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Thread: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

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    Plaster and EcoFinish AquaBright Comparison

    I became inspired to do a little science project on pool plaster and a plaster alternative based off of experience, experimentation and frequent unsatisfied forum posts mentioning plaster discolorations, mottling, and roughness.

    Pool plaster has been around for a long time and has remained relatively unchanged. Recent trends are to replace or supplement marble dust (marcite) by adding pebbles, quartz fragments, glass beads, and colored pigments to alter the look and feel of the surface. While these additions have greatly changed the look and feel of the surface, they have also created undesired side effects. For example, pebble finishes frequently get complaints of a rough uneven texture and non uniform coloring, quartz finishes are very prone to mottling (especially darker colors), and colored plasters in general, discolor and/or lose their color completely. All forms of plaster to some extent, will deteriorate with time and this process is potentiated by water imbalance and poor chemical use practices.

    A new(ish) product called Aquabright (http://www.ecopoolfinish.com) is a plaster alternative that instead of cement, uses a form of thermoplastic (thermo-polymer) to act as the pool surface. I came across this product while searching for plaster issues and alternatives. There is little talk of this product on the forum and my curiosity got the best of me. I obtained several samples of this product and placed them through the same testing as the plaster samples.

    Here is an example of one of the Aquabright surface (Mediterranean Blue):

    IMG_20170326_170729407.jpg

    Here is Mediterranean Blue Aquabright installed in a pool. The finish was about 2 years old. The pool almost looked odd because the color was so even and consistent... Nothing like I'm used to seeing.

    IMG_20160811_103315355.jpg

    Perhaps more interesting is how it is applied to the pool:

    Flame Spray - YouTube



    AquaBright Installation - YouTube



    Four sets of plaster samples were made (with a popular brand of plaster that will not be named) that represent common mixtures and curing practices used by applicators.

    1.) .5 water cement ratio
    2.) .5 water/cement ratio/ black pigment
    3.) 1:1 water cement ratio/ 5% cacium chloride added
    4.) 1:1 water cement ratio/ 5% cacium chloride added/ black pigment added

    Here are the plaster samples:

    plaster samples.jpg

    They were poured onto a piece of tile so that they could later be cut and removed. The top side was troweled smooth and numbered, the underside is what will be shown in most of the photos/videos. Air bubbles created small voids on the underside of the samples but that should not influence their performance.

    Each sample went through a slightly different curing process to represent industry practices:

    These samples were submerged 1 hour after the last necessary troweling:

    IMG_20160814_161728998.jpg

    Within just a short period of time, the water clouded up from plaster dust. This is a common practice used by plasterers to get the pool filled as quickly as possible to prevent the plaster from drying out and cracking from shrinkage.

    Here samples we left to dry for 6 hours before being submerged:

    IMG_20160814_161725897.jpg

    Just waiting a few extra hours nearly eliminated most of the plaster dust from forming. Although the plaster in the deep end will have sufficient time to cure and reduce dust, the problem is the shallower portions of the pool will not see water until 24 (or more) hours later. This can be especially problematic where the pool gets direct sunlight and on very warm days.

    IMG_20160818_111525467.jpg

    The bottom sample had no calcium added to the plaster and had < .5 water/cement ratio. The top 3 samples were the same mix but with (left) 1:1 water cement ratio, (middle) 5% calcium added, (right) 1;1 water/cement and calcium added. The variations in color are very apparent.

    Plasterers add calcium as an accelerator to speed the curing process of the plaster. This allows for a surface to be quickly applied and troweled to a finish with minimal downtime so that multiple pools can be done in a single day. Excess water is added to the mix either out of lack of knowledge or easier workability. Neither are desirable for longevity or aesthetics of the pool surface.

    IMG_20160818_111353310.jpg

    These samples were cured in the exact same manner, the bottom sample had 5% calcium added.

    For the first experiment, the cured samples were placed into a container of full strength muriatic acid

    Acid Exposure - YouTube


    Here are the samples after being exposed to acid:

    After acid - YouTube


    And what remained in the container:

    IMG_20160818_113459989.jpg

    The remaining yellow color is from the impurities in the acid and can be disregarded. Many of the pebbles became dislodged as the cementious plaster dissolved that was originally holding them in place.

    A well maintained pool surface should never be exposed to straight acid but if stains, discolorations, and scale occur, they are typically resolved by acid washing the surface. In this process, significant damage is done to the plaster making the surface rough and porous leading to increased surface area. A larger surface area is weaker and allows more area to be exposed to potential stains and organics. Stains and algae will be more difficult to remove if they make their way into the porous areas of the surface where brushing may not be able to reach. Additionally, careless acid additions have the possibility to create clouds of very low pH that can sink and remain near the floor of the pool since hydrochloric acid has a specific gravity greater than that of water (sinks in water). This is why it is recommended to lightly brush the pool surface after adding any chemicals (especially acid and chlorine).

    A set of samples was partially exposed to pure chlorine (trade – 12.5%) as seen here:

    IMG_20160820_100825500.jpg

    The results after being exposed to the chlorine for 48 hours:

    chlorine - YouTube


    chlorine 2 - YouTube


    Blue pigments are notorious for losing their color because the pigments themselves are made from organic sources. Chlorine is used to kill organics, so it isn’t difficult to understand why the blue color will fade with time while exposed to chlorine. There was a recent post where a new type of blue pigment was developed that was not derived from organics and may prove to be the solution to this issue.

    I chose to use a black pigment for these samples since black is an inorganic pigment and being a darker color, is subject to mottling and discolorations. I did not have any blue plaster available for this little experiment but if I can get ahold of some, I will do the same exposure to it and add the results to this thread.

    Here is midnight blue minipebble plaster that is 1-1/2 years old. If you look closely, you can see that the plaster between the pebbles has completely lost its color and compare that to the sample placed on top that was never exposed to water:

    Screenshot_20170627-162642.jpg

    A 5 gallon water sample was made with a pH of <4, TA = 0, and a FC level of 1,000 ppm. These samples were cured for 1 week and then submerged for 48 hours.

    Here is the water sample:



    And here are the results:

    aggressive 1 - YouTube


    A 5 gallon water sample was made with a CH >1000 ppm, TA > 1,000 ppm and fertilizer added to promote algae growth. Here is the sample:



    Here are the results after 48 hours (admittedly I had hoped for much more algae):

    calcium 1 - YouTube


    The samples were returned to the aggressive and the oversaturated water. They will be allowed to sit for another week to see if there are any further changes.

    At this point, it looks like Aquabright may be a viable plaster alternative. I wouldn’t say that its better than plaster in every way but it could be at least viewed as another option for a pool surface. It has certainly held up well to pretty harsh environments and provides a smooth uniform finish.


    ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ______

    Updated Testing - 1 Week Later - 8/27/16

    Here is the oversaturated bucket (1,000 ppm CH, 1,000 ppm TA). Only slight algae was visible:

    calcium 2 - YouTube


    I used the samples that were in the bucket with pH <4, TA =0, and chlorine at 1,000 ppm for the following video showing the scratch test. Its easy to see that the plaster samples suffered some serious damage. The Aquabright sample looked the same as it did before going into the water.

    Scratch test can be seen here:

    scratch - YouTube


    Here is a close up of the scratched sample:



    Since Aquabright gets installed with heat, I took a heat gun to the scratched sample for about 2-3 minutes:





    The plaster samples had deep scratches. The only way to repair these would be to chip of out the area and replaster. The chances of an unnoticeable match are slim. With the Aquabright sample, the high heat nearly liquified the surface and sealed the scratch. While the scratch is still slightly visible, had I used the actual applicator gun, the scratch would be completely gone.

    The following is a video to show the flexibility of the finish:

    AquaBright Flexibility - YouTube


    Certainly an impressive product so far and a worthy option to add to the current pool surface selections.

    Here is a write-up featured in WatersShapes Magazine:


    Weighing Possibilities | Pools/Spas | WaterShapes
    -Brian-
    33K Pool/Spa, Pentair Equipment
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    Davis Custom Construction - Home Page

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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    VERY interesting findings! I will look for the follow up on this.

    TFP Moderator 33x52 round AG 25,600 gals Sand Filter 1.5hp Pump - 2 Speed, SLAM, Pool School, Recommended Levels, Recommended Chemicals, Pool Math, Chlorine/CYA Chart, TF-100 Test Kit

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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Thanks Kim...I never thought I'd be so disappointed to not have algae and more scale

    Or maybe someone is messing with my samples
    -Brian-
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Wow! That is very interesting. I would like to see more on the aquabright longevity. But does make us getting pools to think.


    Fontana, CA, started 7/26 completed 8/31, IG pool/spa/slide/waterfall/grotto 17,000 gallons, pentair quad 100, pentair mastertemp 400,000 BTU, Intelliflo VS 3HP, Easytouch 8 w/ IC40, screenlogic 2, 2 5g color LED pool lights, 5g color LED spa light, TF-100

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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    This is a great thread, good work Brian

    Couple of thoughts -

    1. If you want algae, you have to add algae.

    Algae just doesn't float around in the air waiting to land in a bucket of water or hang out on the pool coping with mini margarita's waiting for the FC to drop. It usually has to be dragged in from a source (Danny's stinky feet after a day of roofing would suffice). Also, if that bucket of water for the algae test had any chlorine in it at all, it's basically sanitized water and will take forever to randomly grow algae. So if you want to do an algae experiment, go to your local pet store and grab a sample of water form the fish tank section (tanks with live plants and algae-eater fish work great); it will have all the algae you could ever want.

    2. I for one, know nothing (but that's really a given, isn't it?) ... about plaster defects

    Thanks for the visuals on the plaster coupons, especially the calcium chloride comparisons. It would be nice if we a little Pool School article that showed a visual encyclopedia of what plaster defects look like (wet troweling, late troweling, mottling, scale, etc). Perhaps you and onBalance can create a visual encyclopedia of crappy looking plaster....

    3. The Bucket of Blood Saloon ... (that's actually a real place in Nevada)

    Bucket tests are great for showing what happens in the extreme but I don't feel they are too representative of what a pool is like. However, they do certainly show an impressive difference between standard plaster and the AquaBright material. Very nice visuals!!

    4. I've got the blues...

    I agree with fading in plaster. My PebbleTec is your basic/standard PebbleTec with the Caribbean Blue color finish. So the plaster creme is a blue/grey color. It has definitely faded after only a few short years and is now more grey than blue. You alluded to that post I put up in the Coffee Bar sub-forum - A New Blue... . I think you should contact the researchers in that article and ask them if it would be possible to get a small sample of the pigment. Being "research eggheads" they will jump at the chance to promote their discovery. The only snag might be that they have licensed their patents to a major industrial pigment manufacturer, so you may only be able to get small sample sizes and you might have to sign some form of NDA document stating that you won't try to commercialize their discovery. But otherwise, I think it's totally worth a shot to contact them...

    Can you post some more info on the AquaBright material? I'd love to explore it a little bit more. Honestly I think it would be very interesting to have a polymer surface pool as opposed to plaster since I think the general pool water chemistry would behave more like a vinyl pool. This actually has some deep implications since vinyl pools tend to suffer less from pH rise and they do not stain/scale as easily as plaster surfaces do. If the surface was scale resistant, then treating water for calcium hardness might be simple as jacking up the pH using soda ash or calcium hydroxide and precipitating out most of the calcium in the water while letting the filter or flocculation/vacuuming handle its removal. The process is know as "lime softening" but it can't be done in a plaster pool because the scale would attach to the plaster surface. For those of us that live in deserts with stone-hard water, that would be a huge advantage over traditional methods of calcium control (drain & fill, RO, etc)

    Really great post, thanks!!

    Matt
    Matt
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Thanks Matt.

    Obviously the bucket tests had to be extreme water conditions because no one is going to stick around for 10 years to see the results.

    EcoFinish is located in Pennsylvania and has been around since 2008 (if I recall correctly). There is so little info on this material that I flew my wife and I out to see what it is all about. My thoughts were that if this stuff really is what it claims to be, then I don't know why everyone wouldn't want it.

    The people I met with were very receptive to any and all questions and even discussed (in depth) their trials, errors and failures that ultimately led to the product available today.

    Application seems straightforward with the exception that the thermoplastic material is shot onto the surface by a high pressure propane flame thrower. Applying the material isn't difficult other than the potential issues that may arise from high heat and open flames. The surface is walkable within a few seconds of being applied and is suitable for completely submerged, partially submergerged, and completely dry surfaces. The surface can go all the way up to the coping eliminating the waterline tile if so desired. Aquabright is IDEAL for fiberglass and especially gunite waterslides (the plaster on the slides must be sealed often and usually needs to be redone every few years).

    Pricing is supposedly comparable to pebble finishes. The one downside is that the surface Aquabright gets applied to needs to be very smooth. On new construction pools, the pool would actually need to get plastered first and then have the AB surface applied over the top. You'd be paying for AB and plain plaster which is more than likely going to be more expensive than high end pebble/glass finishes that are the rage these days.

    In my mind this is the perfect product for pool remodels with discolored and damaged plaster surfaces. The bad areas get patched and then the entire pool is shot with a new surface.

    Plaster seems like an old and antiquated material that has a temperamental lifespan based on the attention of the pool owner and can be troubling to all but the true water chemistry nerds. I went to extremes with my plaster to give the surface the best possible chance of survival only to end up disappointed and wondering if anything I did even made a difference.

    I still have more research to do on Aquabright, but as I stated before, I've been impressed so far.

    Take a look at how many threads pop up daily that ask about a newly applied plaster/pebble surface with issues...There has to be something better out there
    -Brian-
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Ok, anything that uses a propane flame-thrower as part if it's process is, in my opinion, AWESOME!!! I would totally be down in the pool shell asking the applicator if I can give it a try (and I'd probably light myself or someone else on fire...)

    So if you apply it over old plaster, then do you also have to redo the tile line in the pool as well to makes sure everything lines up? How thick is the material when it is applied?

    I wonder if anyone in TFP-land has ever considered using it....
    Matt
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Its finished thickness is about 1/32' - 1/16" as shown here:

    IMG_20160811_121244814.jpg

    IMG_20160811_130546900_TOP_1.jpg

    And the application:

    JR Pool Install.mp4 - YouTube


    The pool gets 2 coats of epoxy, the second coat get a tinted dye (which is what the red colored areas are).

    I recall one thread somewhere in Texas where someone had AB applied to their new pool. I can't for the life of me find that thread and I've spent a good deal of time searching.
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Wow. That's impressive. I just looked at the website and they have some nice colors.

    I'm going to keep my eye on this product. If I ever get to the point of needing a replaster, this product will be on my list.

    Maybe ask Lee if he can use his god-like admin super-powers to find the old thread.
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    It wasn't that old of a thread. If I recall it was earlier this year.

    [EDIT]

    I found it:

    [FINISHED] New Pool Build in Highland Village TX (Suburb of Dallas, TX))

    There are some good videos in it as well.

    I sent a PM, hopefully I get a response
    -Brian-
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    I didn't realize that I had responded in that thread a few times...I really should stop doing drugs
    -Brian-
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Quote Originally Posted by bdavis466 View Post
    I didn't realize that I had responded in that thread a few times...I really should stop doing drugs
    More than likely all that diving head-first into the shallow end

    I will read that thread.
    Matt
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    That is a really neat process. When I was getting my undergrad engineering degree at Stony Brook University, there was an entire group in the mechanical engineering department that did research on thermal-spray technology. Now they used a water-stabilized and/or gas-stabilized plasma (WSP/GSP plasma) source to generate a hydrogen gas plasma which could achieve temperatures inside the plasma arc of nearly 10,000K thus enabling them to spray down ceramic coatings. This process reminds of that on a much lower temperature scale (propane torch temperatures) but it is definitely going to create a dense and well defined layer that hand-troweled plaster could never achieve.

    Really a very "un-cool" technique. I hope the OP in that thread can provide some good feedback on the performance of the material.
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Imagine applying a ceramic coating to the interior of a pool! That would be indestructible
    -Brian-
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Hmmmm...I looked over their startup guide and their warranty. Seems that they want the pool owner to use a calcium scale inhibitor at startup and then regularly as part of their recommended water treatment. They also specifically exclude the use of cal-hypo and recommend management of chlorine with trichlor and shocking with lithium hypochlorite. SWGs are ok and I suppose they'd warn against bleach use due to possibility of accidental fading.

    I wonder if they expect higher likelihood for calcium scaling, similar to fiberglass, and look to control it through the use of scale inhibitors. They seem to imply that "chalking" is only covered on certain colors.

    The warranty looks pretty standard with a 10 year pro-rated schedule and year 10 being a 50/50 split in costs. But, it only covers materials so the pool owner is 100% on the hook for labor costs which is going to be the lion's share of any warranty work.

    Still an interesting product nonetheless.
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Quote Originally Posted by JoyfulNoise View Post
    Hmmmm...I looked over their startup guide and their warranty. Seems that they want the pool owner to use a calcium scale inhibitor at startup and then regularly as part of their recommended water treatment. They also specifically exclude the use of cal-hypo and recommend management of chlorine with trichlor and shocking with lithium hypochlorite. SWGs are ok and I suppose they'd warn against bleach use due to possibility of accidental fading.

    I wonder if they expect higher likelihood for calcium scaling, similar to fiberglass, and look to control it through the use of scale inhibitors. They seem to imply that "chalking" is only covered on certain colors.

    The warranty looks pretty standard with a 10 year pro-rated schedule and year 10 being a 50/50 split in costs. But, it only covers materials so the pool owner is 100% on the hook for labor costs which is going to be the lion's share of any warranty work.

    Still an interesting product nonetheless.
    These are all questions that I brought up because I shared your same concerns. Here is how I interpreted the responses:

    The scale Inhibitor - Being that this company is based on the east coast, pools are considered a seasonal luxury and often neglected. A scale inhibitor is cheap insurance to prevent potential issues from arising from pool owners that don't know any better. You would not believe the things (or I guess you would actually) that people did to their pools and then expected the warranty to cover it. Even so, I was assured that every claim is resolved to some extent (the surface is surprisingly easy to repair and blend unlike plaster finishes). I got a really good feeling from how they eluded to their intentions to stand behind their product.

    Cal Hypo- I saw pictures from a pool where the owner threw many many bags of cal hypo in one spot on the pool and neglected for several months thereafter. There were isolated areas that had lost their color from the extremely concentrated chlorine and calcium. I don't really have an issue with this as I would never recommend Cal Hypo to be used in any circumstance anyway. If it is used and it is added correctly, I don't see what damage could be done or how anyone would know whether or not the chlorine and calcium was added from another source.

    Trichlor and lithium - This is the standard pool industry mindset. They gave me a card with suggested chemistry levels which directly coincide with what most every pool product manufacturer suggests (typical CPO standards).

    Its a fine line between a product defect and blatant negligence, I know I wouldn't want to make the determination.

    I know of a pool that had a dark gray plaster applied and not even 2 years later the color is almost completely gone (water maintained to TFP standards). A warranty claim was filed and the plaster contractor came out, tested the water (said everything looked perfect), and then told the pool owner that these things happen and no color is guaranteed to last in their plaster. This is a very large plaster company in Southern California. Oddly enough, grey is supposed to be one of the more robust pigments.
    -Brian-
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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Yeah, here in TFP Land it's easy to forget how absolutely whacky people can get with pool chemicals. I've witnessed what some of my contemporaries do for pool "care" and I'm left jaw-dropped at what they'll put in their water and how they add it. I know one guy who, quite proudly, proclaims that he has his pool acid washed every couple of years or so to, in his words, "keep his plaster looking fresh and clean." I was just so puzzled by that comment that I literally had no response and I wondered if the guy actually had any plaster left in his pool.

    So yeah, I totally get it from the applicators side of the situation. They must see some crazy warranty claims.
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

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    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    The original post has been updated after another week of testing on the samples.
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    Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    Nice how the scale just rubs right off. That's awesome.

    I don't live in SoCal anymore, so sadly I'll just have to get a propane weed torch and some used soda bottles from the recycle bin and just try to do it myself Do you suggest Coke or Pepsi bottles?
    Matt
    16k IG PebbleTec pool, 650gal spa, spillway and waterfall, 3HP IntelliFlo VS / 1.5HP WhisperFlo, Pentair QuadDE-100 filter, IC40 SWCG, MasterTemp 400k BTU/hr NG heater, KreepyKrauly suction-side cleaner Dolphin S300i robot, EasyTouch controls, city water, K-1001, K-2006 and K-1766 test kits, Mannitol test for borates

  20. Back To Top    #20

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    bdavis466's Avatar
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    Aug 2014
    Location
    Riverside, CA
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    3,283

    Re: Plaster and Aquabright Comparison

    1 gallon vinegar jugs are ideal...or maybe the spent reagent bottles you are always telling people to throw away. Have them send the empties to you!
    -Brian-
    33K Pool/Spa, Pentair Equipment
    POOL BUILD
    Davis Custom Construction - Home Page

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