If you can, you should talk to your builder, or the company that applied the plaster, and ask them what they recommend. They presumably have some kind of warranty and you don't want to do anything that might void the warranty. If they tell you to do something, you generally should, regardless of what we say, otherwise you risk voiding the warranty.
These rules apply for any start-up technique.
- DO NOT SWIM DURING THE BREAK IN PERIOD!
- Turn off the heater and leave it off for at least 3 weeks after filling. If practical, bypass the heater during this period.
- Fill the pool. The pool should be filled as quickly as possible, without stopping. Use multiple hoses if possible. Do not allow water from the hose to spray directly onto the fresh plaster.
- When the pool is full, add a startup dose of sequestrant.
- Brush the entire pool at least once a day for the first week and at least once a week for the rest of the first month, more often is better. Make sure to brush the entire plaster surface. Brush from the top of the walls down and from the shallow to the deep end to knock off any loose plaster dust.
- Do not SLAM (or shock) the pool during the first 30 days.
- If you have a SWG, do NOT add salt, or turn on the SWG, until 30 days after the plaster was applied.
- Do not use any automated cleaning system, buit-in or robotic, during the first three weeks.
- Did I mention, NO SWIMMING DURING THE BREAK IN PERIOD!
For the remaining rules, you need to know which start-up method your builder is using: acid, traditional, or bicarbonate. The procedures for each are different. Your builder might use a variation of these procedures so be sure to follow their instructions if they differ from these.
This is a very common start-up procedure, especially for exposed aggregate finishes. Your builder usually does this whole procedure.
- Leave the pump off at first.
- Add 3 1/2 gallons muriatic acid per 10,000 gallons and then brush the entire pool. The acid will help dissolve the plaster dust so you don't need to vacuum.
- Brush twice daily but don't vacuum or add chlorine until plaster dust is gone. For dark plaster only brush lighter colored or white areas.
- When all plaster dust is gone, neutralize the acid with soda ash/washing soda by using a base demand test, wait 24 hours and repeat if needed.
- When the PH reaches 7.2 or higher, check all equipment and turn on the circulation system. Clean the filter when the pressure increases 20% to 25% over the starting pressure. Add sanitizer in small amounts at first until the desired level is obtained.
Your builder will normally take care of the first five steps and then turn it over to you.
- Check all equipment and make sure it's functional.
- Circulate the water, add sequestrant. Run pump 24 hours a day for first week.
- Watch the filter pressure and clean the filter as soon as it rises 20% to 25% over the starting pressure and right after vacuuming. The plaster dust might clog the filter quickly so keep an eye on it and clean the filter as needed.
- After the first 48 hours vacuum daily before brushing using a vacuum head with brushes (such as used in vinyl pools) instead of wheels to prevent marring the plaster. Clean filter after vacuuming.
- After 72 hours add the CYA and then the chlorine SLOWLY to gradually bring it to the desired level.
- Continue to brush, vacuum, test water balance, and clean the filter for one to two weeks, or 3 days after you see no plaster dust coming off when you brush.
The bicarbonate start-up is a relatively new approach, not as common as the two above. It is a rather technical process that requires some special equipment so we will only list the procedures from the point the pool owner might be expected to take over. It is especially useful with dark plaster.
- Maintain TA between 100-350 ppm and pH below 8.2 for first month.
- After 1 month slowly lower TA to desired level by adding acid in small amounts. This will gradually lower the TA over a period of time. Scale will not form as long as the pH is kept below 8.2. Once TA is at desired range adjust pH to 7.6.
No matter what start-up procedure is used, your pool will consume a lot of acid during the first 6-12 months as the plaster finish continues to cure. It is important to test your pH daily and do not let it climb above 7.8. Be sure to continue to brush the pool at least weekly during this period.
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