Ask the Pool
I'm thinking of building a pool; about how long should it
Answer: A realistic estimate to build an in-
ground, gunite pool is about four months. There's a lot more to
the job than digging a hole and pouring concrete.
The process where you meet with your builder and decide on the
design, shape, size, deck, and other details takes a week or
more. Then, the plans go to an engineer, often with some give and
take between that professional, the builder, and you (the
customer). Add at least a week.
Next step is the permitting process. This can take anywhere from
two weeks to over a month. Factors include approvals of plans,
changes made, and how long the particular municipality takes to
complete their process. So you can figure on around two months
before actual construction begins.
Once the construction begins, the actual work may take around a
month. But, almost inevitably, it will be longer. There is the
weather to contend with, and rain will make certain parts of the
job impossible to complete in a timely manner.
Approvals must be received from the building department
throughout the construction process. If one inspector cannot show
up, or worse, fails to approve part of a job, other work often
has to stop until the approval is granted.
There is a twenty-eight day wait period after pouring the gunite
for it to cure before adding Diamond Brite or any other exposed
aggregate surface. Then of course, the pool has to be filled, and
the water chemically treated to protect the new surface and
create a safe swimming environment.
Plan for about a four-month job. Certain steps could shorten the
process, but delays could lengthen it. Using pre-fabricated pool
shell, such as fiberglass, vinyl, or composite could considerably
shorten the process. However, there are offsets, including design
flexibility and durability of color.
Many people asked us for further information on pets in the
pool, so we obtained some, and are pleased to present it here.
Answer: Many people allow their pets, usually
dogs, to swim in their pool. While there is nothing that would
make you forbid such activities, there are some facts and
cautions that you should be aware of.
Having a dog swim regularly in your pool is the effective
equivalent of having about seven extra people swimming. It
uses up chemicals, and increases wear and tear on your filter.
That usage is called "bather load" and it directly affects how
long your filter and other maintenance problems last. Also, you
may find some of your guests a little squeamish about swimming
with, or after, your pets.
What about the effect of treated pool water on your pets? We
asked Boca Raton Veterinarian Dr. John B. Rowell, about that. He
explained that most of the water-related problems he has seen
concern dog's ears. Because a dog's ear is furry, it naturally
stays damp a lot longer than a human ear. In turn, the moisture
may promote bacteria and yeast growth. On occasion, the end
result is the canine version of "swimmers ear". There are a lot
medications available from your vet to aid in the prevention of
Also, untrained pets may have trouble getting out of the pool, so
they should be taught to use the stairs to prevent accidental
The bottom line: enjoy your pool with your pets. But, please
understand that it might make your maintenance costs a little
higher for both your pool and your pet.
I see chlorine tablets at some stores; why don't you use
chlorine tablets in my pool?
Answer: In some cases, we do use chlorine tablets
in private pools. Sometimes we use only liquid chlorine, or a
combination of both types. Each method has pro's and
Liquid chlorine has the advantage of dispersing evenly in the
pool and being effective immediately. It also gives the pool
a immediate and mild "shock", which is a necessary component of a
healthy pool environment. However, it is heavier and more
difficult to transport liquids, which can, of course,
Tablets are an effective way of introducing chlorine to a
pool on a steady, continuous basis. The tablet dissolves at
a preset rate, determined by the pool technician. Tablets are
lighter, and are safer and easier to transport. However, they do
have some drawbacks. They require a "feeder" to hold the tablets
and dispense the chlorine. A feeder should be professionally
installed in the proper location. Why? Because concentrations of
chlorine that are too high could damage heaters and other
equipment. Therefore, the feeder needs to be located "downstream"
from the equipment. Some people do not like the type of dispenser
that floats in the pool because children might play with it,
causing skin irritation. Tablets in a feeder are released at a
set rate - rain or shine, hot or cold, regardless of water level.
That's good, but different conditions require different chlorine
levels, which our pool technician's will adjust with the liquid
Why do pool's need to be resurfaced? What will you use to
resurface my pool, Diamond Brite? When should a pool be
Answer: There are two reasons. First, and most
importantly the plaster surface of your pool provides a
waterproof barrier for the six inch, thick, steel reinforced,
"Gunite" concrete that forms the solid structure which is your
pool. Gunite is not waterproof; water can penetrate it, which can
then rust the steel reinforcing bars. That can damage the actual
structural integrity of the pool. Second, the light colored
background of the surface reflects the sun's rays and allows you
to enjoy the appearance of clear blue water.
There are several "exposed aggregate" pool plasters available.
Diamond Brite is the trademark name of one of the most popular of
those finishes. Some of the other, similar brands are Marquis,
Sunstone, and Pebble-tech. UniServ offers several of the most
popular brands. All these came along in effort to replace the old
"Marcite" finishes in the pools. Marcite was originally an
effective product, but contained asbestos. When it was discovered
that asbestos was unsafe, Marcite was made without it and its
useful life dropped to between 5-8 years. In reaction, the
industry came up with the aforementioned "exposed aggregate"
finishes containing cement, man-made gems, and quarts crystal
(one of the hardest minerals in the world). These new finishes
should last 12-20 years, if the pool chemistry is properly
Resurfacing a pool can either be a cosmetic or a structural
decision. A cosmetic job is done because your pool looks dull,
dingy, or stained. The surface may also be too rough, which hurts
hands and feet and provides a growing place for algae. You want
your pool to look and feel better. A structural reason to
resurface happens when the old plaster finish wears away. It was
only 3/8" thick when new and a little wears away each year. This
is evidenced by the appearance of gray splotches, which is the
gunite shell showing through. Again, water penetration can
cause structural damage to the pool shell, which costs 5-8 times
as much as a resurfacing job to repair.
I'm thinking of adding a heater to my pool; what should I know
about solar heat?
Answer: On balance, solar powered pool heaters are
not usually the best choice for most pool owners. However, any
properly sized heating system can dramatically increase the
of your swim season, and solar energy is one of several
systems available to heat your pool.
There are serious drawbacks to using solar heat. It
on sunny weather, two to three cloudy days in a row would require
four to six days of pool temperature recovery. Some solar users
claim that their pools never get as warm as they desire. Of
solar power would not work for a spa, as the temperature would
be high enough.
Solar collectors are only useful in locations where they can be
the sun most of the day. Collectors are usually mounted on the
but they can be mounted on a ground rack. The necessary square
footage of solar collectors installed usually approximates the
square footage of the pool surface area. Given community
association restrictions and backyard space limitations, the
that can use solar power are further restricted.
Solar heating has some advantages. The initial cost of a solar
system is usually comparable to that of an electric heat pump.
However, since a solar system uses the sun's free energy, there
no cost of operation. Also, a properly installed, quality solar
heating system requires less service and inspections and will
provide free solar heat for 15-20 years. Solar pool heating
environmentally friendly. It is a clean, renewable energy
source, which uses no fossil fuels or chemical refrigerants that
contribute to pollution. Gas heaters directly add some pollutants
into the air and heat pumps pollute indirectly during the
of the electricity they require.
How often is your filter cartridge supposed to be cleaned?
Answer: As a general rule the filter cartridge is
cleaned once a month. Unless there is a situation that requires
frequent cleaning. The reason that we service the filter once a
month, is that we need the filter to load a bit to catch the very
fine particles and polish up the water. If the filter can not
maintain correct flow on that schedule , and the water is blue
clear, It may be a filter cartridge that needs to be
I have stains on my pool surface, what's going on?
Answer: This is a question we hear a lot. Stains
pool surfaces are an unfortunate and common occurrence. The
and remedies vary greatly. Brownish spots may be fertilizer
from any one of a variety of brands and types. An orange tint to
the stain could indicate rust. Black, yellow, and green stains
indicate different types of algae. Grey areas in an older pool
not be a stain at all, but the gunite (pool structure) showing
through the surface, indicating, the need for
The treatment of stains depends on their origin. Organic stains
from leaves, algae, and other natural sources. They will usually
respond to normal cleaning methods, often over a period of time.
Inorganic stains, like the marks left behind by metal objects,
more difficult to remove and may require an acid wash. That
involves emptying the pool and is a more expensive process.
your pool technician can identify the problem and solution.
Occasionally, a repair specialist will have to examine the
We have had heavy rain for 5 days and my pool pump has
turned off- is this normal, or do I need to have it
Answer: The pool pump may have stopped
working for a few different reasons. The rain may have
caused the power breaker to trip in a protection type
action. It is also possible that the time clock has
stopped operating and is not applying power to the pump.
There is also the possibility that the motor may have
been nearing the end of its service life, and the rain
was enough to finish it off.
Either way a pool or spa requires circulation to stay
clean and sanitary, so this will need to be looked at
fairly quickly. If left with out circulation the pool
will start to spiral out of control.
I have a pool and a spa, which is not connected to my
pool. How often should I change their water?
Answer: This is actually two separate
questions. Pools, large and small, often go for years
without changing the water. Some procedures, such as
resurfacing and acid-washes require a pool to be drained
and refilled. However, after several years, pool water
that has not been changed for any repair, accumulates and
builds up chemicals.
The amount of outside elements in water is measured as
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). When these get too high,
chemicals may become "locked" and unable to do their
jobs. As a result, water becomes unsanitary and algae
may form. When this happens there is no choice but to
replace the water.
Spas represent a much different situation. Compared to a
pool, a typical spa or hot tub has only 5% of the amount
of water. That makes the spa's water chemistry more
difficult to maintain, as even a small addition of the
wrong chemical can throw the balance off.
The good news is that a hot tub or spa refills quickly
and inexpensively, and the water can be rebalanced in a
relatively short amount of time. For the average
residential spa, many professionals recommend replacing
the water every two to three months. The frequency
depends largely on spa use (bather load). As an example,
busy commercial spas often change the water twice a week,
or even more. To ensure a safe sanitary spa, we test the
chemistry each week and keep an eye on the filter and
How can I prevent ants from ending up in my pool?
Answer: There does not seem to be much
information on WHY ants occasionally end up in pools, so
perhaps the better question is: how do we prevent it?
Spray pesticides can be effective in creating a barrier
around a pool area. However, it's important to not spray
too close to a pool, for safety reasons. A better answer
might be a granular bait. Although no treatment is
absolutely 100% effective, the goal here would be the
ants taking the bait back to the nest and so eliminating
the whole colony. This is a common treatment, and the
amount laid down and its placement can be controlled.
The drawback is that such treatments often take a few
weeks to work.
UniServ can provide this treatment at a reasonable price,
Just give us a call or send us an email and we'll be
happy to look at the problem and provide a no cost, no
obligation estimate. Treatment can be done
How can I tell if I have algae in my pool? If I do,
should be done?
are single-cell plants containing chlorophyll and there
30,000 varieties widespread over the planet. In a pool,
water and pool surfaces, usually to a GREEN, yellow, or
Algae is more prevalent in warm
First, warm water provides a better medium than cooler
water for algae
bloom (growth). Also, spring and summer bring increased
air temperatures, as well as heavier rain. Those are
cause chlorine and other chemicals to be diluted and used
quickly in the pool. One of the chlorine's main
functions in your
to act as an algae-killer. or algaecide. Inadequate
due to a dirty filter or mechanical problem is another
cause of algae
in the pool.
What can be done to eliminate and
algae? For prevention, we make sure that the algaecide we
(usually chlorine) is of sufficient concentration in the
adds a chemical referred to as stabilizer to help
maintain the proper
chlorine content. In a case where the algae has become
pool will need to be chemically shocked. The procedure
introduce a strong mix of chemicals that will usually
problem. The algae will then die, and end up at the
bottom of the
pool, ready to be brushed off and vacuumed away into your
filter will then be cleaned to ensure the algae, dead or
My pool is blue and clear, but I was told its not
important is this?
balanced pool is extremely important and is needed to
make sure your
pool is safe and running efficiently. Not only will your
stay and look clean but it also helps the longevity of
equipment and finish.
Your pool water is constantly changing, year round.
weather to oils, dirt, bather load, and cosmetics affect
water balance - in short, anything that comes in contact
with your pool
You will probably not change the water in your pool for
Continuous filtration and disinfection removes
contaminants which keep
the water enjoyable but this is does not balance your
water. A pool
that is "balanced" has proper levels of Chlorine,
stabilizer, Calcium Hardness, phosphates, TDS, salinity,
Read more about Pool Water
I adder liquid chlorine to a stand alone spa and it
yellow; Why did it do this and how can I fix it?
could be many reasons that you are seeing this. It could
be as simple
as the color from chlorine causing this , to some sort of
the water or chemicals.
In a Spa, chlorine is not
that should be used for sanitation. Bromine is much
better suited to
sanitize in a spa and will not harm spa components like
If you would like we could check this out and let you
is going on. At this stage a water change may be needed.
Can sweat turn a pool green?
organic substances can help to turn a pool green. Those
parts, dog and human hair, sweat, and many others. The
substances could cause the chlorine to be used up and
algae to grow in the pool, turning it green or yellow.
The amount of
people using a pool is referred to as "bather load".
Unless it's a
large amount of bathers, this usually does not affect the
chemistry. If the bather load is heavy with people, you
may want to
adjust the pool chemistry accordingly and possibly
lengthen the hours
pump is running daily.
A professional from
UniServ would be
able to take care of any problems of this nature and
advise you of any
necessary actions. Please call us at 954-772-9500 for
on our economical, high quality services.
What is in Chlorine?
Chlorine is the most standard type of water disinfectant
used in The
United States. Liquid Chlorine other know as sodium
either added directly to the water to shock or bring the
chemistry back to correct parameters. Sodium Hypochlorite
shortest shelf life of sanitizers when chlorine is in the
chlorine is typically 11-15% and can degrade down to 8%
over 30 days
and even more in sunlight and heat. Most often it is
reservoirs temporarily where it is pumped out
automatically using a
chemical feed pump out to the body of water. Liquid
chlorine or Sodium
Hypochlorite is the most common disinfectant in
Tablet chlorine also
known as Trichlor
or chlorine Tabs. proper name being Trichloro-s-
triazinetrione. Trichlor is widely used in residential
tabs contain muriatic acid and cyanuric acid. With the
the three the water chemistry stays somewhat balanced in
residential setting. Tablet chlorine is difficult to
monitor and use
on heavier used pools or commercial applications as a
pool is turning green often, i already checked the
cianuric acid and
phosphates and its good. Do you think that could be
related with saturation index and dual main drain?
pools can be caused by a variety of factors, but you're
worrying about chlorine and stabilizer first. Other
causers include daily circulation times (should be at
least 6 – 8
hours this time of year) and if you are adding water due
to a leak.
The saturation index you
ask about can
affect algae growth. However, we often associate those
pH, alkalinity, and calcium with the life of your pool
equipment, as well as swimmer comfort.
The dual main drains
question is a
something where we could not comment without having a
actually look at the pool. Of course, our company is
and we have experts on staff that can analyze problems,
and replace or repair equipment when needed.
Also, most pool supply
analyze your water for free. Keep in mind that this also
is in the
interest of selling you chemicals, and that treating the
necessarily treating the problem.
Good luck, and feel free
to contact us for
Question: What should I do to my
pool if it looks
like we're going to get hit by a hurricane?
Answer: If a hurricane arrives, pool
care is a two-
part process: before and after the storm. You should not
service right before a storm, so you may wish to take the
Before The Storm:
- Do not empty your
if you really must, lower it only a few inches.
- Turn off electricity
- Protect electric
heaters, motors, clocks, etc. with tied-down water proof
- Remove loose items
from the pool
area; placing them in the pool can cause damage and
- Protect screen
removing opposite side-panels, allowing a wind vent.
- Add a shock dose of
the pool, if possible.
After The Storm
We also suggest that you do not
swim after a
heavy rainstorm or hurricane until you or your pool
checked and rebalanced your pool.
Question: What should I do, now that
season is here?
- It is not necessary
to lower the
water level down to the skimmer; most pools are built to
overflow runoff. In a few rare cases, where a home may
be flooded by
overflow, you may wish to drain a few inches.
- Remove debris by
hand, rake, or
net as the vacuum system may be clogged.
- Make sure electrical
dry before restarting your system.
- Clean the filter and
system continuously until the water is clear; then reset
Answer: South Florida rains bring two
problems: flooding and lightning. At times, the rain is
cause overflow in a pool. Almost all pools are designed
and built so
that overflow will not harm surrounding areas, your pool
enter your home or nearby structures. Therefore, you
do not have to worry about a pool overflowing its natural
just let it go.
The alternative to allowing a
pool to overflow
is to partially drain it by turning a waste/drain valve.
This is less
desirable for several reasons. The water you release is
chemically treated than that which is on the surface and
overflow naturally. Pumping the chemically treated water
landscaping is harmful to plants, dilutes your
bloom, and is more expensive to replace.
In rare instances, pools are
very close to
home and have a history of causing damaging floods.
Certainly in those
cases, lowering the pool level is the right thing to
automatic pool drain empties into an underground dry well
property damage. If you don't have one and desire an
such work, call us.
After a heavy rain, expect the
your pool to suffer. Unscreened pools will receive an
large and small debris. Screened pools will get silt and
screens that will mostly settle at the bottom of the
pool. If you are
unhappy with your pool's appearance between service
automatic pool cleaner will take care of a lot of the
dirt and may
your weekly service cost. Twice weekly service is also
a modest increase over regular service. Call us for a
While minor flooding is an
lighting here is a very serious matter. Respect the
Florida is the lighting capital of the United States,
about 10% of the lighting-related deaths nation wide.
and 1994 florida sustained 1,523 lighting casualties,
732 for the next highest state, Michigan.
Simple pool/lighting hints are:
stay away from
metal handrails and ladders and, of course, do not swim.
Keep in mind
that our pool technicians do not ordinarily use poles (to
thorough cleaning) with lightning in the vicinity. In
any rain, avoid
the timer equipment. It contains potentially unshielded,
voltage; not a healthy combination with standing water or
Question: Is there something that
would help get
rid of sweat bees that are always around our pool?
Answer: Sweat Bees is a term that
usually refers to
small bees with an almost painless sting. Those bees are
to flowers and plants. They also actually do like
sweat (salt), and
will land on people to get it. The bees most often nest
ground, so usually there is no single nest on a wall or
in the eaves
destroy. They are generally considered a beneficial
killing them is not an automatic response. However, they
can become a
nuisance in larger numbers.
Keeping your pool area free of
plants may help. An extensive pesticide lawn spray could
but less so if the bees are coming from neighboring
need a professional, UniServ's licensed pest control
about bees and can provide advice, price estimates, and
Question: I have a hot tub that
foams like crazy.
Is that a problem? If it is, what should I do?
Answer: A well-tuned hot tub or spa
treated water, creates bubbles in ways that looks and
However, when you see excessive foam everywhere, it can
water chemistry or pollutants are out of control.
There are a variety of possible
excessive foaming. You may have added an inappropriate
element to the
hot tub, such as certain algaecides or soaps. Source
water that is
too soft could cause the problem. An improperly
can cause trouble. Airborne pollutants can increase
solids in the
water and create that foam.
You should remember that a spa or
hot tub is a
much smaller body of water than a pool. Therefore, the
mistakes in chemistry are often greatly magnified in
Those effects and results range from scum rings around
the tub to
filter damage to unsanitary water.
What can you do? Attack the
cause of the
problem. Defoamers do only what they say: cut back the
products with enzymes that will neutralize and actually
compounds that cause the problems. Also, stop using the
algaecides and tile soaps that cause the problem.
have a pool, and a spa which is not connected to my pool.
should I change their water?
Answer: This is actually two separate
Pools, large and small, often go for years without
water. Some procedures, such as resurfacing and acid-
washes require a
pool to be drained and refilled. However, after several
water that not been changed for any repair, accumulates
The amount of outside elements in
measured as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). When these get
chemicals may become "locked" and unable to do their
jobs. As a
water becomes unsanitary and algae may form. When this
is no choice but to replace the water.
Spas represent a much different
Compared to a pool, a typical spa or hot tub has only 5%
of the amount
of water. That makes the spa's water chemistry more
maintain, as even a small addition of the wrong chemical
can throw off
The good news is that a hot tub
or spa refills
quickly and inexpensively, and the water can be
rebalanced in a
relatively short amount of time. For the average
professionals recommend replacing the water every two to
That frequency depends largely on spa use. As an
commercial spas often change the water twice a week, or
even more. To
ensure a safe and sanitary spa, we test the chemistry
each week and
keep an eye on the filters and equipment.
What should I know about my timer box?
timer is a key part of your pool filtration system and an
energy management tool. It turns your filtration system
on and off,
which makes sure that the water is circulated properly.
circulation ensures that your pool water remains healthy,
in compliance with local residential codes. For most
should be on for 6 to 8 hours a day.
The timer is in a waterproof box
the wall of your house nearest the pool pump. You can
timer box by the waterproof electrical conduit coming out
of it. The
box has a latch on the right side and it should be kept
prevent water damage and insect intrusion.
Because your timer operates off
electricity as your home, a power interruption in your
home will knock
the timer out as well. Just as the clocks in your home,
you may wish
to reset the pool timer, which is relatively easy.
Please note that
this is a 24 hour clock, so be careful that AM and PM are
The main grate at the bottom of my pool is loose, and
that this is dangerous; is it?
Any man drain cover that is loose, damaged, or missing
potentially life-threatening situation. Skin limbs, or
stuck to the drain in a scary situation known as "suction
When that happens to an adult or child, even several
may be unable to free the trapped individual. The
results can be drowning, near drowning, or even
According to officials at the
Product Safety Commission, drowning and injury statistics
suction entrapment have been under-reported for years.
It is thought
that many deaths reported simply as "drowning", were
What can be done to avoid injury
at your pool?
From a distance of several feet, at least, look at the
located in the bottom of your pool. If the drain cover
missing, or cracked, immediately call UniServ for repair
replacement of the cover and make sure that no swimmers
near the drain until it is repaired and safe.
I live near a farm and my pool technician tells me that some
of the pool fertilizer chemicals from those farms may be causing
trouble in my pool. Is that possible?
Answer: Fertilizers and heavy rains are other
external factors that can affect your pool. In your case, the
fertilizer could be introduced to your pool in clods or smaller
amounts by wind and rain, or even by humans and animals. The iron
in the fertilizer can use rust-like stains on your pool's surface
that are difficult to remove. Also, farms aren't the only users
of fertilizers and other chemicals; golf courses require
extensive quantities to maintain their greens and
There are numerous other external factors that affect the
appearance and chemistry of your pool. Heavy rains create
numerous problems. They may wash ground substances into certain
pools, roof runoff into other pools, and dirt from the screens
into other pools.
Of course, the introduction of large amounts of any type of fresh
water dilutes the chemicals in the pool, and rainwater itself is
not guaranteed to be contaminant-free.
If you live near the beach, there is a good likelihood of sand
and salt being introduced to the pool. If you live near
construction, or are working on your home, dust and debris often
end up blowing into the water. While the above may not cause
stains, it will often affect the pool's appearance and possibly
the water chemistry.
Harmless housework can affect your pool. Landscaping and tree-
trimming sometimes causes grass, branches, soil, and (possibly
again) fertilizer to be left in the water. Pressure-cleaning of
decks and roofs is a common problem, with dirty water flowing
In retrospect, it sometimes seems amazing that pools stay clean
at all, which is an excellent reason to use UniServ to service
and maintain your pool.
pool tech shows up and does a nice job cleaning my pool.
later, there are leaves and other debris on the bottom
can I do?
Unfortunately, no matter how good your pool technician
is, sometimes a
pool will get littered soon after a service. The reasons
the weather is extremely windy, causing debris to below
into the pool.
In other cases, landscapers do their work the day after
service, leaving grass cuttings and other matter in the
pool or loose
on the deck.
Another cause of a dirty pool is
of water. Remember, the circulatory system of your pool
to clean, healthy water. Different items can affect that
including filter problems, pump problems, and improper
(both too high and too low).
How long should I run my pump motor each day?
pump motor circulates the water in your pool, sending it
filtration system, thereby removing dirt and other
Industry standards suggest that the water be "turned
over" a minimum of
two times per day in order to keep your pool clean and
In many cases as a result of bather load and
factors, pools should be turned over more than two times
Maintaining that clean and
necessitates running the pool pump motor for
approximately eight hours
per day in the summer months (April - October) and
hours per day during the winter (November - March).
Those with pool
heaters should run your pool pump motors eight or more
hours per day
while your heating system is activated, in order to
consistent water temperature.
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