[Warning: this post will be long and dramatic because I'm freaking out right now.]
First, I want to thank you all for having such a delightful place with so much information and so many kind people willing to help less fortunate souls.
Now, a little background: my family has had a pool practically all my life. When I was younger, it was a big old boy with a waterslide and everything, brand new, custom, blah blah blah. Then we moved into an old house (built in the late 50s) with an equally old pool. Maintaining it has always been such a hassle, primarily because my dad insists on controlling the issue, yet works an insane amount. Up until a few days ago (and a big discussion and a lot of debating and drawing of diagrams), he's always stood solidly by pool store chemicals. And so have I. Until I realized it didn't have to be so complicated. Now I've been given the task by my parents to take over the pool for this season (even though I'm likely moving further south within the next month) and get it tip-top and ready to roll.
Normally, pool maintenance has gone like this: it stays alright during the summer (lots of burning red eyes, constant shocking, etc.), but as soon as hurricane season hits they just sort of ignore it. No cover, no maintenance, nothing. Now, it doesn't get cold enough here for the pool to go without work. In this area of the country, it's never been uncommon to go swimming in, say, November. This means that algae takes a firm hold on the pool every year. Typically I get the dubious pleasure of draining it (late June or July, temps of 105+) every summer, mucking it out, taking a power washer to it, repainting if need be and then refilling it. Only to sit back and watch it go to waste a few months later. It's so frustrating.
Fast-forward to now. As of Friday, my family was just ready to have the pool ready to go. It's been a very rainy spring, so draining it seems like a bad idea. So my sister gives me a link to this site and they all say, "Go forth and wreak havoc." Probably because they know how much the state of their pool bothers me, and they also know I'm an incredibly obsessive person. So I spend 7 hours reading up, and start to it. Crank up the filter, test the water, blah blah blah.
At this point, the pool has gone from a deep, brooding green (complete with tadpoles being netted out and relocated to the creek nearby, as well as two water snakes being removed) to a milky green. The filter has been going non-stop. I'm attempting to keep a high FC level (10-13ppm), and I'm playing the waiting game to filter out as much as possible.
However, as time goes on I'm facing a number of realizations. Here's a list for consideration.
1) I don't have a good test kit. I started with a box of HTH test strips, which I promptly decided weren't worth the materials they were made from. Then I found an HTH 6-way testing kit, and that's doing better. I have a Taylor K-2006 (XL) on the way. I will provide test information at the end of this post, but be warned; it will not be very accurate because (a) it's a crappy kit and (b) I have been doing this for all of two days.
2) This baby's got a leak in it. It's something we've tried to fix before, but it was always spearheaded by my dad who, while he's a very intelligent man, doesn't really know what he's doing. The pool has 6"x6" tile all around the top of the interior, so we've checked the grout on all of them. No help. I have noticed that water drops regardless of whether the pump is going, but it drops radically faster with the pump on. We're talking .5"/day with clouds to 1.5"/day with clouds. I plan to do the bucket test as soon as I can get the algae situation a little more under control, but at this point I'm basically going to assume it's the plumbing. It's very old, and if the rest of the house is any testament, it wasn't installed with any amount of foresight or intelligence. Any insight, additional resources (other than the bucket method link), etc. would be amazing.
3) During all of this filtering, I keep noticing that the skimmer basket is not seating at all within the skimmer. I am constantly having to pick it up off its side and set it back into the skimmer properly. Quite frankly, I suspect that there's so much junk in the skimmer itself that it can't seat properly. Problem? I have no idea how to go about cleaning it, and I'm more than a little anxious about sticking my hand in to fish it all out; so far this year snakes are turning out a bumper crop, and I have something of a phobia regarding cloudy water. Just putting my arm in a pool of cloudy water to fill up testing equipment makes me a little shaky. Any advice there is appreciated.
Here are the test results:
pH: <6.8 (Ouch!)
Here are my target numbers:
FC: 12 until shock is over, then drop to 4 and see how that works.
pH: ~7.2 through shock, then up to 7.6 and see how that feels.
TA: I'm going to shoot for a round 80, but I think that can wait until later.
CYA: For now I don't care too much, but eventual goal is a consistent 75. This pool gets full sun most of the day.
So far I have resorted to throwing in some things that weren't pure chlorine. This evening I will likely be hitting up the store for a lot of bleach. I know quite a bit of trichlor made it in, but I don't mind some CYA considering I have a leak.
*This is taken from an HTH 6-way test strip, as the HTH 6-way test kit doesn't seem to give any info on FC. It measures only chlorine content and doesn't go above 5. Ugh.
**I'm not overly worried about that just yet because (a) the water is still too cloudy for a reliable result and (b) I believe I should be focusing on pH and FC levels for now. Corrections are welcome.