Figured I'd start up a thread to document my first attempt to personally manage a pool.
TLDR; I need help figuring out if broken off retaining screws in the spa drain cover receptacle can be fixed by myself, and advice on draining a plaster pool when the air temp is already in the high 80's/low 90's.
We had a pool when I was growing up in the 80's/90's. No pool store advice. Testing kit? Well, we had one of those cheapie two cylinder kits for...Chlorine and Ph I think it was, but we never used it. We just threw pucks into the strainer basket every week, the sand filter and kreepy krauly generally took care of the leaves and debris (leaf rake? hah!), and of course we had massive breakouts of algae, followed by single dose shocking and a little bit of brushing. It's probably a wonder I didn't get a brain eating amoeba (or maybe that's what's wrong with me these days).
Fast forward to the month before last, and at my wife's urging, I purchased a home (my second home) with a pool (my first pool since growing up). The inspector (and my subsequent fiddling) proved that almost all of the pool equipment worked well. The home has been a rental since it was built in 1998, and has had a pool service for the duration. Plaster is in good shape, a couple of dings in the entry steps area, and there are almost no stains (a few small rust stains on the middle step). The two main issues are a non-functioning pool light, and the spa is missing its drain cover. The pool was installed by the builder, and the guy I hired specifically to inspect the pool said they plumbed it and set it up extremely well, he was impressed that they didn't seem to take any real lazy shortcuts.
Of course, given my extensive pool maintenance experience (sarcasm there), I purchased a bucket of pucks (the pool already had some in a floater) and a can of FC/Ph/TA/CYA test strips. I also took a water sample down to Leslies and had them run it. The result was very high CYA (200), extremely high CH (1000). They told me to refill the pool. I didn't trust that advice, and turned down a few half hearted offers to buy things (actually, the particular Leslie's near my house doesn't seem to harass you about needing to buy stuff - they seem to at least be moderately respectful of using what you need - they didn't even bat an eye when I asked for a price on liquid chlorine, just gave me the price and asked how much I'd like). While I was there, my wife heard them tell just about everyone coming in for a test that they needed to drain their pool, so I immediately decided to do some research online before taking any corrective steps.
That's when I found you lovely people here at TFP. I quickly yanked the remainder of the pucks from the pool, bought some bleach, and ordered a Tf-100. While waiting for the kit, I've brought the FC up to above 10 (that's as high as the strips I currently have go, using pool math for the initial dosage to push it to 16, and ASSuming about a 2ppm loss per day for the daily dose) to help ensure I don't have an algae breakout as the water warms up here. Since Ph is likely skewed (it's currently reading high end of "normal") I'm holding all other adjustments until my Taylor kit arrives and I can get some solid, accurate measurements. I test daily with the strips to make sure the chlorine is at least above 10 so I can watch for an FC crash and avoid it.
The missing spa drain cover is giving me heartburn. I was able to see clearly enough without going in the water that I'm 99% sure that both retaining screws for the cover were broken off and are blocking the screw holes. The water temperature is finally to the point I won't have to break out my wetsuit to take a closer look - which I plan to do this weekend once I'm sure my FC level is safe to enter the water. I'm a certified diver with my own gear, so with a tank rental, I could happily sit on the bottom for an hour or more to fix it (I already have a universal, law compliant drain cover kit in hand and ready to go), but I'm worried that if I mess with it too much I'll damage the receptacle and make an already potentially expensive repair even more expensive. Any thoughts y'all have on that would be welcome. The pool inspector said a repair would run about $500 if they had to drain the spa and drill out the screws. Obviously I can't use the spa safely without a cover so it's a must fix in short order.
So my current pool ToDo list is:
- Get my Tf-100 and use it to make sure my FC is at an appropriate level for my out of control CYA. It was supposed to be here today, but I think all the mess in the south delayed it, now shows delivery tomorrow.
- Drain the pool per PoolMath to get my CYA/CH more under control (this effort will likely be multi-season). It's already hot here - I plan to start the drain with a submersible pump in the late afternoon - possibly using a hose to spray the plaster and keep it cool while the sun is still up, and then refill overnight to minimize the amount of direct sun and heat the plaster gets, once again using a hose if necessary the following morning to keep the plaster cool and damp. I'm concerned about screwing up and getting an algae breakout with the CYA so high and being unable to get/keep FC high enough to SLAM this summer.
- Coordinate with a repair person to do my CYA/CH adjusting pool drain at the same time they're fixing the spa drain cover - unless someone here was any insight on getting those broken screws out. A tank rental is $20, I'd prefer that over a $500 repair.
- SLAM and then balance the refilled pool per pool math.
- Pull the pool light fixture and see if the issue is with the bulb. I can do this myself and will also use the opportunity to make sure I don't have any gunk in the recess.
It's a journey, but being a professional software developer and systems architect, the act of measuring and balancing things is exciting to me, so I'm embracing the pool school and TFP method and I'm looking forward to seeing it work on my pool.
Thanks to everyone for this great resource.