Swimming Pool Blog
by Mark Garcia September 29, 2014
September 30 is National "Ask a Stupid Question" Day, a day started by school teachers, to reinforce the idea that there are no stupid questions, really.
There could be questions that aren't really fully thought out. I can think of a few over the years, but most questions, of thousands of questions, are thoughtfully asked by a pool owner learning about pool care and repair and maintenance.
We LOVE the DIY customer here at poolcenter.com, we've been answering questions and providing answers in all sorts of different platforms, for over 18 years! (Poolcenter was one of the original swimming pool supply websites, founded in 1996).
Here are some general questions for anyone who wants to learn more about caring for their swimming pool.
Can I paint my inground pool?
We were once asked "Do I need to drain my pool to paint it?" Yes, drain it first - you can paint a fiberglass pool, a concrete pool, over unfinished concrete, or over pool plaster. For about $1000 in materials, a pool can be refurbished with 2-3 coats of paint, however, epoxy pool paints will need to be re-painted about every 5 years. A plaster finish, if well taken care of, can last 20 years before being replastered, depending on your tolerance for staining. Replastering generally costs around $5000, depending on pool size.
Is it OK to run the pump without the pump basket?
No, this will clog the impeller, or stop up the pool filter. The basket should always be in place when you run a pool pump. Keep a spare on hand, because eventually your pump basket will crack or melt. Same thing with pool cleaner filter screens - don't operate a pressure side pool cleaner (like a polaris), without the in-line filter screen in place.
My pool pump stopped working!
If it's making no noise at all, verify that power is reaching the motor. If it hums, or trips the breaker, verify that the motor shaft (and impeller) are turning, and that the capacitor is holding a charge. If it turns on but just doesn't pump water, make sure the lid is tight, all valves open, and the water level is high enough in the pool. If it continues to not pump water, look for an air leak, on the pipe coming into the pump.
My filter clogs up in about an hour?
This usually means that you have a build up of oil or mineral deposits in your filter. For DE filters, remove the grids or fingers, hose clean, and use a DE filter grid cleaner. Recharge with manufacturer's recommended amount of DE powder. For sand filters, use a sand filter cleaner, or replace the filter sand with #20 silica sand. For a cartridge filter, try a cartridge cleaner, or replace the cartridge.
Can I put the chlorine tablets in the skimmer?
No, this will cause several problems. When the pump is off, the skimmer turns into a bucket of highly chlorinated water that spills over the front, etching or bleaching the wall below the skimmer. Then, when the pump turns on, this pocket of caustic water is pulled in through your pump, filter and heater, where it can damage or weaken the materials. Finally, if you have flex pipe attached to your skimmer, either aboveground or underground, the chlorine will ruin the flexpipe, causing the line to eventually collapse.
My plaster pool has stains that won't come up!
Every plaster pool will stain. From a structural standpoint it's not usually a problem, unless you notice rust bleeding through the plaster, from the rebar encased in a concrete pool. Most stains are surface only, and easily removed with the right chemicals - balanced water and stain & scale control chemicals. Plaster pools can also be drained and acid washed every 3-5 years, to keep them looking fresh. This strips off a thin layer of plaster to expose the unstained surface beneath.
My vinyl liner pool is bleached or faded!
The sun will fade the pool at the water line, especially noticeable for pools that are mostly sunny on one side, and mostly shaded on the other. If your steps are covered in vinyl, the top will always be a little lighter. Chemicals can bleach a vinyl surface, especially acids and chlorines. Dissolving all powdered chemicals into a bucket of water, and then pouring around the pool is best practice. And, never use a chlorine floater in a vinyl pool, which can get stuck in one spot and bleach the wall or step, or spill contents onto the pool floor.
My pool heater won't come on?
They say that 2/3 of all pool heater repair calls are due to insufficient water flow. Make sure that all valves are open, and any bypass valves partially closed. Also check that pump and skimmer baskets are clean and the impeller is not clogged. Your pool filter should be backwashed. Aside from that, if it still doesn't come on, check the owner's manual for your particular pool heater troubleshooting guide.
How often do I need to shock the pool?
Shocking the pool is done to either kill visible algae, or invisible bacteria, or remove chloramines, aka, combined chlorine. So, the best times to shock the pool are when algae is noticed, or if the water is hazy or cloudy. You also may shock the pool after very heavy use, or if your DPD test kit tells you that you have more than 0.3 ppm of combined chlorine (TC minus FC).
Is a salt pool better than a chlorine pool?
A salt pool is a chlorine pool, first of all. Instead of getting chlorine from tablets, you get it by running salty water through an electrolysis device to create chlorine. Salt pools are known to have a smoother and silkier water texture, and less chlorine smell, but can also be more expensive to use in the long run. You'll need to add cyanuric acid to the pool to keep a salt system from overworking, and you may still need to use pool shock or tablets in certain situations.
My pool cleaner gets stuck in the same spot!
Some cleaners have a way to modify the tracking, or direction of movement around the pool. On pressure cleaners, move the thrust jet for an different cleaning pattern, and on suction cleaners, moving hose weights and/or hose floats can also affect direction. Suction cleaners can also be affected by the direction of wall return jets. If the ladders or rails are catching the cleaner, Polaris makes rail barriers, and for cleaners getting stuck on main drains, the Polaris UniCover can be used.
My pool cleaner doesn't work?
Check that nothing is stuck in the cleaner, like sticks or toys. If it's a booster pump type of cleaner, check the inline strainer, and check the wheels for broken axles or belts. Suction cleaners need a clean pool filter to operate and maybe closing the main drain or other skimmer. Robot cleaners, if you have power at the box where the cord plugs in, check the cord for damage, and check the unit belts for tightness.
Do I need to winterize my pool?
Most snowbelters winterize and most sunbelters do not. If you have temperatures that dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll either need to remove water from the pumps and filters, or keep your pumps and filter operating during low temps. As long as the temperature is above 32 degrees, there is no problem, but if it dips down lower, very expensive freeze damage can occur to pumps, filters, heaters and even underground plumbing if water is not moving through the pipes. If your pump or filter is broken and temperatures are dropping fast, remove the drain plugs on pump, filter, heater, etc - until you can get water moving again.
How long does a pool filter last?
The filter tank could last forever, but the filter media (grids, cartridges or sand) won't last nearly as long. For a properly sized pool filter, DE grids last about 10 years, filter sand lasts about 7 years, and filter cartridges last about 5 years. Your mileage may vary however, for pool filters that are undersized, or those that run nearly all day long, or all year long. A pool filter can last the life of your pool, with occasional media and parts replacement.
What's the biggest mistake a pool owner can make?
Not taking care of a pool - abandoning it to the frogs and mosquitos. Pools that are not maintained with chemicals and filtering quickly become a cesspool, and this can lead to a rapid degradation of the pool shell, the plumbing and equipment. Aside from that, I would say that water management and storm run-off should be controlled, to prevent any earth or flood waters from washing into the pool, and to prevent standing water or high water tables around a pool.
Thanks for Reading!