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Thread: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

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    Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Hello all, I've read quite a few posts here and try to be a devoted pool owner, but I think I've failed my pool over this past winter. We just had it put in last year. It's about 15k gallons, in ground, plaster lining (over shotcrete), and uses a SWG chlorination system. I balanced as best I could before closing, and maintained periodically by testing and adding muriatic acid (the pH always seems to be high). With my safety cover pulled off in certain spots, I did the best I could to circulate the acid to make sure it was distributing.

    I just opened the pool and have multiple issues that I can tell already -

    1. When I reach my hand down on the side as far as it will go, the surface gets so rough it feels like 40 grit sandpaper. It also somewhat flakes off to my touch or light rubbing. I assume this is scale, since when I tested the water, my pH was (somehow) off the chart (that goes to 9). I quickly added a gallon of acid and will be running to the store to get more to get it back where it's supposed to be, but I don't know what can be done about the scaling. I've read that acid takes care of it, but I assume if I just add a ton of acid it will cause other problems for my pool.

    Also, I'm not sure if this is indicative of anything, but I even saw chunks of white material that collected in my pump basket soon after I turned the pool on. When I took them out and examined them, they look off white in color and are the texture of coral. There were about 4-5 pieces, each over an inch long.

    2. I'm not sure if the folks that fabricated and installed my mesh safety cover just botched the job (it doesn't look to cover much beyond the coping on the side where there is no decking), but there were a ton of leaves in the pool when I opened it. Some of them seem to have left behind stains. I've read these are likely iron stains?

    So what is the process I should use to get this taken care of? Balance pH (adding acid) and FC levels (which are currently near 0 according to the test), then deal with the scale, then the stains? If so, what exactly do I use to do this? Also of note, my CYA levels seem to be between 200-250. I assume these will go down once I get my other chemistry worked out?

    Right now I have the pump going 100% and I'm adding water. I'm *just* about to the skimmer level, so soon I plan to start circulating that through. My SWG is not running right now as salt levels are too low. I was planning on just using bleach for a little while until I get the chemistry corrected, then add salt and start it up. Does this sound correct?

    I know I've asked a mouth full. I really appreciate all the help. Detailed responses are best as I'm a complete noob to pool care. Thank you!

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Welcome to TFP!

    Most stains from leaves will fade over a week or two without any special effort on your part.

    Scaling is a much more complex issue. To fix it completely you most likely need a full drain and manual acid wash. There are some easier things you can try, but they only work occasionally.

    In any case, the first step is to get the pump running, let it run for an hour, get a full set of water test results, and post them here. Then we can give you some more specific advice.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion View Post
    Welcome to TFP!

    Most stains from leaves will fade over a week or two without any special effort on your part.

    Scaling is a much more complex issue. To fix it completely you most likely need a full drain and manual acid wash. There are some easier things you can try, but they only work occasionally.

    In any case, the first step is to get the pump running, let it run for an hour, get a full set of water test results, and post them here. Then we can give you some more specific advice.
    Thank you for the response. After a gallon and a half of muriatic acid yesterday as well as 2 gallons of bleach, the water looks much better this morning, but there is a LOT of sediment on the bottom. Looks like sand, but lighter in color. Just checked the chemistry and it looks like:

    FC: 4ppm
    Alk: 80 ppm
    pH: 7.2
    TH: somewhere between 100-250ppm (my test kit isn't very precise)
    CyA: 0-40ppm (again)

    I'm going to vacuum as much as I can off the bottom since it seems like it's all suspended out of the water yesterday (it's quite clear now).

    Regarding a drain and acid wash, that's concerning, but I want to take care of this properly. I guess I should get a professional to come take a look before continuing to invest in chemicals? I'd hate to throw good money after bad, so to speak, if I'm going to be dumping the water.

    Also, can a drain be done safely? I thought pools can rise out of the ground if drained.

    Thank you again.

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Your test results don't suggest any current possibility of further scaling. That is good, it at least won't get any worse while you work out what to do about it.

    There are ways to do a drain safely, though it may take some extra effort depending on your local water table, and soil conditions. There are a wide range of options, from doing nothing, to installing several well points with sump pumps to temporarily lower the local water table. A local pool contractor is likely to be familiar with local conditions and should be able to give you advice here.

    You didn't mention what kind of pool you have. I have been assuming gunite/concrete/shotcrete. If you have a vinyl liner or fiberglass pool there are other things you can try instead of an acid wash. It will help us answer your questions if you put some information about your pool in your signature.

    By the by, I strongly recommend getting a top quality test kit, like the TF100 from TFTestKits.net or the Taylor K-2006. Having precise repeatable test results is the foundation of taking proper care of your pool.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    If those number are correct and always like that, scaling potential is extremely low. Before we presume it's scaling, can you get some pictures and tell us what kind of chemistry variations you've had in the past?

    Also, very important, what type of kit are you getting those numbers from?

    EDIT: Sorry, looks like JL and I were posting simultaneously.
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Looks like Patrick and Jason have you covered.

    Look at the links below Patrick's post to find the test kits that we all use and love. They are oh so much better than the pool store. Yeah the pool store will test for free but...............is it really free if you have to buy stuff to fix your pool?

    Kim
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick_B View Post
    If those number are correct and always like that, scaling potential is extremely low. Before we presume it's scaling, can you get some pictures and tell us what kind of chemistry variations you've had in the past?

    Also, very important, what type of kit are you getting those numbers from?

    EDIT: Sorry, looks like JL and I were posting simultaneously.
    The pool is concrete (plaster on shotcrete).

    Sadly, the numbers are not always like this. It's probably because I added the acid yesterday, but as I said, the ph was very high (off the scale of my test strips) when I opened it. I did test through the winter periodically (maybe once per month) and the ph was pretty consistently high. I added acid each time but I'm not confident my attempts to circulate the acid were successful with my cover installed. Last year the ph stayed high almost all summer - I went through a lot of acid. I was told this is a byproduct of the SWG system.

    My test kit is just a set of color change strips that were given to me by the company that built the pool.

    If it's not scaling, I'm not sure what it is, but the entire pool is extremely rough - it feels like low grit sandpaper. I vacuumed it this morning and got a lot of loose material out, but the surface is still extremely rough (it even scuffed up the plastic wheels of my vacuum head), and it seems as though whatever has adhered to the surface has entrapped some debris, because there was a decent amount of it that simply wouldn't vacuum out, especially where the base meets the walls.

    Are there products I should try (my local pool supply place said to get anti scaling product, but I wasn't confident in their two second diagnosis)? I'll be sure to keep my chemicals in line from now on to make sure the problem doesn't get worse, but I'd hate to have to drain it if not absolutely necessary.

    Also, is my assumption that I shouldn't operate the SWG at this point a good one?

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Welcome to TFP! Please update your signature as described here, What we need to know to answer your questions
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Don't panic yet. I was in a similar position with a new plaster pool that was completed last July. We did the twice a day brushing for two weeks as instructed by the pool builder and everything did fine for the remainder of the summer. We closed and covered the pool with a tarp for the winter in mid-October.

    When we opened the pool in early April, we also had some staining from leaves that somehow got into the pool and the tops of our plastered steps felt like sand paper. The first test results were very similar to yours. I immediately started getting the ph, TA, and FC to normal levels and resumed brushing the entire pool twice a day. After a week, the scaling was gone and all but one stain has disappeared. I still have high cya but hope it will be diluted down some with the spring rains. I suspect brushing the pool just like it was newly plastered is critical.
    16x30, 12,500 gal. IG gunite/plaster with 60% quartz; Hayward TriStar 1.5 hp 2 speed pump & .75 hp booster pump; SmartPure ozone generator; Hayward C6060 SwimClear Microban cartridge filter; Hayward Ecommand HPC-4Controller; Pentair chlorine feeder; Polaris 280 robo vac. All installed Aug. 2014. Taylor K-2006 test kit.

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by The Cabana Boy View Post
    Don't panic yet. I was in a similar position with a new plaster pool that was completed last July. We did the twice a day brushing for two weeks as instructed by the pool builder and everything did fine for the remainder of the summer. We closed and covered the pool with a tarp for the winter in mid-October.

    When we opened the pool in early April, we also had some staining from leaves that somehow got into the pool and the tops of our plastered steps felt like sand paper. The first test results were very similar to yours. I immediately started getting the ph, TA, and FC to normal levels and resumed brushing the entire pool twice a day. After a week, the scaling was gone and all but one stain has disappeared. I still have high cya but hope it will be diluted down some with the spring rains. I suspect brushing the pool just like it was newly plastered is critical.
    Thank you for posting this. On the advice of my pool builder, I've brought my pH to about 6 with acid and bought a stainless steel brush head to scrub at the surface. I put the acid in last night and already today I felt an improvement. I could remove more of the surface material with my fingers, and even felt that there was a bit of slick feeling, like the deposits were dissolving. I went to town with the steel brush and MUCH more of the debris on the bottom came loose. I'm going to continue this way for a week or two and see where that gets me.

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by Neon01 View Post
    Thank you for posting this. On the advice of my pool builder, I've brought my pH to about 6 with acid and bought a stainless steel brush head to scrub at the surface. I put the acid in last night and already today I felt an improvement. I could remove more of the surface material with my fingers, and even felt that there was a bit of slick feeling, like the deposits were dissolving. I went to town with the steel brush and MUCH more of the debris on the bottom came loose. I'm going to continue this way for a week or two and see where that gets me.
    I'm having a similar issue and am very curious to see how this turns out! Please post an update when you have one! Thanks!
    18,000 gal, IG, plaster, Jandy DE filter, 1 HP Jandy Stealth pump, Polaris 380 cleaning system. Pool built June 2014. TF-100.

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    How did you test your pH at 6?
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    I had a light scale issue as well. Dropped ph to 7.2 and brushed lightly with SS brush. Mine is improving as well. I added a half gallon of scale remover from Leslie's and ran the pump for 36 hours. After that my filter pressure jump from normal 16 to 22. Don't know if if the scale remover helped or not but my pool is getting better.
    ~Paul
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by duraleigh View Post
    How did you test your pH at 6?
    My cheap-o test strips (my good test kit is on the way) showed a pH around 6.4-6.6. Yes, I recognize these are probably inaccurate.

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    That water is especially corrosive to metal. I would not encourage that long term. Your "good" test kit will not test anything below 6.8 because you really shouldn't be lower than that. The test strips are just a guess and may be wildly wrong.
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by duraleigh View Post
    That water is especially corrosive to metal. I would not encourage that long term. Your "good" test kit will not test anything below 6.8 because you really shouldn't be lower than that. The test strips are just a guess and may be wildly wrong.
    Oh...that's concerning. I consulted two separate professionals and they both told me to bring it to 6.4-6.8 (specifically, to bring it to 7.2-7.4 and add about a gallon of muriatic acid for my 15k gallon pool) and to brush twice daily with a SS brush head to see if I could get the calcium to reabsorb into the water.

    Should I raise the pH?

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Should I raise the pH?
    I can only tell you that I would not take a pool below 6.8 and I would not test it with anything but a phenol red test. The strips are like Russian roulette.

    I would also suggest vacuuming as much as you can into the filter. The CH re-dissolved into the water is only asking it to precipitate back out at some point.
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by duraleigh View Post
    I can only tell you that I would not take a pool below 6.8 and I would not test it with anything but a phenol red test. The strips are like Russian roulette.

    I would also suggest vacuuming as much as you can into the filter. The CH re-dissolved into the water is only asking it to precipitate back out at some point.
    I wish someone would have said something when I posted initially. I'm trying not to be ungrateful, but I posted as much information as a possibly could have over 3-4 detailed posts and felt like I got nothing in response but questions about my chemistry, history, test methods, pool makeup, etc. Most/all of these were answered in my posts - at least to the best of my ability - but I never saw any actual suggestions result. I was really hoping for specific courses of action to help remediate the problem. I got no specific advice, so I acted based on what my local Leslie's and poolbuilder both recommended. I did order the recommended TF100 test kit and it should be arriving soon (hopefully), but I can't wait around for this to start acting on my issues.

    I appreciate your suggestion. I have been vacuuming almost daily to try to remove as much precipitate from the pool as possible, but I could probably step it up a bit. I guess I need to add some sodium carbonate to bring pH up?

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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Use 20 Mule Team Borax to raise your pH. Use PoolMath to tell you how much. As I said, I would not trust those test strips. Take a sample to a Pool Store.....they will have Phenol Red test which is better.

    PS - In fairness, you didn't post a pH of 6 until 4/21 after you had already done it, I think. That's hard for us to anticipate.

    I would suggest your disappointment be directed to your PB and Leslies.........apparently, they talked you into it......we're trying to help fix it.
    Dave S.
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    Re: Terrible scaling problem upon opening pool

    Quote Originally Posted by duraleigh View Post
    Use 20 Mule Team Borax to raise your pH. Use PoolMath to tell you how much. As I said, I would not trust those test strips. Take a sample to a Pool Store.....they will have Phenol Red test which is better.

    PS - In fairness, you didn't post a pH of 6 until 4/21 after you had already done it, I think. That's hard for us to anticipate.

    I would suggest your disappointment be directed to your PB and Leslies.........apparently, they talked you into it......we're trying to help fix it.
    Don't misunderstand, I'm certainly not blaming you good people for screwing up my pool - that's all on me. I was just hoping for a little more help on the right way to fix the scaling from the start. I recognize that, as with anything, a lot of information needs to be gained before a proper diagnosis and recommended course of action can be made. It just felt like I was answering questions folks weren't following up on. I'm learning, and next time I'll do a better job of laying out my case in my initial post. Regardless of this specific case, I've learned a lot from what I've read on this forum, so I'm grateful to have it as a resource.

    WRT your suggestion, can I use sodium carbonate or bicarbonate to raise pH instead? They seem to be much cheaper. Is there a reason to go with 20 mule team over them?

    Also, fixing the pH still doesn't fix my scaling problem. My PB has offered to come add a bottle of scale remover for me as a courtesy (today/tomorrow is the earliest they could do so). Should I NOT let them do this? I'm leery of their advice at this point given the pH situation.

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