Repairing Vinyl Liners

Experts share field-tested techniques for installing and repairing vinyl liners.


Vinyl liners are becoming more advanced every year. From plasticizers to UV inhibiters to thousands of color combinations, the options available to the builder and customer are nearly endless.

But even the newest liners are vulnerable to the same old issues, such as staining and punctures. Wrinkles seem to have a way of sneaking up from behind, and shrinkage can cause flotation in almost any climate. All these problems, however, have straightforward solutions.

Here, experienced pros reveal their secrets for mastering the art and science of vinyl, from installations to repairs.

Choose walls without foam
Vinyl liners are most durable when resting directly against metal wall panels. A layer of rolled foam backing puts the vinyl at risk for punctures and wrinkling, no matter what substrate it covers.

“Foam walls exacerbate liner puncturing,” says Michael Giovanone, president of Concord Pools and Spas in Latham, N.Y., a Pool & Spa News Top Builder.

Giovanone also points out that the weaker construction of a rolled foam layer lacks the holding power to keep a liner in place. “Foam lets liners creep and wrinkle,” he says, “because it doesn’t have a solid bond to the substrate or the wall.”

Imagine a piece of paper pressed against a hard surface, like a desktop; then imagine poking that paper with a sharp pencil. It’s nearly impossible to puncture the paper as long as it remains flush with the hard
surface. But lay that same piece of paper against a soft pillow, and any sharp object can rip right through it.

In short, a liner is only as strong as its weakest layer of backing.

“The backing behind a liner is the most important factor in that liner’s durability,” Giovanone says. “And the worst enemy of vinyl liners is wall foam.”

Measure and mark the liner
Fitting a liner’s beading onto the bead track can be a frustrating process. Manufacturers typically include markings on the liner’s underside to indicate its corners and center, and these can help a crew properly place the liner in the pool. But the manufacturer’s markings aren’t much help for aligning the top of the beading with the track.

“The manufacturer’s marks — the arrows — are just a rough approximation,” says John Warner, president of Done Right Pools and Spas in East Greenbush, N.Y. “And the manufacturer doesn’t put anything at the top of the bead.”

Warner, however, recommends a technique for ensuring the alignment is on target: Before unfolding a liner, measure it. Find the points where the top of the beading will actually line up with the corners of the bead track, and mark each of those alignment points on the liner’s underside.

“When I first open the liner up,” Warner explains, “I physically locate what I think is the exact spot where it’s going to line up with the corner at the top of the bead, and I make a little pencil mark at that spot on the back of the liner.”

Rethink sealing and vacuuming

During the initial installation, most crews hold the edge of the liner against the walls with duct tape or sandbags. But it’s not always possible to create a perfect seal this way. Wind, cold and dryness can quickly begin to stretch the seals, or even loosen the liner’s edges.

One possibility is to try a different approach right from the start. “Instead of duct tape,” Giovanone says, “use caulk to seal every [wall] panel before it gets bolted together.” Though this process takes more time, it creates a hardened seal that’s much less vulnerable to the elements.

Next, run the liner’s beading through the entire track. The usual practice at this point would be to leave part of the beading out of the track and tape an industrial vacuum pump behind the liner to tighten it. Giovanone says, “That’s completely wrong.” Instead, fit a vacuum pump over the top of the skimmer opening. As long as their dimensions are compatible, they’ll form a perfect seal.

“Liner vacs are manufactured to be square, and they’re meant to sit on top of the skimmer,” Giovanone explains. “It fits like a glove; you don’t need to use any tape.”

Because this scheme uses the vacuum’s shape and weight to secure the seal, it ensures a much tighter fit between the vacuum and the liner, and thus lowers the chance of wrinkles. When combined with the technique of caulking wall panels, it also avoids other taping-related issues, such as flotation.

“If you bead the liner and caulk your wall panels,” Giovanone says, “you will totally eliminate floating liners.”

Use only vinyl duct tape
If using duct tape on the liner is unavoidable, pick a brand made from vinyl. Many types of duct tape are made with cloth, which is an organic substance, and thus home to microorganisms that can quickly stain and degrade a vinyl liner.

“Pink and purple staining, which is a huge problem with vinyl liners, is actually the excretions from microorganisms,” Giovanone says. “It’s called microbiological staining, and it comes up through the
vinyl from the back.”

While shocking the pool will dissipate the appearance of the problem, this is only a temporary solution. Until the infection is totally destroyed, pink stains will continue to creep back through the liner.

The easiest way to avoid this issue is simply to avoid organic duct tape. Vinyl-based tape is inorganic, so it poses no threat to the liner.

Start filling as soon as possible
Because vinyl liners are designed to stretch to their full size under the weight of water, they’re most vulnerable to shrinkage immediately after installation, before the pool has been filled. Unless several inches of water are holding it in place, a liner may begin to shrink and float within 2 to 3 hours, even if a vacuum pump is pulling it tight.

“I’ve found that the old system of leaving the vac on, then pumping in water from the customer’s hose just doesn’t produce consistent results,” Warner says.

Instead of waiting for the hose to fill the pool, one option is to bring in about 9,000 gallons of water as your crew is finishing the installation. Once the liner’s wrinkles are brushed out and the vacuum pump is running, dump in enough water to fill the shallow end to a depth of about 6 inches.

“I always insist on it,” Warner says. “We have the water on hand as soon as installation is finished, and we dump it in the pool right away.” This prevents any shrinkage from taking hold during the first night, while the pool is being filled. Warner says this strategy is especially useful on colder nights, when liners are prone to shrinkage.

Though having water delivered does add an expense to the installation process, the benefits down the road will be well worth the initial cost. “It’s a money-saver for the customer in the long run,” Warner explains, “because the liner’s going to fit right, so it’s going to last longer.”

Hold onto that water
Groundwater seepage and shell uplift are major problems in areas with high water tables. Because vinyl pools require at least 6 inches of overdig, their sites are particularly susceptible to these issues. Hydrostatic relief valves aren’t always available to offset this danger, and the usual practice of pouring drained water onto the lawn only adds to the problem.

Fred Martin, president of Martin Pool and Spa in Pittsfield, Mass., has discovered a straightforward way to save money and prevent uplift at the same time. When draining a pool for repairs, instead of directing the flow of water to a deck drain (or the customer’s lawn), his techs pump all the drained water into tanks.

“When we go in to replace a vinyl liner,” Martin says, “we first set up some tanks to hold all the water we drain from the pool. That gives us a buildup of supply.”

When they’ve finished repairing or replacing the liner, the techs immediately return the stored water to the pool. This puts pressure back on the water table right away, and prevents the liner from floating while the pool is being refilled. It’s friendly to the environment, too.

“This way,” Martin explains, “you’re not wasting water, and you’re also making sure that if you’ve got ground water, it’s not going to come up through the sand or gunite.”

Source: Ben Thomas- Pool and Spa News | 6.25.2010

Pool Vacuums

Pool owners know how difficult it can be to keep the water clean. A pile of leaves, branches, and wood chips seems to appear on the surface of the water just as you’ve fished out another pile of debris. While skimming flotsam and jetsam off the water can be annoying, there are other pool cleaning issues that are a greater concern. Algae and different types of bacteria can collect in the water and on pool surfaces. These invaders can cause damage to the structure of the pool, and they can irritate a swimmer’s eyes and skin.

Pool vacuums can be used to pick up leaves, but they also can keep harmful substances from getting hold of a pool. At Expert Pools, we carry vacuums that are operated by hand, but we also have automatic cleaners in stock. An automatic cleaner ensures that pool water is never stagnant; it also relieves owners of much of the maintenance work they have to do to keep their pools in good shape.

Vacuums for Fiberglass Pools

Fiberglass pools are not nearly as susceptible to algae penetration as concrete pools. However, this does not mean that fiberglass pools do not need to be cleaned on a regular basis. At Expert Pools, we are proud to offer the strongest fiberglass pools on the market, and we have vacuums and other cleaning accessories that are designed to keep those pools as clean as possible.

There are almost as many different vacuum styles as there are pool styles. There are fully functional robots that make their way across the bottom of the pool, and there are snake-like cleaners that swim along the top of the water. Paying large sums of money for the latest vacuum is not always necessary because there are a number of affordable products that are as effective as most of the overly expensive ones.

Pool Staining

While a lot of swimming pool stains are the work of familiar culprits, many have uncommon causes

Most pool owners assess the well being of their swimming pool by what they can see: the clarity of the water and the appearance of its surfaces. As a service technician, you must be able to diagnose problems that can compromise the homeowners’ visual evaluation of their vessel. There are many common issues that lead to staining in pools, and a few not-so-well-known offenders.

Water balance

Most stains and discoloration can be traced to improperly balanced water. But even “perfectly balanced” pools have the potential to contribute to these types of problems due to the almost-daily influx of metals, minerals and other contaminants. Oxidation also is a concern.

Common organic staining scenarios

Staining and discoloration can be broken down into two main categories: organic and inorganic. Common organic causes include scale, algae, “pink slime,” white water mold and vinyl liner mold. The Langelier Saturation Index measures the corrosiveness and neutrality, or scaling ability, of water. Water, by nature, “wants” to be neutral or balanced. When pH and/or total alkalinity are high, water cannot rid itself of either of these two important components, but it can push out calcium. Scaling is one unwanted by-product of this reaction.

When heavy rains combine with hot weather and low or no sanitizer, algae in its many forms can become an issue. Mustard algae seems to vanish easily when brushed, but will reappear quickly and continue to spread if left unchecked. Black algae creates a protective gelatinous coating. It also has roots, which can penetrate a pool’s plaster, fiberglass or vinyl surfaces. Green algae can first appear as a tinting of the water, which can rapidly transform a pool into a veritable swamp if not treated. In addition to a discoloration of the water, green algae also can produce rapidly spreading stains throughout a vessel.

Pink slime actually is reddish bacteria that most of us have seen on our showerheads. It can be introduced by rain, soil and contaminated swimsuits — as can mustard algae — and can rapidly grow in circulation pipes. Like pink slime, white water mold grows in circulation piping. This contaminant resembles small floating pieces of white tissue by the time it finds its way to the pool water. Although not a surface stain, vinyl liner mold is a fungus that grows underneath a vinyl liner, which is visible as a shadow beneath its surface. Tannins, commonly associated with trees, also can find their way into pools and create staining.

Common inorganic stains and discoloration
Inorganic troublemakers include scum-line buildup, cloudy or tinted water and iron and copper stains. When suntan lotions, body oils, make-up and dirt gather at the waterline, an unsightly scum-line buildup can occur. It should be noted that organic contaminants also can contribute, though they aren’t the main culprits. If left unchecked, additional dirt and contaminants will more easily adhere to an existing scum line, creating a snowball effect.

Cloudy water is a byproduct of unbalanced water, poor circulation and poor filtration. Ironically, the response of then adding too much clarifier can worsen existing cloudiness.

Metals such as iron, copper and manganese can produce a tinting of pool water and serve as a warning of sorts that metals are present in the system. All it may take is a shock treatment to plate the metals from the water onto a pool’s surface, thus creating a metal stain. Metal stains can also potentially be introduced from well and municipal water, metallic equipment parts, pool chemicals such copper- and silver-based algaecides, certain grades of salt for chlorine generators, certain grades of chlorine, ionizers, lawn chemicals and more.

Lesser-known causes of staining

Copper cyanurate, dubbed “purple haze,” can occur when a high stabilizer level (above 100 ppm) combines with copper, creating a purple precipitant. This purple stain is bright and highly visible, often showing up on tile, spillways and pool cleaners. If left untreated, copper cyanurate eventually will adhere to all pool surfaces. Until the stabilizer level is lowered to below 70 ppm, the problem can appear to be chronic.

Another potential stain-causer: potassium permanganate. If a house’s water supply is high in iron, manganese or hydrogen sulfide, many homeowners choose an iron/hydrogen sulfide reduction filter for their water treatment system. This filter contains manganese green sand, which reduces contaminants through an oxidation/filtration process. Should green sand water mix with make-up water, it can contribute to staining. The manganese in the filter is expelled when the system recycles, and it will create a pink/purple potassium permanganate stain when it comes in contact with the pool finish.

Iron and scale are two common causes of staining in a pool, but occasionally they work together to create a more obscure form of discoloration. This hybrid stain, known as iron scale, can be particularly difficult to remove, as standard treatment doesn’t often work. The only way to alleviate this buildup of layers is to remove first the top layer of scale, then treat the iron stain that it previously covered.
Source: Jack Beane- Pool and Spa News | 4.15.2010

Pool Heater Comparisons

Discussing the ins and outs of heating options can help clarify which one — or combination — is right for each customer.

Whether it’s new construction or an equipment replacement, today’s pool heating technologies offer a solution to every consumer’s needs.

Here, builders, servicepeople and manufacturers share insights on discussing heating options with customers. As these industry veterans explain, selecting a system is a straightforward process, but a strong knowledge base will keep the dialogue on track.

Assess expectations
The conversation about heating is likely to begin in one of two ways.

For new construction, the heating system will probably come up in the overall design discussion. If the project involves an existing pool, on the other hand, the customers’ interest will typically stem from dissatisfaction with their current heating situation, which will lead them to initiate the dialogue.

In either case, it’s a good idea to first assess the customer’s pool usage needs.

“Start by asking them how often they plan to use their pool,” says Terry Doyle, marketing manager at Raypak in Oxnard, Calif. “Are they looking for a system that allows them to turn the heater on Friday night and be swimming in warm water by Saturday? Or are they looking to maintain a constant temperature year-round?”

If quick heating is a priority for the customer, it makes sense to recommend a gas heater — although these entail a higher energy bill, they’re reliable and rapid. But if the homeowner is willing to wait a week or so to get the pool up to the desired temperature — or if the pool is going to be kept at a certain temperature for extended periods — a heat pump or solar heating system is likely to make more sense. Despite the slower speed of these options, they’re more energy-efficient than gas heaters, so they’ll involve much lower monthly bills.

It’s also important to ask how long of a swim season the customer expects to enjoy. Though every region’s climate is different, it’s beneficial to keep some general rules in mind. “If they say they’d like to extend the swim season beyond the summer months, then we look at how long they want to stretch it,” says Brian Evers, store sales manager at Dolphin Pool and Spa in Burnsville, Minn.

For those customers who want to keep swimming well into autumn, a gas heater may be the best recommendation — though again, it’s important to make the customer aware of the monthly gas costs involved. If the customer only wants to extend the season a few weeks on either end of summer, however, the combination of a heat pump or solar system with a heat-retaining pool cover may be sufficient to maintain a warm temperature.

In fact, builders, service technicians and manufacturers all recommend complementing any heating system with a cover, at least during the cooler months on the margins of the swim season. “We always recommend some type of cover — whether it be a liquid solar cover or a traditional cover — because most of the pool’s heat is lost from the surface of the water,” says Brian Diglio, president of Blue Wave Pool Service & Supplies in Hamden, Conn.

Weigh the options
The next step is to compare, side by side, the costs and benefits of each heating method — or group of methods — in which the customer has expressed interest. Telling a client that a certain type of equipment brings higher monthly costs, or that it can bring significant energy savings, isn’t always enough to fully convey the differences between options. Thus, an explanation of the exact numbers involved will ensure that customers are clear on what the system’s upkeep will entail, and will be satisfied with the purchase they make.

If the customer is interested in a gas heater, explaining the costs now can prevent surprises down the road.
“A gas heater will cost around $4,000 to install, and bring a gas bill that can range from $75 to $350 a month, depending on the time of year,” says Roy Heine, founder of Suntrek Industries in Irvine, Calif.

For some customers, these costs aren’t particularly significant. But others, Heine says, end up shutting down their gas heaters and seeking out other heating options when these monthly bills begin to pile up. Even if a full explanation of gas heating costs prevents an immediate sale, an open and honest discussion now may create an appreciative and loyal client for the future.

A heat pump installation typically comes with similar equipment costs to those entailed by a gas heater, though some heating experts say those costs may run up to $1,000 higher. Still, the monthly price tag of operating a heat pump will average somewhat lower. “You’ll typically end up with an electric bill from $75 to $500 a month, depending on the climate and the season,” Heine says.

Another aspect of heat pump usage that’s important to note is the rate at which it can raise water temperature — whereas a gas heater can often raise a pool’s temperature by as much as 10 degrees in a single day, a heat pump’s maximum is closer to two to four degrees per day, depending on the air temperature and the ratio of the heat pump’s capacity to the size of the pool.

Environmentally conscious consumers are likely to bring up solar heating, but they may need some explanation to grasp what’s involved in setting up and running one of these systems. “The average cost of a solar pool heating system is approximately $4,000 — about the same price as the other heating methods,” Heine says.

The main advantage of solar heating is that utility bills for these systems will run much lower than those associated with other heating technologies, because the only power necessary for heating water with solar panels is the electricity that runs the pool’s circulation pump. The main downside is the pace of heating — most solar systems will heat water at the same rate as a comparable heat pump: Approximately two to four degrees per day.

A possible compromise between these options is to combine a gas heater with a heat pump or solar heating system, forming a hybrid heating solution that combines low-cost efficiency with boosts of speed when needed. “If cost isn’t a factor in the project, we’d definitely introduce the option to combine multiple heating elements,” Evers says. For instance, a gas heater might be helpful to kick the pool up to a certain temperature during the first or last few weeks of the swim season, but a heat pump might be enough to maintain the desired temperature for the rest of the summer.

For a system involving solar heating, “We can plumb the solar cells in as a pre-heater, but they can function as the primary heating system,” says Dave Sizelove, president of Aquatherm Industries Inc. in Lakewood, N.J. In other words, water flows through the solar system first, then through the gas heater, which can be turned on to warm the water a bit more.

Once the water is brought up to the desired temperature, Sizelove adds, the solar system is often sufficient to maintain it there for at least several months — unless an additional boost is needed, in which case the gas heater would kick in again.

Consider mechanics
Once the customer has settled on one or more heating methods, it’s time to analyze some physical properties of the pool system as a whole. If the system involves multiple heaters or solar panels, it may be helpful to calculate the system’s total dynamic head (TDH) to ensure the pump is powerful enough to keep up the necessary flow rate.

“You always have to watch your flow, especially if you have multiple heaters,” Sizelove says. Although most modern heaters include built-in bypasses, and thus aren’t very restrictive to flow, it’s still worthwhile to double-check that these additions won’t place undue stress on the pump.

On the solar side of things, the surface area of the house’s roof or attic must be roomy enough to accommodate all the necessary panels. “A good rule of thumb,” Heine says, “is that the surface area of all the collectors combined should be roughly equivalent to the pool’s surface area in order for the system to keep the water heated effectively.”

On a broader scale, it’s also important to take a look around the area where the heater or heat pump is going to be installed, and check it for adequate venting. “We see plenty of heaters out there that are placed too close to windows, or where the installers don’t leave sufficient room for ventilation around them,” Diglio says.

Taking issues like these into account will help keep installation trouble-free. If the heating design is backed up by careful calculation, and the customer has a solid understanding of why the chosen heating options are appropriate for the project, the entire process should move along smoothly.


Source: Ben Thomas- Pool and Spa News | 9.16.2011

Pool Enclosures

For most people, the swimming season never lasts long enough. Even before the weather gets too cold, pool temperatures start to drop and even a few minutes in the water can become unbearable. A pool enclosure can keep water and air temperatures warm and comfortable throughout the year.

In addition to keeping the effects of winter at bay, an enclosure adds a level of safety to a pool. Children and pets can be kept out when they are unsupervised, and alarm systems can be put in place to ward off unwanted visitors. An enclosure also keeps debris out of the pool, reduces evaporation, and increases property value.

Pool Enclosure Options

At Expert Pools, we can supply our customers with enclosures that fit almost any size of pool. If none of the standard enclosures fits a particular pool, a custom size can be created. There are several different options when it comes to an enclosure’s appearance, as well. White- or green-tinted sides are available, and there are a variety of other plexiglass color options. Shade screens and drapes can be used in an enclosure, and an extra room or pool party space can be added.

There are a number of different styles of doors that can be put into place for convenience or safety. There are handicap doors, child protection doors, disappearing screen doors, and sliding doors. Before an enclosure is installed, you’ll have the opportunity to look at all of the options closely and settle on a finished product that suits your financial, safety, and aesthetic needs.

Pool Covers

There is nothing worse than putting on the old swimsuit and heading out to the pool, only to find that it is covered with a surface layer of algae, leaves, sticks, and other green things that do not belong there. Oftentimes, taking care of this problem will require far more than a simple cleaning. Chlorine levels might have to be adjusted, and in some cases, portions of the pool might have even been compromised.

A lot of these problems can be avoided by the use of a simple pool cover. A cover will not keep everything out of the water, but it will prevent massive buildups. It will also make the regular cleaning of the pool’s surface much easier and safer.

Solar Pool Covers

There are several specialty pool covers on the market. Some are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, while others serve a more practical purpose. Solar pool covers can be used to speed up the heating process of the pool. Even on warm days, it often takes several hours for a pool to reach a comfortable temperature. A solar cover will use the sun’s rays to their fullest and make things much nicer for a morning dip.

At Expert Pools, we carry a variety of accessories including an array of covers that can be used for small or large pool designs. We have covers that can be used at night, and others that can help protect the pool during the winter months. We also carry solar blankets and other covers that can affect a pool’s temperature.

Pool Bonding Mistakes

Electricians and engineers list some common mistakes in grounding and bonding pools

Grounding and bonding can be one of the most confusing parts of pool construction.

So when pool professional and licensed electrician Alan Brotz brings on a new crew member, his first message is very clear: Know your stuff.

“I tell all my guys there is no more important wire on a pool or spa wiring system than a ground wire and a bond wire,” says the owner/president of Swim Systems Inc. in Oviedo, Fla. “The grounding and bonding around a pool are more critical than in any other application in a home, because of the conductivity of water.”

This message applies to pool contractors. Even if local codes require that a licensed electrician handle this critical stage of construction, it’s valuable to know how bonding and grounding should be done.

Here are six common mistakes made by both pool professionals and electricians while grounding and bonding pools, and some guidelines on how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Confusing the two

Many pool professionals don’t know the difference between grounding and bonding, while others use the terms interchangeably. Even some electricians make this mistake, Brotz says.

But the two are quite different.

Grounding is a process meant to protect people against a possible fault in the electrical system. Basically, it means to electrically attach a piece of equipment to earth ground, which is at the lowest “electrical potential,” mostly referred to as 0 Volt potential. If there’s a fault, or short, the circuit breaker will trip and turn off the equipment.

To ground a piece of equipment, installers must run a properly sized wire from the equipment, through the same conduit as the current-carrying conductors and to the circuit breaker panel. Finally, the wire attaches to the ground bus bar in the circuit breaker panel.

Bonding, on the other hand, electrically ties all specified metallic elements together to minimize the differences in voltage. (In these discussions, voltage is also referred to as potential.) The pump, motor, ladder, even the water nowadays, are bonded.

“If there’s a difference in potential, that creates a foundation for current flow,” Brotz says. “If the current can flow between two pieces of equipment, then it’s just waiting for somebody to come along and be the conductor.”

Brotz gives the example of a pump and heat pump sitting next to each other, with neither bonded. “If there was a fault in the system, either in the pump or heat pump, it’s possible for either piece of equipment to become energized with a voltage other than 0 volts,” he says. “If somebody were to come up and touch the pump, then they become the conductor between the two and get shocked or electrocuted.”

To bond the system, a No. 8 wire runs from one metallic element to the next, connecting to pieces of equipment on a provided bonding lug and, thus, creating an electrical bonding grid. The wire runs through the earth, not inside a conduit.

Mistake #2: Neglecting to ground and bond thoroughly

Because of confusion between the two terms, some professionals may ground but not bond, or vice versa.

Other installers take care to do this with all the pool equipment, but then forget about less obvious things like fences or ladders.

To be clear, anything metallic within 5 feet of the water (meaning the inside wall of the pool), must be bonded. This includes the back of the light niche, ladders (both ladder pockets), diving board stands, lifeguard stands, handrails, junction boxes, pool shells and deck, if they’re made of conductive material. There are exceptions: Any small isolated parts of less than 4 inches in any dimension and extending less than 1 inch into the structure, such as rope hangers.

The pool’s rebar must also be bonded, as well as any reinforcing steel under the deck within 3 feet of the inside of the pool wall. If there is no reinforcing steel in the deck, at least one bare No. 8 (or larger) buried wire may be used, if installed in accordance with code requirements.

Generally speaking, all electrical equipment associated with the pool must be grounded.

Mistake #3: Grounding and bonding to earth

Some professionals believe that grounding can be done by driving an 8-foot ground rod into the earth and hooking the grounding wire to it. “That will not conduct fault current to trip the circuit breaker,” Brotz says. Some may believe this sends any stray current to the earth, but that’s not the purpose of grounding.

Any defective piece of equipment will remain energized. “Then when somebody comes up and touches it, it’s, ‘Good night, nurse.’” Brotz says. “That ground rod will do absolutely nothing.”

Some will even try using the earth as part of the bonding conductor. “In other words, you bond the pool together, drive a ground rod; bond the pad together, drive a ground rod. But you don’t run a wire in between,” says E.P. Hamilton III, Ph.D., P.E., an electrical engineer and president of Hamilton & Associates in Pflugerville, Texas. If you do this, the system isn’t bonded, because everything must be tied together. Otherwise, you risk current straying, if the potential between two components is different.

Mistake #4: Using the wrong connectors
When hooking up the bonding and grounding wires to a piece of equipment, you want the best connection possible to ensure that any current that needs to move has a clear path.

That’s why tying or wrapping the wire around a bolt or other metallic component on the equipment won’t do the trick. “It doesn’t insure any sort of reasonable electrical contact, particularly over time,” Hamilton says.

Instead, use clamps or lugs rated for the specific wire size and application. For instance, when connecting the wire to the pool’s rebar grid, you must use clamps that are UL approved for concrete encasement. If they’re going in the ground, the tag should indicate that they are approved for direct burial. These clamps are usually made of brass and copper. The screw should be made of stainless steel or brass. You don’t want plated steel anywhere near these applications, or they will rust and eventually fail.

“As to ones that are not required within concrete, then they’re going to be standard electrical fittings like you would get at an electric supply house,” Hamilton says.

Make sure the connectors are listed for the type of wire you’re using, whether it’s stranded or solid. Electrician and pool professional David Durkin often sees stake-ons, bud connectors and terminals used with solid wire. “They will become loose after a while, because it’s supposed to mesh in, and you can’t mesh into a solid wire,” says the owner of D&M Electric in Antioch, Calif.

Conversely, you can’t wrap stranded wire around a screw. “It keeps pushing out strands, and it’s not a good connection,” Durkin says. “They should be using terminals.”

If you do want to make the connection by wrapping solid wire around a screw, wrap it clockwise, he adds. “When the screw tightens, it sucks the wire instead of pushing it out.”

When you have to pot certain connections, such as those inside a light niche, use potting kits made for that purpose. Don’t use things such as bath tub caulk, Hamilton says.

Mistake #5: Using the wrong wires
Watch where you use insulated wire. Particularly on the equipotential grid under the deck, uninsulated wire is mandated by code. Some electricians prefer this variety on the whole bonding grid to maximize contact with all relevant pieces of equipment, the water, earth and all conducting surfaces in contact with the bond wire.

There is one place where you must use an insulated wire: “If you have a non-metallic conduit going from the light niche up to the junction box, you have to pull an insulated No. 8 green wire through there,” Hamilton says. “But even that’s more of a ground wire, even though it does have some involvement in the bonding system.”

Many codes require that No. 8 wires and smaller be solid. If you’re cautious by nature, use solid wires for No. 6 as well. “If you need a wire that’s that small, you’re better off with a solid wire, just because the strands are more susceptible to environmental damage,” Hamilton says.

This is especially important with bond wires, since they’re in direct contact with the earth. “It may be buried 50 or 60 years,” Hamilton says.

Mistake #6: Believing that plastic or fiberglass elements need bonding
This mistake is generally not made by professionals, but rather by inspectors. Many of them, for instance, see the metal tension band on a plastic or fiberglass filter and insist that it be bonded.

“Don’t do anything to the tension band on that filter,” Hamilton says. “That creates a substantial safety hazard…if you do anything to the tension band. You’re affecting its mechanical integrity and ability to hold the filter together over time and under pressure.”

If that filter comes with a bonding lug, or has a metallic base with a bonding lug, then it must be bonded. But if it’s all polymer on a polymer base and it comes with no bonding lug, then it doesn’t need to be included in the grid.

Explain to the inspector that, because the band is only touching the plastic filter shell, there is no electrical connection. If the inspector won’t budge, then move the equipment so it’s more than 5 feet away from the inside wall of the pool.

You may have the same problem with plastic lights outfitted with an all-plastic niche. Show the inspector that UL has listed it to go ungrounded.

Take a slightly different path when installing double-insulated pumps, Hamilton says. Though you can’t bond them now, code requires that you run a bonding wire to it anyway. You won’t make the connection to the pump, but you must connect the bond wire to the ground wire in the junction box serving the pump. The code requires this so that if the double-insulated pump is replaced with a pump that isn’t double-insulated, then there’s a place to bond it without tearing up the pool area.

Source: Rebecca Robledo – Pool and Spa News | 5.13.2009

Plaster Pool Stains

Years after the start-up is finished, changing water conditions can still damage and stain plaster in some surprising ways.

Gary Gripp’s story begins like so many others.

“I’d been servicing pools in this area for over 15 years when it happened,” says the service manager at Anderson Poolworks in Portland, Ore. Gripp and his team had been hired to drain, clean and refill a gunite pool, and everything seemed to have gone right. “When we left the job site, that plaster was clean as new, and the water was sparkling clear,” he says.

But the next afternoon, the customer called again, complaining that the pool’s water was grayish.

Gripp was hurrying back to the job site when he answered another call from the same customer, the water had now turned a pale shade of lavender.

“And by the next day,” he says, “the water was this beautiful deep purple — like a jewel. I wouldn’t have even guessed water could turn that color.”

The culprit, Gripp discovered, was manganese, a metal known to lend a distinctive range of tints to water: Grayish at lower concentrations, up through brighter shades of purple at higher ones. The real question was, why had manganese suddenly become such a problem for this pool?

“When we tested the fill water, we found that the manganese levels coming out of the tap were just about off the scale,” Gripp says. Luckily, he’d managed to pinpoint the problem before the manganese stained the plaster, and was able to bring the water back into balance with a sequestering agent.

Still, Gripp says he learned something crucial from the experience. “No matter how long I’ve been working on a pool,” he says, “I don’t assume anything anymore. I test the fill water on every visit, sometimes even multiple times. Your chemistry could be perfect, but until you test your makeup water you never know what it could be depositing into the system.”

As builders and service technicians around the country have confirmed, balanced water chemistry is a science — and, in its own way, an art — that reaches well beyond the start-up. Even years down the road, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, pH and other factors can shift dramatically, sometimes in a single day.

Even so, a little preparation and a lot of thoroughness can help stop these problems before they damage the plaster.

Chemical crawl


Changing water chemistry can seem to sneak up on you. Its effects, however, are often — though not always — the results of conditions that have been building up for some time.

Take metals, for example: Their level in the water can gradually rise due to a variety of factors. In dry or windy areas, evaporation removes water but leaves dissolved solids (including metals) behind, significantly raising the water’s total dissolved solids over time. If someone’s been adding a copper algaecide without testing the level regularly, the water’s copper level can rise even more quickly.

Metal deposits inside pipes can be harder to detect, and they often accumulate for years before leading to a problem. “At every pool I’ve seen that’s been around for a few years,” Gripp says, “you can cut a pipe open — even a PVC pipe — and see a deposit of some kind in there. It may be clear and slick, but something always accumulates.”

Most pool water contains some amount of dissolved metals, but these are typically harmless, and invisible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, a variety of common chemical reactions — such as the breakdown of hypochlorous acid under UV radiation and the electrolysis of saltwater in a chlorine generator — increase the water’s concentration of “free” oxygen, the form necessary for oxidation to occur.

The more free oxygen that becomes available, the more metals in the water begin to oxidize — that is, they bond with the free oxygen, which converts them into oxides. Oxidization causes the metals to precipitate out (or fall out) of solution and become visible as a tint in the water. The longer this oxidation reaction is allowed to continue, the greater the risk that the metal oxide will stain the plaster — and eventually be absorbed by its surface.

This is most common with copper, particularly in areas that experience severe storms or droughts, like the Gulf states, says Jana Auringer, owner of The Pool Lady in Coppell, Texas. Auringer travels the Southwest as a consultant, tracking down the sources of plaster stains. She says copper’s telltale pale green tint often appears in pools that experienced no staining issues prior to a bout of harsh weather, and it’s usually traceable to a chemical change in the pool’s fill water.

“[After a storm or drought], we’re finding higher levels of copper in the source water when we test it,” she says. “A lot of times, though, the metal won’t show up on water tests, because it’s already precipitated out and stained the plaster.”

Sudden shifts


Stains and other plaster issues don’t always sneak up so gradually, though. As Gripp discovered with his purple pool, water’s composition can seem to change dramatically in just a few days. Sometimes, water whose chemistry has remained stable for years will suddenly display a sharp drop in calcium hardness or total alkalinity. In those cases, servicepeople say, it’s probably not the same water at all.

Across the country, builders and service pros confirm that municipal water circulation has become more complex over the past few years. These days, the water that flows from a tap is a mixture of water from wells, rivers, reservoirs and storage tanks, and the proportion of water drawn from each source may vary from day to day.

Lance Sada became so frustrated by the seemingly random water chemistry he encountered on his route that he performed his own chemical survey. Using a series of brand-new test kits, the owner of A Clear Choice Pool and Spa Service in Sun City, Calif., tested the water up and down residential blocks in his area. “I found that from one street to another, the water’s calcium hardness might be as low as 20 ppm, or as high as 200,” he says. “Sometimes, the hardness from a single tap varied by 100 ppm from one day to the next.”

In cases like these, the most effective way to prevent problems is to test the pool’s fill water on every visit, before adding any chemicals. But in other situations, the source water itself is less of a problem than what it dredges up.

“Some customers get an accumulation of metal deposits in the bottom of their well,” Gripp says. “When you kick that well on, an abundance of iron, copper, manganese — whatever accumulated in that well source — will come flying into the pool during the initial burst of water.”

Pools that sit idle for the winter tend to display similar symptoms when the weather heats up. “If you shut a pool down for a period of time and you don’t empty the chlorinator, or run the chlorine off beforehand,” Gripp says, “that chlorine’s chewing away at the copper or iron inside the pipes.” When you turn such a system on, it may kick a cloud of metal oxides into the water, and create stains on the plaster.

Perhaps strangest of all, some stains only appear after a plaster surface has been freshly cleaned. “A degraded surface sometimes doesn’t attract stains because it’s so heavily scaled, or has some type of mineral coating on it,” Gripp explains. “And when you resurface it, you might find that your water chemistry looks fine, but all of a sudden you get a stain around the return.” Those stains are most likely metal oxides, to which the plaster’s exposed surface is suddenly vulnerable.

Even if you’re anticipating unpleasant surprises like these, they can’t always be avoided. If you start investigating as soon as you notice discoloration, though, it’s often possible to prevent a metal oxide from becoming a permanent plaster stain.

Getting proactive


Diagnosing the source of a discoloration takes a lot more than educated guesswork. Each pool’s chemical conditions are unique. Manganese, for instance, can appear as a gray, black, lavender or purple stain, depending on the chemistry of the surrounding water. A high TDS reading may point to an excessive level of contaminants, or it might mean you’re adding too much of a particular chemical — or any number of other issues. That’s why it’s crucial to pinpoint the problem’s origin, then confirm it with multiple tests, before you start any treatment.

To become a master of plaster problem-solving, you’ll need to focus on two related skills: Investigating all factors that affect the system, and confirming test results before starting to treat the issue.

The first skill, though it might seem overwhelming at first, is mostly a matter of knowing what questions to ask the customer, and listening carefully to the answers.

“You’ll need to get some background on when the owner first started seeing the discoloration,” Auringer says. “Was it after a heavy rain? After shocking the pool? After a new type of algae treatment? Try to find some change in circumstances to tie the problem to.”

It may also be helpful to find out if any equipment has been replaced, and ask to see the house’s plumbing to check if water has been running through old copper or iron piping. It’s also important to understand the history of the pool’s maintenance regimen, who’s been working on the pool, and what’s been added to the water over time. This can often lead to surprising (and useful) answers.

“It might sound like a lot,” Gripp says, “but if you take every pool on a case-by-case basis, you can find out everything you need to know in a 10-minute conversation.”

The second skill is also somewhat of a matter of instinct, but it too can be boiled down to some basic principles. Techs agree that you’re doing yourself a favor by testing on every visit, in more than one spot in the pool, and by testing source water regularly.

“Always start with a clean slate, and test the tap water first,” Gripp says. In fact, the first time he visits a site, he runs through every single test in his kit. “We also use the separate tests for manganese, iron, copper, phosphates and — if it’s applicable — salinity,” he adds.

Testing the water at several spots around the pool, then averaging the results, can help prevent inaccurate readings due to dead spots or other circulation problems. “Every time I’ve tested multiple spots in a pool,” Gripp explains, “there are significant pH, alkalinity and chlorine differences between them.”

Garrett and Gripp both recommend holding onto your results from the source water, and comparing them against your test results from around the pool for confirmation. “When you go to the doctor,” Garrett says, “he’s always going to check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and so on, because that gives him a baseline reading to know if there’s anything else wrong with you. It’s no different for pool chemistry: You need to establish a baseline before you know what you need to adjust.”

Finally, before acting on your test results, it’s important to confirm them with other testing methods. At the very least, your test kit should be calibrated against a set of chemical standards, which are usually sold by the kit’s manufacturer. You can also ensure the accuracy of your results by confirming them against another type of test, such as an electronic meter or test strip.

“And that makes you so much more confident when you speak to the homeowner,” Gripp says, “because you can show them the results of multiple tests that all confirm each other.”

Source: Ben Thomas- Pool and Spa News | 2.11.2011

Perfect Water Balance

To effectively preserve the pool’s plaster life, techs must recognize common mistakes in calculating balanced water.

Since   the 1960s, the pool industry has relied on the Langelier Saturation Index to   achieve balanced water. The traditional method has been to land right at 0.0   of an SI with an allowable variance in either direction. But the subtleties   of pool chemistry call for both a studied approach and a modified SI range.

Over   the years, experts have seen two things: mistakes in calculating SI and a   need for the Index itself to be adjusted. Here, we examine some common errors   techs make in calculating each component of the Index, as well as the   advantages of skewing SI balance toward a positive number.
Balanced water will go a long way in preserving the life of the plaster and   the clarity of the pool.

Measuring pH is the least problematic portion of the SI. There are no   conversions necessary since the pH level is actually the number you’re using   to compute SI. Just be aware of anything introduced to the pool that may have   an affect on the pH.

The   most obvious pH changes will be the result of introducing sanitizers into the   pool. Acidic sanitizers like trichlor and dichlor will lower the pH. However,   you should be cognizant of CO2 loss, which can be especially dramatic in   spas.

“People   forget that when you turn the aerator on … immediately the pH goes up,” says   Joan Vienot, owner of Pool Pal Inc. in Freeport, Fla.

It’s   best to tabulate the water balance in a spa after the unit has already been   used in order to account for these changes, she adds.

As most techs know, alkalinity refers to the pool’s ability to buffer the   water against pH change. When calculating the Saturation Index, however, we   are only interested in alkalinity’s ability to keep calcium carbonate in   solution.

To   calculate the correct SI factor, techs must isolate carbonate (or, in   actuality, bicarbonate) alkalinity from the pool’s total alkalinity.

Though   a host of buffers contribute to total alkalinity, carbonates and cyanurates   make up the majority of alkalinity in most pools. This is particularly true   in pools that are sanitized with dichlor or trichlor, which continually feed   cyanuric acid in the vessel.

In   order to isolate carbonate- from cyanurate alkalinity, experts generally   recommend taking a third of the cyanuric acid level from the total alkalinity   reading. For example, at a pH of 7.5, a pool with 90 ppm of CYA would have   approximately 30 ppm of cyanurate alkalinity, which you would have to   subtract from the total alkalinity reading to find the necessary SI factor.   Note that cyanurate levels at a higher pH will be more than a third of the   cyanuric acid level.

But   remember, isolating the carbonate alkalinity is not correcting any kind of   interference. The cyanurate is still buffering against pH bounce.

“There   are people applying that ‘correction’ to the alkalinity even when they’re   reporting total alkalinity,” says Que Hales, a manager for Pool Chlor   in Tucson, Ariz.

This   mistake is especially troublesome because every time cyanuric acid is added   to the pool — whether directly or through stabilized sanitizers — carbonate   alkalinity actually is being transformed into cyanurates. Even with the rapid   transformation of bicarbonates to cyanurates, the total alkalinity should   remain a relatively stable pH buffer.

—or in some cases 1,500 ppm — in the water. However, these tables were   largely put together before salt-chlorine pools became popular.

With   salt levels of 3,500 ppm, many pools with chlorine generators have from   4,000- to 5,000 of TDS in them. In these cases, even using the 12.2 number is   hardly being accurate. Your water is much more corrosive than you may think.

“If   everyone will use 12.4 for the TDS factor, then the corrosive effect of the   salinity will be accounted for,” Vienot says.

While   Vienot uses a standard value of 12.4, chemist John Wojtowicz published an   equation in 2001 to explain the changing SI values as the TDS rose over 2,000   and above. As demonstrated by the chart, a normal   salt pool will be improperly balanced if a tech uses a 12.1 or 12.2 constant.

Calcium hardness
The calcium component of saturation chemistry is often misunderstood. The   actual contributing factor to saturation issues is the amount of calcium in   the water. Calcium test kits give that value. However, some industry test   methods give total harness instead, which includes calcium but also other   components. To correctly calculate saturation values, use a calcium hardness   rather than a total hardness kit.

Although   the calcium hardness level is a direct indication of how much calcium is   available in the water to fall out of solution, it is not the primary   indicator of whether calcium actually will precipitate. pH is the primary   factor, with alkalinity in second place.

And   although lower calcium levels do limit the amount of precipitate that can be   formed, you can’t go overboard and maintain too little calcium.

“If   you don’t have calcium added to water, it’s going to leech the calcium out of   that system,” explains Greg Garrett, technical advisor for the National Plasterer’s Council in Port Charlotte, Fla.

This   is especially true of newly plastered pools that have not had adequate time   for internal cement compound transformation, he adds.

Temperature is as straight-forward as pH, but perhaps because of its relative   simplicity, many techs don’t pay attention to the seasonal differences in   pool and spa maintenance.

Temperature   is key to the SI because as the water heats up, calcium becomes much less   soluble. This is why pools can deteriorate over the off-season and many spas   are ridden with scaling problems in the summer.

“A   perfectly balanced pool in the summer may be very corrosive in the winter,”   Vienot says. “In spas is probably where you get the most common water balance   problems. If you balance them for cold water and then heat them up 60 degrees,   you’ve got some real problems.”

Even   if all the other SI factors are within an accepted range, an unaccounted for   temperature can quickly tip the water’s balance.

Proof positive
The NPC’s new start-up guide is now recommending an ideal range of all   positive indices for maintaining pools and spas. This approach is to ensure   that the calcium in the pool plaster is not etched out into the water.

“Why   tolerate negative indices, which indicates the water is under saturated by   [at least] one parameter?” Garrett says.

Even   APSP’s recommendations call for an ideal range of 0.0 to +0.5, with an   allowable variance on the negative side.

Service   techs generally agree.

“With   most pools, we intentionally ride the Saturation Index a little bit toward the   positive side to where, if something goes wrong, we’re more likely to scale   it than we are to etch it,” Hales says.

However,   some pools — those with exposed aggregate, water features that continually   raise pH through aeration or sanitizers that require constant adjustment —   may need the full range of the “neutral zone” of -0.3 to +0.5, he adds.

Source: John Miles- Pool and Spa News | 2.13.2009

One Piece Swimming Pools

We at Expert Pools are number one when it comes to one-piece fiberglass pools. We have a larger stock of one-piece designs than any other distributor in the world. However, it is not only quantity that separates us from the pack. The quality of our one-piece swimming pools is unrivaled because we utilize the very latest technology in their construction.

Our design team has created a unique fiberglass composite and it has developed an original coping system. Both of these advances have enhanced the strength and longevity of our pools. The majority of fiberglass pool manufacturers and distributors are still utilizing techniques that were developed in the 1970s and have long since become outdated.

What Do One-Piece Pools Offer?

A one-piece fiberglass pool from Expert Pools can be installed quickly without compromising its surface integrity or appearance. Once the pool is in place, it offers benefits that simply are not common with concrete pools or even most fiberglass models. A one-piece fiberglass design ensures that the pool will survive through many winters. It also reduces the amount of maintenance a person will have to perform on the pool. This includes large repairs and simple cleanings.

When you’re building a concrete pool, you are usually relying on sketches to envision what the pool will look like in the backyard. At Expert Pools, we will demonstrate exactly how a pool is going to be laid out. A full-sized template in the form of a piece of fabric can be shaped and placed in a yard to accurately represent the position of the pool.

We even offer three dimensional design for no additional charge.