Cleaning your pool after flooding and heavy rains

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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

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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.


Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

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, EasyTouch, 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, EasyTouch, 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.

Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Picking the right types of plaster and caring for plaster

Last week we wrote about the three main types of plaster that we use as finish on pools. Today, we’ll delve more into each type of plaster, the advantages and disadvantages of it, and how to maintain and take care of your plaster once it’s installed.

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Breaking down the types of plaster

While we did a short overview on the types of plaster in the earlier article, it’s time to go more in-depth into the benefits and drawbacks of each type of finish.

Regular white plaster: This is the most common type of plaster that is installed for several reasons: It’s the base of all plaster finishes, it’s the easiest to install, and it’s the most affordable. Along with being the “default” type of plaster, white plaster is also the easiest plaster to color, making it a popular choice for people that are looking to add a bit of a dash of flavor to the finish of their pool.

The cost and the flexibility make white Portland cement the finish of choice for many, but choosing the basic finish makes it very important to pay attention to all of the elements of your pool, especially water chemistry. White plaster is easy to damage if your water chemistry isn’t on point. If your water is more basic than acidic (or too acidic), it can eat away at your plaster and could cause you to have to replaster your pool down the road. That would eliminate any savings you received from choosing white plaster in the first place.

Deficient water chemistry can also effect the color of your plaster. Having your pH a little off can cause uneven coloring down the road.

“If your water chemistry is off, your surface color is going to be very splotchy,” said Hervey Rodriguez of Uno Construction. “It’s going to look more like an easter egg.”

Quartz plaster: Quartz plaster is a popular alternative to the basic white plaster due to two factors — durability and attractiveness. As we mentioned in the first article, the quartz finish has a similar look and feel to counter tops you’ll find in a kitchen, as they are sturdier against the main chemicals of a pool (chlorine and muratic acid). Quartz is a hard surface that will stand the test of time.

That durability makes it worth the increased cost for many, as pools that have a quartz finish need to be replastered a lot less than its white plaster cousin. But it’s not completely infalliable to water chemistry problems. While the chemicals of the pool won’t eat away at quartz, the cement base of quartz makes it especially vulnerable to scaling, as the water can extract calcium from the exposed cement and leave annoying marks along the surface.

The IntelliChem is a valuable tool with a quartz finish, as it can tell you if your water chemistry is scaling. And like we wrote earlier this month, a little scale now can cause a lot of annoyance later.

Pebble plaster: Think of pebble plaster like a luxury car — if you can afford it and it’s important for you to have it, you’ll be pleased with the purchase. Pebble plaster is the BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar of the pool-finish game, as the pebble, stone and white ash styles provide a smooth, soft surface that’s as easy on the feet as it is on the eyes. It’s also less prone to deterioration or staining.

The luxury car comparison does fit though, as pebble plaster costs quite a bit more than both white and quartz plasters. Therefore, a pebble plaster surface must be a priority. If you are working on a budget and want elements such as a waterfall, an elevated spa, or a lap pool more, then it might be tough to add pebble plaster to the menu (though more power to you if you can).

Pebble plaster is also not flexible as far as coloration. Like with many luxury items, what you see is what you get. Asked for pebble plaster to be colored is like asking for steak sauce in a premier steakhouse. You might get a funny look.

Maintenance and repair

Now you know the ins and outs of the types of plaster, we’ll talk about how you take care of the plaster. As with most things in your pool, maintaining the correct water chemistry is key. When it comes to plaster, it’s best to keep your pool’s pH on the acidic side. Rodriguez recommends having your water in the 7.2 range, as the acids combat calcium buildup and staining on the quartz and pebble finishes while keeping the dissolving of the white plaster at a minimum.

If you already have plaster issues, there are a couple of directions you can go depending on the types of plaster you have. If you have quartz or pebble, getting an acid wash is a good way to proceed. There are two main methods of acid wash, a basic acid wash and a non-grain acid wash. Both involve making the water extremely acidic (6.3 or 6.4 pH) and allowing those acids to eat away at staining. A basic acid wash is a three-day process, while the non-grain wash runs five to six days.

An acid wash isn’t advised for white plaster, as the acids will eat away at the finish. Instead, you can try a lighter, less-acidic wash or get your pool replastered entirely to bolster your surface.

When getting a pool replastered, you’ll need to have a bond coat applied to the old surface. That will meld the new plaster to the old, adhering the surfaces to prevent breakage, slippage, or any other source of unevenness. Think of it as applying primer before painting your house.


Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Plaster and your pool: The main types of plaster

While crystal-clear water and great tiling are important aspects of your swimming pool, plaster provides the foundation for your pool’s look. Plaster is the coating over the gunite shell that provides the surface of your pool. The right plaster can give your pool’s surface an attractive look that accents your entire backyard swimming environment, as that finish will make your pool stand out.

So how do you pick the perfect finish for your pool? To help you do that, Ultimate Pools will give you a bit of a crash course on plaster. Today’s article will breakdown the different types of finishes that you can have installed in your pool, while our next article will break down some of the variables that go into selecting and taking care of that plaster.

Enjoy the journey.

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Three main types of plaster

There are three main finishes that are typically installed on Ultimate Pools pools. All of them contain the same base, but the additional ingredients make the aggregate product of each unique. Here are the main three types that we usually deal with.

Regular white: This is actually the base of all the plasters that we deal with, as this white coating comes standard for installation over all gunite shells. This plaster is made from white Portland cement, making it easy to install and color with dye packages and paint. However, this type of plaster is the least durable of the three and make white plaster susceptible to staining and dissolving if your water chemistry is not on point.

“It’s actually made from the same type of material as Rolaids,” said Hervey Rodriguez of Uno Construction. “If you and I can digest it, you can imagine what happens when your muratic acid or chlorine are off.”

Quartz: For an additional fee, you can get quartz injected into your plaster. There are several benefits to this, the main one being the increased sturdiness of your finished surface. Quartz is a harder material which is used in a variety of furnishings such as indoor kitchens, making it more durable to the wear and tear your pool will face.

While a quartz finish will not be susceptible to flaking or being eaten away by the chemicals in your water, it does expose a lot of cement to the water of your pool. That increase the odds of staining, as the calcium components of the cement can cause discolorations on the surface if the water chemistry is off.

Pebble: Unlike the previous two types of plaster, pebble plaster does not involve a high level of exposed cement at the surface. Instead, the surface consists of smooth rock, as there are three main types of pebble finishes — pebble, stone and white ash. These stones make for a smooth, even, softer surface and the rounder the stone, the better the surface feels on your feet. And the lack of exposed cement makes staining less of a concern while containing similar durability to the quartz finish.

The concerns about pebble are the price (it costs a decent amount more than the quartz and white plaster finishes) and the lack of coloration options if that’s a priority. The surface color will be even, but the color options are based on the type of pebble selected. “We aren’t Sherwin Williams,” Rodriguez said.

These aren’t the only plaster finishes that are available, as you can get a glass finish. But the above three finishes are great places to start when looking to fulfill your plastering needs. Stay tuned for the second installment on plaster.


Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!