Forgive me for such a lengthy post. Any advice on any of it is appreciated.
Weíve been doing an owner-builder pool construction, and weíre almost finished. Itíll be the first pool that Iíve had to maintain. So now Iím starting to think about start up. Given that there is no pool builder, it pretty much leaves it to me and the plasterer to accomplish this. When we asked what the plan was for start up, the plasterer gave me a phone number to call. It turns out this is a guy who will perform the start up for the first 10 days for a fee. He wasnít open to the idea of a bicarb start up (heíd never heard of the method of using the plastic drum to slowly add the bicarb). I didnít find out exactly what his method is, but I gather it is pretty much the NPC protocol. With respect to the timing, he said the plasterer would put the hose in the pool as soon as the last trowelling was completed, and I would call him when the water was a couple of inches from the fill line.
At this point I donít know whether the plasterer has any specific requirements on this, so Iím planning to communicate a little more on the issue. I thought I would get the insights of the experts here before I discuss it further. What I want to know is what the best procedure would be given my situation, and then see if I can work that out with the plasterer. (The one thing I am pretty sure of after my talk with the pool service guy is that the plasterer will resist or refuse to allow me to wait the suggested 6 hours, or really any time, to fill the pool after the plastering.)
The main goal is to make the plaster look as good as possible after the start up is over. We want to avoid streaks, spots, pitting, or other visible imperfections. It is slightly less important to us to get the maximum life out of the plaster, although of course that would be nice. An even lesser consideration would be to get the pool in swimming condition as soon as possible, since we are rapidly running out of swim season.
To begin with, here is the chemistry of the fill water:
1) So question number one is whether I should use the pool service guy or not. As a first time pool owner, am I biting off too much to chew to expect to handle the whole start up on my own? Frankly, Iím not intimidated by the idea of handling the chemistry, but is it more difficult at the start than it appears? Iím not too opposed to the idea of paying the fee, but I donít see what Iíd be gaining. After all, Iím going to be handling things from day 11 on, so Iíll need to be on track soon enough. It seems like Iíll have a better handle on everything by knowing exactly what goes into the pool from the outset. And obviously Iíd be there for many more hours than he would be to monitor and make adjustments. If he is just doing a basic NPC start up, why use him?
2) Assuming I am the one handling it, what procedure should I use? Ideally Iíd like to do the full bicarb start up, but it seems impractical to try to put together the plastic drum with all the fittings etc. Iíve seen some suggest a modified approach where after the pool is filled you adjust the chemistry to the bicarb numbers. In other words, after the fill you bring the ALK and CH up to a total of 500. The instructions Iíve read describe adding bicarb to bring the ALK up to achieve the total, which would mean adding 430 ppm, which sounds too high to me (for one thing, it seems like it would be a bear to get it down to normal levels after the break in period). My thoughts would be that the way to approach this would be to add bicarb to get ALK to around 250-300, and then add calcium to get the CH to around 200-250.
So, if I tried this modified bicarb approach, would this achieve any of the goals of preserving the plaster finish and minimizing the plaster dust, or is this going to cause more problems than it solves? Also, if I did this, how hard is it going to be to add all that powder to the pool? Is it going to be a milky mess if I try to add it all at once? Should I be adding it in stages separated by hours or days? Also, the instructions say to keep on adding acid to keep the pH at 7.8-8.0, so would I do this shortly after each addition of the powders?
Alternative 2 is the acid start up. Apparently this is another way to minimize plaster dust. The problem seems to be that this causes damage to the heater. Does anyone think that this is the best approach given my situation?
Alternative 3 is just to follow the NPC guidelines. This certainly seems the easiest, especially since it never takes the water chemistry into a range beyond that needed for normal pool operation. The guidelines say to take the ALK to 80 on day one, adjusting pH to 7.2-7.6. On day 2, take the CH to 150 (adding in 10 lb. increments if more than 20 lbs. total). On day 3 add chlorine to 1.5-3 and on day 4 add CYA to get to 30 to 50 (I donít know why in that order since chlorine wonít stay in the pool without CYA, no?).
So this would be the easiest to follow (and is what I think will happen if I let the pool service guy handle it). If these instructions are followed, am I going to be unhappy with the results?
3) All of the instructions call for brushing the pool at least once a day for at least the first week. The instructions here at TFP for traditional start up suggest also vacuuming daily after 48 hours (with a non-wheeled vacuum head). Should I get the equipment to do this manual vacuuming for the start up period, even though soon I will be using the automatic pool cleaner?
4) Iíve seen several posts by the administrators here advising the use of trichlor for the initial chlorine source. I gather that this slowly adds chlorine and CYA while helping lower pH, but why is this preferable to individually handling these components? Is there a good reason why I shouldnít just use liquid bleach from the start, add the CYA via the sock method, and continually do the adjustments of pH using muriatic acid?
5) As a side note regarding CYA, I note that the Pentair IntelliChlor manual advises 30-50, but here at TFP the advice is to keep it at 70-80 with a SWG. Is the TPF advice to operate at a higher level than the manual suggests, or should the specific advice of the manual override the general advice of this forum?
6) With respect to sequesterants, is there any need to add these given that I have no detectable metal levels? Iím a little reluctant to start these since the instructions say to follow up with maintenance doses forever. If I donít use copper-based algaecides, and the fill water doesnít have metal (this is confirmed by the city water quality report) is it always necessary?
7) Lastly, what is the advice regarding the time to allow swimming? The plaster start up guidelines here say not to swim during the entire start up process. The common wisdom out there seems to be that swimming is OK once there is sufficient chlorine in the pool for sanitizing. So is this a question of trying to avoid impact on the plaster while it is curing? Is it going to mar the finish by allowing bare human feet to touch the finish during the first month? What about canine paws? Assuming that these will eventually get into the pool, should I make an effort to keep them out for a certain period of time?
That is probably enough questions for one post. Thanks for any advice you guys can provide.