For some pool owners, especially new pool owners, just
understanding the pool or spa system is very stressful.
The Pool Doctor takes a simple approach and talks your
language. We don't confuse you with technical terms, flow rates
and pool dynamics.
I don't know the first thing about how a swimming pool works. Can you explain so that I
can understand it?
Some years ago I wrote a paper called "Clear water revival," it may help you understand the
Your swimming pool and you. Understanding the basics.
Responding to the initial signal from your brain, your eyelids spring open to greet another
day. You suck in the early morning air and for the first time today you are consciously aware of
the burst of oxygen filling your lungs. Deep in your chest your heart thumps a consistent beat,
pumping blood like clockwork through the complicated network of veins. Thousands of alveoli
sacs travel through your bloodstream, transporting oxygen to the muscle groups so eagerly
demanding it. Your blood, flowing through your veins like some powerfully contained geyser,
forces its way into your kidneys. Miraculously the kidneys purify and cleanse the blood
sending the impurities to waste, then like some free flowing river, return it back into the
complicated mass of tributaries for further distribution. This process is repeated some
twenty times an hour, filtering approximately one thousand pints of blood a day. You stand up
stretching effortlessly, while beneath the surface this remarkable system maintains a
wonderful world of equilibrium.
Okay I admit, this may not be the way a physician would explain the human blood treatment
plant, but at least it gives you an idea of a truly remarkable system at work. Within our bodies
there are hundreds of other procedures occurring simultaneously that, not only do
we take for granted, but they allow us to live, breathe and if we so choose, partake in a healthy
Well what does this have to do with my swimming pool? You may ask. Believe it or not, the
system I just described is very much like the mechanics of your swimming pool. For us to
enjoy the benefits that our pool has to offer, it needs to be kept clean, healthy and free of
bacteria. Just like ours, this body has equipment that completes similar functions,
eliminating bacteria from the water in a most efficient manner. The water (blood) is pumped
from the pool via the plumbing (veins) with a pump and motor (heart), and forced
through the filter (kidney) then returned back to the pool. Simple enough? Not quite...Let me
Powered by electricity, the brains that run our swimming pools can be as simple as a basic
time clock mechanism, or as sophisticated as a computerized controller executing lists of
preprogrammed functions. But no matter how complicated or simple this device may be
its main purpose is to set the entire process in motion.
Once activated, the circulating pump and motor sucks the water through piping that varies in
diameter from 1.5 inches-older pools are sometimes less-to 8 inches from different areas of
the swimming pool. Like the propeller of an airplane, the pump impeller spins rapidly forcing
water through the plumbing and directional valves into the filter. Pumps are graded low,
medium or high head, high head being the most powerful. Motors are graded by horsepower,
from 1/2 HP through 8 HP or even higher in more extreme circumstances.
However, average swimming pool circulation motors are sized around 1 to 2 horsepower.
The next component in this airtight pressurized system is the pool filter. Pressure can be
read from a gauge on top of the filter in pounds per square inch or PSI, which will gradually
rise when the filter becomes dirty, slowing down the flow of water. Unlike the human kidney,
different types of filters are available. Sand, cartridge and diatomaceous earth filters are the
most common. They are all graded in efficiency by the amount of microns of bacteria they are
able to filter out.
In line, directly following the filter, you may find a number of other components such as
directional valves, a heater, solar equipment, automatic pool sweep equipment and water
purifiers. At this point in the system the water is considered filtered, and travels back to the
pool through a number of return lines gaining the maximum flow while purposely eliminating
areas of stagnant water.
Our human body uses food as a fuel by stripping it of its nutrients, calories and vitamins.
These in turn supply us with power, growth, strength and ultimately our health. And so goes
our swimming pool. Although its power is supplied by means of voltage, the water still
needs to be treated so as to maintain its healthy makeup. In order for the filter to remove
foreign particles, sanitizing agents-such as chlorine or bromine-act very much like our
immune system by fighting and killing the bacteria in the water. Automatic chlorinators are
plumbed into the system just before the water returns to the pool. These can be either liquid
or dry tablet style chlorinators. Liquid chlorinators work on a separate pump by injecting
chlorine into the returning filtered water, where dry tablet style chlorinators use
filtered water inside a towered container, utilizing the flow of water to dissolve the chlorine
tablets. In both instances, very much like our oxygen carrying alveoli sacs, the chlorine is
transported back to the pool in diluted form providing extra swimmer comfort.
Maintaining the correct chemical balance for your pool water while ensuring its proper
filtration schedule, is just as important as maintaining a proper diet of food and exercise for
your own body. When the time comes and you are ready to analyze your pool equipment, just
as in life you are free to choose the efficiency of your system. Remember that your swimming
pool is an expensive investment, so when building a pool or improving an existing one,
choose your equipment wisely. The biggest advantage you have with
your swimming pool equipment is that you are able to change the components as they age.
In life we are not afforded such luxury.
So what will you decide? Would you prefer the body and system of a well-trained,
well-balanced triathlete? Or, will you settle for the slow, heavy sluggish system of a couch
potato? Be fair warned though, if you choose the latter you could be heading for a complete
system failure and could well become a candidate for clear water revival
How long does it take to build a pool and how is it done?
The average pool will take about 7 to 8 weeks from start to completion, done in the following
Week 1 - LAYOUT: Large wooden spikes are driven into the ground to outlying the shape and
size of the pool.
EXCAVATION: A tractor is used to dig the hole for the pool. The size of the tractor depends on
the accessibility of your yard.
Week 2 - PLUMBING: The piping, usually 1.5 - 2 inches in diameter is installed, along with
the skimmer device, drains and anything necessary for proper water circulation.
REINFORCING STEEL: Steel bars are installed in a grid pattern along the entire pool surface.
The steel support structure provides the added strength needed for concrete pools - At this
point the pool has to be inspected for steel and bond.
Week 3 - GUNITE INSTALLATION: Gunite is the method of pumping dry sand and cement
through a hose and adding water at the discharge nozzle. Using this method the cement is
sprayed onto the reinforced steel, then trimmed and shaped to the contours of the pool. The
surface must then be sprayed with a mist of water several times a day for 7-10 days.
ELECTRICAL: A licensed electrical contractor installs all electrical equipment, including
underwater lights - At this point the electrical inspection is done.
Week 4 - TILE: Ceramic tile is set along the water line to make it easier to maintain. Coping,
the tile along the perimeter of the pool is also set.
Week 5 - DECKING & LANDSCAPING: The concrete base of the decking is installed and can
remain concrete or is covered with stone or brick. Fences and decorative landscaping can be
added at this time. A pre-plaster inspection is done at this point.
Week 6 - INTERIOR FINISH: Plastering is the final step, providing a smooth water-tight surface
for your pool. White is the typical color for plaster but gray, black and brown are also available.
Exposed aggregate, fine pebbles mixed with cement, is the latest pool surface.
The pebbles produce a natural rock finish and come in a variety of colors.
Week 7 - FILL POOL WITH WATER: If plaster is used to finish your pool, it will be filled with
water immediately. If exposed aggregate is used then your pool will be filled the next day.
Filling the pool can take from 24 to 48 hours. A final inspection is done to complete.
Copyright 2005 The Pool Doctor - All rights reserved