Category Archives: Pool and Spa Maintenance

Tips For Taking Care of Vinyl Pool Liners

How to Care for your Vinyl Pool Liners

Homeowners with backyard swimming pools depend on vinyl pool liners to keep their pools looking beautiful season after season. Nearly 70 percent of the residential pools in the United States rely on durable and easy-to-clean, solid & printed flexible vinyl to protect the interior pool surface from the environmental elements and man made conditions.

The vinyl liner’s surface is exposed to numerous hazards, from sunlight and temperature fluctuation to chemicals and careless cleaning. The most common causes of damage to vinyl pool liners are premature pattern wear due to abrasive cleaning tools and bleaching due to improper chemical balance. These two factors, exclusively or in combination, can attack the vinyl liner and cause premature aging.

If you’re one of the 5 million North American homeowners who have a pool with a vinyl liner, follow these simple tips to lengthen its years of service:

Chemical Maintenance

  • Prior to installation, read and follow the chemical manufacturers’ directions. Many liner problems are a result of misuse of chemicals.
  • When adding chemicals, add one chemical at a time.
  • Add each dissolved chemical through the skimmer for best dispersion into the pool (through the filtration system).
  • Maintain proper water balance: pH in the range of 7.2 to 7.6; total alkalinity at 80 ppm to 100 ppm; and calcium hardness at 200 ppm to 300 ppm.
  • Keep free chlorine, the most common active ingredient that sanitizes the pool, at 1.5 ppm to 2.5 ppm. If the concentration drifts below 1.5 ppm, algae and bacterial growth can take hold more easily and may cause staining of the vinyl liner. If the active chlorine concentration is maintained greater than 2.5 ppm, liner wrinkling may occur. This problem can be further aggravated if accompanied by pH levels that fall below 7.0.

Seasonal Care

  • Avoid the use of any abrasive cleaning agents or cleaning aids.
  • Vacuum and clean the pool with a cleaner designed for vinyl lined pools.
  • Never use sharp objects in or around the pool, as they can puncture the liner.
  • After the chemicals have dissipated, cover your pool when it’s not in use. This will decrease its exposure to damaging ultraviolet rays.  Less chemicals are required if your pool is covered and/or not used.  To avoid high concentrations of airborne chemicals building up between the water and the cover, open or vent the cover every 24 hours.
  • Do not drain the pool completely for any reason without consulting a pool professional. The older the liner, the higher the risk that it will shrink and not stretch back into its original shape.
  • Never close a pool without circulating the pool water for several hours after the addition of chemicals.

Opening Your Above Ground Pool

Opening your Above Ground Pools

Above Ground Swimming Pool

Easy Guidelines  for Opening your Above Ground Pool – Spring Start-Up

Think about opening your Above Ground Pool even before summer arrives, plan ahead and start thinking about the process of opening your above ground swimming pool.  Check your inventory of chemicals and the state of your pool equipment.  Winter or spring are the perfect time to replenish your supplies and upgrade or replace worn or damaged pool equipment.  When the time officially arrives to open your pool, you’ll be ready with everything you need.Make the opening of your swimming pool even easier by following the steps below.  You’ll be swimming in no time.

1. First, remove any leaves or debris that have settled on the winter pool cover.  Also, remove any standing water from the cover using a cover pump.  Then, remove the cover itself.

Note: If your winter cover has a hole in it and you use your cover pump to remove standing water, you may actually end up pumping water out of the pool.  This can lead to a drained pool, so be sure to watch for this.

2. After removing the winter cover, take time to clean it, let it air dry, and then store it away for the rest of the season.  The time and effort you spend caring properly for your winter cover will ensure that it stays in top shape for many seasons.

3. Re-insert drain plugs you may have removed from your pump and filter hoses, and re-attach your hoses. Then, add water to your pool until it reaches normal levels.

4. Remove freeze plugs, skimmer guards, or air pillows.

5. Plug in your pump, and make sure that the valve is turned to the backwash position (for sand filters).  Doing so will ensure that any old water left in your filter will not go into your pool.

6. Check for leaks.

7. Assess the cleanliness of the pool itself. If you used a solid winter cover and secured it well, the water will be as clear as it was when you closed the pool last year.  If not, now is the time to remove large debris from the pool with your leaf net, leaf rake, or leaf eater.

8. Vacuum any dirt, sand, algae, or other small debris that cannot be cleared out with a leaf rake or net.

9.  After cleaning the pool, check the water chemistry:

  • Allow the water to circulate at least 8-12 hours so that the water that was added has time to mix with the water that was already in the pool.
  • After that time, test the water thoroughly, then add the necessary chemicals in the proper sequence to balance the water chemistry. We suggest taking a water sample to your local pool professional to have it tested for pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, etc. Be sure to follow the procedure they describe to avoid damaging your pool.

10.  Install the ladder and any other deck equipment.

11.  Go swimming!

Leaky Swimming Pool? Tips for What to Do

Tips for Leaky Swimming Pools

Above Ground Swimming Pool

Leaky Swimming Pool?  Tips for What to Do

Detecting and Fixing a Leaky Swimming Pool

Have you noticed a larger than average drop in your in ground or above ground swimming pool‘s water level?  If so, your pool just might have a leak.   Determining whether that is truly the case, though, and then locating the source of the leak, can present a challenge.

If your swimming pool uses an automatic fill system that keeps the water at a constant level, you may suspect a leak if you spot any of the following situations:

  • An out-of-the-ordinary increase in your water bill
  • Cracks in the pool deck as a result of settling earth
  • Existance of water puddles outside the pool that cannot be easily explained
  • An increase in your pool chemical usage

First, turn off your pool’s automatic fill system for at least 24 hours and keep track of the water level.  If the level drops significantly within that time, your suspicions may be right, and you may have a leak in your pool.

Another sign that your pool may be leaking is if there is air in your pump that is being blown into the pool. A leak in the suction side plumbing (from skimmers and main drains to equipment), may pull air into the lines where it will show up in the pump or be blown back into the pool through the returns. This condition can also be caused by an obstruction or blockage in the suction lines. Either situation requires immediate professional attention to prevent mechanical damage to your pool equipment.

Considering Evaporation — The Bucket Test

What about evaporation?  Before investigating your potential leak further, consider the possibility that evaporation may be the cause of your drop in water level.  A pool that is not regularly covered with a pool cover loses water over time through evaporation, but the amount of evaporation depends on environmental factors and local climate.  How much water evaporates from a pool can differ greatly from season to season, and from pool to pool.  To test whether your pool’s decreased water level is a result of evaporation, perform a “bucket test.”

Fill your pool to its normal operating level.  Place a bucket filled with water on the first or second step of your swimming pool, but do not completely submerge the bucket.  The water in the bucket should be at the same level as the water in the pool. This ensures that the bucket water is exposed to the same environmental conditions as the pool water.  Mark the water level inside the bucket as well as on the side of your pool.  After 24 hours, measure the amount of water lost from the bucket and from the pool using a ruler or tape measure.  If the bucket and the pool have lost the same amount of water, the cause is most likely evaporation and not a leak.  If, however, the pool shows a greater amount of water loss than the bucket, you are probably dealing with a leak.

Looking for Leaks

Before calling a pool leak detection professional, you can follow a few easy steps to determine if you have a pool leak and narrow the possibilities for where it is located.  Here are some of the more common areas where leaks can occur:

  • In and around the pool equipment (heater, filter, pump, etc.)
  • At fittings (lights, returns, skimmers, etc.)
  • In the liner or shell of the swimming pool
  • In the pool’s underground plumbing system

Any leaks in the underground plumbing will require professional attention, but you may be able to find obvious leaks in other parts of the pool using simple visual inspection techniques.

Check for drips or other signs of moisture around the pool equipment.  Also check to make sure that your multi-port valve is not positioned to allow water loss.

Underwater leaks in the pool fittings or shell can be identified with a dye test. You can make your own dye tester by using dark food coloring and a turkey baster or a plastic syringe. If using a turkey baster, slowly depress the bulb to allow a slow, steady stream of the dye to be injected into the pool.  Place a small amount of dye near the suspected leak. Liquid follows the path of least resistance, so dye will be drawn out of the pool where a leak is present. Test areas where potential leaks may occur, such as cracks in the plaster or tile, and places where skimmers, return fittings, or stairs join to the pool shell. Much of this testing can be done from the pool deck; however, you will eventually have to get into the pool with a dive mask to completely inspect the pool’s structure.

Don’t feel discouraged if you are not able to find the leak; most leaks are not visibly obvious, or they may be in parts of the pool that are not accessible, such as in the underground plumbing system. A qualified pool leak professional uses specialized equipment to find leaks.  This process can take as little as an hour or two, but more complicated jobs may take longer.

The Professional Approach

A pool leak professional will want to know as much about your pool leak as possible.  When did you first notice the potential leak?  How much water is being lost?  Provide the professional with your results from the bucket test, and describe any measures you have taken on your own to determine the location of the leak.

Most jobs will then involve a pressure test of your plumbing lines to confirm whether the leak is in the plumbing or the shell of the pool. Based on the results of the pressure test, the pool professional may use a variety of sophisticated electronic devices and diving equipment to pinpoint the pool leak.

Once the location of the pool leak is determined, the professional will provide you with several repair options that they will perform themselves or refer to someone else.

The longer a pool leak goes unnoticed or ignored, the more complicated and expensive the fix will likely be.  Because of this, pool owners should make a point to routinely check their swimming pools and equipment for any signs of leaking.  Preventive measures always pay off in the end.

Automatic Pool Cleaners for Small Pools and Spas

Catfish Automatic Pool Cleaner

Automatic Pool Cleaners for Small Pools and Spas

The Best Choices for Small Pools, Inflatable Pools, and Spas

One of the frequent and necessary tasks that comes with owning a pool is cleaning it.  But, if you own a small pool, an inflatable pool, or a spa, standard-size automatic pool cleaners will prove to be too big and bulky for the job.  Smaller areas require smaller pool cleaners.  To most efficiently meet your dirt and debris cleaning needs, the best choice would be cordless, hoseless, automatic pool cleaners that work independently of your pool’s pump and filter system.

Larger automatic pool cleaners are most often powered by electricity from the home, or by the suction created from a pool’s pump and filter system.  Either way, pool owners are required to manage a fairly cumbersome machine and many feet of cords or hoses.  More substantial devices as well as long cords and hoses are useful when the area to be cleaned is significant, but not when it comes to cleaning smaller pools and spas.  Many of the automatic cleaners designed for smaller spaces are lightweight, easy to maneuver, free of cords and hoses, and powered by standard batteries.  Some cleaners come equipped with rechargeable batteries, which would be the more environmentally friendly option, and some even operate by using no batteries at all, but rather by drawing debris up into a capture chamber through a siphoning process.

Useful features to look for in automatic pool cleaners designed for smaller spaces include reusable filter bags for collecting debris and a telescoping pole for easy cleaning of deeper areas in the spa or pool, or the ability to attach your existing telescoping pole.  Additionally, look for the length of time that the cleaners can operate before new batteries are required — some hold a charge for as little as 30 minutes, while others can clean for up to 3 hours or longer on a single charge or set of batteries.  Length of operation time may not be a significant factor if the pool cleaner will be used in a spa or as a spot cleaner in a larger pool.  If the cleaner will be used to entirely clean a small to medium-size pool, though, length of operation time will be an important consideration.

An additional feature to consider when deciding among automatic pool cleaners for small spaces is the size and shape of the cleaning head.  What is the size and shape of your pool or spa?  Are there tight corners or small nooks into which you would want a pool cleaner to fit?  Will you be using your pool cleaner for spot cleaning only, or will it also be used to clean an entire pool?  Some cleaners are designed with a narrow head, and these are perfect for cleaning spas and for spot cleaning any size swimming pool.  Other cleaners for small spaces have a wider head, but often come with a crevice or corner attachment to reach tighter spaces.  These work well as spot cleaners in any size pool, but they can also more effectively clean small to medium-size pools as a whole.

In short, when it comes to small pools, inflatable pools, or spas, choosing the right automatic pool cleaner depends largely on your own needs: how do you prefer your pool cleaner to be powered; how long do you need a single battery charge to last; and what features will help you most effectively clean your specific pool or spa?  No matter what size your pool or spa, cleaning it is a must, and using the most appropriate pool cleaner for the job will save you time and effort.

Spa Covers and Hot Tub Covers

Spa & Hot Tub Covers

Spa Covers Hot Tub Covers

Spa and Hot Tub Covers are an Essential Element for Maintenance and Safety

With the colder weather upon us folks are starting to fire the hot tubs and spas up. Not too many things feel as good as soaking in a hot tub sipping your favorite beverage with friends, family or that special someone in freezing weather or while it is snowing outside. Unwinding in a spa or hot tub after a tiring day is one of life’s ultimate luxuries.  What do you do, though, when you’re done with your toasty soak?  Do you keep your hot tub covered?  If not, here’s why you should:

  • Spa covers and hot tub covers prevent evaporation, saving you money on water and chemicals.  Maintaining the chemical balance of your spa’s water is easier and less time consuming when a spa cover is used on a regular basis.
  • Spa covers also insulate the water and prevent much of the heat from escaping.  Keeping the hot tub’s water warm when not in use makes heating the water faster the next time you want to take a soak.  Not only do you save energy, but your spa heater lasts longer because you use it less often and for shorter amounts of time.
  • Spa covers keep debris and dirt out of your hot tub.  Cleaning your hot tub takes less time and effort when there is less to clean up.

One specific type of spa cover that is recommended for homes with children and pets is called a walk on spa cover.  Standard spa covers, while they appear to be perfectly sturdy, may not be able to support the weight of a child if he or she decides to use the top of the hot tub as a play area.  Children and pets can be injured or may drown if a spa cover collapses into the water below.  Walk on spa covers, on the other hand, can support the weight of a child as well as the child’s entire family.  They come equipped with a locking mechanism, too, so the cover cannot be lifted or moved from the hot tub.

Even if you don’t have children or pets, walk on spa covers are a good option if you live in a snowy climate.  Accumulated snow can be quite heavy, especially if it is wet snow, as opposed to dry, powdery snow.  If that heavy snow is not cleared off of standard spa covers very frequently, those covers can become damaged.  Walk on spa covers can easily handle the weight of many feet of accumulated, heavy snow.

Whether you opt to purchase a standard spa cover or a walk on spa cover depends on your situation, but covering your spa or hot tub whenever it is not in use is an important step in properly maintaining it.