Far away as it seems, once spring hits, all pool builders are busy building, opening and servicing pools, says Dave White, vice president of business development with Westport Pools. That’s why he suggests homeowners build their pools in the fall.
“They’re simply not as busy in the fall, and you are assured to have the pool done in time for the next season,” White says. “The weather is often better for building in fall, too. And with prices always on the rise, building this year may be cheaper than next.”
Depending on how early Westport can get the design and building permits, it takes from six to eight weeks to build a pool. In some locations, homeowners have to meet a strict series of rules and regulations from their subdivision, White explains.
He says there are always exciting trends in pool design. “We’re seeing more of a free-form design, with rounded edges, not your standard rectangular pool, with a lot of landscaping and waterfalls, to make it fit into the backyard environment,” White describes. Fiberoptic lighting and fountains are among the innovations adding to aesthetic appeal. “There are also neat technological advances in terms of remote controls operating the various functions, like controlling temperature and turning lights or waterfalls on and off.”
Nowadays people put in landscaping following pool installation, White continues. “Then it takes about a year for it to all come together, which requires a good master plan. We do the planning for the pool and coordinate our effects with hired landscape architects.”
The range of deck materials available today is also varied, White adds. “You can see everything from brushed concrete to expensive blue limestone,“ he says. “Then there are various coatings. Kool Deck makes it easier to walk on, but it has a textured surface where dirt can hide, and it can become difficult to clean. There are pros and cons to everything. We’ve done some pools with a minimum amount of deck, or mostly grass. It’s whatever works into the lifestyle of the owner.”
A pool can be kept open as late as October, White says. “We’ve already done many closings in August, but with a spa, some people keep it open all year round,” he notes. Once the date for closing the pool is decided on, a thorough winterization process must be undertaken to prevent the catastrophe of frozen pipes.
The first step, according to Westport Pools’ vice president Wayne George, is to balance the water chemistry. Pools must next be skimmed, vacuumed, and brushed thoroughly, to be as clean and clear as possible before being covered. Skimmer baskets, wall fittings, cleaners, solar blankets, and ladders from the pool should be removed, cleaned and stored for the winter, George says. Then the equipment used for pumping, filtering, heating, and chlorinating the pool must be drained. Every piece of equipment has a drain plug to allow water to drain out so it won’t freeze and crack. Filters should be removed and cleaned thoroughly. “This work is best done by a pool professional,” George says. He should know, Westport has 40 years of experience operating pools, and has built literally hundreds of residential pools in the St. Louis area.
The plumbing leading to and from the pool must also be winterized, by using an air compressor to blow air from the skimmer, through the equipment, and back to the pool. “This is also the type of critical work best done by pool professionals,” he adds. Or as White says, “Unless you really know what you’re doing, if you make a mistake closing the pool, it can be a foot out of the ground when you come back to it in spring!” Winterizing algaecide and a chlorine shock must be added to the pool. “Don’t add them at the same time,” George says. “That tends to result in the chlorine breaking down the algaecide. High chlorine levels can also be harsh on floating solid pool covers.”
The final step in any winterization process is covering the pool, and a tight fit is essential. There are two types of covers on the market, mesh safety covers and solid covers. The mesh ones look good and provide the highest degree of safety, George says. However, since they are made of mesh, sun, water, and debris will get into the pool during the winter months, making it likely that the pool will need to be completely drained and cleaned in the spring. Solid covers, on the other hand, keep out all debris and inhibit algae growth.
“Just like any asset, proper attention to preventive maintence can result in tremendous cost savings down the road,” George concludes.