So You Want a Swimming Pool?

pretty-pool-no-stainsA swimming pool is a great asset to your home. It adds aesthetic value to your yard, provides years of exercise and enjoyment and adds resale value to your home, especially when done right!

Here are a few key things to consider when preparing to install a swimming pool.

What Kind of Pool Do You Want?

Inground Pools. There are many different styles and types of swimming pools, and you have to decide what is the right kind for you and your family. There are three basic types of inground swimming pools: vinyl, concrete and fiberglass.

concrete inground poolConcrete pools (also called Gunite) are the easiest to customize into any desired shape and are the strongest and sturdiest. However, they usually take the longest to build, being that it has more construction phases. Average construction time is 8-12 weeks.

vinyl inground poolsVinyl inground pools use rigid wall panels set in concrete, around a  finished floor and usually take 2-3 weeks to install. Modern vinyl pools can be built with curves or features not seen in older styles. By the way, we sell DIY vinyl inground pool kits, in case your interested.

fiberglass inground poolFiberglass pools are molded in a factory and installed in the ground with a crane. They are the quickest to install, usually 1-2 weeks. Fiberglass pools are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. You can buy DIY fiberglass pool kits too, in case your interested.

Above-ground Pools. Another option is to install an above-ground pool, and one of its biggest benefits is cost. Above-ground pools have more location options for the space available, and a pool deck adds the look and feel inground pools.

aboveground-concrete-poolConcrete pools – Yes you can build an aboveground pool out of concrete. Many custom and very ‘avant-garde’ pools are being built from plain old concrete poured into wood forms, then usually finished in plaster or tile. Above ground pools sure do save a lot of work, and can be built in just 1-2 weeks.

aboveground-pool-with-deckVinyl Pools or vinyl pool kits are the standard type of above ground pool. There are about a dozen common sizes and two shapes, from as small as 12′ round, to 21’x41′ oval. You could install yourself or buy a pool through a local dealer, who will probably insist on installing his own pool package. Dealer installed pools typically can be built in 1-2 weeks.

What Are the Costs?

what do new pools cost?Your costs depend directly on the kind of pool you want. While there is no set price for a swimming pool, the factors that determine the costs include your region, options, materials and custom features.

Base costs for an inground pool vary widely, according to your region, but standard vinyl pools can range from $20-$40000, and your basic inground gunite ranges from $30-$50000. And they go up from there! Elaborate custom pools can cost six figures!

Above-ground pools however usually cost between $1500 and $4500, depending on the size and features you buy. Installation will also vary, but will run along the same lines, about $1500-$4500, depending on size and scope of the project. For a nice wood deck with stairs and railings, and beautiful landscaping, add another $1500-$4500.

No matter what type of pool you choose, the best way to get a precise estimate of cost is to meet with a few different contractors to discuss what you want and compare their bids.

What Safety Precautions Should You Take?

Pool safety concerns for new pool ownersIf you have children or pets, always secure your pool when not in use. The American Red Cross suggests installing a non-climbable fence or barrier four feet or higher with a self-latching gate. You can also use a safety cover or automatic cover.

Never leave pets and children unattended by a swimming pool, talk with your children about the importance of water safety and check into pool safety equipment that’s available.

An aboveground pool is said to be safer for children and pets, since accidentally falling in is more difficult, but that’s not necessarily true  with curious children or adventurous animals.

What Kind of Maintenance Is Required?

pool maintenance - what is required?Regular pool maintenance is a big part of keeping your pool pristine and functional. As a pool owner, you’ll need to some equipment maintenance, pool cleaning, and chemical management.

Chemical management involves testing the water a few times per week, and adding chemicals to keep it pH balanced and chlorinated. Be prepared for chemicals to cost between $20-$50 monthly, during pool season.

Equipment maintenance involves keeping the pool filter and pump running well by cleaning the filters and baskets and keeping a general eye on things, to be sure all systems are working correctly.

Pool cleaning is simply skimming, vacuuming and brushing; these will be required of the pool owner from time to time, even if you buy an automatic pool cleaner.

Your pool interior will require refinishing at some point. Vinyl liners typically last less than ten years, whereas a plaster finish can last up to 20 years. Fiberglass surfaces may crack, fade or wear thin over 20 year.

Most types of pool equipment (pump/filter/heater/cleaner) will last about ten years, however they can last much longer with your good care, minor repair and a bit of good luck. :-)

aboveground pools vs. inground poolsIn my next post I’ll get into much more detail about choosing a pool, when we put aboveground pools vs. inground pools together for a head to head match!



Sheryl Sollis
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Cats in the Pool – Meow Yeow!

cat and dog in poolCats and dogs. They’re basically the same. Fur, four legs, tails, eyes, nose, mouth, and ability to wake you from the best night’s sleep,  because your leg moved an inch. So, how can we really tell the two apart? Yes, exactly! Good idea! Let’s put them in the pool.

Dogs, we all know they take to swimming like, well, a fish to water. Most dogs love it. The species even has a swim stroke named after them: The Doggy Paddle. Ever hear of a cat paddle? Maybe kitty cat paddle or feline paddle? Nope. Because cats don’t go in the water. That’s how we can tell them apart from dogs – well, that and a cat’s default personality is set on secretly plotting an end to humans.

Seriously, admit this cat isn’t thinking of the many ways to make its owner pay for the horribleness of putting it in the pool:cats-in-the-pool-3Carl the Cat here is thinking “if I get to the other side, human mom will feel my wrath like never before. I’m gonna climb out, walk straight inside and lay on her favorite bed pillow. That’s my motivation to survive here, man.”

How can we be sure that Carl the Cat’s owner didn’t throw him in? Simple. You ever see a cat jump into the pool? No, because cats are the vain, neat-freak types in the animal kingdom. Water messes stuff up. Cats don’t like to be messed up, so when they get wet they get angry. It’s not just Carl the Cat above. Look at this adorable thing that someone lovingly calls a pet, letting the kids play with him and caress him.

A friendly cat plotting to kill because he got wet. The poor thing looks like a creature from a Stephen King novel. The look from this guy alone will change a cat lover into a dog person in a blink of an eye. Just remember, this thing sleeps all day so it can roam at night. Sweet dreams!

Of course, we cat lovers of the world think cats really, truly deep down want to love the water, it’s why they do things like this with Snowball, a generally loving cat who doesn’t bother anyone. We think, why of course she wants to swim, it’s hot outside!

cats-in-the-pool-2Poor snowball. You’d think she’s staring down a large brown bear or something, but no, her human momma put her in the pool for fun, frightening poor Snowball to the brink of insanity wondering why someone she loved so deeply would do something so ghastly that will certainly matte her hair for days. Poor, poor Snowball.

Maybe it’s not the fact a cat is swimming in the pool, like Fluffy here. Maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong, and the freaked-out nature Fluffy is exhibiting is caused by what we can’t see waiting on the side of the pool.

The look on Fluffy’s face says it all: “Aww man, there’s Fido swimming, what’s he doing? The one time I get in the pool Fido does that in the pool?! Not Cool, Fido! Not Cool, Dog!”

Let us not forget, there are those out there in this cruel world who think it’s great to torture the unsuspecting family cat by dressing her up in a one piece racing suit and swim cap … because they think it’s cute.

cat-in-the-pool-7One simple rule for cat owners to live by is: it’s ok to dress up Kitty at Halloween. Any other time of year is just … well, it is funny! Who wouldn’t love dressing Kitty up as a competitive swimmer on a Saturday afternoon? I’m telling you though, Kitty here is gonna come back with some unthinkable revenge for this one.

There are those people out there, too, who think cats have no problems with taking a dip in the pool. Unless you have a Van cat, known as the ‘swimming cat‘ training him to swim might not be hard since they love water and have quick drying fur.

For your cat however; use all the toys, rattle all the food in a can and place a few pounds of catnip on a float in the middle of the pool, chances are your cat still won’t go into the pool.

Some still insist cats can learn, and maybe so, but teaching a cat to swim for enjoyment is probably something much like teaching a human to love running by tying him to a merry-go-ground. Cats are crafty, sneaky, stealthy, strange, quick and downright unforgiving if they choose to be so rather than their fluffy, cuddly self. Keep that in mind when you want to see if your feline friend can swim. And keep the image below in mind, too.

cat-in-the-pool-6Who’s more evil, the satanic cat or the guy who thinks it’s fun to swim with ol’ Meow-Meow in tow? Maybe this is a rescue operation. The real question here is, who do you think has the better chance of coming out of the pool alive with both eyeballs? Yeah, my money is Meow-Meow, too.

Now, if a cat does somehow find itself in your pool, doesn’t like the water, never been in the water and doesn’t know how to get out, that could have rather serious consequences. We can’t always watch our cats for so many different reasons. But we can protect them if they get spooked into the pool.

If you’re a pet owner or an animal lover, having a pet ramp in your pool can mean the difference between an untimely demise and a funny anecdote to tell friends the next time you’re sitting on the pool deck.

cat-on-skamper-rampConsider the Skamper Ramp or Pet Ramp, to help cats, dogs and other animals find a way out of the pool before it’s too late. We like to laugh at all the silly cat pictures of cute kitties looking flipped out in the pool, but we certainly don’t want any of our furry friends suffering any consequences from the pool.

Pet ramps are great ways for our pets and other animals to safely make it out of the pool if they somehow get into the water. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

That’s enough lolcats for now, get back to work!

Larry Anderson
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Top Pool Trend Renovation Ideas


Swimming pools are a great feature of any home, and as with most design situations, trends of pool construction and design can vary from year to year. Here are a few of the most popular trends in pools right now:

Natural Pools

natural-pool-with-natural-filtration-bed-adjacentNatural pools imitate ponds in nature and look to blend into the surrounding environment as much as possible. They also operate much differently than a typical pool, in that they use a variety of plants to filter the water and keep the pool clean versus standard filtration systems. The use of salt water instead of chlorinated water is also a popular alternative in natural pools.

Infinity Pools

infinity-edge-pool-by-Dallas-Landscape-Architects-and-DesignersVanishing edge or infinity pools have no edge on one side, to blend with the horizon. This design complements the scenery and natural landscaping beyond, particularly a water view. While beautiful and luxurious, these pools take a more sophisticated construction, plumbing and hydraulics, so make sure you find a competent builder!


baker-pools-jenks-oklahomaAttached spas have always been a favorite addition to any pool, but recently have become more popular. This can be anything from a simple ledge that allows water to spill over into the pool, to the hot tub actually being a corner of the pool itself. This elevated spa has a zero edge overflow for a smooth as glass appearance.

Pool Shapes

geometric-pool-by-Alka-Pools-in-Burnaby-BCPopular in the 80’s, geometric designs have been gaining new popularity with homeowners. These can be rectangles, circles or other patterns that incorporate the landscaping and possibly a spa or hot tub. These are also popular when building an exercise pool or endless pool, as with added current and water-pressure systems, they can provide endless swimming potential.

Tiny Pools

small-pool---photo-by-Andrea-CaloIt’s no coincidence that as property prices rise, homeowners make use of smaller lots. But that’s not the whole story, small pools have the advantage of being easier to maintain, less costly to heat, and can even be safer in that they may be easier to monitor or secure. In addition, “spools” allow a homeowner to add more design elements, without over-inflating the price.

Glass Tiles

cipriano-pools-tile-mosaicUsing different materials on the pool surface and patio has become a popular way to make any pool a unique masterpiece. Adding glass tiles is a great way to add color, style and set your pool apart from the ordinary. Harder than standard ceramic tiles and less likely to break or crack. Artisans in pool mosaics are true old world craftsmen.

Custom Decks

travertine-pool-deck-by-two-brothers-brick-pavingReplacing your normal pool deck with travertine tiles is one of the most popular upgrades or remodels to any pool landscaping. Not only are they attractive, they are more heat-resistant and tend to stay cool in hot summer temps. They are also naturally slip-resistant and highly durable, able to even resist freeze-thaw cycles in colder areas.


LED lighting, outdoor fireplaces, kitchens and comfy outdoor living rooms are also popular for 2016!

Whether you are looking to install a brand new pool, or just want to update and remodel your current backyard pool environment, make sure that you use quality materials. A company with a proven track record of craftsmanship and an extensive portfolio can prevent issues down the road.


Sheryl Sollis
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


There’s a Skunk in My Pool!

pepe-le-pew-by-yoshitura“There is something freaking out in the backyard. Stop! Listen, listen….shhhh!” It was 11:30 on a Saturday night, and I had just finished watching an NBA playoff game in the quiet confines of basement. My girlfriend, upright in bed and bug-eyed, her hands with a swift gesture freezing me mid-step – I stood motionless, “THERE! Hear THAT!?!

There was no subtlety to the desperate, shrill shrieks piercing the quiet of my backyard. My mind raced, What WAS that?!? Raccoons, possum fight, cat brawl – what could be creating such a blood-curdling sound? I burst through the backdoor and was hit with the unmistakable smell of a skunk and that wild, primitive shriek.

A barrage of scenarios involuntarily filled my imagination until I saw the swift movement in the swimming pool. “THERE’S A SKUNK IN THE POOL!” I yelled to no one in particular. “NO! There’s TWO skunks in the pool!” They were panicked and desperately clawing over each other in hopes of turning the other into a stepping stone. They were aimlessly swimming to and fro, stopping only to scream at each other in a hissy fit of blame.

skunk-in-the-poolWe quickly found the local animal control hotline only to be greeted with a ridiculously long set of directions to leave a message on their answering machine. I needed to come up with a plan that worked for me and the skunks, fast.

At the time, the pool was new to us and the thought of being thrown into a dual skunk rescue situation was the furthest thing from my mind. I had saved a couple of spiders, some crickets, and even a cricket from a spider – but that took little more than a flick of the leaf skimmer. I’d only been a pool owner for a month.

I live in the Midwest so my imagination didn’t veer to the potential of alligators, snakes, bears, giraffes, or even wolverines. Depending on your region, a menagerie of animals could potentially decide to purposely or accidentally take a dip in your pool. It’s a hard thing to prepare for and something you can’t always be present to monitor. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that wild animals, no matter how big or small (usually small!) have a safe way to escape the water or prevent them from entering the water at all.

POOL ALARMS: In the case of my skinny-dipping skunks, an alarm wasn’t needed. I’m actually surprised no one called 911 because the sound was beyond unsettling. However, there are many inexpensive, simple-to-install pool alarms that sound when something enters the pool water. It’s an ideal and affordable way to monitor your pool when within earshot of the alarm system.

FENCES: Most towns require a pool fence or a fence around the yard if you have a pool. Depending on the size of the animal and the fence, this will work just fine. However, a pool fence does nothing to prevent smaller animals like squirrels, chipmunks, possums or skunks from belly flopping knowingly or unknowingly into the pool.

RAMPS: My pool does have steps. However, they are steep steps and in the case of my waterlogged polecats, they were too steep to pull themselves out of the pool. The steps in my pool are useless for rodents and smaller animals. My 100 lb German Shepherd can barely get out with them. On some days, I can barely climb them.

Pool Safety Exit Ramps for pets and wild animalsProducts like the Skamper Ramp are dogs and critters that need a gradual slope to make their escape. Ramps are simple but highly effective safety measures that can save money and time  and can save the animal’s life.

Those are products designed with the specific purpose of water safety. Again, in my case, I hadn’t thought of water safety for two freaked out skunks. I had to Macgyver a way to rescue them from my soon-to-be-shocked pool. Their lives depended on it.

The Humane Society offers these inventive tips for dealing with a wild animal in your pool:

  • When building a pool, design swim outs or a shallow tanning shelf from which animals can easily escape.
  • Place buoyant devices like foam lounges in the water along the pool’s edge to allow animals to get out on their own.
  • Place knotted nylon ropes along the sides, securing them to the pool edge. Make sure the knot is at the water’s surface, so the animal can more easily climb out. (This only works for climbing animals such as raccoons, mice, and squirrels).
  • Small animals: Scoop them out with a net or pool skimmer…If you don’t have a skimmer handy, try the bristled end of a broom to lift them up and out of the pool.
  • Large animals: Use chaise lounge of a partially deflated float as a makeshift ramp. Anchor the ramp on the pool steps with a weight such as a cinder block or tie it to the ladder rail.
  • For any animal: Always use caution to avoid being bitten from a scared and exasperated wild animal in the pool.

More skunks-in-poolsBack to the Drama at Hand – the skunks’ panic escalated to new heights as they tried to determine whether or not my presence was benevolent. The large skunk was clearly wearing down and splashing in the shallows of the pool steps. I ran to the garage and grabbed the first thing I thought would work as a booster step. It was one of those brown plastic crates you get from a grocery store that usually holds cartons of eggs. Half-wondering how the heck I came into possession of such a crate, I ran over to the steps and valiantly, heroically placed it on the top step and meekly prance-skipped away from the water’s edge. The skunk was smart and quickly climbed atop the crate, and slowly, almost mockingly drifted backwards into the deep end.

At this point I didn’t know skunks could be sarcastic. But I’m pretty sure that he looked at me like, “Great plan, buddy! THANKS!”.

If only my skunks had been as smart as this skunk, perhaps they could have figured out how to exit through the pool skimmer. But sadly, most wild animals don’t find an easy exit.

When we both knew the plan was definitely not going to work, I grabbed my pool brush and stuck out to him. He flinched and swam further away. The smaller one was running out of gas, so I hooked her gently with the brush, towed her to the ladder in the deep end, got the broom under her butt—and lifted her up and out of the water. In a soggy flash she was gone through the bushes. Ok, smell ya later! I was going to need a LOT of Skunk Strength Super Shock.

This left me with the big guy. At this point we had developed a human-skunk eye contact communication. I know he knew I was trying to help him. His girlfriend made it out, he would soon follow. True Story meme - Barney StinsonThe pool brush lift technique worked again, and as he ran into the darkness I’m pretty sure he stopped and gave me a nod of approval as he disappeared into the abyss of my neighbor’s hedgerow.

So ended the skunk in the pool episode. Since then we’ve not had any more visitors to the pool, at least none that I know of ~ Do you have any wild animals in the pool stories? Leave a Reply!


Ryan Dornan
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Hard Pool Water: Pool Calcium Removal

drpool talks about reducing pool calcium hardness levelsHard pool water has elevated levels of calcium and magnesium, as measured by a Total Hardness test, also known as Calcium Hardness.

For swimming pools, the range of acceptable hardness levels is 200-400 ppm, although many suggest a tighter range of 180-220 ppm for plaster pools and 150-250 ppm for vinyl pools.

Problems with Pool Water Hardness

hard-water-mapIn many parts of the country, tap water with hardness levels of 400-800 ppm is not uncommon. High calcium levels can lead to scaling, especially if pH levels are allowed to rise, which produces whitish scale or crystalline deposits, at the water line, inside pipes or all over the pool.

Excessive water hardness can also come out of solution, precipitating into repeated bouts with cloudy water, or calcium stains as hard minerals mix with dirt and oils.

Controlling Calcium Hardness in Pools

As opposed to removing calcium in pools, many pool owners opt to control the mineral build-up in pools. The primary method of control is to keep well-balanced pH and alkalinity levels. With a proper pH of 7.2-7.4 and Total Alkalinity of 80-100 ppm, high levels of calcium rarely become problematic.

Scale Free by Natural ChemistrySecondly, using a sequestering agent like Scale Free or Stain Away, will lock-up minerals (sequester) with a strong chemical bond, that will keep calcium from precipitating out of solution, to form scale or visibly cloud the water.

Avoiding use of calcium based sanitizers, such as Calcium Hypochlorite, is also recommended as a way to reduce calcium build-up. Lithium, Dichlor or non-chlorine shock can be used as alternative pool shocks, that won’t add calcium to the pool.

Reducing Calcium Hardness in Pools

If you’re beyond controlling calcium hardness and actually want to reduce pool hardness levels, there are a few ways to lower calcium levels in pools.

The best method is to drain a portion of the pool and refill with water that has been treated with a home water softening system, or from trucked-in water with a lower calcium content. Captured rain water, which has 0 ppm of calcium hardness, has also been used by some as a means to reduce calcium levels.

Cal Treat by United ChemicalsA second method to reduce pool water hardness is to use commercially available calcium hardness reducers, such as Cal Treat by United Chemicals. Cal Treat is a formula of sodium hexametaphosphate, which when used correctly, will exchange calcium for sodium, while phosphates promote polymer adhesion to the calcium carbonate, for removal by your pool filter. This method however, increases levels of orthophosphates in the water, which may cause other problems, e.g. algae blooms.

Purposeful precipitation of calcium carbonate by raising pH and Alkalinity, to cloud the pool water is another method. Cloud the pool water on purpose, and then using a flocculent such as aluminum sulfate, to drop suspended material to the floor. This method is risky however, because it is possible that the calcium may decide to deposit as scale and crystals on the pool surface.

Finally, reverse osmosis filtering can remove calcium from pool water. Systems like PuriPool or Calsaway, available in certain hard water areas will visit your pool with truck mounted RO filters, to super-clean your pool water, while reducing calcium, TDS, phosphates, nitrates, cyanuric acid and more.

Hard water affects a large percentage of pool owners around the world, if your pool has very high levels of calcium hardness, you’re not alone! Reduce pool calcium levels below 400 ppm, for best results.

I love Calcium and Nitrogen Jokes - Why? Because I CaN!

Dr. Pool


Best & Worst Trees to Plant around a Pool

best-and-worst-trees-near-a-poolLandscaping around a swimming pool can really make your pool pop; but plants and trees need to be chosen carefully.

Trees with lots of ‘leaf litter’, excessive pollen, berries or budding debris can cause extra work for you and your pool filter.

Trees with extensive root systems can damage pool walls or pool plumbing. And cute little trees that grow into large monsters can block the sun’s warmth, or block the sight and sounds of the pool, which can be unsafe.

Many pool guys will say “the best trees for a pool… is no trees at all”. But that’s not always realistic, or desirable in most cases.

Best Trees to Plant Around a Pool

First, consider those things which may limit your pool tree selection.

hardiness-zone-map-smClimate: Pools located in more temperate hardiness zones (southern states) have a wider variety of trees that can flourish around the pool. Northern pools can still use many tropicals if planted in large pots, or cut back during fall and mulched over.

Shade: If you are specifically looking for shade around the pool, or in a certain area, that can guide your tree choice. Or as an option to trees, consider a cabana or pergola with wisteria or vines.

Privacy: Are you trying to block out neighbor’s prying eyes, noise or a less than perfect view? Fast growing evergreens may be a good choice for one or two sides of the pool.

Beauty: Adding beauty around the pool is an obvious reason for enhancing your pool landscaping. Flowering trees, fruit trees and deciduous trees (those that shed leaves during fall) may be pretty, but can be messy.

The best trees to plant around a pool include: Acacia, Banana, Citrus, Evergreens (arbor vitae, cypress, spruce), Holly and Magnolia (also evergreen), Olive trees (non fruit bearing), Oleander (actually a large bush), and Windmill Palms (hardy into areas of zone 6). BEST-TREES-TO-PLANT-AROUND-A-POOL

Worst Trees to Plant Around a Pool

Just as there are trees that do well around pools, there are lots of trees that won’t. In most cases, chlorinated water or salt pool splash-out is not much of a concern, as long as trees around a pool are regularly watered.

Climate: Again the regional climate is the number one consideration. Refer to the map above and look for trees that are “hardy” in your local zones. A tree that does well in zone 8 may not survive winters in zone 7.

Litter: Some trees are constantly shedding buds, flowers, leaves and bark. With a little wind, this can fill your pool with debris. Deciduous trees are not necessarily bad, but will give the backyard a bare appearance during winter.

Leaf Size: Small leaves from a willow or maple tree can be fairly manageable but large leaves can clog skimmers and cleaners, berries can stain pools and pool decks, and soft fruits can be messy and smelly.

Root Systems: Most trees grow root systems of about the same size as the tree branch systems. Some trees have very aggressive roots that can damage pool walls or vinyl liners when planted too close to inground pools.

The worst trees to plant around a pool include (among others), Ash, Cottonwood, Elm, Eucalyptus, Mulberry, Oak, Pine, Poplar and Walnut Trees – messy, sticky, oily and dusty. Avoid trees that grow too fast, too tall and spindly, which are prone to limb loss or complete loss. WORST-TREES-TO-PLANT-AROUND-A-POOLLet me finish by saying this, I love trees and if they were there before the pool, perhaps they have squatter’s rights, and should not be taken down to improve the view or sun exposure. But they can be trimmed!

And with that said, don’t be afraid to change what was planted after the pool was built. If you have trees around a pool that have become undesirable tenants – you can start over, with something new!

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor



Pool Chlorine Levels

drpool-chlorine-levelsWelcome back students! Today in Pool Chemistry 101, we cover some common chlorine concerns for pool owners.

The topic is the best chlorine levels for swimming pools; let’s start with the general, and move towards the specific.

Every pool is different – and not just in shape and size, but in chlorine demand, or how much chlorine is needed to do the job.

Proper Pool Chlorine Level?

The minimum acceptable level for most swimming pools is 1.0 ppm (parts per million), up to 3.0 ppm.

What Affects Chlorine Level?: Heavy bather load, heavy debris or algae requires higher chlorine levels to compensate for the increased workload. In addition, long hours of sunlight, a high pool pH, poor filtration or circulation, can also require more chlorine, to keep and maintain a constant and consistent 1-3 ppm of chlorine.

How is Chlorine Tested?: Test for proper chlorine levels with a fresh test strip or liquid reagent test kit. Strips that are outdated, or reagents that are contaminated, have frozen or been exposed to direct sunlight can produce inaccurate results.

How are Chlorine Levels Raised?: Pool operators can raise chlorine levels using any pool chlorine product – dichlor granular, trichlor tablets, cal hypo granular or lithium powder – even liquid bleach, but most folks use Trichlor for daily chlorination, and Cal Hypo as a periodic shock treatment.

Chlorine Level for Saltwater Pools?

The proper level of chlorine for a saltwater pool is exactly the same as for a pool chlorinated with tablets; 1-3 ppm. Salt pools don’t require less chlorine than traditional pools, despite what you may have heard.

Chlorine Level for Pools with Supplemental Sanitizers?

nature2-express-2A pool with a supplemental sanitizer has additional equipment that reduces the chlorine demand. These include mineral purifiers, such as Nature2 or Frog, or an Ozonator.

Public pools are still required to meet the minimum health department standard of 1.0 ppm, but for residential pools with a supplemental sanitizer doing half the work, the minimum acceptable chlorine level drops to 0.5 ppm.

However, there are times when a higher amount of chlorine would be prudent in a pool with supplemental sanitizers, in addition to regular super-chlorination or shock treatments.

Chlorine Level for Stabilized Pools?

cyanuric-acid-protectsStabilized pools have cyanuric acid, also known as conditioner, to protect the chlorine molecule from UV light degradation. It does this not by shielding chlorine from sun like an overcoat or umbrella, but by reducing it’s activity, or specifically, it’s vibrations.

Recent studies have found that this reduction in activity also reduces chlorine kill rates. And the more cyanuric acid there is, the more sluggish your chlorine becomes.

For this reason, some health departments are now calling for higher minimum levels of Free Chlorine, in pools stabilized with cyanuric acid.

For stabilized pools, the best chlorine level is in the 2-3 ppm range.

Chlorine Level Too High?

chlorine-level-too-highAbove 5 ppm, you may begin to notice irritation to the skin and eyes, and above 10 ppm, people should not be allowed in the pool.

Besides skin and hair damage, consistently high chlorine levels can bleach swim suits and weaken vinyl liners, pump seals, filter cartridges and pool heaters.

Testing very high (off the chart) chlorine levels can be accomplished by using a 50/50 solution of pool water and distilled water, and then doubling the tested chlorine level.

chlorine-neutralizerChlorine Neutralizer is available, namely sodium thiosulfate, which will quickly bring over-chlorinated pools back to normal chlorine levels. Use with care, overdose can lead to an opposite problem of difficulty obtaining a chlorine reading!

Chloramine Level?

Chloramines are also called combined chlorine, created when ammonia or nitrogen latches onto a Free Chlorine molecule, rendering it useless.

An acceptable level of chloramines in a pool is 0.3 ppm or less. At this point you may begin to smell them, or experience eye irritation.

100px-Chloramine-3D-vdWWhen chloramine levels reach 0.3 ppm, the pool should be shocked or superchlorinated to 10 ppm, to break apart the chloramine bonds.

Chloramines can be tested by using a DPD test kit, or test strips that test for both Total Chlorine and Free Chlorine. If there is any difference between the two tests, chloramines are present. The formula is thus: TC – FC = CC

And, that’s about all folks! If you have more questions on the level of chlorine in your pool (or lack thereof), drop me a line at for some answers.

Class Dismissed!


Dr. Pool


Designer Pool Ladders & Rails

designer-pool-ladders-interfabIf you haven’t seen the hottest new pool upgrade yet, don’t feel left out, designer pool ladders and rails are new!

An easy way to spiff up your pool area is by adding points of visual interest. New style pool rails are eye popping and head turning, and sure to grab the attention of friends and neighbors.

SR Smith and Inter-Fab, two of the largest rail, slide and dive manufacturers have led the way with their new Designer and Artisan inspired pool ladders and hand rails.

Designer Pool Ladders

Stainless steel pool ladders are de rigueur for the well equipped pool. Durable and attractive, they are also an important deep end safety device, and required for pools with diving boards or dive rocks.

designer-pool-ladders-2SR Smith brings us the Meridian and Artisan pool ladder designs, with a contemporary flair. Patented design has standard 1.90″ diameter rail tubes to fit any inground pool ladder socket. 304 stainless steel, with an option for 316L stainless steel. Powder coating the SS is another option, in 4 colors.

InterFab Designer stainless steel pool ladder has a dark satin brushed finish, and is available in a 3 step or 4 step height, with 6 powder coat colors and 3 Thermo Plastic coatings. Also available by special order are flange mounted Designer Pool Ladders, which bolt into an existing deck, for a quick install nearly anywhere.

Designer Pool Hand Rails

Pool Hand Rails are a practical accessory that makes entry and exit safe and secure. Many people find pool ladders impossible to use; shallow end entry steps with a hand rail is the only way they can use the pool.

InterFab Designer Pool Rails

InterFab’s newest line of Designer Hand Rails and Grab Rails (above) are designed to fit in place of standard Figure-4 grab rails and hand rails. And like the Designer pool ladders, all can be special ordered in 9 colors and with a deck flange for surface mounting.


SR Smith Artisan Hand Rails

SR Smith wouldn’t let InterFab out-design them, so they answered the call from sophisticated pool owners to create a new line of sleek handrails with jaunty angles. Stainless Steel hand rails fit into standard 1.9″ anchor sockets, and matches most common rail spacing.


Have Pool ladders and Hand Rails become chic and fashionable? It seems so, and black is the new chrome! Steel brushed, powder coated or wrapped in KoolGrips neoprene, your rails can be nearly any color or finish!

Adding artfully bent and polished ladders and rails to your pool makes a bold statement about your sense of style. If your ladders and rails can use an upgrade, take a look at Designer pool ladders and Designer pool rails!


Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor


Diatomaceous Earth, Perlite & Cellulose

dr-pool-phosphatesWelcome back, pool-ologists!

Today’s lecture will focus on 3 types of filter media powder available for Diatomaceous Earth pool filters.

D.E. filters have a set of fabric coated grids (aka elements or septums), which are arranged and spaced apart inside the filter tank.

DE filter grids don’t actually filter the water; the powder is the filter media, coating the grids to trap dirt as the water passes into the grids and out of the filter.

Diatomaceous Earth, Perlite and Cellulose are 3 types of natural filter media, or filter powder that can be used in DE pool filters.


dicalite-pool-filter-powderDE powder is composed of the ancient skeletal remains of Diatoms, which are harvested from the ocean floor, and separated into clean, white powder.

The major component of Diatomaceous Earth powder is silicon dioxide, a mix of amorphous and crystalline silicone, or glass.

Crystalline silicone dioxide has been linked to health problems for users. D.E. also doesn’t break down and rinse away as easily as alternative filter medias, which can be harmful to sensitive local ecosystems.

At a cost of less than $1 per pound, D.E. powder is the number one choice for DE filter media, and filters water effectively down to 3-5 microns.


Perliteaqua-perl is another natural product, produced by heating volcanic rock to extremely high temperatures, at which point it explodes like popcorn.

These Perlite kernals, containing hundreds of tiny air pockets are then ground down into a very lightweight powder, for use in DE pool filters. Perlite is so lightweight, that only half the amount of DE powder is needed.

Proponents of Perlite say that the light weight results in less bridging between grids, more complete backwashes and longer filter cycles, as compared to DE powder.

At $2 per pound, Perlite is twice the cost of DE powder, but half the weight – meaning that you only need to use half as much for the same filtration ability of 3-5 microns.


purifiber-filter-mediaPlant based fibers, wood pulp usually, are the main components of Cellulose Fiber filter media. Natural, biodegradable, renewable and non-toxic.

Cellulose fiber also makes a good filter aid for sand and cartridge filters, increasing their filtration ability and protecting filter cartridges.

Cellulose may clog-up sooner than DE, being that it can also trap oils and grease, unlike DE powder, and other particles as small as 2 microns.

Cellulose fibers are so effective, they can even clog-up from the use of polymer chemicals, such as algaecides, clarifiers, phosphate removers or metal removers, which are not recommended for use with fiber media.

At $5 per pound, PuriFiber is the most costly of DE filter alternative media – but it goes much further, only 6 oz is needed for each 10 Sq Ft of filter area.

If you have a DE pool filter, and are concerned with possible health or environmental risks of using DE filter powder, consider using an alternative filter media such as Perlite or Cellulose in your tank ~

Class Dismissed!


Dr. Pool

Design Accessories to Customize your Pool

design-accessories-for-inground-poolsSwimming pools are often the focal point of a backyard; where family and friends gather and let loose. What does your pool and the rest of your backyard look like? The space should be appealing and inviting, reflecting your tastes and needs.

Let’s look at a variety of accessories and projects that will turn your pool and the surrounding area into the ideal space to kick back and have fun!

Focus on the Big Picture

Take note of all the areas surrounding your pool. Here are a few ways to breathe new life into your backyard:


cool-pool-furnitureSteel pool furniture can get a fresh coat of paint and cushions can be reupholstered or replaced with new. Plastic or resin pool furniture can also be painted – you can paint plastic, and the results are fabulous! Aluminum pool furniture with vinyl straps can be renovated, as shown in our blog post on pool furniture restrapping.


shade-sails-for-cool-poolsCreate shade by adding large pool umbrellas to seating and lounging areas. If you don’t want to rely on just an umbrella base, customize it by stenciling painted cinder blocks. Using Shade Sails is a great way to add not only shade, but interesting colors and shapes to your backyard.


cool-pool-lighting-2Plants and shrubs bring life to your pool and patio. Light them up to enjoy their beauty for longer each day. A set of solar spot lights is an easy way to highlight areas around the pool at night, or perhaps some LED planters. Inside the pool, LED pool bulbs or LED pool lights give your pool some personality after the sun sets.

Light the night in another way, with a Fire Pit or fire bowl with comfortable seating for cool spring and fall evenings. Roast marshmallows and hot dogs, or just stare at the fire and enjoy a real conversation.


cool-pool-deck-33The pool deck is possibly the best way to change the look and bring value, style and space to your pool area. You can use concrete, tile, pavers or wood for this project, or choose more than one! For deck design flair on a budget, stampcrete adds a texture like stone, brick or marble, to regular concrete.

Spray-on cement can be applied over existing concrete for texture and color, or use a stain to add rich tones to boring old concrete.

Focus on the Small Details

It’s easy to accessorize your pool with fun pool accessories like floating pool fountains, which hook up to your return or pool cleaner fitting. Or active pool sports games such as pool basketball or volleyball, or colorful pool rafts and noodles. The list goes on and on, but you get the idea…

Want More Pool Decor ideas?


Sheryl Sollis
InTheSwim Staff Blogger