Rain and Ultimate Pools: Installing a deck and laying down stone

patio layout 1

This is fifth and final part of our series on rain and moisture and how it affects the pool-building and maintenance process of Ultimate Pools. To access the first four parts, click here.

We’re finally to the end of our series about how rain affects the pool-building process, so hopefully the rain takes a hint and ends as well — at least for a little while. Maybe we can give our excess water to California or something, who knows?

Either way, the last month or so has seen us tread very lightly when it comes to installing pools, and that care translates to items that we build to supplement your dream pool, namely decks and stone. Just like that luxurious pool that you enjoy swimming in, rain and moisture can have a big effect on how effectively your deck and stone is installed.

Just like with your pool, we want to build your deck and lay your stone correctly the first time. We’d rather take some extra time to wait for the rain to stop and the ground to become drier and more secure at the beginning than to deal with the problems that come from rushing a job on saturated ground later.

One caution. Even with best intentions decks can move, crack, etc. as our planet is constantly moving. But we do our best!

So what are some of the risks of building a deck or laying stone on soaked ground?

Insecure foundation for decks: The first part of building a deck is constructing a sturdy concrete foundation that will keep the deck secure for years to come. To do that, you have to frame the foundation of the deck, pour concrete down underneath it, and let it dry before you start the construction of the actual deck.

However, if you do this on wet, saturated ground, you run the risk of the foundational concrete becoming misshapen or slipping during the drying process, compromising its integrity and exposing it to cracks down the road. Overly saturated ground can also cause the concrete itself to take on water, making it weaker and subject to cracking and eroding down the road.

Uprooted stone: When we place stone in your yard — whether for the surface surrounding your pool or to create a walking path from your pool to your house — we want to make sure that the first time is the only time we have to set it. If you think we’re repeating ourselves, you’re right, because we really do strive to do it right and do it well the first time, even if it takes a little more time than initially planned.

As for laying stone, wet, saturated ground encourages slippage, as it is a lot harder for the stone to adhere to the surface when that surface is soaked. This can cause problems down the road, from stone slipping out of position to popping up from the surface. Insecure stone can be dangerous, so we’ll wait until the environment is right to keep it in place.

We know that you want your new pool, deck and stone to be done as soon as possible so you can enjoy all the perks that they have to offer. But when the weather outside is frightful, it might take a bit longer than usual. We’re confident you’ll enjoy the end result, though.

Rain and Ultimate Pools: Dealing with algae


This is Part Four of our series on rain and moisture and how it affects the pool-building and maintenance process of Ultimate Pools. To access the first three parts, click here.

Algae is something that can be beneficial in nature, as it serves as a generator of oxygen and also provides a necessary food source for fish and other underwater creatures. It can also turn into beautiful offshoots of kelp and other seaweeds in ocean waters. But when algae gets in your pool, it can be annoying at best and make your pool dangerous and completely unswimmable at worst.

Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Bill has brought even more rain to this area. While it could have been worse, another side effect of all of the rain we’ve seen is an increase of algae in pools. Algae can enter pools in a variety of ways, from being blown in by the rain and wind to germinating from phosphates that accumulate on the rock and plaster of the surface to blooming from bacteria and dirt that’s brought into the pool by humans. Algae can turn your crystal clear pool murky and green. Maybe not as green as your grass is right now after all of this rain, but green enough to bum you out.

At Ultimate Pools, we have a few services we offer for a fee upon installation of your pool. Not only do we have the Intellichem System that maintains the pH and chlorine levels of the pool at levels that dissuade algae growth, but we also offer Del Ozone ozonators that sanitize your water with minimal chemicals and Maytronics Dolphin cleaners that brush and get rid of debris from the surface of your pool.

These products do a great job of keeping your pool swimmable, but they aren’t cure-alls and need a little do-it-yourself help from you, the homeowner. If you want to make sure that your water is clean and clear and your surface is clear of the green, slimy algae that makes your pool’s bottom and sides feel more like the bottom of a lake than a beautiful centerpiece to your backyard, there are a couple of things you can do to help win the war on algae.

1. Scrub your pool: Algae is a tricky opponent, a lot like the agents from the movie The Matrix. One moment algae is invisible and all seems well and hunky dory. But with a trigger (most notably the sun), algae makes itself known and blooms on the surface and in the water of your pool.

Just like the agent in the clip above, algae is nearly impossible to detect until it blooms. But you can “unplug” the algae by scrubbing the sides of your pool. Instead of invisibly adhering to your walls and being out of reach of your cleaner, a good, hard scrub — especially when it’s overcast right after a shower — breaks down the phosphates and releases the algae particles into the water, where they can be broken down and cleaned up by the Intellichem or your cleaner. And scrubbing can be fun — pretend you’re a Zamboni resurfacing an ice rink in between periods of a hockey game. If you do this a few times a week, you’ll stay ahead of the algae.

2. Pour out a little liquid chlorine: The most damaging part of rain when it comes to algae growth and bloom is the fact that a heavy shower or thunderstorm can disrupt the pH and chlorine levels. The addition of rain water dilutes the chlorine, allowing algae to sit in a perfect marinade, ready to bloom once the sun comes out.

The Intellichem System is designed to keep your chlorine and pH levels in balance to hinder algae growth, among other things. But a potent rainstorm can add time to that balancing process. Therefore, pouring out a little liquid chlorine for your homies (into your pool of course) can jumpstart the balancing process and allow the Intellichem to get you back into the safety zone quicker. While the algae that is there already won’t necessarily die off at that point (add step 1 to help with that), it won’t multiply pre-bloom.

Stick with us as we finish the rain series with a look at how it effects outside-of-pool elements such as decks and stone. And hope for no more tropical storms in the meantime!

Rain and Ultimate Pools: Keeping the pool clean

pool rock 2

This is Part Three of our series on rain and moisture and how it affects the pool-building process of Ultimate Pools. To access Parts One and Two, click here.

Thankfully the sun has been out since we’ve last talked about the effects of rain on your Ultimate Pools pool. But anyone who has lived in Southeast Texas for any length of time knows that it can suddenly start raining for a week straight, and the long-term summer forecast still calls for more rain than normal.

We’ve already talked about how rain and moisture affects on the initial dig and the surfacing of the pool, but Mother Nature’s effect on your pool doesn’t stop once the pool is dug, the plaster is surfaced and the pool is filled with water. A good, long shower can throw the pH of your pool off, cause debris to blow onto the surface or sink to the bottom of the pool, or throw off the chlorine levels of the water.

When installing a pool, we offer some services to our customer for a fee that will help with the cleaning of the water and help balance its chemistry. Some of the main items we offer are the Intellichem System by Pentair and the robotic cleaners from Maytronics, including the Dolphin Supreme M400.

The Intellichem System is a smart system that constantly monitors the pH and chlorine levels in your pool and has computerized sensors that will trigger the release of chemicals such as chlorine when needed. The Intellichem constantly analyzes the chemical composition of the water, which can be thrown off quite a bit by a significant rainfall, feeding and balancing the chemical composition of the water to keep your pool ready-to-swim quicker. We prefer this to throwing in chlorine disks or shocking a pool with a sudden explosion of chlorine, which can leave your pool unswimmable for several hours afterward as the chlorine levels slowly fall to a safe level.

The M400 cleaner, and other Dolphin cleaners, are also available for a fee. These cleaners are dual-motorized and run across the surface underwater while using five brushes to scrub the surface. This is done to not only clean dirt and debris from the bottom and sides of your pool, but also to dislodge phosphates from rock and tile that can turn to algae if left unaltered. Algae is one of the biggest side effects of rain and is a subject which we’ll delve into more in next week’s blog entry.

While the computerized Intellichem System and the motorized Maytronics cleaners take care much of the aftereffects that come from a sudden Southeast Texas rainstorm or a day of steady showers, the homeowner also has a couple things they should do to help get the pool back into tip-top swimming shape.

  • Scrub your pool: The Dolphin cleaners will suck up and process a lot of the debris, but the process is a lot more effective when you scrub the sides of the pool with a brush. Scrubbing helps dislodge particles and phosphates from the tile and rock, allowing the cleaner to come in and take care of the rest. It’s important to do this right after the rain stops even if the surface looks clean when it’s overcast, as algae-causing components stick to the surface invisibly and bloom and germinate in sunlight, causing problems if untreated. So scrub the pool to dislodge those components so the cleaner can close things out like Billy Wagner used to do for the Astros.
  • Liquid chlorine: Sometimes a lot of rain and debris can give your water a hazy look. While the Intellichem System will balance the pH and chlorine levels to reduce the haze, that pace can be quickened by dumping a bit of liquid chlorine in your pool. A small addition of liquid chlorine will help jumpstart the balancing process of the Intellichem and get your pool ready-to-swim quicker than a chlorine disk and a lot quicker than a shock.

We’ll delve more into algae next week as our series continues, then end up with an article about how rain and moist ground affects out-of-pool elements such as decks and flagstone.

Ultimate Pools water: Good with breakfast burritos

Courtesy of Sherri Bisono.

Courtesy of Sherri Bisono.

We’d like to thank Sherri Bisono for this picture, which was taken at a recent Shenandoah Sharks swim meet. Next time you are around town at a fundraiser and you see Ultimate Pools water for sale, pick one up. It’s the perfect garnish for your favorite breakfast burrito.

Rain and Ultimate Pools: Getting the pool ready to be surfaced


This is Part Two of our series on rain and moisture and how it affects the pool-building process of Ultimate Pools. To access Part One, click here.

Before getting started on the second part of this series, here’s an article that reflects how strange the weather has been, as it was actually hotter in Alaska two weeks ago than it has been in the Greater Houston area in 2015. A lot of that has had to do with the overabundant rain, but luckily the forecast seems to be clearing up a bit.

Forecasting, along with determining that the ground is dry enough for the big dig, has us to the next part, getting the pool ready to be surfaced. But although we have dug out the pool and made sure the soil is able to handle that, rain and moisture under the surface can still have an adverse affect if proper care isn’t taken.

While the test holes that we dig to get soil composition and moisture help us determine when it’s appropriate to make the big dig in the pool, those holes typically go 3-4 feet deep. Since almost all of the pools we develop are deeper than that at their lowest point, sometimes we’ll hit some water and moisture on the big dig.

If this happens, we need to make sure that the appropriate moisture is removed from the equation before starting any sort of surfacing. Typically, we’d like the surface to be free of standing water for a minimum of four hours before starting any sort of surfacing, because surfacing prematurely while the ground is still wet and moist can cause a multitude of problems that can be costly.

  • Walls that cave: Too much moisture can cause the walls of the pool to become fatigued and porous, making it susceptible to erosion prior to surfacing and caving after it’s been surfaced, which brings about repairs that can be costly.
  • Tiles popping off: Too much moisture in the surface can weaken the gunite coating, making it more porous. If the gunite is compromised, water can seep into walls and prevent the adhesive in the tiles from sticking properly. This can cause tiles to be insecure, slide out of place, or completely pop off.
  • The pool “floating” away: This sounds absurd, but too much moisture along the surface of the pool prevents the gunite shell from settling firmly along the surface. This can cause the gunite shell to be dislodged by the accumulating dirt and moisture under the surface. That accumulation separates the pool shell from the ground, causing it to slide or “float”.

But enough with the doom and gloom. A little tender care now can prevent a whole lot of headaches later, which is why we go out of our way to make sure we get things done the right way the first time. Having to wait a few weeks now is better than having to do a bunch of repairs later. But besides waiting for the surface to have optimum dryness, here are a couple techniques we use to make sure your surface is dry and secure.

  • Weep holes: When putting down the bigger gunite shell, we will drill weep holes into the shell to allow any water below the surface to seep out. This is something we do for every pool. This is done to equalize the water at the surface with the moisture “weeping” into the shell. This causes the gunite shell to “sink” to the surface, securing it in place for it to be plastered. The plaster is then placed over the weep holes, with the water coming in immediately after.

    Think of it like a heavy glass bowl in water — the bowl will float if completely intact, as the amount of water the bowl displaces will be greater than the force pushing it down in the water. However, if holes are poked into the glass bowl, that bowl will displace less water and be pushed downward toward the surface. Read more on this here.

  • Flashing gunite: Before we create the bigger gunite shell that will serve as the foundation for the tiling and plaster in your pool, there is the option of flashing the pool with gunite. This can be requested by the home owner at a fee. We’ll flash the desired surface with a layer of gunite to provide a secure surface that will keep out moisture and keep dirt from eroding and collapsing.

There are other measures we’ve taken in the past to combat moisture, such as plastic coverings and constructing small moats to catch and accumulate run-off water. We’ll continue this series next by talking about how rain affects pool maintenance.