Tag Archives: Pool

Christmas Pool Liner?

To say that I have had a “love-hate” relationship with our pool over the 17 years we have had it is probably an understatement.

While I love to see family and friends having fun and enjoying the cool waters in the heat of the summer, there are times when the pool’s maintenance is quite an onerous task for me. I have written previously about some of the challenges I have faced in my “pool boy” responsibilities. But during the summer swimming season of 2017, our pool presented me with a new challenge—in spite of starting out the year in good shape.

In January when we had an unexpected and rare snow for Memphis, the pool looked pretty good…

…and by March as we were emerging from the cold weather, it still looked inviting although way too cold to swim.

We keep our pool open all year-long and have done so ever since 2001—the spring after we closed it for the first time—because all through the winter of 2000-2001, it was just so depressing to look out at it with the ugly black cover and all the gangly water tubes lying along the pool edge. This means I keep busy over the winter fishing out leaves and debris that blow into it as well as pumping excessive water from winter storms and then rebalancing the chemicals. Thus I have a year-round pool-boy job.

By May of 2017, when the water started to warm up, I began to deal with algae growth. With family coming in town during the month, I struggled to get the pool ready for swimming, which typically doesn’t occur until Memorial Day weekend.

With a lot of effort, I managed to get the algae taken care of but then was left with the water looking a bit cloudy. But at least it wasn’t green.

This cloudiness persisted all the way through the 4th of July weekend.

Finally at the end of July, I managed to get the water nice, clear, and sparkly the way it should be. But then I started to notice that I had to add water to the pool more frequently than I recalled. It is not usual in hot weather to lose a good bit of water due to evaporation. It didn’t take that much to get the water back up to the normal level so I didn’t think much about it.

But during August, which is typically the hottest month in Memphis, I began to add even more water. In fact I started to leave the hose trickling in the pool to keep the level where it needed to be to prevent the water level from dropping below the skimmer basket intakes, which would then cause the pump to suck air due to a lack of water.

In September, I got a letter from our local utility company that our water usage had increased dramatically over the summer and that we likely needed to call a plumber to figure out where a leak was. When I checked online what our water usage had been, I was amazed and realized that we must indeed have a pool leak somewhere. The letter and the quantitative water usage forced me out of my state of denial.

Ironically, at the end of September, I had two trips that would prevent me from my “hands-on” water management and so I decided to turn the pump and water hose off just to see how much the pool level would drop over the five days I would be traveling.

When I returned, I was amazed to see that the level had dropped several feet, down to where the pool light is and then it stayed there. Well I guess I discovered with my little experiment where the water leak was.

This was our second liner, which was new in 2009, here being visited by some local ducks as we were refilling it. We had planned on replacing this existing 8-year old liner in the spring of 2018. But now with the leak, that timeline was going to have to be accelerated.

October and November were very busy travel months for me so it was not until almost the end of November before we were able to schedule the installation of the new liner. By this time, the existing pool looked pretty disgusting reminding me of the news photos of neglected pools during the housing collapse of 2008 when underwater homeowners (pun intended) walked away from their homes.  Ours made even more reminiscent of those photos with multiple pool toys tossed in by our granddaughter (every time she came over, she would say “Fix pool Grand-e-addy”).

So it was with tidings of great joy when the pool company began to remove the old liner…

…and soon it was just a unpleasant memory.

Amazing how small of a box a 28,000-gallon swimming pool comes in.

“Just add water”

I guess installation is a little like stretching a fitted sheet onto a bed…

…and before you know it you just have to smooth out the wrinkles…

…which is accomplished with vacuum pumps (one on the left and right).

Water is added via a garden hose while the vacuums continue to run…

…and after a day or two, you have a nice clean pool ready for swimming. Only it was December 1st and no one in his or her right mind was going to swim in this cold water.

The final step is adding all the chemicals, which can run into hundreds of dollars. When we replaced the liner in 2009, I wished that we could have pumped the pool water into a tanker truck while the liner was replaced so that I could refill the pool with the same water and not have to buy all new chemicals. But this time, I was happy that the green water was going to be flushed out to a sewage treatment plant where it belonged.

Now all that was necessary was for me to continue my pool-boy responsibilities over the winter so that in the spring, we could once again enjoy our pool just like we did 18 years ago when it was first put in.

In a way, I guess you could say that the new pool liner is our big Christmas present to our whole family. Not necessarily what I would have considered for a big gift to the entire family, but one that I know we will all continue to enjoy in the years ahead. A present that was way too big to fit under the Christmas tree, so I had to just relocate the tree to where it was.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year swimming!

Paradise Lost?

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Upon seeing our backyard for the first time, some have described it as a “Garden of Eden.” A very peaceful spot centered by nice, cool blue water surrounded by a screen of greenery that cocoons you from most of the outside world. But it didn’t always look this way, nor has it been easy to maintain.

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Our efforts transforming this backyard began over 17 years ago and a detailed chronicling of its history can be found here.

At times, it seemed that our backyard paradise suffered almost biblical-like plagues. First came the winds, in the form of remnants of Hurricane Katrina that took out one of my favorite trees, a weeping willow.

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Then one year there was the ice storm that took out a couple more trees along with part of our fence.

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Another year, an extended freeze of single digit temperatures killed off our prolific rosemary bush and the top of our mammoth fig tree.

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But Mother Nature wasn’t the only culprit that wreaked havoc on our backyard.

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Not as severe as biblical locusts but what originally looked like cute little pinecones, were bagworms that happen to love Leyland cypresses and now we discover Arborvitae as well.

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This latest attack comes on the heels of us just having to remove three of our mature arborvitae infested with these little critters and replace them with ones less than half their size.

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While there are sprays that can be used to treat these pests, one of the more effective techniques is manual removal by hand followed by a flushing down the toilet to prevent their return.

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And just this year, a biological disease infected our ornamental cherry tree that required its removal, leaving yet another gaping hole in our green cocoon.

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Over the 16 plus years that we have battled with and reacted to these mini disasters, I have been the “pool boy” maintaining the oasis at the center of this garden. Only in our first year did we close the pool so for me, this has been a year round endeavor. This we decided that first year as we looked out on the tarp covered pool with the water tubes along the deck as anchors, that it resembled a superfund waste site needing a major clean up. The beautiful blue surrounded by snow was our reward for keeping it open through the winter.

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But my efforts at keeping the pool clean and chemically balanced over the years have not gone without significant effort on my part. I cannot begin to fathom how many trips I’ve made to the pool store to get a water sample tested and if needed purchase more chemicals for treatment. Or the numbers of times I have removed and cleaned the cartridge filters with high-pressure water.

Whenever things blew into the water, the original Polaris did a fine job of getting up larger pieces of debris but that, which was to small to be captured by its mesh bag I had to manually vacuum, another activity I’ve performed too numerous times to count.

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Thanks to the recommendation by a friend, I purchased a low voltage vacuum system with a finer mesh bag that does a much better job of cleaning the pool, even picking up granules of sand that often blow into the pool. Think of it almost as a Roomba for your pool.

I’ve also dealt with algae growth periodically, a Mustard variety being the worst. As the trees and shrubs grew around our yard over the years, there was additional potential for things to blow or fall into the pool, providing more organic matter upon which the algae could feed.

In spite of my many efforts over the years, I think of all the money we have saved by me performing the pool maintenance, money that no doubt went into some of the landscape to make this a paradise-like setting. But this year, even my best efforts have been thwarted.

Much like the 17-year locust plague, this has been the 17-year algae plague. As I write this in mid-July, I have yet to get it fully under control. It was a major challenge just to get the pool ready for Memorial Day when all our family was in town.

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Whether it has been the fault of an early heat, or stronger winds blowing even more algae sustenance into the pool, or a combination of both, it has been an infrequent day when the sparkling blue waters have invited us in for a swim. More often, we are faced with a cloudy pool or a green pool. In spite of my comments to my wife that even in this state, it’s still cleaner than swimming in a lake, she hasn’t ventured into the unsettled waters.

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Green areas still to be vacuumed

One Saturday, I spent over nine hours vacuuming the pool. Only to be left by the end of the day with a cloudy pool that I still couldn’t see the bottom for all the fine particles I had disturbed.

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For me, not being one to give up an effort, it was my wife who finally called in the professionals—the pool company. What they said was most interesting.

Understandably, there are no doubt differences of opinion as to how best to maintain a pool. One of the selling points by our pool contractor for installing cartridge instead of sand filtration was that vacuuming through the cartridges followed by cleaning them eliminates the loss of pool chemicals by not vacuuming to waste which basically flushes pool water to a storm drain.

But the pool professionals disagreed. In fact, they commented that some of the algae might be so small as to not even be caught by the cartridge filter membrane. If that were true, that would certainly explain the cloudiness when I vacuumed, which resulted from me just redistributing throughout the pool, the dead algae that had settled on the bottom. They also thought that we didn’t have good water circulation at the bottom of the pool and even though chemically the water at the surface was fine, what was below was deficient and allowed the algae to grow. When I found out what it would cost for them to treat and vacuum the pool, my nine-hour vacuuming hell quickly prompted me to agree to their offer.

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This is what the pool looked like after their two visits. And although some dead algae accumulated not long after they came, I used their technique and vacuumed to waste. It took less than 30 minutes to get rid of the dead algae leaving the pool looking like this.

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Admittedly, I had to add water for several hours following my vacuuming to waste, but it will still be well worth it to keep the pool looking nice and blue. In fact it was not only nice enough for my wife, but our granddaughter as well.

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Paradise regained!