Ultimate Pools is on Twitter!

pool spa rocks oak ridge

Slowly but surely, Ultimate Pools has joined the 21st century. We have Facebook, an interactive website, even a Google+ page. Now we have Twitter! Ultimate Pools launched its Twitter page today, and you can check it out here.

Follow our Tweets and get the latest in who we are, what we’re up to now, and what we’ll be doing next. We’ll share content from this website along with adding a few more things that will be Twitter-exclusive. So follow along with us today!

Lightning: Its effects and ways to protect against it

lightning strike 2

A well-placed lightning strike can cause considerable damage to anything it strikes. One bolt can produce up to a billion volts of electricity, so anything that gets struck tends to suffer significant damage, like the tree above. Needless to say, lightning damage can be a factor for your pool as well — but not necessarily in the way you might think.

After dealing recently with the effects of flooding, we’re turning our attention to lightning. One strike, whether it hits the pool equipment directly or causes an electrical surge that trickles down to the lighting, wiring, or the modem of the internet router inside the house, can cause quite a bit of chaos with your pool’s features. In this article we’ll go over what kind of damage a bolt can cause and steps that can be taken to try to head off damage if lightning does strike.

Effects of lightning

Very rarely does the bolt of lightning actually hit the pool or pool equipment. Instead, the surge of electricity is typically going to hit at the tallest point of the yard. Most likely, that will be a tree, a metal pole, or the roof of the house. From there, the bolt makes the journey down to the surface, where it can hit the water or get into the modem connection or lighting wiring. After that, this is what tends to happen:

  • The modem could get knocked offline: If your pool is connected to the internet via ScreenLogic, the electrical surge can either knock out the power to your house, which will turn the internet connection off, or blow out the communication wires between your modem and the pool. The first can be fixed when the power comes on, the second would necessitate a rewiring of the ScreenLogic so you can control your pool’s functions remotely.
  • The underground lighting wires could be compromised: The surge from the lightning can travel all the way from the strike point down into the underground wiring, either damaging the lights or shorting them entirely. If its the former, it might take days or months until you realize that there is a problem. This is especially true with copper wiring.

As far as the actual pool and spa, you won’t need to be worried about physical damage unless there’s a direct hit. That hit could come from the lightning bolt itself or from falling debris such as tree branches. Lightning could also inflict damage on any sort of irrigation system you have installed too. If that happens, we can repair for a fee through A Total Coverage.

Solutions/Preventative Measures

While you obviously can’t prevent your house from being struck by lightning, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the damage from the bolt. One option is to purchase a surge protector device for your pool’s computer system. The surge protector is designed to take all of the brunt from the lightning strike and protect the system for damage. It basically acts in the same way as an insurance deductible. It will need to be replaced with each strike, but if there’s any damage to the computer system the surge protector’s warranty will cover it.

The other option is to have your homeowner’s insurance cover the damage costs and the cost of having an electrician fix any faulty lighting or wiring. While you wouldn’t have to keep buying surge protectors, the deductible on your homeowner’s insurance could be quite large (5-10 percent of your insurance value). Either way, those options are worth looking into so you have a plan of attack if a lightning bolt compromises your pool or irrigation systems.

Flood aftermath: Getting back to normal

In our previous post we detailed the affects of a flood on your pool and the steps that can be taken to get your pool back to swimming shape. We recently received a story from a customer who put the advice in that post into practice to get their pool ready to go. Join us on a trip into the Cochran’s Crossing section of The Woodlands, where we’ll see a skillful flood recovery.

After the rain

backyard flood

The recent deluge of rains led to a lot of scenes like the above scene in The Woodlands and throughout Greater Houston, as the heavy rain stressed local creeks and rivers and also oversaturated already wet soil, bringing groundwater to the surface. Therefore, places that aren’t exactly “riverfront property” got a temporary riverfront view.

As the weather stabilized, the flooding receded and things started to look a little more normal. However, the dissipation of the flooding also provides the first real glimpse of the damage that was done. As you can see below, the excess water took its toll on this pool, overwhelming it with outside water, dirt and debris.

pool during flood

After the flood: The cleaning process

It took just under five days for that murky, muddy pool to turn into the glistening, beautiful marvel below:

clean pool after flood

So what was done? It was a multi-faceted process which involved drain and refilling the pool twice along with vacuuming the pool and cleaning out the filters several times. As explained in the last article, the pool wasn’t drained completely, as a completely drained pool could cause the shell of the pool to “float”. Instead, it was drained halfway to remove much of the murky water, then refilled with clean water. Once the clean water was added, the pool was vacuumed to remove remaining debris, with periodic filter cleanings taking place during the vacuuming process.

Because of the amount of flood water and particulates that made it into the pool, the pool was drained and refilled a second time. From there, the vacuuming and filter cleaning was effective in getting the pool back to being swimmable. As for the rest of the yard? That’s looking pretty good, too.

post flood yard

Cleaning your pool after flooding and heavy rains

spa black

It’s springtime in Southeast Texas, which means rain — lots of it. This past week saw the area deluged by storms, causing flooding and destruction all over the Houston area. Along with the flooding of highways, yards and houses, the recent weather has caused area pools to be filled with rainwater and debris, both floating and wind-blown.

When we redesigned this website a year ago, we did a series on the effects of rain when it comes to building your pool. This rainstorm has prompted us to pen this writeup on how to clean and get your pool back in swim mode after heavy storms and flooding.

Three variables in cleaning your pool after flooding or a storm

pool black

The rain had let up a bit but seems to have come back with a vengeance. It will stop eventually at some point. When it does, it’ll be time to look in your backyard to see how the pool is holding up. While your pool might not look quite like the picture above, odds are that there are a lot of displaced items in it. Whether it’s animals that have decided to take residence in your pool, dirt or leaves that were blown in, or simply an overflow of displaced rain or groundwater, your pool isn’t exactly swimmable right now.

It’s not a simple as taking a skimmer and scooping out the foreign debris, though. Here are the three things you have to be cognizant of while getting your pool back in shape.

Safety

Before starting the process of cleaning your pool, it’s important to take the appropriate safety measures. When it comes to flooding, that means making sure any animals or debris such as broken glass or branches are identified and removed safely and completely.

We know what you’re thinking — what kind of animals could possibly be in my pool? Well, the recent flooding saw a baby tiger get loose in Conroe. While we don’t expect any big cats to make an appearance in your backyard, don’t be surprised if snakes, bugs or small mammals — alive or dead — get blown or washed into your pool from the flooding. Spiders can also make an appearance, especially in dark places such as filters and skimmers. That includes poisonous spiders such as the brown recluse, so wear gloves and be careful when sticking your hands inside the filters or skimmers.

As for other animals, the amount of caution depends on the animal. Many bugs and smaller snakes can be removed with minimal risk, but if you get a larger snake, a poisonous snake such as a copperhead, or a sizable dead mammal, you’ll want to have an animal removal service do the trick.

As far as glass and other debris, the advice is the same as with the spiders — be careful and don’t haphazardly stick your hands into hard-to-see dark areas. Have a flashlight handy and be safe.

Particulates

Once you’ve gotten all potentially hazardous material out of the pool, it’s time to deal with the other annoyances that have blown or washed into the pool. Heavy storms and flooding can introduce all sorts of particulates to the equation, items such as leaves, dirt, mud, sand, and mulch. These elements will overpower your robotic cleaner and clog up your filters, so you have to be careful.

While you’ll be able to grab some of the bigger chunks of debris, others will have to be removed by vacuuming and filtering. To best do this, turn off your pool and let the particulates settle on the surface of your pool before starting the vacuum process. To vacuum your pool, attach the vacuum tube to the filter pump, screw on the vacuum head and turn on the pool, allowing your pump to suck debris from the surface to the filter.

Odds are that you’ll have to do this process a few times, as the filter can only handle so much material before being clogged. Turn off the vacuum, clean the filter, and repeat the above process until the vast majority of the particulates are gone. At that point, your robotic cleaner should work effectively.

In extreme cases of heavy particulates, draining the pool partially is an option. Doing this, then scrubbing the surface, will help prevent algae blooms after a flood. If you decide to drain the pool, do not drain more than half of it and certainly do not drain all of it. If you do the latter, your pool will be dislodged from the ground (which is filled with groundwater that will push the shell of your pool up) and start to float. If this happens, you’ll have to completely rip out your pool and re-do it. And you don’t want that.

Another way to combat algae, or even the staining of your plaster from material such as mulch, is to scrub your pool once a day during the storm. Scrubbing your pool breaks up the material and can save you money down the road, as the chemicals in mulch combined with standard white plaster can cause discoloration and, eventually, the replastering or acid-washing of the surface.

Chemical rebalance

Once you have the debris and particulates removed, it’s time to get your water back in balance. Introducing heavy rain and groundwater will alter the pH and chlorine balance. If you have an IntelliChem then you can set the system to your preferred specs and have the system do its work. We noticed that pools with IntelliChem did a good job of keeping the pool’s water chemistry afloat (pun intended) during the most recent storms.

If you don’t have an IntelliChem, then you’ll need to add chlorine to your pool during the storm to keep the water close to balance. With the excess rain, ground and flood water that’s present, you’ll want to go a little heavier on chlorine than you normally would. Pouring the chlorine while you are brushing the pool is a good way to be efficient with your maintenance time.

What you should do before meeting your pool builder

contemporary pool shenandoah

With March Madness behind us, we are coming upon our spring blitz. Summer is approaching at a rapid clip, so now is a time when people look into installing a swimming pool. We enjoy this time of year, as it gives us a chance to meet new customers and further branch out into the community.

But it’s not necessarily as simple as “I want a pool, what can you do for me?” Well, it can be if you want, but that initial meeting with a pool builder could be a humbling and discouraging one without doing some research first. The last thing we want to do is to discourage and intimidate you from getting that dream pool by quoting a ridiculously large fee that’s way out of your price range.

So with that being said, here is a checklist of what you should research/have in mind prior to meeting with a pool builder. Or, in other words, this is our version of this:

What to do before meeting the builder

Before deciding which features are important and which bells and whistles you want to have alongside your swimming pool, the first thing you have to do its figure out the exact money you want to spend. If we know your financial ballpark before we start discussing the size of your pool and all of the options that can be added along with it, we can devise with a realistic game plan that fits your vision of your pool while also being within your budget.

A lot of times pool builders will include all of bells and whistles in their initial estimate, which makes for a large, intimidating quote. If you figure out your budget beforehand and communicate it to us, we can skip the awkward initial stages and start further along down the path of building your pool.

Once you have your budget in place, it’s time to prioritize your features. Here are some of the main questions you have to ask yourself:

  • How big do I want my pool to be?
  • How much decking do I want surrounding my pool?
  • Do I want a hot tub and if I do, where do I want it to be in relation to my pool?
  • Do I want features such as waterfalls, waterslides, lighting or a swim-up bar?
  • Do I want any automated systems such as IntelliTouch, Easy Touch, robotic cleaners or water chemistry tools such as IntelliChem or ozonators?
  • Do I want lighting and if I do, do I want LED or regular lighting?

Once you have answered the following questions, then you have to rank each answer in the order of most important to least important. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you might have to choose between a few square feet of decking over a waterfall, at least initially. Either way, it’s important to have a ranking of priorities that you can communicate to your builder to find the perfect combination of features.

When considering your priority rankings, also keep in mind that some aspects of the pool-building process need to be settled right away, while others can be added down the road. Therefore, keep the following things in mind in this order when you are deciding what your dream pool should be:

  • Once the project has started, your pool size is permanent and your deck size might as well be: You can’t just call an audible and make your pool bigger once the ground has been broken — the size of your pool is set from that point on. Also, adjusting your decking size is a huge pain and can be quite costly. If you decide to add more decking after the deck has been framed out, the colors might not match and the costs will likely rise. Therefore, decide these sizes and costs first before proceeding. This is the point where you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to sacrifice size for more bells and whistles.
  • Decide whether you want a spa and where you want that spa to be: A spa doesn’t necessarily need to be present at the start of construction, but it’s best to tell your builder at that point whether you’ll eventually want one. If you want one down the road and communicate that to us, we can install the necessary piping and drainage at initial construction for a much lower cost than it would be down the road. However, once you decide you want a spa, you need to come up with a set placement for it. You can’t pick up and move the spa, and the overall cost of the spa is directly related to its distance from the pool equipment pad.
  • Features can come later, but it’s best to decide now if you’ll eventually want them: Items such as waterfalls, plaster, slides, swim-up bars, and fire pits are things that can be added down the road and can be treated as line-item additions, but it’s best to plan for their addition during the initial construction. If you decide at the beginning that you’ll want a waterfall down the road, we can install a main drain now and wouldn’t need to drain or replaster the pool in the future to install the waterfall. Having to drain and replaster the pool in the future would cost considerably more money, so if you think you might want a waterfall down the road let us know now. Your bank account will thank you.
  • You can add smart systems at any time: Items such as the IntelliTouch, Easy Touch, ScreenLogic, ozonators or robotic cleaners can be installed at any point along the way. We add these systems to pools that were built years ago, so if you decide you want to control your pool functions and water chemistry through your computer or smartphone down the road, we can help.
  • Lighting can be installed at any time, but once you decide on the type of lighting, that’s permanent: We can install regular lights or LED lights whenever you’d like, but if you get regular lights initially, we can’t retrofit existing lighting niches to LED down the road and vice versa. The technology for that change simply isn’t available yet. It’ll come, perhaps soon, but for now, whatever lights you choose are the lights you’re staying with.