New pool with lion fountain

Starting Up a Newly Constructed Swimming Pool

Owning a new swimming pool can be a daunting experience. For months you pondered over what to build and who was the best person or company to build it for you. Then you took the plunge and signed a contract and organized the budget to pay for it.

Dig the hole for a swimming pool
The big dig. The first step towards any in-ground swimming pool is a hole in the ground.

You watched as they dug the hole for your new swimming pool and your dream began to emerge. Now they are about to fill your new pool with water and hand it over to you.

Your pool builder will (or should) explain all the necessary procedures with you and advise on how to operate the specific equipment installed with your new swimming pool.

Professional building organizations and swimming institutes like the NSPI usually have detailed guidelines for their members and tips for new pool owners.

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Test the source water

Before water is poured into the new pool shell it is essential that you know the quality of the water available. There are usually no major problems with municipal water supplies, but borehole water can be problematic. As a precaution, the pH and total alkalinity (TA) of all water needs to be tested; and you should also test for calcium hardness and the presence of metals in the water. This is though your pool builder’s responsibility.

Be warned that shortages of calcium hardness can adversely affect marble plaster. If there are traces of metal, a metal remover should be added to the water once the pool is full and circulating.

The NSPI advises that water quality varies from area to area, even within one town or city and that it will rarely meet the requirements of correct pool water balance.

Filling the pool

New swimming pool
Dream complete. The new pool has been filled with water and is ready to be handed over.

Plastered pools should be filled within 36 hours of the plaster being applied, even though it will still be slightly soft.

Water should not be sprayed onto or allowed to run over the newly plastered pool shell. The NSPI recommends that both gunite and handpacked concrete pools finished with marble plaster be filled from the deep end, with a hosepipe. A tip that will allow the water to creep up over the still soft plaster and prevent run marks on the surface is to tie an old towel over the end of the pipe to form a balloon. This also prevents the hosepipe from whipping against the new, soft surface.

Ring stains may occur if water is turned off even briefly during the initial filling of a plastered pool, or if water is allowed to run over the newly plastered surface before the water level has reached that spot. The water should not be turned off until it has reached the middle of the skimmer or the tile line.

Starting the equipment

Without the pump running, select ‘rinse’ on the multi-port valve. Prime the pump with water and start the pump. Rinse for one minute to clear the pipework of any debris.

Switch off the pump and select ‘backwash’. Switch the pump back on and backwash until the sight glass is clear. Switch the pump off again. Now select ‘rinse’ again; switch the pump back on and rinse for 30 seconds or until the sight glass is clear. Switch the pump off; select ‘filter’ and switch the pump back on. The filter is now ready for normal operation.

Balance the pool water

As soon as the pool is full and the equipment (pool, filter and so on) is working, your builder will re-test the pool water. Don’t be alarmed if the water is substantially different after filling the pool. He or she will record the readings and advise you on the pool water volume.

Chemicals are then added to the water to achieve the required balance as soon as possible and as close to the ideal as possible. A reputable pool shop will be able to advise correct dosages and chemical treatment products.

The filtration system must run for at least eight hours after adding chemicals to allow for proper mixing. Any imbalances may they be corrected and a chlorination programme started.

Note that it is the pool owner’s responsibility to maintain the correct water balance and clean the pool – unless of course you opt to employ a pool maintenance company to do it for you.

Clean the pool

It is essential to keep the surface of a newly plastered pool constantly clean whilst the plaster is curing. Brush daily with a nylon bristled brush for 14 days and vacuum with a hand vacuum. If you only have an automatic pool cleaner, use it but remove after cleaning as it can damage the pool surface if it gets stuck. Generally it is best not to use an automatic cleaner for the first two weeks after completion of the pool.

It may be necessary to backwash the water frequently in the first few weeks – possibly daily in the initial stages if there is a lot of plaster dust and residue.

Normal operating procedures

It takes more than chemical treatment to keep pool water clean and healthy. A filtration and circulation system is also required to attain crystal clear and sparkling.

You will need chemicals to maintain the pH and TA levels and the calcium hardness of the water.

• Maintain pH between 7,2 and 7,6 in all pools.

• Maintain a free chlorine residual of 1,0 to 3,0 ppm.

• Check pH and free chlorine levels weekly and correct whenever necessary. Do not allow the pH to go lower than 7,2 in plaster or fibreglass pools. Ordinary pool test kits cannot read below 6,8; if the pH does drop below this, always add a metal remover before raising the pH.

• Do not add concentrated acid to try and lower pH. Concentrated acid is used to reduce TA. Hydrochloric acid should be added to lower pH … no more than 500 ml in 10 litres of water should be added to a 50 000 litre pool.

• TA and calcium hardness must be maintained at the correct levels. Check these levels monthly. Do not overdose with chemicals and always read the manufacturer’s instructions. Consult a reputable pool shop if you have problems.

The recommended filtration cycle varies from summer to winter. In summer it should be continuous for 12 hours every day, ideally from 6 am until 6 pm. In winter only six to eight hours are necessary.

In normal operating conditions you will need to backwash the filter weekly. Always unplug the pool cleaner first and remove the vacuum plate from the weir. Clean the weir basket and select ‘closed’ on the multi-port valve before opening the lid of the pump. Clean the pump basket, replace and secure the lid of the pump. Select ‘backwash’; switch on the pump and backwash for three to five minutes. Switch the pump off again, and select ‘rinse’; switch on and rinse for 30 to 60 seconds. This is an essential step as dirty water could return to the pool if the rinse cycle is not carried out.

Never to change the position on the multi-port valve while the motor is running and to always unplug the pool cleaner and to remove the vacuum lid while backwashing.

Questions to Ask Before You Accept Your New Swimming Pool

  • Is all the work complete?
  • Is all the equipment installed and working efficiently?
  • Is the pool full to the correct level? Ask your builder to confirm what the correct water level is.
  • Are the sanitiser and pH levels correct?
  • Is the water correctly balanced?
  • Have all the agreed accessories been supplied? These will be specified on your contract and may include a suitable test kit, manual pool cleaner or automatic pool cleaner.
  • Make sure you know how to operate the pool equipment, including the pump and filter.
  • Make sure you know how to maintain the pool water balance and chlorine levels.
  • Ask for recommendations in terms of who to call for service of pool and surround, equipment and chemical treatment.
  • Make sure you have all the relevant warranty registration cards for any equipment supplied or purchased. Ensure that these are returned to the manufacturers so that they are valid.

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