Pools and Droughts
Save water, build a pool! Seriously. Most people can fill a pool with about 2 months of water that they would have used water lawn on the same spot. Water lost to evaporation and splash is insignificant compared to water used on landscaping, and can be minimized with a cover. If you are in an area under rationing, check first but the penalty for filling all at once usually runs between only $20 and $100 depending on the size of the pool. So do the state a favor, pull up your lawn, put in a pool, and pull that brick out of your toilet.
Where to Buy a Pool
We install pools for all local pool dealers so we have no preference. We also will install pools purchased online. There is a big difference between the two. Local dealers usually cost a little more, sell better quality product, and back up what they sell. Internet dealers are buyer beware. Things are often not as advertised. Be especially wary of liners (see below). Also, we have found that pools purchased from local dealers come up with a missing box or two one out every 30 pools. This problem is usually solved within an hour after one phone call. Online pools are missing boxes or sent incorrect boxes about one out of 5 times, and it usually takes weeks to get a replacement.
We are not retailers, but we can assist you in getting replacement liners, equipment, or even pools through local dealers.
How to Select a Liner
The biggest con-job in the industry is selling liners by gauge instead of by mil. A 20-mil liner means that the liner is 20 1/1000 of an inch thick. A 20-gauge liner means absolutely nothing. Any thickness of liner can be sold as a 20-gauge liner. Always ask to know what the mil of the liner is, and get it in writing.
The next thing to check is if the thickness is consistent. Most 20 gauge liners that I have seen measure 16 mil on the side and 12 mil on the bottom. Why? Because you won't notice that they put thinner vinyl on the bottom and the liner will need replacing much sooner. This is very good for business but very bad for you.
One other issue is that cheap liner often will tell you that if you stretch the liner into place it voids the warranty. If you do not put some stretch on a liner you will have wrinkles in it.
Be sure that you check on all of these points before you purchase a liner. Generally, if you purchase a pool from a well-established manufacturer that sells their own liners with the pool (Doughboy, Muskin, Lomart, etc.) you are safe. Doughboy liners are the best in the business, but you pay for the quality. Other brand liners can be good too, but probably 8 out of 10 pools purchased online come with the flimsy liners.
Sand, Rice Hulls, or Foam on the Bottom?
All three products provide a quality surface under your liner. Sand has been used the most in the SFBA, whereas rice hulls usage dominates the Sacramento area. Sand can be compacted and smoothed, but is prone to settling. Rice hulls (the skin of the kernel of rice) are fluffy. The best way to describe walking on a rice hull bottom is that it is somewhat like crushed carpet. Roll foam is a nice surface, but either rice hulls or sand need to be used under it. It can lie nicely in a flat bottom pool, but will be somewhat uneven in a deepend pool.
Black and Black Pools used sand exclusively for over 20 years, until we were introduced to rice hulls. We never went back, and have had a number of customers that were used to sand call us after install to say how much they like the rice hulls.
In order for us to install a pool above ground, we ask that you prepare an area 2' beyond the size of the pool, assuring that it is level within 2', and free of trees, shrubs, weeds, grass, or large rocks. We also ask that you water the area very heavily 2-3 days before we arrive. This softens the soil for us to complete the leveling.
If you are unable to do the surface preparation, we can usually do it for an additional fee.
Putting my Pool into the Ground
It doesn't sound right, but above-ground pools can be installed above, partially in, or entirely below ground. Above-ground is inexpensive and very safe for small children. Many SFBA poolowners choose to put their pool halfway into the ground and put a wood deck around it. Below-level installations are gaining in popularity with either a wood or concrete deck.
We do not do any excavation, but can refer you to professionals with many years experience working with our pools.
If you put your pool partway into the ground, the best thing to do is leave an airspace between the pool and the soil, usually 1-2 feet. This allows the pool to breath and is virtually the same as an above-ground installation.
If you choose to put your pool 3'+ into the ground, you need to thing about the pressure of the surrounding soil on the pool. As long as you have water in the pool, you have no worries. But when it becomes time to replace a liner (usually around 15 years with quality liners), soil pressure against a pool wall can collapse a pool.
To prevent collapse, either build a retaining wall around the pool, or fill the airspace with a lightweight concrete slurry. Consult with your pool dealer for advice or to find professionals who perform these tasks.
Most pools can have a deepend dug into the pool extending the depth. This increases the cost due to excavation, additional installation time, and perhaps requires a higher quality liner. Consult carefully with your pool dealer regarding the size, shape, and depth of depends. Again, we do not do the excavating, but can refer professional, experienced excavators to you.
Often poolowners will want a wood deck around an above-ground pool or a concrete or wood deck around a pool installed into the ground. We do no decking, but you can find competent decking professionals locally, and we can give them some tips on working with pools. The main thing that you need to remember is that someday you may need to replace a liner or a plumbing fitting, and the deck needs to be designed with that in mind.
There are 4 ways to heat your water: bubble cover, sidewall insulation, solar, and gas. Covers and insulation provide "green" heating, where solar and gas do consume energy. Except in extenuating circumstances, always start with a bubble cover. This has shown in the Bay Area to heat your pool 5-7 degrees.
The next logical step is to insulate the sidewalls with a product such as Pool Parka. Parka is a rigid foam that when added to a bubble cover will warm you pool an additional 12-15 degrees. Many SFBA customers find this adequate heating, extending months to the swimming season. During the hottest months, inland valley poolowners will remove their bubble cover to allow the pool to cool. Beware of thin "roll foam" sold as sidewall insulation. It has little insulative value and has shown to cause rusting, while rigid foam prevents/retards rusting.
Solar heating is the next best step, is relatively inexpensive, and only consumes electricity to run the water through the solar panels. Temperature gain varies, but this often meets seasonal swimmers needs.
Gas heating is costly to purchase, install and use, but is the only real solution for year round swimming. By all means if you intend to heat with gas, insulate and cover your pool well.
As we highlight above, we do not service (clean) pools, not do we work on pumps or filters. We only do one thing, and we do it well. However, we do at times come into contact with others who clean, service, patch etc. Send us an email and we will try help you find someone that can take care of you.
Where are you located?
We are based in Livermore, CA, and service the entire Bay Area and nearby areas of the Central Valley. We perform all of our work in your backyard, so we have no retail outlet nor office that receives clients. .
Any of the advice above could be completely wrong for you and your pool, if you don't understand what you are doing, if you don't have the skills to do things right, or if your pool or your situation differ from the theoretical conditions addressed in the above advice. Please do not undertake any work yourself unless you are confident enough to risk ruining your pool, if you should misunderstand something, or make a mistake. We guarantee our work, but take no responsibility for the results of your undertaking work on your own. Please consult an expert if you are not absolutely sure of what you are doing.
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