Getting to know our new pool (AUS)

zaff

New member
Jan 16, 2021
3
Sydney, Australia
Hello everyone,

Moved into our new home recently, so slowly starting to wrap my head around pool maintenance 😊
It's a saltwater pool built around 1978. I've installed a new chlorinator recently, FC levels are kept at 5-6, so, water seems to be balanced and crystal clear.

I was hoping to get some advice on a few things about the pool, as I'm not sure exactly how it's built:
  1. It seems to be a concrete pool with some sort of plaster covering (see the pic). Is it a correct assumption?
    1610846521876.png

  2. The plumbing seems to be fine, haven't detected any leaks. The skimmer is also sound. But, water-level tiles seem to be in a very bad shape. We've had a few tiles falling off over the last few weeks. Grout is completely washed out in some areas.
    Whenever I try to fill the pool above the tile level, it drops back within the next 24-48h (that's a 1-2" drop).

    What's the best course of action here? I was thinking of removing all the tiles and getting someone to check the state of the inner shell in case there are cracks.
    1610846612606.png 20210116_104131.jpg

  3. Finally, there are a few rust-like spots. Should I test water for metals before I unleash my DIY skills on them (e.g. Vit C)?
    1610846745875.png 1610846775930.png

Appreciate the help 🙂 Learned a lot from Pool School posts.
 
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Texas Splash

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LifeTime Supporter
G'day and welcome to TFP! :wave: First, I'm going to modify your thread title to include "AUS" as that will help get some locals attracted to your thread as resources vary in your area. The biggest example - a proper test kit. You'll want to research ClearChoice Labs for the Taylor K-2006C equivalent. That is perhaps the most important step.

As for your questions, maybe it's my screen, but I'm not seeing the plaster covering you mentioned. Maybe someone else with another set of eyes can pick up on it. For the water dropping, look to see if you have an overflow tube somewhere. It's designed to let water out when it gets too high. If there is no overflow tube, I suppose it's possible you have a leak behind the waterline tile. The tiles falling off could be simply from the age of the pool, or could be that the water is aggressive and pulling the calcium away from the wall. Again, the testing will confirm. Last, for the stain, grab some vitamin C tables and try rubbing them on a stain. If it helps, then the stain is from iron. Let us know ow it goes and we'll be happy to help more.

 
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zaff

New member
Jan 16, 2021
3
Sydney, Australia
Thanks for the tips @Texas Splash! I've been using strips for now, but I'm aware of how inaccurate they can be. Will see if I can order a more robust test kit, and will do a water test at the local pool shop in the meantime.

As for your questions, maybe it's my screen, but I'm not seeing the plaster covering you mentioned.
Hmm, what does it look like to you then?

look to see if you have an overflow tube somewhere.
Doesn't look like we have it - the only two connections in the shell are the skimmer and the return pipe. 🤷‍♂️

Will post back if we find something suspicious!
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
8,624
Central California
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What I'm seeing...

I do see what looks to be a plaster finish, but based on the first pic, looking at the skimmer opening, it almost looks like it was layered over a previous plaster finish. Hard to tell. It could also be rolled on paint or epoxy. I see what might be roller marks. The tile was then affixed to that outer layer of plaster (or whatever it is), which is not how my pool was done, and probably why they are falling off.

I don't want to alarm you, but we've seen this before, where a makeshift quickie "remodel" of a pool was done to enhance the sale of a property, and to disguise whatever might be wrong with the pool. If the tiles look very new and clean, that is a telltale. If the finish looks new and clean, that's also a sign. The spots you're seeing might be rust coming off of who-knows-what, just underneath that cosmetic layer. Was there any mention of a pool remodel? If the previous owners had spent some real money on a recent, legit remodel, which would have been very expensive, they would most likely have mentioned it to bolster the value of the property. If no mention of the pool was made, then that is another telltale.

In my pool, the tile was set in mortar which was adhered to the underlying gunite shell. There is no plaster behind the tile. Then the plaster (or in my case pebble) finish was blown in, layered onto the gunite, and finished flush up to the tile. If one of my tiles fell off, it would leave a depression. What would be underneath would not be flush with the plaster finish.

Your tile was attached to the finish, not mortared to the shell. When I zoom in I definitely see some sub-standard tile work. Amateur would be more accurate.

If you're certain you don't have an overflow outlet, then the water level is dropping due to a leak. The location of the leak is revealed by where the water stops dropping. You can refill the pool and go along that suspect line with some food coloring dye, squirting it out as you go, and watch if it gets sucked up anywhere. There's your leak. You can confirm a leak using the bucket test.


I'm gonna send you good karma that your pool is sound and fixing the leak will be a breeze. But for a 43-year-old pool to look that good, right before a sale, I gotta say I'm not 100% confident.

Sorry for the negative feedback. I'm only guessing based on a few pics. But bad news is a possibility...
 
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mgtfp

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Mar 5, 2020
780
Melbourne, Australia
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Wellcome to TFP, fellow Aussie!

Not much to add to @Dirk's assessment, probably time to get a pool builder in for an assessment. If you are loosing water, then it's certainly not just an optical problem, and you'll need to do something.

And I second @Texas Splash's recommendation to get a test kit from Clear Choice Labs:


They deliver via express, ordering the complete salt water kit should get you above the threshold for free delivery. Ordering today, you should have it by mid week. Maybe a bit slower due to Covid.

Pool store testing has to be interpreted with caution. They often have good equipment, but not always sufficiently trained staff. Often, they are not really interested in giving you accurate results, but rather get you into the store and "show" you which of their magic potions you have to buy.

Not always, but unless you can test your water by yourself, you won't be able to judge the quality of your shop's testing.

The ranges for water parameters that most of the pool industry recommends are also less suitable for ensuring a trouble free pool, but more suitable for ensuring getting customers back as often as possible.

A typical example of that is the industry recommended TA range of 100-150ppm. A TA in this range results in CO2 outgassing which leads to pH drifting up. That needs to be corrected by adding muriatic acid (in Oz often just called pool acid or hydrochloric acid). That will reduce TA, which they will ask you to correct by adding "Alkalinity Up", which is a fancy name for baking soda. That will restart the pH-drift - a never ending seesaw. Until you stop adding baking soda...

So, get your test kit, read through TFP's Pool School, and take control over your pool. And limit your visits to the Pool Shop to buying equipment or buying chemicals that you know you need, they often still have competitive prices. You will have a clear, trouble free pool, and save a lot of money.

And in the meantime, get your pool structurally sorted. I am not very experienced in giving advice there, but I'm sure that others will chime in.
 
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Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
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I wanted to provide this closeup for others to assess. Have you figured out what this hole is for? Are you sure this is not the overflow outlet?

When the water drops, does it stop dropping at the bottom of this hole, where the red arrow points? That would indicate the leak could be this fixture, or in the pipe that connects to it.

And for others, you can see the "finish" inside this hole. Looks a little like it was painted on...

closeup.jpg
 
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Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
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zaff, to be clear, I didn't mean to make it sound like you got bamboozled. We know of pools that have plaster at least as old as yours, if in fact what's under the new finish is the original plaster. Or your pool might have been replastered at some point, maybe many years ago. Folks often use pool paint or an epoxy finish to renew their aging pools. It's not a particularly long lasting finish, and will need to be redone periodically, but it is an alternative to a complete plaster replacement that is considerably less expensive. And that's just fine. It's still a pool!

If that is what you have, and you can find and fix the leak (if you actually have one), then you might be able to get years of enjoyment out of the pool as is. Once the finish starts to show signs of end-of-life, then you can choose to paint it again, or tear it all out and install a new plaster or pebble finish that will last for 10 or 20 years or more. Even the very best pool finish that money can buy wears out eventually and needs to be replaced. That's an expected expense of pool ownership.

I had to replace my finish at about year 2 of owning the house. Oh well. It's still a pool that I didn't have to build and pay for from scratch. I'm still way ahead. And my new finish will likely outlast me.

Just wanted to ease your mind a bit if I freaked you out with my first post. And again, these comments are just one guy's guess. You probably won't know what you've got until you get a pool pro onsite to give you a proper assessment.
 
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mgtfp

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Mar 5, 2020
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And to add to Dirk's post: Our pool is also quite old, with some of the tiles falling off. We had someone look at it who confirmed that at the current stage it's more of an optical problem. We are not loosing water, so we decided to spend our money for other renovations around the house first.

Try to locate the source of the water loss, and get someone to assess the situation (maybe more than one opinion). Maybe you can fix the water loss issue and live with the pool as is for a while until you are ready to proceed.
 
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Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
Pool Size
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Regarding your tile. Watch this video for some ideas. This process is about a fiberglass pool, but it might work for yours. You could always just try it out on a couple tiles to see how well it would work before trying it out on the entire pool. And this would be for after you find and fix any leaks, of course.

 
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zaff

New member
Jan 16, 2021
3
Sydney, Australia
Whoa! Guys, so many replies, thank you! :party:
I do see what looks to be a plaster finish, but based on the first pic, looking at the skimmer opening, it almost looks like it was layered over a previous plaster finish. Hard to tell. It could also be rolled on paint or epoxy. I see what might be roller marks. The tile was then affixed to that outer layer of plaster (or whatever it is), which is not how my pool was done, and probably why they are falling off.

I don't want to alarm you, but we've seen this before, where a makeshift quickie "remodel" of a pool was done to enhance the sale of a property, and to disguise whatever might be wrong with the pool. If the tiles look very new and clean, that is a telltale. If the finish looks new and clean, that's also a sign. The spots you're seeing might be rust coming off of who-knows-what, just underneath that cosmetic layer. Was there any mention of a pool remodel? If the previous owners had spent some real money on a recent, legit remodel, which would have been very expensive, they would most likely have mentioned it to bolster the value of the property. If no mention of the pool was made, then that is another telltale.

In my pool, the tile was set in mortar which was adhered to the underlying gunite shell. There is no plaster behind the tile. Then the plaster (or in my case pebble) finish was blown in, layered onto the gunite, and finished flush up to the tile. If one of my tiles fell off, it would leave a depression. What would be underneath would not be flush with the plaster finish.
So, I reached out to the previous owner, here's what he told me:
The pool is fiberglass and was renovated about 10 years ago. With natural pool expansion/contraction the odd tile can fall off. I’d use a selleys glue designed for underwater use if i was you (new products are excellent).

Rust stains were have been around since i bought the place. I think it’s natural metals in the earth that come through over time (what pool guys told me). Shell should be fine. Use metal magic or a similar product - apply to stain and 95% will come off quickly.

Not sure if you’ve had a pool before but if shallow, plenty of sun and hot windy weather you’ll get a lot of evaporation. I was previously concerned about this and had it checked. I Put extra valve on backwash pipe in case but all should be fine. In winter you’ll notice the difference. In summer probably have to top up 2 a week or so.
Thoughts? Seems reasonable. Not sure about earth metals coming through the shell (although, the house sits on a sandstone bedrock that has metals in it, according to the council).

And I second @Texas Splash's recommendation to get a test kit from Clear Choice Labs:

Clear Choice Labs – Simple. Accurate. Fast.
Great find, ordered!

I wanted to provide this closeup for others to assess. Have you figured out what this hole is for? Are you sure this is not the overflow outlet?
@Dirk this is the return pipe (doesn't look pretty, I know).

zaff, to be clear, I didn't mean to make it sound like you got bamboozled.

Oh don't worry, I'm not freaking out (yet 😄 ). Appreciate all the honest feedback.
 

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Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
8,624
Central California
Pool Size
12300
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
I lose about 1" a week mid summer. It could be just that. I gave you a link about pool leaks. On that page are instructions for the bucket test. That test will confirm a leak or no leak.

Fiberglass, huh? Doesn't look like it in the pics. No matter, like I said, if it doesn't leak then it's a pool!

Fiberglass does jibe with the way the tiles were installed, as per the video I linked. So now you know how to fix the tiles.

Stick around and study Pool School and ask questions here. We'll get you up to speed on how to take care of the water and anything else pool. Have a great summer!
 
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