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The Reality of A Swimming Pool

Building and Owning A Swimming Pool

An inground swimming pool needs work

Here we look at the reality of building and owning a swimming pool. Swimming pools need work to keep them in good condition. We give tips about what to consider when designing and installing a pool, we warn about the ongoing cost and maintenance issues and we suggest that you ask yourself an important question - do you really want a swimming pool? Some people love having pool and use it every day but for others it is a good idea to resist that "nice idea" instinct, decide carefully before committing yourself to years of money and time. Once committed keeping your pool in good condition will become part of your lifestyle.

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Swimming Pool Ownership is in decline

For many a pool is a way of life and if ever there was a nation that loves swimming pools it is Australia. The hot sunny climate combined with a national preoccupation with sport has created a culture where no one is afraid of their skin turning white and prunelike. I put it down to an overdeveloped chlorine gland.

But even in Australia these days a swimming pool is proving to be a “nice idea”. Recent statistics indicate that in Australia more swimming pools are being filled in every day than new ones being installed.

Think Carefully Before you Install a Swimming Pool

What is needed is a healthy dose of reality. Having a pool is like owning a dog – it is a commitment.

A good friend was asked to “villa sit” for someone who was away and wanted their house looked after. He, like many people, was not a person who jumped in a pool every day. He moved in and after a month was shocked to find the monthly bill for looking after the pool was Rp 400,000 ($40) and this was every month. Rp200,000 ($20) for the labour and Rp200,000 ($20) for the chemicals.

Maintenance tasks

Twice a week a pool cleaner came to vacuum the pool. He would remove the leaves, check the chemical balance, add chlorine when needed and crawl into bed with the (married) pembantu. Sometimes he didn't bother coming or was perhaps distracted by his romantic liaisons. It is surprising how quickly the aquamarine turns a distinct shade of a rather pretty emerald when not treated. Leave it longer and the water turns a dirty khaki and before you know it the frogs have a new home and you are breeding new generations of mosquitoes (as well as pembantus).

Not easy to get a green pool clean again

Once a pool goes dirty green it can take time and money to get it back. Heavy doses of chemicals to sterilise the water and coagulate the killed off water life combined with constant vacuuming, filtration and backwashing can take several days to clean the water and get it back into condition. From an environmental point of view it is probably better to empty the pool and refill it to avoid the use of chemicals but this can also take days depending on the size of the pool and the capacity of your water supply to deliver the water.

Don't leave a swimming pool empty

Be careful before emptying a pool. Water is very heavy stuff and the walls and bottom of the pool can be subjected to considerable changes in stress between the full and empty states. There are plenty of stories of fibreglass pools “popping” out of the ground when emptied due to the pressure of groundwater in the surrounding ground. Of course in Bali we don't see fibreglass pools and if the pool is well built by competent pool builders this may not be a problem but if, as is all too often the case, the pool has been built by incompetent builders who have cut corners during construction you could end up with a cracked pool which can be very useful as a rather large plant pot but not much use for anything else.

Repairing a cracked or leaking swimming pool

Repairing a cracked pool? Don't even think about it. If your pool is cracked it indicates that the basic structure is not strong enough. You might fix one crack today but soon it will crack somewhere else. A solution may be to cast a new pool inside your old one.

Designing and Building a Swimming Pool

If you do decide to install a pool it will be a big investment and needs to be done properly. Don't trust cowboys, go to the experts and there are several on the island. Make sure it is well designed and built and get independent inspections carried out during the construction phase to make sure the reinforcing steel is properly installed. In the last issue I referred to the PAG or Poverty Alleviation Gene we find amongst construction people, nowhere is it more active than in builders installing reinforcing steel in swimming pools.

Be careful where you place trees, not only do falling leaves present a continuous supply of work but tree roots are surprisingly powerful in destroying the best efforts of civil engineers.

Do not skimp on the pump and filtration equipment. Buy high quality equipment that you can rely on to give you years of trouble free service.

Install a pump timer and an automated chlorination system, these will save you a lot of time and effort.

These days there are alternatives to using chlorine that you might wish to consider including salt water pools and copper/silver ion water treatment.

The pool pump will hit your electricity bills quite heavily though this can be reduced by keeping the pump operating time to a minimum each day (contrary to popular belief you don't need to run the pump for 16 hours a day).

Don't make the pool too deep

Another consideration is the design of the pool. It is the fashion these days to install deep pools with no shallow end. Is this sensible? For laps you don't need a deep pool and a pool is more suitable for messing about in if you can stand up in it. A deep pool contains a lot more water and so is more expensive to maintain in terms of chemicals and pump activity. Add to this the consideration of children using the pool or the fact that a deep pool is a lot harder to get out of should Fred get home from the pub totally blotto and fall in.

Keep on top of the maintanence

Once installed keep on top of the maintenance and cleaning of your pool. In the dry season you will have to keep topping it up to replace water lost through evaporation and it is a good idea to constantly monitor the water level. If you have to keep adding water in large quantities it could be a sign that there is a leak somewhere.

The chemical balance is critical if you want your pool to look crystal clear. Use a test kit regularly and take the time to understand how to keep the water in good condition.

Of course for most of us a pool is wonderful thing to have and a great place to relax after a hot sweaty day of cleaning out the leaves, vacuuming the bottom, checking the chemicals and crawling around in the pump room. Sadly I don't have one so I'm off to the beach.

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Copyright © Phil Wilson October 2008
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