Pool maintenance: Five things to check in the fall

The chilly weather we had this weekend was a reminder that fall is upon us. While we’ll have plenty of time to swim in the upcoming months (thank you Southeast Texas subtropical weather), now is the time to make sure your pool maintenance is on point. Everyone likes lists, so we’ve compiled a quick checklist of five things you need to check on this fall to keep your pool maintenance up to date.

Five fall maintenance steps

1. Clean your filters: As we have written in a previous article, fall and spring are the ideal times to clean your pool filters. With the increased amount of leaves and debris that fly into your pool during this time of year, you want to make sure that your filters are in tip-top shape. It’s more important this year than normal, as the rainwater and biologicals (leaves, dirt, and other natural debris) from Hurricane Harvey have certainly tested the capacity of your filters.

Clean filters allow for your robotic cleaners to do their job and your water chemistry to stay on point. And it’s best to clean them now while it’s still warm — going out and doing it in the winter when the water and air temperature are in the 40s and 50s is no one’s idea of a good time.

2. Cover/drain your backflow preventer: One of the biggest problems one can run into in pool maintenance is a frozen backflow preventer. When a freeze comes (and it’ll most certainly come), the backflow preventers are susceptible to cracking. They crack because they aren’t completely drained, therefore the remaining water inside freezes, expands and puts stress on the backflow preventer. Near-freezing temperatures and wind can also cause trouble, as cold wind sometimes cools the preventer enough to cause freezing and cracking.

Draining the backflow is important (and something we’ll come over to do for a fee), but covering the preventer to keep out the wind is important, too. There are several ways to do this: you can wrap the preventer in a plastic bag, shield it with a dry box, or even put a trash can upside down over it. Call us for consultation or head to the websites of our suppliers (Febco, Wilkins and Watts) for covering and draining tips. These tips also work on backflow preventers for sprinkler systems. A Total Coverage can handle those issues.

3. Check your water chemistry: This is something that you should do regularly, but if you only do it a few times a year, the fall is one of those times. You’re just emerging from the high-usage summer/early fall months, which typically involves regularly placing chlorine tablets in the pool. If you use chlorine tablets regularly (or more than that), there’s a chance that your pool chemistry is a little off-kilter. Too much chlorine can result in too much cynaric acid, which not only will stain the surface of your pool, but could also corrode the elements of your heater (which we’ll go into more in point No. 4).

Along with the cynaric acid, it’s important to check your water’s calcium and alkalinity readings as well. Checking on these things are something you should do weekly via your IntelliChem system, but it’s very important during the fall months.

4. Make sure your heater and lights are tip-top shape: When it’s 95 degrees with 90 percent humidity, as it is during the summer months on non-rainy days, the last thing you think about is heating your pool. But come Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the water and air are cooler, a heater is suddenly very important for that post-meal/post-giftgiving dip. So it would stink if you turned on your heater Thanksgiving Day, only for it to be needing maintenance. As much as we’d like to help you right away in those circumstances, the logistics of the holidays make it extremely difficult to do so.

Therefore, this is the perfect time for a dry run of your heater to make sure everything is good to go. Hopefully all will be good, but if there’s corrosion or any other problems, finding that now will give you plenty of time to contact us and for us to come out and attend to the problem. A quick check/call now is a heck of a lot better than discovering the problem on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve. The same logic applies with lights — discovering any lighting problems now will allow us to fix them in time for your holiday get-togethers.

5. Skim your pool for leaves: This plays into No. 1 a bit, but it’s important to make sure that the leaves that fall in your pool don’t stay and accumulate. Not only do they make the surface of the water grimy, but they put stress on the the filters and the water chemistry readings. Stagnant leaves can get stuck in robotic cleaners and filters and clog skimmers. The remnants of them can also throw your chemistry out of whack and make your pool prone to staining. Here’s a previous article we wrote on leaf removal.

Leaves can also wreak havoc on variable flow pumps. They can crack baskets and manifolds while causing all sorts of issues. The IntelliFlo VF pump has monitors that alert you before such things happen, but even if you have one, be sure to remove falling leaves from your pool regularly.

While you can do a lot of this maintenance on your own, feel free to give us a call for help at any time. We’ll come out and perform these services for you for a fee.


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, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Getting your pool in balance post-Harvey

Cleaning and draining your pool (if necessary) is a big part of getting your pool back in shape after heavy rains. But just because your pool is glistening does not mean that its recovery from Hurricane Harvey is complete. For your pool to truly be in tip-top shape the water chemistry must be in balance.

In this article, we’re going to take that newly cleaned pool water and make sure it’s chemically in balance. If it isn’t, we’re going to show you the importance of that balance and how to achieve it.

Putting your pool water in balance

The pool in the picture above looks glistening and ready to go, but having clean, aqua pool water doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is up to snuff. There are three areas of water chemistry which are extremely important in the well-being of your pool — the amount of cynaric acid, the calcium content and the alkalinity.

It’s very important to continuously check these metrics and not simply stop and be satisfied once the water is a desirable color. If you don’t check them, especially when dealing with a rain and flooding event such as Harvey, you leave your pool susceptible to algae blooms and scaling.

We detailed these measurements in an article we did on IntelliChem. While the IntelliChem system will let you know what the measurements are, the cynaric acid and chlorine will have to be applied separately.

Of the three measurements, cynaric acid might be the most important. Cynaric acid acts as a stabilizer, protecting the chlorine from getting burned off by the sun and losing its potency. Cynaric acid operates in a similar way that sulfates do in wine or homogenization does with milk. It keeps the chlorine fresh so it can do its part to get your water in balance. Having 30-35 parts per million of cynaric acid will help chlorine do its thing and help with calcium and alkalinity.

If you simply shock the pool every so often or throw in chlorine tablets without paying attention to the cynaric acid output, you’re likely to get the dreaded algae and scaling. And that’s not a good time.

How calcium and alkalinity keep water in balance

Keeping tabs on calcium is extremely important, as too little calcium will cause the water to eat away at the plaster while too much calcium will cause scaling on walls and on the pool surface. You want to keep the calcium between 200 and 400 parts per million, with 250 being the sweet spot.

As far as alkalinity, keeping it under control is necessary to prevent corrosion of the metal equipment in the pool and staining of the plaster. The range for alkaline substances is 80 parts per million to 200 parts per million, with 120 being the ideal amount. You should also aim to have the pH in your pool between 7.2 and 7.8, with 7.5 the prime target. Chlorine, with cynaric acid as a lead blocker, can get these elements to where you need them to be. For best results, have your free chlorine at 3.0 parts per million. As always, feel free to contact us with any questions about these matters.


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, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Scaling: What causes it and how to prevent it

While it’s annoying, scaling is something that will happen in your pool from time to time. Whether it’s the rocks, the plaster or the tile on the surface, scaling can leave a white calcium mark or residue that can detract from the aesthetics of the pool. While scaling on plaster, tile or bricks isn’t harmful to the foundation of your pool, it does leave it looking less attractive.

How does scaling occur? How do you deal with it once it happens? And better yet, how do you prevent it from happening in the first place? We’ll answer these questions one by one in this article.

wall with scaling

Scaling, as you can see in the picture above, typically shows up as a white film or mark on the surface and is visible once a wet surface is dried. It varies in degree and severity and can range from anywhere to a slight disturbance to a huge hassle that causes plenty of headaches and consternation.

Causes of scaling

There are two main causes of scaling, one which occurs naturally with an imbalance of moisture and one that occurs when the water chemistry of pool isn’t diligently maintained.

  • Efflorescence: Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it, it’s a tough one. It’s also tough to get out of concrete, as efflorescence is a crystalline deposit that comes from salt gravitating to the surface of concrete or masonry to create a white, film-like coating. Efflorescence scale can be caused simply by a gradual moisture imbalance in a section of your pool.”The moisture causes the salts to emerge through the gunite and rise to the surface,” said Scott Gordon, the Branch Manager of Sales at Master Tile. “These salts need somewhere to go, and efflorescence is the result of that. You’ll see it happen on bricks of a house if a sprinkler keeps hitting them at a certain point.”
  • Water chemistry imbalance: Having the wrong pH and alkalinity is another main cause of scaling in pools, as it leaves more of a calcium deposit on your plaster and tile than a salt-based one. Having the water slightly out of whack allows there to be too much calcium in the pool, which latches on to the pool surface and leaves a white scale residue. Too little alkaline can have a similar effect, leaving the unsightly white film.

Preventing/Dealing with Scaling

The best way to deal with scaling is not to allow it to happen in the first place. Gordon believes that taking the initiative with water chemistry is essential in preventing scale from occurring in the first place.

“It’s up to the homeowner to keep their pH levels where they need to be,” he said. “If you don’t pay attention or neglect it, your pH will go too low and too high and scaling will occur, and once it occurs, it’s very difficult to remove. You can try to scrub it out, but it usually comes back right after. Having the correct water chemistry is key.”

You can use smart maintenance systems such as IntelliChem and ScreenLogic to keep your water chemistry on point. As detailed in the writeup on IntelliChem that we did in July, the IntelliChem system not only helps you keep your chlorine, alkalinity, cynaric acid and calcium where they should be, but they can also tell you whether your pool water is ideal, normal, corrosive or scaling. If your water is the latter, than that’s when that tricky white film starts to appear.

It’s also good to scrub the surface of your pool regularly. That will help break up any calcium or salt deposits that make it to surface before they start leaving their mark on that surface. See point No. 1 in this article — scrubbing works with scaling as well as algae.

As far as correcting current scaling, the best way to go is to make sure your water chemistry is where it needs to be. There are other possible solutions that can be considered such as scrubbing out the white film or using chemical and glass beads to blast it out, but that scale will return if the water chemistry isn’t what it should be. If you want to keep your pool looking good, learning water chemistry and implementing it is absolutely necessary.


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!

Taylor sureTRACK test strips gives a water reading in seconds

pool spa steps

After a long, grueling day, there’s nothing you want to do more than hop in your pool for a quick swim or soak in your sauna. But you want to make sure that your pool and sauna are at the appropriate chemical levels for doing that. With the Taylor sureTRACK test strips, you can get accurate chemical readings in the matter of seconds without any gadgetry.

The Taylor sureTRACK test strips come in the sureTRACK-4 and the sureTRACK-6 varieties. The sureTRACK-4 monitors the basic chemicals that contribute to determining whether water is safe for swimming, as it has color-coded indicators for determining levels of free chlorine and bromine along with pH and total alkalinity levels. The sureTRACK-6 tests for the above factors but also has tests for water hardness and for the amount of cynaric acid. Either way, the sureTRACK test strips are handy items for testing the chemical quality and safety of your water.

Along with that, they are easy to use. How easy? This is how to use the sureTRACK test strips.

  • Immerse the strip pads into water: As the linked brochure specifies, try not to do this test around a chemical feeder or dead zone, as that can give you a skewed result. Just find a place in your pool away from filters or feeders and dip the test strip pads into water until it is completely immersed.
  • Hold the strip horizontally while the chemical reactions take place: It takes roughly 20 seconds for the readings to settle into the correct zones, which is nice and quick.
  • Compare the color on the strip to the corresponding color key: Once the chemical reading settles, each indicator will be a certain color. Compare those colors to the included color key to get the readings. Each color will have a numeric value attributed to it, along with the recommended safe specs for each test.

From there, you can use the readings to find the desired balance in your water. The sureTRACK allows you to buy one set of strips instead of multiple sets of strips and the container prevents moisture from seeping in and compromising unused strips, giving them a shelf life of up to two years. These strips are available for a fee, so ask us about sureTRACK today!


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!

Taking at look at IntelliChem

pool spa rocks 5

One of the products that we have mentioned frequently in our write-ups since redesigning the website is the IntelliChem system. A product of Pentair, IntelliChem is an automated system which allows a user to control and monitor a pool’s chemical levels and water chemistry from their computer or devices such as iPads and smartphones. It’s a product that can be installed in new pools or retrofitted into pools that have already been built.

But what does the IntelliChem system measure and how does it keep your pool’s water and structure in tip-top condition? Here are some of the elements that IntelliChem monitors and the reasons why its an ideal tool to have installed with your pool.

Chlorine: The primary job of the IntelliChem is to keep the pH levels of the water at a certain level, ideally between 7.2 and 7.8 pH. A main way to do that is add and dilute the water’s chlorine level. Instead of “shocking” a pool with jugs of chlorine and making it unswimmable for 4-5 hours, the IntelliChem releases the chlorine necessary to stay within the ideal pH level.

If you want to speed up the process, you can pour a little bit of liquid chlorine to raise the pH or add some water to lower it. Those are better and safer alternatives to shocking to raise the pH (which can leave your pool in a dangerous state to swim in for several hours) or adding muratic acid to lower the pH, which is a common do-it-yourself solution to lowering the water’s pH level. Muratic acid is corrosive, not only to the concrete around the edge if it spatters, but to your skin as well.

Cynaric acid: Cynaric acid serves as a stabilizer for your pool, as it protects the chlorine that’s present in your pool from elements such as sunlight. However, having too much cynaric acid in your pool will decrease the chlorine’s effectiveness in combating bacteria and algae while also making the water cloudy. You can test your cynaric acid level and input the results into your IntelliChem, where it will tell you if your water is at one of four stages: Corrosive, normal, ideal or scaling. In general, you want keep your cynaric acid levels between 40 and 70 parts per million to allow your chlorine to do its job effectively.

Calcium: Another thing IntelliChem will do is use calcium levels to tell you what stage your pool’s water is at. The ideal calcium level in your pool should be roughly 250 parts per million. A range of 200 to 400 parts per million is acceptable, as that serves as the margin of error for cynaric acid to stabilize the calcium in your pool. Excess calcium can cause scaling on the pool surface and cloud the water of the pool, while not enough calcium will cause the pool water to eat away at the calcium in the plaster of your pool’s surface to compensate. Testing your water’s calcium level and inputting it into the IntelliChem will help you find the ideal calcium balance.

Alkalinity: Like with cynaric acid, alkaline substances serve as a stabilizer, as they keep the pH levels of the water from going all over the place while allowing chlorine to do its thing. However, like cynaric acid, water with too much alkalinity can make your water murky and unclear along with hamstringing your chlorine’s effectiveness. Too little alkaline has a similar effect to having too little calcium, causing plaster and metals to corrode and cause scaling on the surface. You can test your water and load the results into your IntelliChem to see where its alkalinity level lies. The preferred range of alkaline substances in between 80 and 200 parts per million, with 120 parts being a good place to set it at.

IntelliChem will do the math for you as far as finding the ideal levels of chlorine, cynaric acid, calcium, pH and alkalinity. You can even play with different numbers to find the perfect chemical balance for your water. We install the system for a fee, so ask us about IntelliChem today!


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!