a swimming pool professional actually do the opening and closing of your pool to ensure that everything will get done the way that it needs to in order to survive the winter.

Is it a Leak or just Evaporation?

IMG_2683This is something that almost every pool owner will ask themselves at some point.  Does the pool have a leak or is the water just evaporating?

Just like every body of water, over time the water will begin to evaporate.  Typically you can expect about a quarter inch of water or less to evaporate each day in an uncovered pool.  There are a number of things that contribute to this.  Wind, sunlight, and humidity are the key players in water evaporation.

Wind can blow across the surface of your pool which will cause the water molecules to evaporate much faster.

Direct, intense sunlight will help to dry up water molecules and cause more rapid evaporation.

DSCN0635Humidity in the air plays a big role in evaporation.  The more humid the air is, the less water in your pool will evaporate.  Conversely, during dry spells you can expect more water loss through evaporation.  If you think about the air outside like a sponge then you can expect that if it is dry, then it will be able to pick up more water from your pool, whereas if it is already wet then it will be limited in how much water it can soak up.

So how do you know if you have a leak or if the water is just evaporating?

You can not be certain just by measuring the amount of water loss in you pool per day.  However you can conduct what is know as the bucket test.  To do this it is best to start with a full pool.  Then fill a five gallon bucket 2/3 of the way full and set it on the second step of the pool.  From there you will mark the water level on the inside of the bucket.  Next turn off you pump and mark the water level on the outside of the bucket.  Once that is done, turn the pump on again and let it sit for at least 24 hours.  At that point you can compare the water levels.  If the level on the outside of the bucket has gone down further than on the inside then there is likely to be a leak in your pool.  If the level is the same both inside the bucket and outside then the water loss is likely to be due to evaporation.

The Amount of Activity in your Pool – How It Affects The Ph of the Water

137A6264Properly maintaining water chemistry is a very important aspect of owning a swimming pool.  The water quality in your pool can not only affect your health but it can also affect the swimming pool itself and the equipment which circulates the water.  That being said you can begin to understand the importance of properly maintaining the water in your pool.

People often assume that by adding more chlorine to the pool they will effectively be keeping the pool water clean.  They also tend to think that with more people in the pool they will need to add more chlorine.  The thing about the water in a swimming pool is that you will never know what it needs without testing it.  This is why test kits were made.  Typically with a heavy bather load in the pool the water quality will decrease.  This is due to the fact that the oils in our skin as well as the sun screen that we use get into the pool and bond with the free chlorine preventing it from effectively killing the bacteria and viruses that may be there.

DSCN0637On the other hand if there is a fairly long period of time in which the pool is not used, will it affect the water quality?  In other words, does inactivity in a pool affect its water quality?

This depends on a couple of things.  Typically the water quality will not change much during time of inactivity.  However, one thing that can change is the volume of water in the pool.  If the volume changes, then the water quality can begin to change.  For instance, if the pool is left open and experiences heavy rainfall throughout the time of inactivity then the volume will increase.  It may not be much, but it may be enough to dilute the amount of chemicals in the pool.  In this case you would need to add more to stay within the appropriate range necessary to maintain a clean, healthy pool.  Conversely, if over the time of inactivity in the pool, the pool is left open and experiences several sunny, windy days then you may find that the water volume in the pool has decreased.  This is due to evaporation caused by the sun and wind.  In this case the amount of chemicals in the pool would seem to increase.  In both cases the amount of chemicals in the pool has remained constant, but because the volume of water changed it will either dilute or concentrate the chemicals in the pool.

The amount of activity your pool receives weather it is more or less will affect the water quality to some degree.  All in all it is really best to test the pool water at least once per week to get a good idea of what it needs in order to maintain a clean healthy pool.

Rainwater and Swimming Pools

rain poolIs it okay to allow rain water to get into your pool, or is it better to cover it?  This is a question that many new pool owners ask themselves the first time it rains after their pool is installed.  After all rain water is supposed to be fairly clean right? So how could it have a negative affect on your pool?

After your pool is installed you will find that there is some initial maintenance that you will have to do.  Basically you fill your pool with water and you then you will have to add chemicals, ie. chlorine, algecide etc. to make it healthy to swim in.  From there you will likely be checking your pool chemicals once a week to maintain that ideal amount.  Obviously this represents a fairly significant investment of time and money.  If you fall behind or just brush it off, and you are not keeping up with it then you may find yourself spending more time and money to get it back to where it needs to be.download

Rainwater can change the chemistry of your pool.  Just as it is, it can “dilute” the chemicals in your pool.  Ideally you want to keep your free chlorine level between 2 and 4 ppm. (Parts per Million) So this is based on the amount of water in the pool.  If more water is added to the pool then you will have to add more chlorine.  So if a lot of rain water gets into your pool, the amount of water increases and in turn you will have to add more chlorine.

LXI400P_LXiHeater-1-1Another thing that is likely to happen is really only an issue if you have a heater or heat pump installed.  Obviously it costs money to run a heater or heat pump.  That being said, if the set temperature is warmer than the temperature of the rain water (which it will likely be) then the cool rain water will decrease the temperature in the pool and you will have to run the heater or heat pump more often to maintain the desired temperature.
So back to the original question.  Is it okay to allow rain water to get into your pool?  The answer is really yes.  It is okay for rain water to get into your pool.  This will not cause enormous problems for the pool and in fact many pools are open to the rain all of the time.  However, if you have the luxury of covering your pool while it is raining, then I would certainly recommend doing so.  It will decrease the amount of time and money you put into maintaining your pool.

Costs of maintaining an in ground pool

There are more and more people buying in ground swimming pools these days.  There are several ideas as to why this is.  Some say that it is due to the economy beginning to bounce back.  Some say that more and more people are buying into the whole staycation idea and investing in their own back yards.  Regardless of the reason the fact remains that people are buying in ground pools.  I will go out on a limb and say that most of these people probably have not owned a pool before and really have no idea about what they are getting themselves into.

People seem to have this mindset that owning a pool requires a lot of work.  However let me be the first to tell you that this is not always the case.  The way I see it, owning a pool is like owning a car in that it can require a lot of work, but depending on how you use it and take care of it you might find that owning a pool does not require a lot of work.  Along with the work, people feel as though a pool will cost them a lot of money after the initial installation.  I will be the first to admit that there is some inherent cost that goes into pool maintenance.  However, keeping with the car analogy the cost of pool maintenance is similar to the cost of car maintenance.  You will have to fill up with gas, change the oil, rotate the tires, and check the fluids.  With a pool you will have to occasionally add chlorine,  maybe put some algaecide in from time to time, sweep it, and regularly test the water.  If you stay on top of the regular pool maintenance then you will likely not have an issue.  That being said you will not have to keep dumping a lot of money into it.  Also, like a car if you just let it go on and on without doing anything to it then you will start running into problems.  If left alone long enough these problems can turn into expensive repairs.  So to say that owning a pool requires a lot of work and money is a bit of an embellishment.  A standard pool will require a little bit of work, and yes you will have to put some money into it from time to time, but the idea that it is a money pit is not entirely true.  You just have to stay on top of the little maintenance that will keep your pool healthy.
Paramount’s Swing Sweep System
As technology has improved, so has the concept of in ground swimming pools.  In today’s world a person could purchase a system with their pool that will make their pool virtually maintenance free.  There are a number of products on the market that will allow you to not even worry about adding chemicals to your pool as well.  Basically with the right products plumbed into the pool’s filtration system a pool is capable of keeping itself clean.  In addition to those products, we as consumers have the luxury of having a pool that will keep itself free of debris such as dirt and leaves.  I have written about this topic in the past so if you are curious as to what products I am referring to please check out the three part series I posted titled How to have a vinyl liner in ground swimming pool clean itself.  Within those posts you will learn what products are available to make your pool virtually maintenance free.
Granted to have a “maintenance Free” pool you will have to spend a bit more.  It’s like this.  If a standard pool with a main drain, skimmer, and returns is like a basic car with a tape deck, crank windows, and those pull up locks, then a maintenance free pool with all of these technologically advanced products would be like a high end luxury vehicle with blue tooth, wifi, heated seats, power windows, GPS, and so on.  Obviously the high end car will cost much more than the standard everyday car.  Similarly if you were to spend more money on the pool and the products going into it then you will end up with a much more luxurious pool.
For more information on how to cut down costs of owning an in ground vinyl liner pool, or general swimming pool information please check out my other blog posts.

Floating Liners

Have you ever had your liner float?  This typically only happens when the pool has to be drained for one reason or another.  Basically what happens is that there is water that builds up in the ground around and under the pool.  most of the time it is due to rain, but there are other variables that come into play from time to time.  Anyway  as that water builds up around the pool, the pressure from that water pushing up becomes greater and greater.  Usually the water in the pool is heavy enough to keep the water outside the pool back.  However if you have to drain the pool for some reason then the weight of the water in the pool decreases and the water behind the pool has the opportunity to flow in behind the liner.  I have seen this happen many many times.  Fortunately most of the floating liners that I have seen were being replaced anyway so it didn’t make much of a difference.  Still it always seems to alarm the homeowner, and when I tell them that it is ground water underneath the liner they always question me saying “well it can’t be, it hasn’t rained since last week”.  The fact is that it can be because that is what it is.  The ground has the ability to retain a lot of water and being that it is underground, it doesn’t have the sun aiding in evaporation.  Then when the water in the pool is drained, it suddenly has a place to flow to.

This happens quite often around here.  However it is rare that the liner will float with the pool full of water.  Don’t get me wrong, it has happened before and it is because the water pressure behind the liner is greater than the water pressure on top of the liner.

There are some things that most builders will do to ensure that the liner doesn’t float and give the home owner some piece of mind.  One is that they will often run a perforated tile around the pool that will collect any rain water and allow it to flow away from the pool.  There are a couple places that it will likely go.  One place is to a sump pit.  This is just like the pits you see in basements.  It is usually located just behind the deck of the pool and has a pump in it that will kick on if the water level gets too high.  The other way they take care of this issue is by having what is know as a French drain or Gravity drain.  This is dependent on the elevation of your yard.  It is basically the same perforated tile running around the pool, but instead of it going to a sump pit, they will dig a trench down hill away from the pool.  That way any water that the tile collects will be directed away from the pool.

I have even worked on a pool that was built with a line underneath the very bottom that could be used to pump water out from behind the pool.  This was a extenuating circumstance though.  The pool was built in an area that retained a lot of ground water. For the most part liners floating is not a problem around here, other than when a pool is drained.

There is also a product available that was made to combat this issue.  It is something that I have never used and something that I would be cautious about using.  Hydrostatic vales were made to keep ground water from ever being a problem.  They get installed in the bottom of the main drains on the pool floor.  They use the pressure of the water to work.  Basically they have a spring in them and if the water pressure under the pool gets too great the the spring assists the pressure to force the valve to open.  This allows the water from under the pool to flow into the pool rather than behind the liner.  Then once the pressure is equalized the valve closes again.  My only concern would be that there is a possibility for something to get into the valve while it is open and prevent it from closing again.  If that were to happen you would then have a pool that no longer holds water.  I suppose it is not a major issue, as i imagine the hydrostatic valves are not too difficult to replace if needed.  Honestly it is up to the discretion of the builder on what they think is best.

If you do happen to see that you liner is floating, it is very important that you get it taken care of right away.  Usually the pool will have to be drained and the water will have to be pumped out from behind the liner.  Hypothetically if you were to let it go, then you could end up with a much bigger issue on your hands.  I have seen one liner float to the extent that the water under it pushed it up so much that it stretched out the screw holes in the main drain.  At that point the liner had to be replaced to ensure that it wouldn’t leak.  In addition to that the water under the liner can damage the bottom to the extent that some patch work needed to be done.

Ground water is very common when digging down especially eight feet or more.  Looking back I think that the majority of the pools I have built have had ground water from day one.  It is just a matter of keeping it under control.  Usually we would dig the pool a foot or so deeper than the finished depth.  Then we would drill small holes into a plastic 5 gallon bucket and bury it in stone in the bottom of the pool.  That stone would also bring the depth back to finished grade and allow any ground water to flow through the holes in the bucket so we could easily pump it out.  Then when it came time to do the bottom, we would keep the pump in the bucket until we were ready to finish the bottom.  At that point we would pull the pump out, fill the bucket with stone and do the bottom over top.  Then we would get the liner in, cut in the main drains, and start filling the pool.  Basically it is a matter of staying ahead of the ground water.  If you can get more water in the pool than there is under the pool there won’t be an issue.  It comes down to experience.  Most reputable builders know what they are doing and very very rarely ever run into an issue.  If for any reason there is a problem a reputable builder will likely take care of it at no extra cost.

The reason that I wanted to write about this issue today is just to offer some information as to why liners float and what can be done, both to prevent it from happening, and to resolve it once it if if does happen.  Like I said before, ground water is very common but usually doesn’t pose a problem for vinyl liner in ground pools.  Typically the weight of the water in the pool is enough to keep the ground water back.  In most cases people with vinyl liner in ground pools aren’t even aware of ground water until the pool is drained.

Why have a professional close your pool?

Why so sad?  Is it because pool season is coming to  a close?  Or is it because you didn’t want to pay a company to close your pool and now you are concerned that you may not be closing your pool properly?  You may have thought that it can’t be that difficult, or maybe you are thinking that since you saw how the pool professional closed your pool last year, then you know exactly what to do.   Unfortunately for you now that it has come time to close the pool you are second guessing everything.  Perhaps you are wondering what the worst thing that can happen is.  Well allow me to shed some light on this.

What could happen if a pool is not closed properly?

There are several things that can happen if your in ground pool is not closed properly for the winter.  One thing that can happen is something very unlikely and that is nothing.  In very rare instances your pool could go the entire winter without being damaged.  Unfortunately if you live in a northern state that will probably not happen.  Instead, what will likely happen is that you will find that one or more of the plumbing lines running to your pool has froze and ruptured.  This is not a very easy fix.  For instance if it your main drain line freezes and busts, then you are looking at a quite expensive repair.  This is due to the fact that the main drain line runs the deepest and it is very difficult to determine where in the line the rupture is.  It may come down to running a new line to the main drains.

That would mean that to repair it you would have to bring in some heavy equipment to run the line.  In addition to that, the bottom of your pool would have to be busted up so that the new line could be hooked up to the main drains.  Then the bottom of the pool would have to be repaired, and you would more than likely have to purchase a new liner.  On top of that you would have to pay for the water, chemicals, and the cost of heating the pool back up.

If the line that breaks is a return line or skimmer line then the repair may be a bit easier.  It really all depends on the sidewalks around your pool.  If you have 4′ walks around the pool then it wouldn’t take to much effort to dig underneath them to expose the line.  If you have an enormous amount of concrete around the pool then you are looking at a more expensive repair.

These are the reasons why pool professionals typically blow out the lines and then dump antifreeze into them.  When closing a pool the goal is to get the water out of each line and get at least a gallon of antifreeze in.  By doing this it will ensure that the lines won’t freeze a rupture over the winter.  In addition to that it is important that your equipment also be free of water.  I also tend to tell folks that they may want to keep certain equipment components inside their garage or pool house to make sure it stays safe over the winter.  I always take out the o rings and all the small parts associated with the equipment and store them in the pump basket for safe keeping.  I will also make sure that the heater and filter are free of water.  The filter is a bit more difficult to do this with but I have found that if you take the plug off the bottom of the filter it will allow the majority of water to drain out.  This will give any water left over room to freeze and expand without damaging anything.  However when it comes to the multi port valve I always make sure I blow it out.  There is not a lot of room in it already so it is important to make sure it is free of water.  To do this I hook my blower up to the inlet side and go through each setting except for closed and filter.  The closed setting will not let the air flow through and the filter setting will cause any water in the tank to come through the valve and out.  Obviously if you are trying to rid the multi port of water then it is counter productive to put water into it.  Also, if the equipment is inside a room then I wouldn’t want to make a mess.  If the valve is free of water and the drain plug is off then the filter is good to go for the winter.  When I am finished blowing out the valve I will turn it to winterize, or closed depending on the valve.  This will prevent any water from getting into the valve over the winter.

As I said before, the main drains are another part of what I would consider a vital element of your pool.  Obviously they are on the bottom of your pool.  This makes it somewhat difficult to ensure that the line is free of water.  There is a trick to this that I will get to shortly but first you must realize that when closing a pool there are a couple of ways to do things.  You can either drain your pool down to below the returns or you can leave the water in the pool and take a couple extra steps of precaution.  Either way, the main drains will remain under the water.  So how does one ensure that the main drain line is free of water.  This is where that little trick comes into play.  First you have to realize that there is a lot of weight pushing down on the main drains.  That being said, it will allow you to achieve an air lock.  To do this I would blow through the main drain line until both main drains begin to bubble.  I usually allow them to bubble for a good ten seconds or so to ensure that all of the water is out of them.  At this point I very quickly remove the blower and plug the line.  This is how an air lock is achieved.  The weight of the water pushing down will not allow the air to come out and the air in the line trying to get out will not allow the water from the pool to come into the line.  This is called air lock.  At this point the main drain is properly closed.  Even though there is no antifreeze in the line, there is also no water so there is nothing that can freeze and cause the line to rupture.

When it comes down to it, closing a pool is not all that difficult.  However it is something that requires a lot of care and attention to make sure that it is done properly.  Nobody wants to deal with expensive repairs in the spring so if there is any doubt about it at all, then it may be best to leave it up to the professionals to close the pool.  One reason is that they generally have the experience and the know how to get it done right and another very important reason is that they will usually take responsibility if something does happen and repairs are needed.  So before you close your own pool you need to first ask yourself these questions.


Before closing the pool.

1. Do I know what needs to be done?
2. Am I confident that I can do it?
3. Do I have the materials that I need to get it done?

After closing the pool.

1. Do the return lines and skimmer lines have at least a gallon of antifreeze in each of them?
2. Did I get an adequate amount of bubbles coming through the main drains?
3. Am I confident that I have properly closed down all components of the pool and can rest assured that no damage will be occur over the winter?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions then maybe you need to consider allowing the professionals to close your pool.  The information in this post is just a reminder of what can happen if your pool is not properly closed.  It is not to be taken as instructions to close your own pool.  In my opinion it is always better to have a pool professional work on your pool.  They will generally have the experience and know how to get done what needs to be done, and do it with confidence to ensure that there won’t be a problem.  In addition to that, if for some reason there is a problem, then they will be responsible for taking care of it.

Closing Your Pool

Summer time is almost over 🙁 … I know that there wasn’t much of one anyway.  On the other hand we did have some good days for swimming.  Here in the northern states people will be thinking about closing their pools in the next few weeks.  I know it seems like this summer has gone by too fast.  The kids are gearing up for school and the moms and dads are breathing a sigh of relief.  I am sure that there are many of you who will have a company come out and close your pools.  In my opinion that is the best way to do it.  It allows you peace of mind to know that it was done right and in most cases if not, then it will be that companies responsibility to repair anything that happens due to them improperly closing the pool.  At the same time I am sure that many of you are thinking that it can’t be that difficult to close a pool.  Even more so I am sure that some of you have had companies close you pools in the past and after seeing the bill you are seriously contemplating closing the pool yourself.  So how do pool professionals close your pools?

To begin they come fully equipped to handle anything that might occur.  They will usually have a truck full of tools and know what to expect.  You on the other hand may have some tools but are not sure what you will need, and there is nothing worse than needing a tool right now and having to wait on it.  Here are 10 typical tools that a pool professional is likely to have for closing a pool:

1. Large channel locks
2. Small channel locks
3. A roll of tape
4. Rags
5. Flat head and Phillips screwdrivers
6. Antifreeze (specifically for pools or marine craft)
7. Plugs
8. A mighty vac (Powerful shop vac)
9. PVC pipe and fittings.
10. Assortment of rubber pressure plugs.

These are all things that will help a pool professional close your pool.

The Process:

1) First thing is first, they will have to shut off your pump and heater.

2) Now they are ready to disconnect the plumbing.  Hopefully the person who initially plumbed the system did it using unions.  Unions make it much easier to disconnect the plumbing and close the pool. (Be sure to remove all of the o rings in the unions and save them in a safe place)

3) It is important to drain the filter of the water. (at least most of it)  There is usually a cap near the bottom of the filter that can be unscrewed for the water to drain out of.

4) I would usually stick the nozzle of the mighty vac into the filter head and switch the multi port valve from one setting to another to make sure that it too is free of water. (If this is done while on the filtration setting water will spray everywhere.)

5) They will also remove the sight glass and pressure gauge from the filter.

6) The pump is another thing that they take care of.  They will remove the plugs from the pump.  There are usually two that will unscrew using a flat head screw driver.

7) It is also a good idea to blow out the heater or heat pump as well.

8) They will also have to blow out each of the lines going from the pool to the pump. Blowing out the
returns and skimmers are where the PVC pipe and fittings come into play.  Using the pipe and fittings they can make “up pipes”.  These are pipes that get threaded into the return fittings and the skimmers and stick up above the water level.  Before they can thread these pipes into the returns they will need to remove the eyeball fittings, and they will need to put these pipes in all of the returns.  Once the up pipes are in place the will blow the lines out from the pump side.  Typically one return will be blown out before the others.  When that happens their helper will put their hand over the pipe to force the air through the other return line.

9) When the lines are free of water they will then dump a gallon of antifreeze into the line and get ready to plug it. (for the returns they will need to remove the PVC up pipe they made.  To do this they will need to plug the up pipe they made so water doesn’t get into the line while they are removing it and they have to have fast reflexes, because as soon as that pipe is free, water will start to enter the line again.  They will have to quickly plug the return.  Repeat the process for each return.

10)  The skimmers are a bit different, typically they can close the pool with water in the skimmers.  They will need to have some sort of foam on hand to do this effectively.  First you will want to remove the skimmer basket and insert the up pipe they made into the skimmer.  Ideally they will want the pipe to be long enough to be above the water level but short enough so that it does not stick up past the deck height of the pool. This pipe is going to stay there all winter so they will make sure that they have plenty of teflon tape around the male adapter so that it doesn’t leak.  Again they will blow out this line from the pump side.  Once the line is free of water they can pour a gallon of antifreeze into the line, and plug the opening.  Repeat this process for each skimmer.  They will then fill the empty space in the skimmer with the foam.  This will keep the skimmer from cracking when the water freezes

11) The main drains are again a bit different.  Typically on newer pools there will be two main drains on the bottom of the pool.  They will be plumbed together and being that they are on the bottom of the pool would be difficult to plug.  However they are actually easier to winterize.  They simply have to blow out the lines until they see bubbles coming out of BOTH main drains.  It is good practice to let them bubble for a good 30 seconds to make sure that all of the water is out of the line.  Again this is a point in which they will need fast reflexes because they will have to plug the line at the pump side and quickly.  As soon as the blower leaves the line water will begin to enter.  Once the plug is in place, then the water can no longer enter the line.  If bubbles come up from the main drains after they plug it then they need to blow it out again.  Once they have all the lines blown out they can start plugging the openings to the pipes at the pump side.  I always plug the openings on the pump, filter, and heater just to make sure that no critters get in there over the winter and cause any damage.  I also find it convenient to store all of the plugs from the filter, and pump in the pump basket along with the o rings and sight glass.

12) The next step is to place anything that can be removed inside a garage or storage area so that they are out of the elements.

This process may be different from person to person.  Not all companies work the same way.  This is just some general information on how a pool professional would go about closing a pool.  In my opinion it is always best to let the professionals take care of things like this just so if there are any problems it will be the professionals responsibility to correct them.

For more information regarding general swimming pool information and specifically vinyl liner in ground pools please check out my other posts.  My entire blog is geared toward vinyl liner in ground pools and I have used my experience as a pool builder and service technician to put together information that I feel a pool owner may be interested in knowing.

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.

Auto Cover – Things to look for

Today I am going to use this opportunity to give you the pool owner a heads up when it comes to automatic covers.  There are several different manufacturers of automatic covers and they all have something in common.  Each company is striving to better your swimming pool experience.  They make all of the components that go into an automatic pool cover.  Some even make coping that goes around the pool.  The interesting thing about the coping around the pool is that not all types of coping will work well with all types of automatic covers.

Brief Auto Cover Explanation:

Top Track

When it comes to automatic covers there are a couple different styles you can choose from.  They are what is known as under track, and top track.  The difference is the way that the tracks of the cover are mounted.  Let me clarify what I mean by “track”.  An automatic cover consists of several different components that work together to make the cover work.  Basically you have the cover, ropes, pulleys, track, motor, and drum.  There are several other parts and pieces that go into them but for my purposes today what I have listed will suffice.  The tracks will stretch the entire length of the pool and houses the ropes for the cover.  The ropes are attached to the cover and run through the tracks to from one end to the other, around a pulley and then back again.  From there they are attached to the motor.  When you turn the key, flip the switch or enter the code, (depending on the model) the motor winds up the ropes causing the cover to pull out over the pool.  Then when you open the pool again the motor turns the other way causing the drum to rotate which winds the cover itself up onto the drum.  Now depending on the style of cover you have you will either have the tracks installed underneath the coping of the pool in a special opening specifically made for the track, or you will have the tracks exposed on the top of the deck.

The Problem:

Both types of covers work well but there is one main thing that you will want to watch for.  You must understand that a top track cover will rub on the coping of the pool.  This is normal, that is just the way that they are designed.  To ensure that nothing gets damaged as far as the cover itself or the coping, the manufacturers also make a specialized coping specifically for top track covers.  This type of coping is made to prevent any damage from occurring.  Now you may be wondering what type of damage I am referring to.  Typically you might find that due to the constant rubbing of the cover on the coping your cover itself may wear out prematurely, or depending on the type of coping used you may see the paint on the coping rubbing off.  Some builders will pour the deck so that the coping itself is concrete because they know that the cover will rub.  This type of situation is unfortunate but is also not all that uncommon.  Some builders are either unaware of this issue or they just don’t care.

The bad part is that unless something is done to prevent this rubbing from occurring, the problem will continue to happen.  There have been instances where people have repainted their coping only to have it rub off shortly thereafter.  There have been instances where they have repainted the coping multiple times using multiple types of paint only to have the issue persist.

How did this happen?

Let me advise you that unless something is done to prevent the cover from rubbing the coping the problem will always be there.  You can repaint the coping as many times as you want using a thousand different paints but I assure you that the paint will inevitably wear off.

So if this happens you will want to know who is at fault.  You might think that the manufacturer of the coping is using the wrong type of paint and you might try to contact them to make the repair.  This is not the case.  If the coping on the pool is a painted aluminum coping then you have the wrong type of coping on the pool to accommodate a top track auto cover.  That type of coping is not made to have something constantly dragging across it.  Think of it this way.  If you take your brand new car to an automated carwash only to find that the bristles or something have cause scratches on the roof of the car, you wouldn’t go home and contact the manufacturer of the car and tell them that they didn’t put the paint on well enough.  It’s the same type of situation.  So now you might think that you need to contact the auto cover manufacturer and let them know that their cover is damaging the coping.  That is a good idea, unfortunately they are going to ask what type of coping is on the pool.  When they find out that it is a painted aluminum they are going to tell you that they never recommend using that type of coping.  They might also tell you that they manufacture a type of coping specifically for a top track cover so that this does not happen.  At this point you are probably getting irritated so you call the builder.  Ah yes the builder, the one who went against the cover manufacturers recommendations and put that type of painted aluminum coping on the pool with a top track auto cover.  Now you finally have the one responsible.  Now you have to think back to when you met with the builder way back when you first started planning your pool.  Did you decide on that type of coping?  Did the builder inform you of the problem associated with that type of coping and a top track cover?  Did they themselves recommend that coping?  How are they going to fix it?  How much will the repair cost?  Who will pay for it?

The solution:

These are all very good questions, but regardless of the answers you still have this coping that has paint issues.  I know that this is a stressful situation and I am sure that you will want it taken care of as soon as possible.  So of course you will want the coping repainted.  That will look good for a little while but eventually its going to need more paint, and then more paint.  Are they going to repaint it every couple weeks?  Not likely.  You will need to have something in place to keep the cover from rubbing on the coping.  Unfortunately most auto cover manufacturers do not make any type of wear strip.  You might be told to try using a blower under the cover.  This might work a little but I fear that from time to time you would get some rubbing on the coping.  Another option is to bust up the concrete remove the coping and replace it with the proper type, however this would be expensive.  You really need some type of barrier between the coping and the cover.  My recommendation is to have the builder get in touch with their pool manufacturer.  There are plastic strips that pool manufacturers use on their fiberglass steps that secure the liner around the step.  This plastic is available in a few different colors and could be used as a wear strip.  It is thick enough to protect the coping from the cover and it comes with a beauty piece that would be installed to hide the screws.  All you would see is the plastic strip itself and no screws.  The other benefit of this material is that it is manufactured for use in swimming pools so it would not look out of place acting as a wear strip.  Once you have that in place on the top of the coping you could touch up whatever areas need it and you will find that the cover would no longer rub on the coping wearing the paint down.  This is an unfortunate occurrence and sadly is not uncommon.

Think Ahead:

I am posting this simply to help you the homeowner from having to deal with the stress of having this issue on a brand new pool.  If you are thinking about getting a swimming pool with an automatic pool cover, be sure to talk to your builder about this type of situation.  Be aware of what is going on with your pool during the build process and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  After all this is your pool, your property, and your hard earned dollars going into it.  If you see something that looks questionable say something about it.  At the very least you will understand what is going on, and it could be something that the builder has over looked and potentially save you from a huge headache later and a lot of money to repair.  If you catch it during the build process it is likely that is can be changed or fixed with no additional cost.

I have many other blog posts related to a lot of different swimming pool issues and concerns.  Please take the time to check them out.  There is a lot of good information and you have the ability to ask me anything pertaining to them.  Please feel free to ask questions, make comments, or give me your thought on various topics.