Basic Pool Care For Beginners – April 4, 2017
Don’t Be Intimidated
For anyone who is unfamiliar with caring for a pool, especially if you are a new first time pool owner, the process can be a little (or a lot) intimidating – but let me assure you, it doesn’t have to be! With a basic understanding of what is required and a simple guideline of steps to take to maintain your pool, you can quickly become comfortable in handling your pool’s regular light maintenance and care. Some things, such as servicing your pool’s heater or finding and fixing a leak, should usually be left to professionals, but there are a few simple things you can do to keep your pool in optimal condition, allowing you to have beautiful, clear water as well as helping to avoid many costly repairs that can be caused by poor maintenance.
Even if you use a pool service, you should still be aware of what your pool needs and how to care for it. This can help you to quickly identify an issue, alert you to a lack of proper maintenance, or even just provide you with peace of mind so that even if your pool service person is unavailable your pool will be at it’s best, ensuring your comfort and the comfort of your guests 100% of the time.
Build A Kit
First, make sure you have the supplies you need on hand. Visit your local pool supply store, and ask advice if you are unsure how to start. Your salesperson will be knowledgeable about the options you may be overwhelmed by, and can provide valuable information about safety precautions you might need to take. Ask about the purpose of the items and how you will be using them, so you are prepared. Typically, the very minimum you will need are as follows:
– Leaf Skimmer and Brushes
A skimmer net is used to remove debris such as leaves, twigs, and insects from your pool water. Brushes are used to loosen dirt and oily build-up from the walls of your pool.
– Water Test Kit or Strips
Strips are probably the easiest, and most commonly chosen, option for testing your water. More accurate and thorough options are available, and your pool supply can help you choose which option is right for you depending on your comfort level, whether or not you use a pool service and other factors.
– Chemicals to Treat Your Water
You will want to have a standard supply of chemicals on hand to adjust the balance of your water’s pH, chlorine, alkalinity, and calcium levels. While most of this is much easier than it sounds, some chemicals can create toxic fumes, so be sure to invest in gloves, and read the packaging carefully if you intend to handle any of this type on your own.
– Pool Vacuum
These vary greatly in price and functionality, from inexpensive manual options to higher priced automatic models, so you will need to identify what option fis your specific needs and your budget. You can always start small and upgrade later if you change your mind.
Lay Out a Routine
Commiting to caring for your pool on a daily basis may sound like a burden, but just like any other activity, keeping to a schedule will help it quickly become a habit. Setting aside just 10 to 15 minutes each day will reward you with a cleaner pool – and that means less chlorine will need to be added, your pool will have better circulation, and any problems will be caught much sooner and could save on repair costs. Additionally, you will need to spend less time per session caring for your pool, and that means more time enjoying it!
Performing a few simple steps on a daily basis is the key to optimal pool health.
Step 1 – Check the Area
Start out by just taking a good look around. Take note of any issues, such as algae build up or low water level. Try to make sure the area around your pool is clean too so you won’t waste effort cleaning the pool only to have the surrounding dirt and debris end up inside it after you have finished. Simply giving yourself a minute to check things out will provide a chance to notice if anything seems “off” or unusual. Don’t hesitate to contact a professional if you spot a leak, malfunctioning equipment or other issues you are not comfortable taking care of on your own.
Step 2 – Skimming The Pool
Grab your net and remove any floating debris such as leaves and other plant matter. Circle the pool a time or two, catching any material around the edge, and finish with the center, pulling the net toward you as you scoop the items out. You’ll want to use quick, but gentle motions to avoid stirring anything up. Skimming the pool daily will remove most debris before it sinks to the bottom where it is more difficult to remove.
Step 3 – Skimmer Basket
Remove the skimmer basket and empty it of any debris or dead animals. If you notice a lot of hair / pet hair or fine debris, you may want to invest in “scum socks” or skimmer socks. These are inexpensive disposable mesh nets that work similarly to a coffee filter, catching the fine particles so they don’t enter your pump. Not only does this provide an extra ounce of prevention, but it also relieves you from having to remove the debris by hand. If you do use on of these, make sure to check it every day, as they can clog up easily, and be detrimental to your pool’s circulation if left that way.
Step 4 – Run the Filter
Your pool’s filter needs to run for an appropriate amount of time each day to provide poper filtration for your pool. Usually, this is about 8 hours per day at a minimum, but consult a professional if you are unsure. If it falls within your budget to do so run it for even longer than the minimum – the more the better – but NEVER try to save money by running it for less time. This will lead to higher care costs, more chemical use, and a dirtier and therefore less healthy (less safe) pool.
Step 5 – Test Your Water
Your water’s chemistry is one of the most important factors in having a clean and healthy pool. The more often you test your water, the healthier your pool will be. Ideally, testing chlorine and pH balance is recommended at least several times per week. Your pH balance determines how well your chlorine can do it’s job – sanitizing your pool. If you use test strips, simply swirl the strip around under the water about arm’s length for about 15 seconds, or as directed on the product. Compare your results to a chart – typically this is provided on the packaging- and administer chemicals as necessary. A proper pH should fall between 7.2 to 7.8, and free chlorine should fall between 1.0 to 3.0 ppm.
Once a week you should add a few additional steps to your pool care routine.
Step 1 – Vacuum the Pool
Vacuuming the pool will clean any dirt and debris that has sunken to the pool floor. This should be done after skimming, and before brushing, for best results. Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to use your vacuum, or ask a professional. If you use a pool service, you may seldom need to perform this task on your own unless your pool usage is very high and/or a large amount of debris is frequently in your pool between visits.
Step 2 – Brush the Walls
Brushing the walls and tile will clean them of any dirt or oily build-up which creates a base for algae to latch onto and can become a breeding ground, so it’s important to address regularly. This task should be performed weekly in most cases, but your needs may vary depending on pool usage and condition.Ask your local supply store or pool care service to help you choose the right brush for your pool. A soft brush is best for vinyl or tiled pools to prevent tearing and scratching, and a stiff brush is advised for plaster walled pools.
Step 3 – Additional Water Testing
Check your Total Alkalinity level once per week. While this tends to fluctuate less frequently, it is an important factor in the stability of your pH balance and overall pool health. The acceptable range is between 80 – 120 ppm. Additionally, Calcium Hardness should be checked once per month, as this will vary depending on your local water and the chemicals added to your pool. Calcium hardness should be in the range of 200 – 400 ppm.
Ask For Help
Never try to tackle a task you don’t understand or are not comfortable with. Heavy maintenance and repairs, as well as more complicated routine care, should be left to the professionals – they are trained and experienced in the proper care and safety procedures regarding pool care. If any aspect of maintaining your pool is something you prefer not to do on your own, hire a reliable pool service in your area. Building a good relationship with your pool service person can allow you to be aware of the condition of your pool and provide it with the best care possible, while decreasing the demand on you to perform some of the regular maintenance, and can also provide you with an invaluable resource to turn to when you have questions or concerns about your pool.
Whether you choose to do all or only some of the steps listed here yourself, each action you take to understand the proper care and maintenance your pool requires brings you one step closer to enjoying a crystal clear, healthy pool at every opportunity.