General Maintenance & Tips

General Maintenance and Tips

General Maintenance and Tips

Sparkling Water Doesn’t Happen by Itself

Whether you maintain your pool yourself or use a pool professional maintaining proper pool chemistry can help you save time and money while enjoying your backyard paradise. Accurate pool maintenance can do more than just prolong your fun in the sun. It also can extend the life of your pool’s external parts and interior pool finish.

Importance of a Balanced Pool

One of the most important steps of swimming pool maintenance is water balance. Generally, understanding water balance can also be one of the most confusing processes of pool maintenance. Because of its complexity, some new pool owners may not know everything they have to do to keep their pool water safe, comfortable and corrosion free.

Below are a few of the reasons why having a balanced swimming pool is so important:

Safety

If you are using either a salt based pool producing chlorine or a chlorine based tablet pool, then your pH needs to be correct. If pool water is not balanced correctly then the chlorine sanitizer won't be working at full strength killing germs and bacteria.

Comfortable

Your water balance needs to be correct or it will affect your skin and eyes. The pH should be neither too acidic nor basic in order to feel comfortable. 

Corrosion

An imbalanced pool can be corrosive to the liner, ladders and hand rail and other equipment such as the pump.

What is entailed in Water Balance?

Total Alkalinity

Total alkalinity refers to how much alkaline is in the water. TA and pH go hand-in-hand. High alkaline water leads to high pH. Low alkaline water leads to low pH. That the average swimming pool should have an alkalinity reading of 100 ppm.

Swimming Pool Water pH Levels

Keeping your pH levels within the proper range is important for keeping your equipment and pool finish intact. pH refers to the acidity or baseness of your pool water. A proper pH level is around 7.4 to 7.6 on a pH test kit's numeric scale. 0 to 7 reflects a low or acidic pH. 8 to 14 means the pool has a base pH level. Your chlorine will dissolve quicker with a low pH level. High pH levels make chlorine inactive. 

Calcium Hardness

The right amount of calcium in your pool is essential. If there is too little, your plaster can erode. Too much calcium can make your water could become cloudy, scale could form and stains might start. 200 to 400 ppm is the general range for calcium hardness, while 300 ppm is ideal for the average pool.

Stabilizer

Stabilizer helps retain your chlorine longer just as insulation helps retain heat or air conditioning. Stabilizer can be added to some chlorine compounds to protect them from the breakdown effects of sunlight. When your stabilizer level is low, you'll use a lot more chlorine. When it's high, you may need to dilute your pool water to bring it back into the 40 to 100 ppm ideal range.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

All water contains dissolved minerals. As pool water evaporates, minerals remain behind and become concentrated. The more concentrated these minerals become, the harder it is for chemical additives to work and stains can form. If you have 3000 ppm or more of total dissolved solids or TDS, you may need to drain some water and add fresh water.

Closing a Pool
Opening Your Pool

When spring is finally here and as the temperatures begin to climb, it’s time to think about getting the pool area ready for the warm weather. Opening a pool is now easier than ever and with a few simple steps, you can be ready to enjoy your pool in no time!

Perhaps one of the most-overlooked steps in getting your swimming pool ready for the season is addressing the area surrounding your pool. Things to consider:

Clean up plant debris from the pool deck, patio, nearby planting beds – virtually anything that has the potential for producing debris in your pool.

Prune trees and hedges that have grown in recent months and might hang over your pool. Some plants shed their flowers in the summertime, which can end up in your pool.

Check Your Pool Supplies

Check expiration dates on all pool chemical containers. Cleaning supplies that are past expiration should be properly disposed of and replaced with new chemicals. Also remember that if a chemical was not properly sealed before being stored in the off-season, you need to replace that as well.

Remove the Pool Cover

During the fall and winter months your pool cover accumulates water. Be sure to avoid mixing the water on the top of the cover with your pool water by using a pump or shop vacuum to remove the water from the top of the pool cover. After removing the cover, take it to a driveway or other solid place on a slant or slope for easier drainage. Thoroughly sweep and hose off the cover, and use cleaner or treatment if it’s recommended by the manufacturer of the cover.

PoolStyle Clean-N-Store removes dirt, grease, oil, grime and deodorizes as well as protects the cover during storage – ensuring a longer life for your pool cover. You can pour the cleaner on and scrub it with a brush. There is no need to let the cover completely dry, however it is recommended that you buy a large plastic container to store your pool cover in. This way, it can remain wet and no insects will have access to it. If not using PoolStyle Clean-N-Store, allow the cover to dry completely before storing. Tightly roll or fan-fold the cover and wrap with rope or use strapping to keep it tight. Store the pool cover indoors or in a garage - away from insects, rodents and moisture.

Inspect the Pool

Remove expansion or freeze plugs from the surface skimmers and wall returns, and restore directional fittings. Make sure to inspect the filter and pump for possible damaged or worn parts and buy a replacement. To prevent lights from cracking in areas where it freezes, underwater light fixtures are often removed from their housings, with the wires still connected. Coil the wire into the niche and reattach the light fixture. Also, be sure to look for chips in the plaster and indentations on the deck and coping. It’s also a good time to remove calcium scale and stains from the tile with a household tile cleaner or baking soda and a tile brush. For tougher stains, try using a pumice stone.

Different types of pools require different pre-opening measures

Vinyl Liner

Check for holes or tears and make any needed repairs as soon as possible. The primary function of the vinyl liner is to hold water. If it is properly maintained, it can last for a very long time. Patch tears or holes promptly, before they get any bigger, following the instructions of your pool’s manufacturer. If you are not sure about how to make the repair, call or go to your local pool supplier for help or consult a swimming pool maintenance company.

Keep your pool liner clean. Dirt and other fine materials accumulate at the waterline. Remove this buildup frequently by gently scrubbing it with a soft cloth and vinyl cleaner. You can also use a mop or a brush specially designed for your type of pool liner.

Gunite Pools

Check for cracks and repair any cracks you find within the season. Checking for cracks should be a standard part of regular maintenance. It’s especially important to check for cracks at the beginning and end of the swimming season. Cracks often develop from ground shifts. Water may be lost as well. Repair cracks in accordance with guidelines on the product label or instructions from the manufacturer.

Fiberglass

Hairline cracks are normal; inspect for other damage. Hairline cracks often occur in fiberglass over a period of time. Since fiberglass pools have a gel coating, hairline cracks do not tend to leak or affect the integrity of the pool. If you see a major crack or damage, however, call a fiberglass pool specialist.

Fill the Pool Water Midway and Clean Debris

Grab a garden hose and fill the pool to the midpoint on the waterline tile or middle of the skimmer weirs. Once it's at the desired level, you can now clean leaves, twigs and debris from the pool’s bottom by using a wall and floor brush. This is also time to dust off your algae brush and pool vacuum. Also be sure to remove any debris from the leaf basket.

Check the Filter Cartridge

Remove the top of the filter and check the filter cartridge (if applicable). If you have a sand filter, refill it to the indicated level. Check the piping in your filters for cracks or leaks.

Turn on the Pool Filter

Turn on the filter and run it 12-24 hours to mix up the old and new water before testing or adding chemicals. Be sure that you are using new testing strips and not expired ones. In order to get the best start for your pool, you should bring a water sample to a pool professional for proper analysis. Your pool professional will provide you with instructions for balancing your pool water. They can test the water’s pH level, the alkalinity, the calcium hardness and the chlorine content. In addition to shocking the pool, they may be able to also recommend that you add a stabilizer, conditioner or algaecide to your pool before it’s ready for the warm weather.

Continue to run the filter for a few days, vacuuming out any debris that has settled. When the water is clear and the chlorine levels have come down, your pool is ready for swimming!

Clean and Repair Pool and Deck Furniture

Be sure to clean and repair any pool and deck furniture so that it is safe for use. Replace any that is unstable or rotted. Also, check all safety rails, slides, ladders, and diving boards by checking that the bolts are secure.

Safety

Rescue equipment should be easily accessible near the pool and well maintained. The equipment should be appropriate, durable, and easy to use. All equipment should be checked before the swimming season begins. Don’t forget to post emergency numbers by the pool.

Opening a Pool
Closing Your Pool

Protect Your Pool Over the Cold Winter Season

As cold weather approaches, you will want to start thinking about winterizing the swimming pool. The main purpose in winterizing your swimming pool is to protect it from damage due to freezing water. Another reason to close the pool correctly is to keep it as clean as possible for the next season. Closing your swimming pool properly can save you a lot of work when it comes time to open the swimming pool for the summer. Here are a few steps to follow that will make your pool as safe as possible for the winter and low maintenance to open when warm weather returns in the spring.

Balance The Water

About 4-7 days prior to closing your pool for winter, bring your pool pH (7.6-7.8), pool alkalinity (80-100), and calcium hardness (150-250) in line. Shock the pool with a chlorine shock to bring the chlorine level up to 10-12ppm. Allow the pool chlorine to come down to its normal level, about 1.5-3.5ppm before adding any pool algaecides, pool winterizing chemicals, or your pool cover. If you are unsure of how to correctly balance the water, take a sample to your local pool retailer and they can test it and make recommendations.

Removal Of Inground and Above Ground Pool Accessories

Remove the skimmer baskets, heaters, slide, any wall fittings, vacuums, pool cleaners, ladders, handrails, or anything else that shouldn't be in the pool. Scoop out any debris on the top and bottom of the pool using a good leaf rake. At this point you may want to invest in a winter conditioner or a winterization swimming pool water treatment kit to keep your pool water chemistry on track. You can visit a local pool professional retailer to get all you need for your inground and above ground pool chemicals.

Clean And Backwash The Filter

You'll want to do one final brush and vacuum to winterize your swimming pool. Once this is done, it's time to backwash your filter.

Lower The Water Level

You can either use your filter pump or a submersible pump to lower your pool water level. You'll need to lower the level about 4"-6" below the lowest plumbing line, normally the water return line. Be sure the water level is at least below the skimmer. You can remove the above ground pool skimmer.

Drain Your Pump, Filters, Heaters, and Chlorinating Equipment

Your pump, filter, heater, and chlorinator all have a drain plug. Either drain the water out of these or blow the line out with a shop vac. This will ensure all of the water has drained and none is left inside any plumbing lines. If you have a DE pool Filter or a cartridge filter, now would be a good time to take them out and clean the grids or cartridges and store them away for the winter. If the filter is small enough, you might be able to take it apart and store it for the winter. Keep the plugs out of these units. If you plug them back up and water happens to get into them, they might freeze over and crack your equipment. Place all the plugs in the skimmer basket during your pool winterization maintenance. By doing this, you'll know where they are when you need them next spring.

Empty Your Chemical Feeder

If you have a chemical feeder, now would be a good time to drain and empty it. By leaving chemicals in your chemical feeder during swimming pool winterization, you might damage your equipment. Remember to put the top back on the chemical feeder and be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves.

Winter Pool Covers

Now is the time to break out your above ground pool winter cover or inground pool winter cover to keep the debris out of the pool. Use a solid cover that keeps out all debris and sun. These solid covers should keep the pool clean and prevent algae growth. You should also use an air pillow. These air pillows hold the pool cover up like a tent so water and debris fall off instead of collecting on the top. They also help to take up any water expansion which could occur from freezing and possibly cause your above ground pool wall to split.

Vacumming a Pool
Vacuuming a Pool

Proper swimming pool maintenance requires that you vacuum your pool. Most pool owners opt for an automatic swimming pool cleaner, but some also choose to perform this task manually with basic cleaning equipment. Follow the technique below to manually vacuum an above ground or inground swimming pool.

  1. Attach the vacuum head and pole together. Then attach the vacuum hose to the vacuum head.
  2. Lower the vacuum head to the bottom of the pool and use a hand-over-hand method to sink the vacuum hose, working from the part attached to the head towards the free end. This will remove air from the hose. You can tell if you have done it properly when water runs out of the hose.
  3. Connect the free end of the hose to the opening at the back of the skimmer, after taking the skimmer basket off.
  4. At the filter slab, turn main control valve off, and turn the control valve attached to your skimmer towards the off position until you hear the pump activate. Then open it slightly until the pump can be heard running smoothly again.
  5. Move the vacuum like you would a real vacuum on a rug, in slow linear passes. If the pool is especially dirty, you may have to empty the pump strainer during this process.
  6. Do not lift the vacuum head until you have gone back to the filter slab and opened any of the valves you have closed.
Tile Maintenance
Tile Maintenance

Unbalanced pH levels can cause calcium carbonate to separate from the water and form white, gray or brown patches on your pool tiles. Regular pool maintenance including balancing the water can restore the health of your pool water and prevent future scale buildup. Check your local pool store to find items to help you prevent scale buildup.

  1. Test your total alkalinity level to make sure it falls between 80 and 120 ppm. Adjust this level before adjusting your pH.
  2. Test your pool water to make sure your pH levels remain between 7.2 and 7.6. Adjust by adding a pH balancer to the water.
  3. Keep your calcium hardness level between 200 and 235 ppm; high levels increase the risk for scale. Bring it down by adding soft water. You may also use a scale inhibitor.
  4. Prevent scale buildup by following a maintenance schedule for cleaning and testing the balance of your water. Daily testing will ensure your levels remain manageable.
  5. Remove light areas of waterline scale buildup by scrubbing with a pool brush or a sponge and a tile cleaner designed for either chlorine or chlorine-free pools.
Cleaning the Skimmer and Pump Basket
Cleaning the Skimmer and Pump Basket

Cleaning the skimmer and pump baskets regularly is important to the overall maintenance of your swimming pool. Clogged baskets make your pump have to work harder to try to cycle the water.  This can decrease the life and stress the seals in your pump.

With water flow impeded by baskets full of debris, you are not getting the proper turnover rate to properly filter your pool water.  For your pool to stay clean and clear the water must be filtered. With your skimmer and pumps baskets full of debris, you are not pulling as much water to the pump, and not filtering as much water as if the baskets were kept clean. This can have a negative effect on your pool maintenance

Clean the skimmer and pump basket at least once a week by following the directions below:

Cleaning the Pump Basket

  1. Turn off pool cleaner pump and pool heater.  If the heater was in operation you should wait 5-10 minutes for the heater to cool down before turning off the pool pump.
  2. Close skimmer and main drain valves.
  3. If the pool pump is located below the water level in the pool, then turn the filter valve to "closed".  
  4. Remove pump lid.
  5. Use a garden hose to wash the basket.  Baskets become brittle over time and can break easily.  It is easiest to clean a basket if the contents are allowed to completely dry.  Having a spare pump basket to rotate with the dirty basket is the easiest way to perform this task.
  6. Inspect the pump basket for signs of damage and replace basket if needed.
  7. Re-install pump basket.  Some baskets will twist-lock in place.  Do not over-tighten the basket.
  8. Inspect pump lid and o-ring for cracks or damage and lubricate pump lid o-ring with petroleum jelly if it appears dry.
  9. Install pump lid and o-ring.  Do not over-tighten.
  10. Make sure filter valve is in the "filter" position. 
  11. Open the main drain valve all the way.
  12. Open the air relief valve on the pool filter.
  13. Turn pool pump on.
  14. Once the pump has caught a prime, open the remaining skimmer valves one at a time.
  15. When a steady stream of water is visible out of the air relief valve, close the valve.
  16. Turn pool cleaner pump and heater back on if desired.

Cleaning the Skimmer Basket:

  1. Turn the pool pump off.
  2. Remove skimmer lid.
  3. Remove skimmer basket and empty out.
  4. Install the basket back into the skimmer.
  5. Install skimmer lid and turn the system back on.
Checking Equipment Pad
Checking your Equipment Pad

You can safeguard your swimming pool area with a regular inspection of the equipment pad. Several elements come together at your equipment including water, gas, electricity, and potentially hazardous chemicals. 

The equipment pad should keep all pool equipment level, off the wet ground and prevent any flammable or combustible items from causing damage. Any equipment installed on the ground should be moved to a solid concrete. Make sure equipment pad has the proper drainage and keep overgrown weeds and shrubbery at a minimum. Never block any vents on pumps or heaters with landscaping.

An excess of pressure can be hazardous in your pool filter. Valves, chlorinators, plumbing and heaters can also have pressure buildup. Chlorinators can also build up pressure due to off-gassing. Use only recommended chemicals in chemical feeders and read all manufacturers’ instructions.

All electrical components are designed to stay dry. Faulty and cracked conduits can allow live wires to get wet and cause potential electrocutions. Always replace broken or cracked conduits. 

When you first light a heater for the season, it is important to have proper ventilation. A build up of gas can suddenly ignite causing a wave of flames to exit through the front of heater. It is helpful to clean your heat exchange and remove any debris as maintenance. Allow for proper ventilation for gases to escape and always stay clear when lighting. Pool heaters produce carbon monoxide and can be fatal if placed in a room or near a window without properly installed and maintained venting.

Cleaning the Deck

Pool decks should be both cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of disease as well as the slipperiness that results from the growth of bacteria.

Pool decks should be both cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of disease as well as the slipperiness that results from the growth of bacteria. Depending on the type of deck surface material -- brushed concrete, textured modified cement or other cement coatings, ceramic tile, rubber granules, stone, brick, or epoxy aggregate, cleaning procedures may vary slightly. Always follow the manufactures recommendation for properly cleaning and maintaining the surface. When pool decks are large enough, the purchase of a pressure washer is recommended because cleaning and disinfecting decks by hand would just be too time consuming. But for smaller decks, you can follow the directions below. Dirt, grease and scum can be removed by scrubbing the decks with a stiff brush and any of a number of non abrasive commercially available cleaning solutions. Be sure to read the MSDS sheet or check with the distributor to make sure that the cleanser or detergent is compatible with pool water in case some of it gets into the pool. The decks can also be cleaned using TSP (tri sodium phosphate) which can be purchased at most hardware stores. Use one cup of TSP to one gallon of water. Use a pressure washer, or rinse with a garden hose with a high pressure nozzle.

To kill bacteria and other harmful pathogens, pool decks should also be disinfected. Commercial disinfectants are available from your local pool retailer. Use an air pressure sprayer and wand purchased specifically for this purpose at the local hardware or gardening store to apply the disinfectant solution to the deck. Rinse with fresh water immediately afterwards.

Pool Water Level
Pool Water Level

The level at which the swimming pool skimmers operate best is between one third and one half the way up the opening of the pool skimmer.

If the level is higher, the water moving into the skimmer is going so slow that debris may pass by the opening without being pulled in. If the pool water is so high that it covers the skimmer opening, floating debris can't get in.

If the water is too low the skimmer can bottom out, thereby sucking air into the system which can result in losing the prime and possibly result in burning up your swim pool filter pump motor.

Add water before backwashing and vacuuming the pool because this will also lower the water level.

Understanding Pressure Gauges
Understanding Pressure Gauges

Knowing how to read your pool filter pressure gauge and what to do if it’s not reading right can save you time and money. Most pools come with a pool filter pressure gauge; it’s the gadget that reads the amount of pressure building up inside the filter. Understanding this device is pivotal in keeping your pool healthy and safe.

You should get into the habit of checking your pressure gauge once a week. The typical swimming pool gauge is located on the top of the filter. It's a round device with numbers ranging from 0-60 divided into 10's or 5's by tick marks. The numbers represent the force of water flowing through your system in pounds per square inch or psi for short. Make sure you know what the normal operating pressure is (it should be recorded when a new pressure gauge is installed). Generally, your filter needs cleaning if the pressure rises more than 10 psi over the original marking. Double check in your owner’s manual if this guideline is right for your pool.

If the pressure reads too low, it’s likely that something is blocking the water intake into the filter. The pump uses water to build pressure in the filter, so if something is keeping the water from coming in, the gauge will show the pressure as too low.

If the pressure reads higher than normal, then your filter is working too hard. Your water may be dirty or the filter might need to be cleaned. If cleaning the filter doesn’t help, there may be something wrong with one of the valves in the machine.

If the pressure fluctuates, your water level is probably too low. If your water level is right on the edge, it will fill the skimmer weir—the mechanism that adjusts to changes in water level to take in the right amount—and pressure will gradually build. Then, when the skimmer is sucked dry, the pressure drops again. If your water level isn’t too low, there may be something blocking the skimmer.

Replacing Cracked Skimmer Lids/Cover

Your pool skimmer cover is used as a safety and maintenance feature. It is meant to prevent debris, other items, pets and people from falling into the skimmer well. It also provides a point of access to the skimmer for your swimming pool. Sometimes your skimmer lid will get cracked or broken over time and will require replacement. Once your contact your local pool professional to obtain the correct size for your pool, you will need to replace it.

  • For safety, the first step in replacing your skimmer lid is to turn off the power to your pool pump. You never want to maintain any part of the skimmer while the pool pump is on.
  • Your skimmer lid will usually be held in by two screws. Locate these screws and remove them.
  • After removing the lid, be sure that you have purchased the correct replacement size by verifying the make and model on the broken lid.
  • When you have verified that the new lid is the correct size, simply place the new lid on top of the skimmer well and secure the screws.
Filter Maintenance

Proper pool maintenance is a must to keep your pool water sparkling and clean. One of the most important pieces of equipment to maintain is the filter. There are three basic types of filtration systems – Sand, Cartridge and DE. Whichever system you have, you will need to be sure to clean and care for your filter.

Sand Filters

A sand filter tank is made of metal, concrete or fiberglass and contains a thick bed of special-grade sand. While filtering, dirty water from the pool comes in through the filter's inlet pipe, which leads to the water distribution head inside the tank. While gravity pulls the water down through the sand, tiny sand particles catch dirt and debris. At the bottom of the tank, the filtered water flows through the pick-up unit and out the outlet pipe.

If the water flow is slowed by dirt and debris, pressure gauges at the filter inlet and outlet give the pool owner an idea of the blockage level inside. If the inlet pipe has more pressure than the outlet pipe, there is collected debris in the sand. You will then need to baskwash the filter. 

The coarseness of sand traps debris particles and over time, the sand will become smooth and round. This sand should be changed every five years. Contact a pool professional to change the sand or you can choose to do it yourself.

Cartridge Filters

Swimming pool filter cartridges work by allowing water to pass through a very fine filter surface. This filter surface captures any impurities that attempt to pass through and hold them until you clean the filter cartridge or replace it.

Cartridge filters have more surface area than sand filters. This allows for fewer clogs and much easier maintenance. Cartridge filters also operate at a much lower pressure than sand. This causes less backpressure on the pump so you have a greater flow of water through the system.

This system is very easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive. Basic cartridge maintenance can be performed by simply rinsing off your cartridge with a garden hose or soaking them in detergent. However, the best way to ensure a clean and sparkling pool is to just simply replace them, which should be done every 3-5 years. 

Diatomaceous Earth Filters

The DE pool filter differs from other types because of the filter media itself. In this case, the DE is the filter media. DE is an extremely fine powder that is produced by crushing the fossilized exoskeletons of diatoms. These ancient hard-shelled organisms were similar to algae, but the porous bone material makes an excellent filter when used in this way. The powdered skeletons coat a fabric-covered filter grid that keeps the DE itself from washing back into the pool.

Adding new DE is simple. It goes directly into the skimmer and the pump sucks the DE into place preparing it to do its job as more contaminants enter the water. You will be able to tell when there is enough DE in the system by watching the pressure gauge fall below 8 pounds or into the indicated safe zone on the pump. Backwashing and addition of new DE is required once or twice a year for residential pools.