by Rob Cox October 15, 2014
I was contacted recently about a blog post written way back in 2010, titled When is it Time to Replaster the Pool? In this post, I describe how I had just returned from a pool board meeting (which I was serving on for a local community pool). There was a line item on the budget, planning for a replaster of the pool every 10 years.
The person emailing me about the blog post was also a local community pool board member, who let me know that on their budget, they have a line item for replacing the pool plaster every 5 years - at a cost of $120,000!
I was blown away by this - why would a pool, even a heavily used commercial pool, need to replaster the pool every five years? Pool plaster is meant to degrade eventually, but in a residential pool, you can easily go 15, even 20 years between whitecoats.
I have a theory, a conspiracy theory really. Pool management companies, who rely on extra work from their accounts to remain profitable, are accelerating the plaster degradation with aggressive annual acid washing of the pool.
It's partially the fault of the business model. In our area, pool management companies compete on price for seasonal management contracts for community pools, providing a turnkey price for opening and closing, chemicals, lifeguards and pool managers.
Then they hope for as much rain as possible, to reduce labor costs. They cut corners on water balancing chemicals and proper shocking of the pool. And, they submit proposals all summer long for repairs that may or may not be needed. For example, the filter replacement proposal of $1600 I once saw, because the filter was leaking. I replaced a 30 cent o-ring on the air bleeder, and we were all set, thank you very much.
Pool management companies want skimmer replacements, pump motor rebuilds, new caulking, new cover, new plaster. And how about some new tile and coping while were at it? This is how they make their money. Can't blame them for trying.
Back to the pool plaster question - why would a pool need to replaster every five years? Maybe they have a real stickler health inspector who told him to plan on replastering so often. Or perhaps certain pool management companies, when they open the pool each spring, do as much damage to the pool plaster as possible, pouring straight acid on the pool walls, not rinsing quickly or properly, and not neutralizing the waste water. After 4 or 5 years of this treatment, the plaster is rough and pitted, and the kids are all crying about 'pool toe'.
"Spend $1000 each year on chemicals and cleaning, and save $10000 per year on plaster costs"
My solution is to simply winterize commercial pools the same way that we do residential pools. Clean them, Chemical them and Cover them. In the spring, the pool is a little messy, but we don't drain and acid wash - we start the filter, clean the pool, balance the water and shock the pool.
The experiment is being done on my old community pool (DT). They not only want to preserve the plaster as long as possible, but want to avoid the $5000 it costs to refill the pool every spring. Added bonus of not pumping acid waste water into the Four Mile Run creek each year.
Below is a new method of closing a large commercial pool. DT pool is 170,000 gallons (when full), and is covered by a very old, threadbare mesh safety cover. Add enough chemicals, and do some cleaning during winter (and a lot of cleaning in spring), and they don't have to drain and acid wash the pool each year.
I will report on the results of the experiment next spring!