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Options / Decision Points

When building a pool, there are naturally a lot of decisions that


need to be made concerning various aspects of the
maintenance, aesthetics, equipment, etc. I'll try to cover the
thought process of some of the bigger decisions that had to be
made:
1. Filtration System - Sand vs. DE vs. Cartridge: The first
pool builder that I talked to as a huge cartridge fan.
The first thing the salesperson tried to do hen I alked
into their shoroom as to sell me on the virtues of the
cartridge filtration system. !e shoed me charts about
ho much better they are at filtering out smaller particles
over sand and ho close they are to almost matching the
cleaning poers of "#. !e then shoed me articles
about ho inhaling "# as a health ha$$ard and ho I
didn't ant to be messing stuff that can get lodged in
your lungs. I told him that I'm not big into spending a lot
of time on maintenance and anted something that I
didn't have to fut$ around ith a lot on the eekends.
!e immediately mentioned ho little maintenance it as
%e.g. spray it off every couple of months, no backashing
ever& and ho it much better it filters ater than sand.
'fter about a half hour spiel, I as sold on the cartridge
systems. (onths had gone by and I as still convinced I
anted to go ith a cartridge system until I started
reading postings in poolforum.com. "# filters, hile they
ere hands don the best for ater quality, still seemed
to require the most maintenance time. )eople seemed to
be forever messing ith their filters, changing stuff out,
backashing, breathing the stuff in. *ince lo-
maintenance as a key issue for me, I kne "# asn't
for me. 's far as +artridge systems, I found that hile it
as true there as no backashing involved, there
seemed to be a lot of people ho had huge problems
trying to get the cartridges clean ithout tearing the
filter. *ome spent upards of an hour trying to get it
clean enough to be able to put it back into the housing.
(y mind immediately ent back to an e,perience I had
ith the '-+ filters for our house ...*ince time began,
e've alays ent ith those cheap-o ..// cents '-+
filters from !ome "epot. 0ne day I sa this ne fangled
'-+ filter for 12. that stated that it ould forever
eliminate the need to buy any more filters. It as one of
those 2( plastic frame deals ith special grilles that had
a multi-layer micro-fiber core that ould eliminate
microscopic allergens, reduce maintenance, solve orld
hunger, etc. It said that every fe months all I had to do
as spray it off, let it dry, then pop it back in. I ended up
buying one. 'fter about a year, I had enough. #ven
though it as every fe months, it as such a pain
having to take it out to back, remove the grills, spray it
off, then notice that it asn't quite clean, then doing it
over and over until I had spent close to hour trying to get
the darn thing clean. Then I had to dry it off before
bringing it back in. The maintenance as driving me
cra$y. 'fter dumping it in favor of the ..// !ome "epot
specials once again, I came to a reali$ation that *imple is
often times better than 3e and Improved.Initially, the
idea of having to clean the cartridge filters every fe
months over backashing eekly had huge appeal to
me. I'm not a maintenance kind of a guy. (y ife ill
be the first to tell you that. 4ut after reading about
people's negative e,periences, I pictured myself sitting
in the backyard, spraying the snot out of these cartridge
filters, then tearing it in my impatience, then having to
spend a hundred bucks or so getting it replaced.
(oreover, I started to talk to people ith *and filters. I
asked them hat is really involved ith backashing: I
anted to kno ho hard it really as. Their response
as somehat of a surprise to me. 5ery fe of them
said they actually backashed eekly. It as like tice a
month, depending on ho heavy pool usage is. Then
they said that backashing as nothing more than
flipping a valve and turning on the ater for a couple of
minutes. Thats it6 7ou mean you don't have to scrub
anything or change out anything eekly6 3ope. *ome
said they considered bringing out a nespaper to read
hile doing it but changed their mind because it ould
probably be done before they finished the first article.
87eah, but hat about the ater quality6 I heard that
cartridge systems filter out tice as fine particles as
sand.8 )eople started to tell me that its all relative. It
may be true that they are better, but if sand already
produces crystal clear ater in the first place, hat's the
real advantage6 I read of ho some people could read a
date off a coin in 9ft of ater filtered by sand using a
scope. Wo. 0ne pool maintenance guy put it all in
perspective for me. !e said that about the only time he
can notice a difference is at night hen you look at the
ater through the pool light. 7ou ill tend to see more
fine-grained particles floating in the ater ith a sand
filter vs. a cartridge filter or "#. That's it6 0nly
noticeable under that condition6 That as it for me. I
had converted from cartridge to sand.
2. Cleaning System - In-Floor System vs. Pool Vac - 4ecause
I as e,pecting to save thousands by :+'ing this pool
myself, I figured that I could afford to spend more on
better quality components on the pool. I had found out
about in-floor cleaners from friends ho had their pools
done ith them and they absolutely loved it. The in-floor
systems basically comprise of a series of no$$les that
pop-up in different $ones of the pool and propel ater in
a seeping, 2;. degree circular motion parallel to the
pool floor. 0ther 8directional no$$les8 hich remain in a
fi,ed position then pop-up and influence the movement
of dirt and debris %being blon around by the other
no$$les& toard an active main drain that sucks it all up.
The basic idea is that it 8pushes8 debris toards the
drain, hile the standard pool vac is like a little
underater vaccum cleaner that alks the pool and
8pulls8 or sucks debris into it. The in-ground no$$les can
be installed on benches, love seats, steps, spas so most
everything is kept clean. The difference beteen the to
systems as I started getting quotes back from the
plumbing subs as appro,imately 1<.... )art of the
reason is from all the e,tra plumbing that's required.
'lso, there are only a fe places that are authori$ed to
design the placement of the no$$les for your specific
pool. They put your pool through a computer program
that determines the optimal number of $ones for your
pool, the number of no$$les per $one, and the placement
of each of the no$$les in each $one. The thing that still
bothered me about in-floors as that you still needed to
brush the sides of the pool. the in-floors ork by
seeping ater in a hori$ontal motion so that means that
pool alls are e,cluded. What a bummer. I spent a lot
of time debating hether 1<... as orth it if I still had
to brush the sides every eek. I also found out later that
standard pool vacs like the !ayard 3avigator or =ltra
can be configured to actually climb up alls to some
e,tent. I'm sure its probably true of most if not all pool
vacs. 't that point, I decided that 1<... ould be better
spent getting some sorely needed furniture for our
house.
2.
4. Chlorination System - Ozone vs. Salt Water vs. Standard
Chlorinator - 7ou've probably noticed that all my choices
so far have been back-to-basics. :iven that, you ould
think that this decision ould be a no-brainer. I probably
ould have been totally happy going ith the standard
chlorine tablets that have done people >ust fine for so
long. I decided instead to go ith a salt-ater
chlorinator. ' salt-ater chlorinator orks by taking
slight salted %have to add salt to your pool ater& ater
and passing it through a housing unit that contains a
series of metallic plates that a current runs through.
+hlorine is produced hen the electrical field beteen
ad>acent plates separates the sodium from the chloride.
The separated chlorine is then used to disinfect your pool
ater. What this means is that all your chlorine is
automatically produced and replenished each and every
night hen your filtration system turns on - i.e. no more
addition of chlorine tablets and chlorine maintenance.
The unit that as recommended to me %?odiac
+learater @(-<A& also has a super-chlorinate option
hich performs the same function as shocking a pool.
This can be achieved by pressing a button on the unit,
hich ill increase the amount of chlorine produced
during that cycle to 'shock' levels. Brom hat I've read
about 0$onators, o$one acts as a poerful o,idi$er and
reacts ith organic and nitrogen containing compounds
much faster. It does not combine ith other compounds
but instead causes these compounds to break apart.
Thus, through the use of an o$one system the need for
chlorine is reduced by a significant amount. !oever, my
understanding is that you CstillC have to add chlorine
tablets to supplement the system. If that's the case, then
hy not >ust go ith chlorine tablets from the get go6
5. Interior - Plaster vs. Pebble-ec - This as probably the
easiest of all the decisions. 4eing from the !aaiian
Islands, I anted to get a taste of that back here in the
desert. :oing ith pebble ould help to achieve that
tropical lagoon look that I'm after. When researching the
differences beteen the to surfaces, I found out that
plaster is much more smooth and gentle on the feet than
a pebble surface. I heard a lot of horror stories from
people ho ent ith pebble interiors hose kid's feet
ere ravaged by the pebble surface after a couple of
hours in the pool. #ven though the pebbles themselves
are smooth, they are slightly elevated-raised from the
bonding material on the pool. This causes an abrasive
action to the feet especially given ho ater softens skin
after hours of being submerged in ater. This as
definitely a consideration since I've got kids myself.
"uring my research, I found out that hile plaster
interiors are much smoother and easier on the feet than
pebble, plaster typically starts to deteriorate much
sooner than a pebble surface and usually needs to be
repaired or replaced in less than D. years. This as a
huge consideration. )ebble-Tec is actually a trade-mark
brand of )ebble pool interior products. It happens to be
the first pebble product that came out on the market and
they responsible for populari$ing pebble pool interiors,
but they are certainly not the only brand of )ebble out
there. Its kind of like 4and-'id, Eero,, Fell-0, or Gleene,
- very ell-knon brands hose names are often
confused ith the generic products %of bandages,
photocopying, gelatin, and facial tissue, respectively&, but
certainly not the only brands out there. The reason I
mention this is because hile getting bids from interior
subs, I noticed that the ay that competing off-brand
pebble products are marketed, they seem to alays have
a selling point on hy their brand is better than )ebble-
Tec. 0ne brand as 4a>a )ebble. They advertise that
their application process of the pebble onto the bonding
material forces the pebbles to be more flush ith the
surface, thereby creating a smoother surface, and less
abrasion to the feet. 0n top of that, I discovered that the
difference of using real )ebble-Tec as opposed to a
competing off-brand pebble product is close to 1<... in
my case. I think that as enough to say me from going
ith real )ebble-Tec. *hucks - I can't technically tell
people I have a )ebble-Tec pool. I have to say its >ust a
pebble-interior pool. :& The same company that does
)ebble-Tec also came out ith a product in recent years
called )ebble-*heen. Its supposed to be a higher-end
form of )ebble-Tec that uses smaller pebbles and doesn't
cause the same kind of abrasiveness as )ebble-Tec. I've
talked e,tensively to pool builders, )ool +ontractors, and
subs alike about this. They all tell me unanimously that
the >ury is still out on this product. (ost say that only
about HI-D.I of their customers request it. They say
that they are still perfecting the technology. The biggest
complaint I've heard about it is that because the pebbles
are smaller, the product give it a very unappealing look
from far aay. It has a 8shattered8 look to it, looking
very similar to regular concrete from far aay. They say
that no one ants to pay the e,orbitant premium for this
and have their pool look like concrete. 'nyays, I didn't
pursue this heavily. I heard so many negatives about
this product that I figured it asn't even orthhile to do
research into it.

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