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Your Swimming Pool: Building and Maintaining It

Aug 17, 2007
A swimming pool is a home's crowning glory. That's fact # 1.

Even if pools have been around for centuries, building one can turn out to be a nightmare and it will siphon your cash if you hire the wrong builder. That's fact # 2.

How can you make sure that the pool you build will be a value enhancer for your house and reward you with innumerable summers of aquatic fun? The answer lies in knowing pool basics and raising your antennas one notch higher when shopping for a Houston swimming pool builder.

Pools have come full circle. An array of swimming pool designs exists but the final choice has to be made based on structural knowledge rather than aesthetic appeal or sheer emotion. Part of that choice will depend on what geographical area you're in.

Save yourself interminable headaches and pour the right amount of dollars into that shell. Know the rudiments or else you won't be wearing your brand new swim trunks for awhile. Let's go over the phases of pool building:

The building phases:

Digging (in swimming circles, it's called excavation) is the most important phase for the construction of your shell. From there, water springs eternal. If your contractor digs one foot too many, you'll need more steel, shotcrete, tile and plaster. This means you overshoot budget.

Plumbing system: remember the saying that goes, "Not only is there no God, but try finding a plumber on Sunday." For your sake, as soon as Monday comes around, book the right pool plumber, or your contractor should hire only the best that money can buy. Inexperienced plumbers could overcharge you or skip an essential detail.

Shotcrete/Gunite: shotcrete is that mixture of cement, sand and water that is applied wet hose style; gunite is shot dry also through a hose. The area you live in will determine whether shotcrete or gunite is to be used for the shell. Again, make sure that your builder has expertise about pool shells. Test his knowledge by pooling your questions and throwing them to him.

Pool Coping: this is where you get to choose between bullnose coping, brick coping, or bullnose brick. You also can opt for Cantilever decking, but first do a soil test for this.

Tiling: this is where the Missus will probably want to have the final word. Don't choose an overcrowded design or one that tends to visually distract. Your pool can be built to perfection but the wrong tile can make the waters well murky. Ask your builder for clear photographs of finished pools with the same tile you picked.

Before choosing a Houston pool builder, make it a point to shop around, even if summer's just around the bend. This means requesting at least three different bids. When you receive the bids, compare them on the basis of price, schedule, materials, labor and payment plans (it's a major investment and swimming pool builders are aware that most homeowners can't pay cash up front). You can go the word of mouth route from satisfied clients; if not, contact your local chamber of commerce or read consumer guides.

Maintaining your Pool

Yes, the pool is looking gorgeous than ever, but there's absolutely nothing gorgeous about maintaining it. Still, the friendly reminder here is that it's a major investment, so be prepared to spend a good eight to ten hours weekly for general upkeep.

Clean, sparkling water and chemical balance are the two vital ingredients for efficient pool maintenance. Check for chemical balance at least once a week, experts call it the "shock treat". A regular shock treatment will save you out-of-this-world problems later on. Regular means once a week, but you may need to do it more frequently if you:

* spot algae
* smell something that's unpleasant
* had pool visitors lately
* had heavy rains or windstorms
* had swimmers complaining of red, burning eyes

Take off debris and other elements everyday. Once a week, plan on scrubbing the walls and floor and shove the dirt towards the drain. Do vacuum the pool completely. When you're done, wait 20 minutes and then vacuum again to make sure the dirt residuals are taken care of. Test the pH and rectify it if necessary.

If the prospect of cleaning and maintaining your pool every week does not interest you, then spend the extra dollars to hire someone who will do it. Don't think that just because your pool is brand new, you can postpone the maintenance to the next season. The pool has to have healthy water with a good pH balance, without which you'll end up with a gaping hole of endless problems to grapple with.
About the Author
Tim Dillard is currently the host of Tops In Texas (http://www.topsintexas.com) and president of Dillard Local Branding (http://www.dlbllc.com), a Houston-based web design, Internet marketing and search engine marketing firm.
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