Pool Services (Maintenance Tips)

Swimming pools are among the most popular features of a home. In fact, many homeowners specifically look for them when making a home buying decision.

Even if your home does not have a pool when you first move in, you may want to add one at a later stage. Adding a swimming pool will make a huge difference to the value of your property. It is estimated that a swimming pool can increase the value of your home by up to 15%.

Constructing or installing a pool may seem overwhelming with so many options and decisions. Here are some points to consider, helping you make the best choice for you and your family.

Types of Swimming Pools

There are two types of swimming pools: those that are built above the ground and those that are built in the ground, with the latter being the most popular.

Above-Ground Pools

Because these pools are installed rather than built they are more economical than in-ground pools. The most basic above-ground pools, requiring no filtration equipment will cost as little as a few hundred Rand to R2 000. Larger, more elaborate above-ground pools with filtration equipment will cost anything between R10 000 to R20 000, excluding extras like decking, landscaping and accessories.

In-Ground Pools

Design and construction costs generally make in-ground pools more expensive to build. In-ground pools with minimal paving start at around R25 000. More elaborate designs will cost anything between R40 000 to R100 000. The choice of pool design, building materials, patio materials, landscaping, lighting and extra features such as fountains are all cost factors to consider when constructing a pool.

Property Considerations

Besides determining the best fit for your property's dimensions consider the slope of your ground, soil type and accessibility for construction equipment. Pools are easier to build or install when the ground is level, however, new technology makes it possible to install a pool in virtually any circumstances. Severe conditions such as steeply sloping ground, excessively rocky soil and limited access require special construction and installation considerations and typically add to the overall cost and duration of the project.

Construction Times

Anticipate a little dirt and dust during construction of an in-ground pool. Your pool contractor can estimate a project completion date but remember Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate. An in-ground pool takes anywhere from three to twelve weeks depending on the complexity of the project.

Above-ground pools can be installed in a matter of hours or a few days.

Pool Size

Pool size is primarily a personal choice. Some homeowners prefer to eliminate grass entirely while others want to incorporate a garden into their pool surroundings.

Types of swimming pools

Swimming pools come in a variety of materials, some requiring more maintenance than others. The largest maintenance expense is a pool's interior finish. Vinyl lined pools last approximately 5-7 years, painted concrete needs a new coat approximately every five years while a plaster finish may last 10-15 years.

Gunite

These swimming pools have been available for many years and remain a popular choice. Once the hole has been dug and steel reinforcing placed in position, the entire inside surface is sprayed, at high pressure, with a cement/sand mixture. Once the gunite has cured (after about 5 days) the shell is finished with marble plaster (marbelite) which is available in a number of colour and which is also watertight.

Estimated Instalment Time: 2 weeks Maintenance Ease: High

Handpacked Concrete

Concrete swimming pools are constructed by packing concrete onto the steel reinforcing. A mixture of cement, washed river sand and stone is used. These swimming pools are usually finished with marble plaster and are extremely strong.

Estimated Instalment Time: 4 6 weeks Maintenance Ease: High

Fibreglass

The main advantages of a factory-made fibreglass swimming pool (moulded in one seamless piece) are speed and convenience. The shell is delivered to the site in one piece, is quickly and simply installed and because of its ultra-smooth surface, is easy to clean. These shells traditionally come in blue but today one is able to order them in black or white too.

Estimated Instalment Time: 1 2 weeks Maintenance Ease: Low

Vinyl-lined

Comparatively inexpensive, vinyl-lined swimming pools have come a long way since the introduction of the above-ground PVC swimming pools. Computerised equipment is able to produce a tough, long-lasting vinyl lining that will fit any shape. The basic pool structure is either built with bricks and blocks or it may be constructed with modular galvanized steel panels, or with revolutionary glass-fibre reinforced cement panels.

Estimated Instalment Time: 2 3 weeks Maintenance Ease: Medium

Styles of swimming pools

Before installing a swimming pool it is important to establish the main objective for having a pool. Do you just want to cool off on a hot summer's day or will you be using your swimming pool to swim laps every morning?

Play Pool: A play pool is typically no deeper than 1.5 meters. Play pools are generally built for cooling off and relaxing in.

Freeform Pool: A freeform pool is a lagoon style or natural looking pool. It usually has a rock feature and is built to mimic an oasis.

Geometric Pool: Geometric pools usually have straight lines or a consistent radius and are typically more traditional looking. A geometric pool can be more formal and upscale looking.

Lap Pool: Lap pools are typically narrow and long to facilitate exercise and swimming for health and fitness.

Infinity Edge Pool: Infinity edge pools are designed to look like the pool extends all the way out to the horizon.

Perimeter Overflow Pool: This would be a pool where the water level in the pool is the same as the top of the decking around the pool. Around the pool perimeter is a channel that the water drains into creating a visual masterpiece.

Spool: The word spool is a combination of spa and pool. Spools are typically just oversized spas.

Beach Style Pools: These are currently a hot trend. Installing one of these is undoubtedly the closest thing to having that holiday feeling right in your own back yard. Enjoy your own piece of paradise complete with your own beach, sand dunes and palm trees.

Salt chlorinated pools

An alternative to the traditional chlorine or chlorinated pool is available. Salt-chlorinated pools that use salt instead of chlorine have become a popular choice for homeowners when installing a new pool.

It is however important to know that salt chlorinated pools are not chlorine-free pools. A salt chlorinated pool is simply one that uses a chlorine generator that produces chlorine so you do no have to buy it, store it or handle it. This system uses salt and electricity to react with the pool water to create chlorine.

If you already have a chlorinated pool and would like to convert it to a salt chlorinated pool the installation process is quite a simple one. The salt chlorinator system consists of three major items. They are the power supply controller, the chlorinator cell and the transformer. These items can either be bought in a DIY kit with easy to understand instructions or if you prefer, can be fitted by most pool contractors.

In a salt chlorinated pool the water feels much softer on your skin. A salt chlorinated pool is less expensive to maintain and is healthier and better for the environment. Pool maintenance is also easier, so you're able to keep your swimming pool looking great with much less hassle.

Turning up the heat

The ideal heating system for a pool is solar heating. Environmentally safe, naturally clean and non-polluting, solar heating uses the free energy of the sun which means it is extremely low maintenance.

Solar panels are usually installed on the roof of your home, but ground level installations are an option if space is available. The existing pool pump is used for circulation of the water through the solar panels.

TIP: Solar panels should face north or be mounted on a flat roof to ensure maximum efficiency.

Heat pumps can also be used for heating purposes. A heat pump is an energy efficient machine that removes heat from the ambient air and transfers it to the pool water at a high temperature. This method is popular for homes that have insufficient roof space for solar panels or merely for aesthetic reasons.

Heated pools consume huge amounts of energy and lose it in a variety of ways. The biggest heat loss comes from evaporation. The most popular heat retention method is to use a pool cover. These covers are placed on the water surface to trap heat and warm the pool water. Covers range from the standard bubble or solar pool covers to more expensive vinyl covers.

Maintaining your pool

Before jumping right into the pool of your dreams, equip yourself for the amount of work owning and maintaining it may entail. Here's what you need to know about standard pool equipment, water analysis and chemicals, cleaning, and seasonal maintenance chores.

Pump and Motor

The motor drives the pump which circulates the water from the pool through the filtration system and back to the pool. The more your pool's water is circulated, the harder it is for bacteria and algae to take hold and grow. It is best to circulate the water in your pool during the day for about 6 8 hours.

Filter

The filter is one of the most important pieces of equipment. Its function is to physically remove both visible debris and microscopic matter. A filter should be backwashed as least once a week and cleaned out regularly to ensure that it is working to its full capacity.

To provide a clean and safe swimming environment, pool water must be sanitised and balanced regularly.

Sanitizers

The most common way of protecting a pool from bacteria is chlorine. Chlorine and bromine are the most common chemicals used to keep your pool free from microscopic particles. Chlorine is found in a granular, tablet or liquid format or is generated by a salt chlorinator.

Balance

Balanced water means the pool water's pH level, total alkalinity, water hardness and total dissolved solids fall within certain ranges. Imbalanced water causes eye irritation, cloudy water, and can spell trouble for your pool's operation equipment and your interior finish. Sodium bicarbonate (soda ash) and muratic acid are the two most common products used to balance pool water. The testing frequency depends on your region, weather conditions, and how much the pool gets used, although a good rule of thumb is four to five times per week. Don't worry if chemistry was not your best subject in high school. Simple to use and read, test kits make it easy to test your pool water.

TIP: The ideal pH of your pool should be between 7.4 to 7.6. Total alkalinity should be between 125 150ppm and calcium hardness should range between 175 225ppm.

Keeping the pool water free of debris helps to maintain its cleanliness and provides a more attractive swimming environment.

Skimmer Baskets

As water is drawn to the filtration system it first passes through skimmer baskets, located at the perimeter of the pool, to catch large debris such as leaves and twigs.

Vacuuming

An automated vacuum removes debris from the pool floor and walls.

Brushing

It is sometimes necessary to brush the pool walls in order to remove debris that the automated vacuum cannot reach.

Backwashing

This reverses the pool's circulation system, forcing water backwards and completely out of the system while carrying small particles with it.

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Automated pool maintenance

A practice that is becoming more popular is an automated pool maintenance system. Several companies are testing computer controlled pools that operate much like smart houses. This means that a computer is used to manage lights, heaters, equipment and chemicals for easy pool maintenance.

These smart systems are specially designed system to automate pool maintenance. This includes automated pool chemical measurements as well as water level measurements with carefully designed electronic circuitry that ensures hassle free pool care.

Safety around the pool

Safety is a number one concern for pool owners. Proper enclosures and supervision are a must at all times to ensure the safety of children, pets and wildlife that may wander near the pool. Many specialty safety products are available on the market, including water alarms, safety covers and personal safety accessories like life jackets and pool floats. It is important to also make sure that you know what your city requires with regards to pool fencing requirements. Here are some tips:

Non Slip Materials

Ensure that the area around your pool is built from non-slip material (paving is ideal) and that there is safe access both into and out of the water via steps or a ladder.

Fencing

Your wall or fence around your pool should be at least 1.2m high and constructed in a way that small children cannot climb through or over it. The gate should be a self-closing one.

Safety Covers

Safety covers are tight-fitting covers that are pulled taut around the pool's perimeter and held in place with hooks or stakes located around the pool. These covers withstand huge weights and allow rain water to drain while keeping debris out.

Spice up your pool

Spice up your pool with everything from poolside landscaping to accessories that can make your pool more inviting to be around.

Pool Furniture

New materials have made outdoor furniture nearly impervious to the elements. Wrought iron, all-weather rattan, and vinyl come in just about every design imaginable. Worried about wet swimming suits and rain ruining seat cushions? Don't. Weather-resistant fabrics make cushions suitable for outdoor conditions.

Pool Toys

Goggles, floats, noodles, water polo, water basketball, volleyball games, throw toys, beach balls, blow-up lilos...the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of fun products for your pool.

Fountains

Floating and permanent built-in fountains are popular options in pool designs. Both add interest to the pool just like they dress up a flower bed or other garden features.

Waterfalls

Cascading water into a pool is just one way homeowners are using their pools to create beautiful landscape environments; the sound of running water is always relaxing. A waterfall can be as simple as a small spillway into the pool or as elaborate as a proper waterfall complete with rocks and lush vegetation.

Landscaping

Pools aren't just pools anymore. They are part of your outside room. Because many people look at their backyard as an extension of their home, they put similar efforts into designing their outdoor spaces.

Ideally, the pool, landscaping, and house should appear as if they were all designed at the same time. Repeating materials and motifs from your home into the pool area and surrounding landscape will help tie everything together and compliment the look of your home. For example, if your home has a stone exterior, using boulders as landscape and pool accents will make the areas blend together.

Once you have a landscaping plan, start executing it slowly and in stages. Start with living and gardening areas between the house and pool. Establish paths that direct traffic flow in a natural way, and create comfortable seating areas and backdrops.

An arrangement of pots or hanging baskets in an array of heights, shapes and sizes beside a pool or on your poolside patio always looks pleasing. Brick built flower boxes are also a popular choice around the swimming pool and look stunning when filled with brightly coloured pansies in winter or beautiful palm trees for a tropical look.

TIP: Avoid planting trees with extensive root systems near your pool. They will wreak havoc with the pool shell or decking. Don't plant trees with leaves so tiny that they escape skimmers, or plants with slippery fruit or small litter; pine needles and bottlebrush stamens, for example, can clog filters.