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Guide to Pool Opening

It's that time of year again, the birds are chirping the sun is shining and the snow and frost are behind us. When this happens, professionals in both the commercial and residential aquatic world think of one thing...let’s open the pool!

 

With the warm April weather, the opening season is underway and in full swing. Are you ready to open your facility's outdoor swimming pool? Many of us made lists last winter with the best of intentions, but as with most things in life, those lists still stare us in the face. So here we are. It's time to finally tackle that list and get your pool open for the summer season!

 

One of the best strategies is to prepare an opening checklist to ensure your hard work doesn't come to a hault when you find you are missing pieces or in need of parts. Check out our sample checklist below.

  • Take inventory of all the operational parts like jets, return fitting, weirs etc. (in the pool industry we refer to these as “white goods”).
  • Ensure your flow meters, pressure and vacuum gauges, and o-rings are ready for opening day.
  • If during inventory, you find missing or find broken pieces, have them replaced and ready for installation.
  • Once your inventory is complete, ensure all of the necessary replacement pieces are ordered and ready to go on opening day!

"Did I winterize my outdoor swimming pool properly?" is the biggest worry every pool owner or operator has in the spring. Mother nature can be cruel, unpredictable and a powerful force over the winter, but most of the time it is out of our hands. Performing a walk around and checking the deck and pool area for visible damage and/or vandalism is the first step. Once your visual is done you can start your true opening procedures.

 

"Don't forget to order and check stock of all your chemicals for start-up and season opening."

 

Once your inventory check is complete, you've done a thorough walk around and you've ensured your chlorine delivery is ready to go, it's time to start opening your pool. If you're working on a commercial outdoor pool, drain out any of that dirty winter water with a submersible pump and use a power wash to clean up the walls and floor.

 

Remove any winterizing plugs in the main drains, returns and jets. Ensure that the hydrostats in the main drains are clean and working properly.

 

Reinstall drain covers and perform an inspection to ensure there is no broken, worn or dated pieces. If you find any areas of concern, consult your pool professional for immediate replacement.

 

Once everything is clean and shiny in the pool area, move onto the mechanical room. Ensure all the equipment is back together, and all of the o-rings on the pump and strainer lids are lubricated and ready to start.

 

Now that the pool is full and glistening in the sun and ready for start-up, run through all of your valves and ensure they are in proper operating positioning.

 

"Always start up the system on backwash. This will ensure that all of the left over sitting debris from the winter goes out to waste and not back into your beautiful swimming pool. Once a complete backwash is finished, start up on filter mode."

 

Your next task is getting the balancing done and ensuring your stabilizer levels are ready to help battle the hot summer sun and keep your operation costs down.

 

"Stabilizer is sunscreen for chlorine."

 

Now that the pool is operating and the water features are flowing, you can sit back, close your eyes and visualize the upcoming summer season.

 

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Meeting & Surpassing Code Requirements

The Ontario and other provincial Building Codes have minimum standards that have been established to ensure that new public pools are constructed to be safe and functional. Following construction, Health Departments are responsible for monitoring and regulating the operation of the pool. The entire content of the code is important, but some items really stand out. For example, strict adherence to the velocity of water moving through suction fittings like the main drains is really important. The velocity of water through main drains is dictated as not to exceed 1.5 fps (feet per second). This low velocity helps decrease the possibility that people might become entrapped or entangled by the main drain fitting.

 

Another really important factor is the turnover rate of the pool. For Class ‘A’ pools (a pool to which the general public is admitted), the entire volume of the pool has to be filtered and chemically treated every four hours. This ‘turnover rate’ provides some assurance that the pool water will be clean and safe for bathers to use. The Building and Health Codes are very important and have elements that work to ensure pools work really well and up to standards, most of the time. As with most rules, there are some exceptions that should be considered. An important question to consider is: When is it a good idea to do more than what the code calls for?

 

CLASS A & CLASS B POOLS

In Ontario for example, a Class ‘B’ pool (a pool operated on the premises of an apartment building with five or more units, a pool operated as a facility to serve a community of more than five single-family private residences, a pool operated on the premises of a hotel, a pool operated on the premises of a campground, a pool operated in conjunction with, a club or a condominium, a pool operated in conjunction with a day nursery, a day camp or an establishment for the care or treatment of persons who are ill, infirm or aged) is required to be designed in such a way that the circulation system exchanges the entire volume of the pools water once every six hours, or four times per day. Most of the time, this is totally acceptable, but there are times when it is not sufficient. At some resorts for example, the pools are shallow and the volume of water is small. This coupled with a very high usage, warmer water and bathers who may not shower as well as they should (especially children) can create a condition that makes the water quality very difficult to manage. We often oversize the circulation systems with larger than required pumps and filters in this instance and add secondary sanitation systems like UV to help ensure superior water quality.

 

The same is true of a Class ‘A’ pool. These pools are required to be designed to exchange the water in the pools every four hours or six times per day which seems like a lot, but again there are some exceptions. If the pool is a therapeutic pool with a higher percentage of elderly users, or users with either a physical or mental disability, there may be a higher risk of contamination by fouling, making it prudent to exchange the water more often and install UV systems. For pools like this we often design the mechanical system to exchange the water every two hours, or 12 times per day, or more.

 

FILTRATION RATE

Another important consideration is the filtration rate of the pool filter system. In all cases this is calculated by dividing the total flow of the circulation pump by the total surface area of the pool and is expressed as GPM/FT2 of filter area. For sand filters, most manufacturers call for a filtration rate of no more than 15 GPM/ FT2. For a pool that has a flow rate of 450 GPM, the total sand area should be no less than 450 GPM/ 15 GPM/FT2 = 30 FT2. This square footage can be achieved by either using one or two larger horizontal or vertical filters, or a ‘battery’ of smaller filters. Is a filtration rate of 15 GPM/ ft2 always enough? For a lesser-used pool with a lower-risk user, and a low bather load, the answer is probably yes, but in instances where there is a high bather load, it may make sense to lower the velocity of water through the filter to improve filtration even more. Sometimes it makes sense to oversize the filter so that the filtration rate is more like 12 GPM/ft2. The same thing can be done with other filter media like cartridge filters or DE (diatomaceous earth) filters. 

 

UV SANITATION SYSTEMS

UV is a secondary sanitizer that effectively renders most bacteria unproductive (and therefore safe) as water passes through the device. UV units are not required by code for pools (UV is required for splash pads) or spas, but may be a really good idea to install anyway. Some bacteria are resistant to chlorine or bromine and can become the source of an infectious condition that can make swimmers sick. This can result in a severe and widespread illness outbreak that could have long term effects or even cause the death of a vulnerable individual. There could also be legal implications for the owner/operator of the pool. Even though the codes do not require it, putting UV systems on a high bather load or high risk pool is a smart and proactive change to make.

 

Finally, the codes are an effective way to improve the overall safety of pools across the community. As with all rules and regulations, not every scenario can be addressed. It is best to look at the particular conditions surrounding your pool and design it appropriately. Since there is no specific  ‘rule book’ to help you decide when code requirements should be exceeded, it is best to consult an aquatic consultant or pool builder who has a long record of experience with a variety of public and private pools. These experienced companies will help you design, build or upgrade a pool that is safe and fun for your clientele.

 

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Dive Stand Manitenance

Dive Stands are a great addition to any facility, but of course have inherent dangers and cost a lot of money to replace. Let’s talk about how you can make your dive stand and spring board as safe as possible, and how to protect your investment!

 

DON'T SLIP UP

The lifeguard staff should check the surface of the springboard to be sufficiently “non-skid” at the beginning of every shift. This should be done with the board wet, to simulate what it is like when in use. If the board is found to be slippery, it should be taken out of service until the issue is resolved. Nobody want to see anyone hurt or to suffer any legal consequences. The owners, supervisors and lifeguard staff could all potentially share a liability if the board were subsequently shown to be unfit for use.

 

What is in the Making of a Slip?

There are a few reasons that boards can become slippery:

  • Dirt and body oil from swimmers and sunbathers can collect on the surface of the board, making it slippery just because of the nature of the material (oils) or by filling in the ‘voids’ of the textured surface so that it effectively becomes smoother and therefore more slippery.
  • Excessive alkalinity or minerals in the water can cause scaling that again renders the textured board smoother, or damages the textured surface.
  • Wearing, releasing or damage of the textured surface.

How do I Prevent the Board from Becoming Slippery?

  • Hose the board down with fresh water (not pool water) every day. This will help keep the textured surface free of contamination. Never use a high pressure washer for this; you will shorten the life of the texture by blasting away the aggregate.
  • Once a month, give the board a good scrubbing wash with a detergent and hot water. This will remove oils and keep the texture in good shape. Always use a soft bristle brush - never stiff.
  • If there is a hardness buildup, a muriatic acid solution can be used to dissolve the minerals. Remember to exercise all appropriate safety procedures when using muriatic acid!

The Textured Surface is Gone…Now What?

Take the board out of service. It just isn’t worth the risk of continuing to use it. Most commercial manufacturers offer refinishing of commercial boards. Contact your commercial aquatics provider, and they will help arrange shipping and refinishing of your board so it is like new, and back in tr-action!

 

The manufacturers use a special epoxy to bond the slip resistant material to the board, and the material itself is designed to reduce surface tension so that water doesn’t stand tall on the board. Don’t try to resurface the board yourself. It won’t be as good as the factory does it, and you accept the liability if there is an accident after you put it back into service.

 

OK…What Else for the Board?

The rubber channels on the underside of the board must be inspected monthly for signs of wear. If they are getting close to being worn out, they should be replaced BEFORE the metal ridges on the underside of the board come into contact with the fulcrum. If left unchecked, the fulcrum AND the board will be damaged!

 

That’s Great for the Board, but What About the Stand?

  • The best and easiest thing to do is to rinse the entire stand with clean water at the beginning and end of every day. This is especially important for indoor pools. When the stand cools off at night, warm humid air will condense on the stand and handrails, leaving a chlorine residue on the equipment and cause it to degrade prematurely.
  • Keep the fulcrum components clean, especially the tracks.
  • Keep the roller clamp lock nuts, and anti-rattle lock nuts, snug and adjusted for a "no-rattle" clearance.
  • The two grease fittings of the roller block should be lubricated every 2 weeks. Use "Mystic JT-6" grease and grease gun.
  • The hinges that hold the board to the stand need 2 drops of oil every 2 weeks. Use lightweight oil as for door hinges.
  • The carriage bolts that attach the diving board to the hinges should be checked for tightness periodically.  The carriage bolt nuts need to be maintained at 110 lbs of torque (You’ll need a small torque wrench to do it properly).
  • Check all handrail and assembly bolts as part of a quarterly preventative maintenance program to keep everything up to snuff.
  • The stainless steel components are 304 stainless, which is a good quality material for swimming pool natatoriums, but like all stainless steel is not ‘rust-proof’. If rust does appear:
  • Clean it immediately with stainless steel cleaner and a cloth.
  • Rinse with lots of fresh water (never pool water).
  • Using an anodizing product or even wax as a barrier will help prevent future rust.
  • Air quality is critical to the prevention of rust on metal components. Good air handling equipment or the addition of a UV system to the pool go a long way toward improving air quality by reducing airborne chloramines.

 

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The Heat Is On - Swimming Pool Heating Options

There are many different systems and options when considering how to heat your swimming pool. Location, pool size and the desired temperature all affect which option is best for your facility. This blog introduces you to the various pool heating solutions available and the important factors to consider in order to make an informed decision.

 

NATURAL GAS, PROPANE & ELECTRIC POOL HEATERS

Natural gas and propane pool heaters are still very common and have become increasingly more energy efficient, which we all know is good news for the environment but also for the pocket book of the person or facility paying for the fuel. These are great options depending on the availability of the desired fuel in the location of the swimming pool. For example, a swimming pool in the city will no doubt have access to either natural gas or propane, however a rural swimming pool will have to look into which option is available and at what cost. If neither natural gas nor propane is available for a reasonable and affordable cost, an electric pool heater may be the solution. As anyone who has had to pay electricity bill on their own knows, electricity does not come cheap. In this case, there are other, more affordable options available such as a heat pump, solar heating system, or even a wood fired boiler used in conjunction with a heat exchanger, all of which will be discussed more below.

 

BOILERS, WOOD FIRED BOILERS & HEAT EXCHANGERS

Boilers used in conjunction with a heat exchanger are another common method used to heat a swimming pool. A typical boiler is gas fired and used to heat the entire building, so tying it into a heat exchanger to heat the pool is a great idea. Again, location determines whether this option is viable depending on the availability and cost of fuel, either natural gas or propane. The boiler must be sized properly for this however; therefore consulting with a professional pool designer at the beginning stages of design and throughout is always a good idea to make sure there are no problems when the facility is constructed. 

 

Wood fired boilers are a great option for a facility that has the outdoor space for it, as well as an abundance of wood to burn. Campgrounds, for example, typically have a lot of fire wood handy from cutting down trees to make campsites, wood left behind by campers, etc. So why not make use of it? In this case, a wood fired boiler connected to a heat exchanger is an extremely feasible option to heat the swimming pool. Keeping the fire stoked throughout the day and night is an important factor to consider before making your decision. Facilities like campgrounds are normally fully staffed throughout the summer season with employees who can handle the task. Delegating this job to an employee who will treat it as their baby and never let the fire die will ensure happy campers all season long!

 

HEAT PUMPS

A heat pump is an environmentally friendly option; however its effectiveness depends on the location of the swimming pool. Heat pumps will only work well in an environment with warm air to utilize. Operating much more efficiently than a natural gas, oil or an electric pool heater, a heat pump can show big monetary rewards in areas with high natural or propane gas costs. To run this efficiently, the heat pump extracts the heat from the air, intensifies the heat with a compressor, delivers the heat to the water, and exhausts the cooler air out the top of the unit. Since it uses the warm ambient air temperature to do the work, it is a very efficient way to heat water.

 

SOLAR POOL HEATING

A solar pool heating system is a great way to make use of the energy provided by the sun and save money with regards to heating a pool. A typical solar heating system has a “collector”, which is the system that the water circulates through, to warm it up using the sun’s energy. The water is pushed through the collector by the pool pump, which has to be sized properly to account for the extra work it has to do in comparison to a pool that does not use solar heating. Generally, the water that comes from the pool is first sent through a strainer, which removes any debris that may be present in the water that could damage or clog the pump and filter. Then, the water goes through the pump into the filter, where smaller impurities are filtered out. Once the water is filtered, it is sent into the solar “collector”, which is usually a series of tubes on a southern facing roof to heat the water inside of them. The warm water is then returned to the pool. This system is ideal, but its effectiveness depends on the location of the pool geographically. The system, as with any other pool heating system, must be sized properly for it to function as desired. 

 

As always, it is best to consult with a professional pool consultant when considering a pool heating option for a new or existing facility. 

 

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2 Resolutions that will Improve Your Aquatic Facility

January is the month of resolutions. We plan to live a healthier lifestyle, be more financially responsible, and visit with friends and family more often (among others). But what about our aquatic facilities? Improving safety and becoming more environmentally friendly are two resolutions that your facility can make this and every year. The following are ways that your facility can do both:

 

PLAY IT SAFE

Safety should always be the highest priority at any facility. Improvements can always be made to increase the safety of your pool staff and patrons.

 

  • Stay up to date on new changes in codes and policies.
  • Ensure your staff is equipped and trained on the proper regulations and requirements.
  • Train your staff (pool managers, lifeguards, operators etc.) in the basics of commercial pool operating and general swimming pool knowledge. This includes chemical testing, accident prevention and the emergency protocols used at your facility.
  • Ensure all of your staff remains current and up-to-date in all required training (CPR, first aid, CPO etc.)
  • Inspect all of your safety equipment and keep an up-to-date inventory throughout the year. Safety and pool equipment can age, rust, and become damaged over time. It’s important to be aware of any equipment that needs to be replaced before an accident occurs. Equipment can include first aid kits, spine boards, life rings, safety rope, fire extinguishers, warning signs, deck equipment.
  • Perform an annual slide inspection. As water slides age they can rust, or become damaged. It is necessary to have a licensed water slide technician inspect the slide to protect and ensure the safety of the users.
  • When changes are made at your aquatic facility, it is important to update your staff. This includes pool managers, operators, lifeguards, aquatic instructors and anyone else who works in the aquatic centre.

KEEP IT GREEN

Today, everyone seems to be going green in some way. The importance in becoming environmentally friendly has shifted the way we live our lives, and the way we conduct business each day. Not only does going green provide environmental benefits, but green efforts can also lower your operating costs.

  • Make the switch to environmentally friendly products and replace old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment. This solution will not only improve your facilities impact on the environment, but will also benefit your budget.
  • Installing a Variable Frequency Drive (I-Pool VFD) can save you $7,000 - $10,000 a year.
  • Installing an Ultraviolet System decreases chemical usage by 20%.
  • Reduce chemical use at your facility. Water that is maintained properly and consistently can lessen pool water issues and chemical treatments.
  • Use an environmentally friendly liquid “pool cover” to decrease chemical usage and save on operating costs by reducing evaporation and heat loss.
  • Repair any existing leaks and service balance tanks to ensure they are operating properly.

 

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Remembering Virginia Graeme Baker

Most pool owners and operators have heard the term VGB compliant as it relates to main drains in swimming pools, and may have heard of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act that was brought into legislation in the United States.

 

As a member of her community swim and diving team, Virginia Graeme Baker was a strong swimmer who could swim unassisted at only 3 years old. Despite this, Virginia (called Graeme by her family) died in a spa (hot tub) after becoming trapped on the single main drain fitting of the spa, even with the frantic efforts of her mother, Nancy Baker to release her from the drain. Eventually, two men were able to release Graeme from the drain, but exerted so much force that the main drain fitting was actually broken in the process. At the very young age of 7 years, Virginia Graeme Baker died from drowning as a result of becoming entrapped on the main drain fitting of the spa.

 

MAIN DRAINS & THE RISKS

The danger of a single main drain in a pool or spa cannot be overstated; when a single main drain is covered and is the sole source of suction for a pump, a tremendous hold-down force is exerted on the person covering the main drain fitting. For a typical residential pool or spa with an 8” round drain, the hold-down force can be in the order of 739 pounds! Even the strongest person would be unable to overcome this kind of force. The larger the surface area of the drain the greater the force, even if the same pump is used. For a 9”x9” main drain, the force will be about 1191 pounds, and for a 12” x 12” main drain the force will be a whopping 2117 pounds! This is approximately the same weight as a skidof bricks! But becoming entrapped by the suction is only one of the dangers of an improper drain installation. People can also become eviscerated if they sit on an improper drain, or become entangled (hair and jewelry) if the velocity of water through the drain is too high, or the drain openings are improperly designed.

 

PREVENTION

Following Graeme’s death, Nancy Baker worked tirelessly as an advocate for pool safety and through the political clout of her father-in-law, former Secretary of State,  James Baker III, and in association with Safe Kids Worldwide, lobbies to congress to bring into law the mandatory use of anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices and methods.

 

Use VGB Compliant Main Drain Covers

Perhaps the most important change was the nature of the drain cover itself. Main drain covers are now required to be VGB compliant, meaning that they have a shape and openings that have been designed to dramatically decrease the likelihood of a person becoming entrapped. The drains are also sized for different flow rates so that the velocity of water moving through the surface of the grate does not exceed 1.5 feet per second. This low velocity decreases the likelihood that things like hair will be drawn into the grate creating an entanglement problem.

 

Use Multiple Main Drains

Another important safety measure in pools and spas is to never have a single main drain. In Canada,  it is law that every public pool and spa have at least two main drains, and that these be spaced apart from each other by at least four feet (1.2m). If one drain fitting is blocked, the water has another path to go though (the other drain fitting) so that an ‘absolute’ vacuum cannot be achieved.

 

Use a Safety Vacuum Release System

Finally, another measure to improve main drain safety is the use of Safety Vacuum Release Systems (SVRS). These devices are installed on the suction side of the pump(s) and are designed to eliminate the suction force of the pump. There are generally two types (mechanical and electrical) which are designed to sense excessive suction and act to relieve this suction. Electrical units work by shutting of the pump, and mechanical systems work by allowing air to enter the pump so that it loses suction.

 

Swimming pools and spas provide a tremendous amount of fun, leisure, exercise and therapeutic benefits to families, the public and patients. But we have to always remember that pools are really machines designed for our aquatic needs, and like all machines, pools have inherent dangers that have to be managed. For decades, we drove cars without the benefit of seatbelts, airbags and so many other safety features. At one time, we didn’t even have windshield wipers! Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Baker after her loss of Graeme, properly designed pools and spas are now safer than they have ever been.

 

Click here for more information on Virginia Graeme Baker, what you can do to prevent entrapment and other tragedies or to read the Pool and Spa Safety Act.

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What is Ultraviolet (UV) & How it is Applied to Swimming Pools?

The strong smell of chlorine within an aquatic facility is not a sign that the pool or spa is clean. It's actually a signal that there is something wrong. Luckily, there is an application that can be added to your swimming pool recirculation system to help correct this issue, and create a safer and more enjoyable swimming experience - An Ultraviolet (UV) system.

 

From a hydrotherapy spa to the largest Olympic-sized competition pool, UV sanitation systems are quickly becoming (or have already become, in some municipalities) the most popular method of additional water treatment in the aquatic industry. UV not only destroys chloramines, the unpleasant by-products of chlorination, but it is also a highly effective disinfectant (although the need for chlorine is reduced with the use of a UV system, it is still needed to ensure proper disinfection).

 

Chloramines are formed when free chlorine reacts with sweat, urine, and other contaminants in pool water. Trichloramines, in particular, are powerful irritants which are responsible for eye and respiratory complaints and the unpleasant ‘chlorine smell’ commonly associated with indoor pools. Chloramines are also corrosive to the surrounding area, and in time can lead to damage to pool accessories, buildings and structures, such as railings, ladders, and ventilation ducts. Any water treatment system that reduces these unwanted conditions is therefore welcome.

 

UV harnesses the power of ultraviolet light to eliminate microorganisms, lower chemical usage, and eliminate toxic by-products.

 

WHAT IS UV?

UV is a highly efficient, natural disinfectant that nutralizes virtually all known microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and molds and their spores, by permanently destroying their DNA.

 

Ultraviolet light is a naturally occurring component of sunlight. It falls in the region between visible light and X-ray in the electromagnetic spectrum. The mechanism of UV disinfection is strong sunlight that disinfects water by permanently de-activating bacteria, spores, moulds and viruses.

 

These systems reproduce UV radiation inside light chambers via powerful lamps, which emit germicidal UV-C light that is used to disinfect pool and spa water.

 

UV-C causes permanent damage to a number of microorganisms almost instantly as the water circulates through the light chamber. By disrupting the microorganism’s DNA, protozoans, viruses and bacteria are unable to replicate and remain inert. This light, however, works only on water that flows through the chamber.

 

HOW IS UV APPLIED TO SWIMMING POOLS?

Ultraviolet is a recommended application that can be added to any swimming pool. However, it should only be used as a secondary pool water disinfectant. A primary disinfectant,  such as chlorine or bromine,  still needs to be used at all times. Chlorine/bromine have a very important property which UV lacks – the ability to provide a residual level of disinfectant in the pool water contained within the tank itself. This means chlorine/bromine can remain in the pool water actively attacking pathogens at the moment they are introduced, whereas a UV system can only disinfect the water that passes through the UV chamber within the pools recirculation system. Once the water has left the chamber, it is vulnerable to be re-infected by swimmers.

 

UV systems are particularly suited to both chloramine destruction and disinfection. The resulting effect is a cleaner, healthier, and more pleasant atmosphere both in and around the pool. The potential dangers caused by Trichloramines are significantly reduced, and the danger of infection by harmful microorganisms is also eliminated.

 

There are a variety of considerations to be taken into account when choosing an Ultra Violet system and different lamps are used in different applications. The nature of the decision can be quite detailed, making it important to find the right swimming pool professional who can assist in finding the right application for you and your aquatic facility.

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What Sets Contractors Apart?

There are a lot of considerations when selecting a swimming pool contractor to build your pool. Whether the project is a high-end residential project or a multimillion dollar waterpark, it is important to be very diligent in selecting the builder to avoid delays, cost overruns, improper construction and lots of headaches. But what things should be considered?

 

WHAT DOES THEIR SAFETY RECORD LOOK LIKE?

The safety record of a company should be a primary consideration. A company with a poor safety record attracts a lot of attention (not the kind they want) and can really bog down a project. In fact, a project can be put on hold for an extended period if there are glaring safety infractions or heaven forbid a serious injury or fatality on the job site. Ask the proponent for a copy of their Health and Safety Policy, and safety record. If they don’t have one, or are unwilling to provide information, move on.

 

PRICE ISN'T EVERYTHING

Price, while always an important consideration is not everything. We frequently hear our clients say “…I wish we had gone with the more reputable builder. This job has become a nightmare…”  The saying “you get what you pay for” could not be truer. If the price seems too good to be true, it is. There is no such thing as an extraordinary $7 bottle of wine, and there is no such thing as an inexpensive Bugatti car. The two things are mutually exclusive. The Bugatti and a K-car will both take you to the store, but the Bugatti will take you to the store for decades (and look really good doing it!), and there is no comparing the quality of the two. The same is true in pools. You can choose a method and a builder that may appear to save you a little coin but suffer endless change orders and additions to the project. Or you can spend that little extra bit of money to hire a thorough and reputable builder and have peace of mind for years to come.   

 

DO THEY HAVE A STRONG FOUNDATION?

Like a strong building, a strong company needs a strong foundation. In the construction business, this foundation is in the form of knowledge that is both deep and wide, and can only be acquired from years of experience specific to the industry. A newer business just doesn’t have the history to be as knowledgeable as a well-established company that has been around for a long time. In the experienced company, there are senior people and younger members of the team. There is a combination of high energy and drive and a deep well of information that was developed over decades of practice. The thing about knowledge is that it is often applicable to a wide variety of applications that help experienced builders provide the best outcome for the client. Hydraulic concepts in pools and water management for example, are often applicable to electricity where Voltage equates to Feet of Head and current flow to velocity. Companies who have a deeper knowledge in their art have a broader understanding of the many things they may encounter in performing their work. Look for contractors who have a broad range of experience over a long period of time, senior people who have “been around the block” a couple of times and young energetic and well educated project people.

 

DO THEY HAVE INTERNAL SYSTEMS IN PLACE?

It is a great thing to have knowledge, but if it is held by a few individuals it often fails to crystalize in the positive outcome of your project. Good companies develop internal systems that reflect the Best Practices that have been developed out of the knowledge gained from experience. It is these companies who seek to establish a culture of quality and caring expressed in writing the form of standard operating procedures. Ask your potential contractor if they have internal systems in place to support quality assurance, delivery, and value added designs, longevity of the product, and so on. A company with systems is a company that cares about what they do, and who they do it for. Also ask if the company has a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement is the guiding philosophy of the company. A company without a mission is like a pilot without a map. Yes, the plane is flying…but the destination is dicey.  

 

WHAT IS THEIR EXPERIENCE LEVEL?

The Record of Experience speaks volumes about the knowledge base of the company. Obviously, the more pools a company has built, the more experience they have. But it is also important to look at the different types of pools that a company has built. Not all pool builders build all pools, and sometimes for good reason. For example, Company ABC may be an advocate for cast-in-place pools through their limited knowledge and experience; they know how to build them, but nothing else. Concrete pools are really good and are considered the gold standard in the industry, however, there are times when another type of pool is more appropriate than a concrete pool. If the pool is going on the top floor of a high rise, weight may be a limiting parameter. It is important to find a builder who has the experience to recognize and understand your options and what best suits your needs. Ask your potential builders for their list of projects (current and complete) and also for a list of references. If the record of experience is small or limited in scope, you may want to look a little deeper into the company. If the reference list seems small compared to the record of experience, it should raise a red flag! A good contractor doesn’t maintain a specific reference list…every single client should be a reference.

 

DO THEY USE THEIR OWN FORCES?

If the builder you are looking at using has a lot of subcontractors, it may be worth looking a little further. Dividing the scope into different trade subcontracts (mechanical subs, waterproofing, tile, concrete etc.) dilutes and displaces responsibility of the trades and of the general contractor. When something goes wrong, it’s nobody’s fault, and it’s everyone’s fault. A great deal of time is spent trying to figure out if the waterproofing contractor caused the leak, or if the tile contractor damaged the waterproofing. Or maybe the concrete contractor is at fault. It is best to source a contractor who self-performs the entire pool scope with their own forces from the excavation, to mechanical and electrical work, to tile setting and commissioning and training. When there is only one company performing the entire scope for the work, there is no opportunity to cast blame for problems to others. You only have one phone call to make. 

 

ARE THEY FINANCIALLY STABLE?

The financial stability of the company is also an important consideration. Are they able to completely bond a large project? Often tender documents ensure that this is the case, but private projects may overlook the need. What happens if things go wrong, or the contractor walks off the job or goes bankrupt? Who will finish the job? Who will pay for the work? Also, you want to be sure that the company you select is going to be around tomorrow and for years to come. Of course, there is never a guaranty but the best predictor of the future, is a record of the past. If the company has been building great pools for decades, they are likely to be around for a long time to come.

 

DO THEY HAVE A SERVICE DEPARTMENT?

Once the pool is built, you are away to the races. But what if something goes wrong with the pool after a few years? Who will close the pool for winter? It is always best of the company you choose to build the pool also has a service department who can deal with any problems and to perform regular maintenance. The service department of the company who built the pool is best equipped to service the pool since they will have an intimate knowledge of the pool from the construction phase. There are many “pool builders” out there who actually have no idea how to best operate a pool, and have no service department. It is best to steer clear of these builders. Once the project is complete, you never see them again. 

 

CAN THEY PERFORM?

Finally, schedule can be critical, especially for commercial projects. Liquidated damages can cripple a business that was counting on opening the pool in December, but it didn’t happen until the following May. There has been more than a few projects abandoned or sold for pennies on the dollar as poor performing contractors drove the owner into insolvency. No builder is perfect or immune to making mistakes…things happen. What sets the premium builder apart from others is how they react to the problems. The only way to know how different builders react is to speak with their past clients. Don’t accept a short list of “preferred references”. It is a lot of work to fully research your builder, but it will pay dividends many times over in the long run.

 

A well-constructed pool delivered on time and on budget will provide decades of enjoyment, or in the case of a commercial project, revenue generation. The best start to this positive outcome is to balance all of these considerations discussed, and make a good decision.

 

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Top 3 Myths Affecting Swimmers and Pool Operators

As swimmers, swimming pool operators, or facility owners, we are subjected to countless myths and legends that have been floating around the aquatic community for years. These wives tales can lead to misunderstandings, and for operators, can lead to the improper care of your swimming pool. It is important to be aware of the myths, lies, and assumptions, as well as understanding the truths in order to do our part in maintaining a comfortable swimming environment for all. Here’s a list of some of the top 3 myths affecting swimmers, and operators!

 

"CHLORINE WILL TURN MY HAIR GREEN!"

Although believed to be the causing factor by many, chlorine is not responsible for hair discolouring. If a swimming pool has caused your hair to turn green, it is likely due to the presence of copper in the water. Metal plumbing or algaecide can cause copper to reside in the pool water.

 

"CHLORINE MAKES MY EYES RED AND SORE!"

We have all experienced irritated eyes and skin after swimming, and likely we have all deduced that our eyes sting and our skin is dry because there was too much chlorine in the swimming pool. Unfortunately, we have been misguided.

 

Swimmer “red eye” is actually caused by chloramines which are formed when nitrogen (found in urine and sweat) is combined with chlorine. These chloramines are to blame for irritating our eyes, skin and even our respiratory systems. In fact, if these chloramines exist, operators may very well need to add MORE chlorine to the pool water in order to reduce the formation of chloramines. If the pH is too low or too high, swimmers may also feel some discomfort and irritation. Human tear ducts have a pH of 7.5, which means operators must ensure the pH remains between 7.4 and 7.6 and the combined chlorine stays at 0.2ppm or below in order to maintain a comfortable swimming environment.

 

"THE POOL MUST BE CLEAN BECAUSE I CAN SMELL THE CHLORINE!"

When you walk into an aquatic centre and you smell the strong scent of chlorine, our automatic response is to assume it must mean the pool is clean! Maybe we relate it to the smells of cleaning chemicals, but whatever the reason, this idea is wrong. It is actually the opposite; a properly cleaned swimming pool should not smell like a chemical factory. The strong smell that we have all experienced so many times is really due to chloramines – the result of a reaction caused by the mixing of chlorine and contaminants carried into the water by swimmers.

 

These contaminants can include but are not limited to:

  • Sweat
  • Urine
  • Body Oils
  • Cosmetics

A strong smelling swimming pool can indicate that the chlorine is working harder than necessary, due to the presence of contaminants in the pool and may really mean that the pool is in need of further chemical intervention.

 

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Winterizing Your Swimming Pool

Swimming pools are an excellent way to stay active and have fun in the summer, but if you live or operate a swimming pool in a colder climate, there comes a time at the end of the swimming season when pools must be winterized. Not winterizing a pool in a colder climate is simply not an option, unless you want a hefty repair bill come spring.

 

The power of water when it freezes and thaws is absolutely amazing. In colder climates, like Canada for instance, pools that are not properly winterized will experience all kinds of damage, such as cracked and broken pipes, pumps and filters.

 

In addition to winterizing the entire mechanical system for the pool, the pool shell itself requires protection against frost. The simplest way to protect a pool shell is to leave it full of water for the winter. When filling the pool for a winter hibernation, care should be taken to allow room for the water to rise with rain and snow. Typically the water level in a pool is left 12-18" from normal operating level at the time of winterizing.

 

To complete the winterizing, the pool should be completely drained, and compressed air used to blow out water from the recirculation piping. All returns, water inlets, drains, etc. need to be capped or plugged to keep water out. Play features in pools also need to have all the water removed from them and in some cases some water features will need to have antifreeze introduced into them to prevent low lying fittings from collecting water and freezing. Items such as skimmers should also have expansion devices installed to prevent these items from damage due to freezing expansion. Once all of the piping has been cleared of water and properly sealed up, the pool shell can then be filled and chemicals added. Items such as pumps, filters and heaters in the mechanical room also need to have all drain ports opened up and drain plugs removed.

 

WINTERIZING TIPS

When winterizing a pool, it is imperative that the time is taken to do it properly, in order to avoid any future damage and additional repair costs to the facility. Taking the proper steps can not only help preserve the condition of the pool tank and the mechanical equipement, but these simple steps can also help increase the longevity of the grounds, building, and deck equipment. Here are some tips to closing a swimming pool, recommended by the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

 

  • Adjust the chemical balance of the pool water to the recommended levels.
  • Treat Facility water with appropriate products to minimize algae, bacteria, or damage to surfaces.
  • Clean and vacuum the pool.
  • Empty and store skimmer baskets and hair and lint traps for the winter.
    Backwash the filter thoroughly and clean the filter media or elements.
  • Drain sand filters. Remove cartridges or D.E. filter elements, inspect for tears or excessive wear, and store.
  • Lower the water level to below the skimmers and return lines for plaster pools. If needed, remove the remaining water from the recirculation lines using an air compressor or industrial type tank vacuum cleaner.
  • Open all pump room valves and loosen the lid from the hair and lint skimmer. However, if the filter is below pool water level, close the valves leading from the pool to the filter.
  • Grease all plugs and threads.
  • Add antifreeze formulated specifically for recreational water applications to the pipes to prevent bursting. Do not use automotive antifreeze.
  • Plug the skimmer or gutter lines. Winterize with antifreeze and expansion blocks. Secure the skimmer lids to the deck to prevent their loss. Plug wall return lines and the main drain.
  • Make sure the hydrostatic relief valve is operational.
  • Drain and protect pumps. If a pump and motor will be exposed to sever weather, disconnect, lubricate, perform seasonal maintenance of the pump, and store. Add antifreeze to help protect pumps and seals from any residual water left after draining.
  • Clean surge pits or balancing tanks.
  • Disconnect all fuses and open circuit breakers.
  • If underwater wet niche lights are exposed to the elements, remove them from their niches and lower them to the bottom of the pool.
  • Drain the pool water heater. Grease the drain plugs and store for the winter.
  • Turn off the heater gas supply, gas valves, and pilot lights.
  • Install the winter safety cover.
  • Properly store any unused chemicals as described on their labels to prevent containers from breaking and the mixing of potentially incompatible chemicals. Dispose of test reagents, disinfectants, and other chemicals that will lose their potency over the winter.
  • Disconnect, clean and store the chemical feeder, (Remember - Only Water can be used to clean out the chemical feeders) controllers, and other chemical feed pumps. Store controller electrodes in liquid and in a warm environment.
  • Clean and protect pressure gauges, flow meters, thermometers and humidity meters.
  • Store all deck furniture (chairs, lounges, tables, umbrellas, etc.) Identify and separate all furniture in need of repair.
  • Remove deck equipment, hardware, and non-permanent objects such as ladders, rails, slides, guard chairs, starting blocks, drinking fountains, handicapped lifts, portable ramps, clocks, weird, and safety equipment to prevent vandalism. Store in a clearly marked, identifiable, weather-protected location. Cap all exposed deck sockets.
  • Remove the diving boards. Store the boards indoors, upside down and flat so they will not warp.
  • Turn off the water supply to restroom showers, sinks, and toilets. Drain the pipes and add antifreeze.
  • Remove shower heads and drinking fountain handles. Open hose bibs and fill spouts.
  • Inventory all supplies and equipment. Make suggestions for preventative maintenance and repair, upgrading, and needed equipment purchases.

** ALL COMMERCIAL POOLS ARE DIFFERENT – ENSURE YOUR PERSONAL CLOSING PROCEDURES FOR YOUR POOL PRIOR TO COMMENCING WORK. 

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