In my work as a landscape architect and designer/builder of mostly residential swimming pools, I concede that I’ve never really given much thought to the subject of maintenance.
Sure, the watershapes I’ve designed have proper hydraulic and circulation systems as well as correctly sized filtration systems, the proper number of skimmers and so forth, but beyond that, the specifics of swimming pool care have been beyond my concern. So I’ve let the terminology of water chemistry, for example, become a foreign language to me, and I’ve never known much about things like water testing, pH or sanitizer residuals.
Through the years, however, I’ve come to believe that this is not a situation for a designer/builder in which ignorance is bliss. This is partly because I now work for a firm that runs a retail store with a service department and I interact with those folks on a regular basis; but it’s also because more and more of my design/installation clients are asking me questions about water balance, the best type of sanitizer to use or how to use a test kit. Recognizing the gap in my knowledge, I began looking for resources that might help.
It wasn’t long before I came across a wonderfully concise publication that has helped me immensely: Cruising Through Pool Care the Wise Way by Merry Wise (Respective Publishing, 2003). Wise, who runs Wise Pools in Houston, presents a refreshing, commonsense, conversational approach to the subject of pool and spa care that goes a long way toward demystifying and defining the basics of what is actually a fairly complex topic.
The text is broken into sections on spas, chemistry, equipment, filtration, water testing, winterizing and entertaining as it relates to maintenance. The book is just 60 pages long, but it’s full of definitions, recommendations and cause-and-effect scenarios that helpfully demonstrate the interdependence of major systems.
In one of those scenarios, for example, she describes how a dead spot in a pool’s circulation pattern can lead to the formation of black algae. This in turn requires the use of an algaecide, which in turn can stain the pool’s plaster if, for its part, the water chemistry isn’t in proper balance. In that sense, the information not only provides prescriptive advice on how to deal with particular issues, but also reinforces the notion that the decisions we designers and builders make can have a direct effect on the serviceability of a pool down the line.
Given the importance of water chemistry in general pool/spa maintenance, a large portion of the text focuses on subjects such as pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, sanitizer residuals and how all of those things must be properly maintained to ensure the proper service life of the equipment while keeping the water (and the watershape) looking good over time.
Having absorbed Wise’s perspective on the subject, I now have a good enough sense of the basics that I can address all but the trickiest of my customers’ questions about maintenance. I also more fully appreciate that, for those of us who have chosen to remain in the dark on service issues, what we don’t know can in some cases lead to problems down the line.
Consider my professional consciousness raised.
Mike Farley is a landscape designer with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.