From Drab to Fab – Pool Renovations Revealed

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

From Drab to Fab – Pool Renovations Revealed

Have you been contacted by a client who is embarrassed by their pool? Murky water, cracks, rust? The good news is few swimming pools are in such bad shape that they can’t be renovated to some extent. Pool and Spa Review talks to pool renovation experts, Sam MacMichael from Commercial Aquatics, Nathan Kinder from Aloha Pools and Shane Brown from Sodablast Solutions on how to restore pools to their former glory. 

Nathan Kinder from Aloha Pools discusses renovations for domestic pools

PSR: Generally speaking why do clients want to renovate their pool?
NK: Mainly because there is the perception that it will be cheaper to do so. ‘Spruce’ or ‘freshen-up’ are commonly used to describe what the client wants to do. Price is generally a big factor. A small number of people are happy with the existing pool and want to extend its life. Usually the client’s perception is the internal renovation of an old pool, generally, this is not the whole story. There will be a large difference between what the client wants to pay for and what they want to own – our job is to establish this.

PSR: When you first evaluate a residential pool, what signs do you look for to decide if the pool can be renovated or if it needs to be replaced?
NK: The first thing is to ask the right questions such as, do you like the existing pool? Why are you considering renovation works? Aesthetics aside - are you happy with the performance of the existing pool? Following this we would decide if the pool has been built right in the first place. Does the equipment need to be replaced, do the pipes need to be re-run, skimmers cut out? What else needs to be done to bring the pool up to a good level? Will the coping need to be replaced? How does the current lighting perform? What are the other considerations around the pool? If the pool is to be dollied up prior to sale then there is generally little benefit to this.

PSR: What steps do you take when renovating a pool?
NK: Logically the demolition of the old pool finishes (tiles etc) and materials is the first step. Assessing the quality of the old pool shell is done at this stage. Then it is just a matter of amending the shell, replacing skimmer lines etc depending on the scope of works.

PSR: What are the most common problems you come across when looking to renovate a pool?
NK: Firstly it is getting the client over the line on the cost. A good renovation will not be much cheaper than the cost of new pool and addressing this is usually the main issue. People tend to be happy to throw good money after bad - a good renovation will be dependent on whether the old pool is any good. We cannot add in-floor cleaning to an old pool. Stripping out old tiles and finding cracks, rust spots, etc is also an issue.

PSR: If a client is on a budget, what are the easiest/cheapest elements to fix that will have the most impact?
NK: The interior re-lined with the additional coping will give the most impact; however, it will not address the hydraulic, heating, cleaning or sanitisation side of the equation.

PSR: What is your number 1 tip when renovating a pool?
NK: Compare the cost of renovation with the cost of a new pool. Sometimes repouring a new pool within the old is a good option. Be very clear about what you want to achieve and when everything is finished, whether you would have achieved what you set out to achieve.

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Soda Blasting

When it comes to pools there are a great deal of services and products available to build new pools, maintain the health of pools and even to renovate and update pools. Restoration is a cost effective way to give new life to a pool without expensive structural changes or mid-life alteration.

Sodablasting uses pressurized air and a bicarbonate-of-soda blast media to strip, clean and degrease in one easy step. The bicarbonate-of-soda media is 100% food grade, non-toxic, non-flammable and environmentally friendly.

Sodablasting was developed in the 1970s and has been used for such projects as the Statue of Liberty restoration in 1984, classic car restorations, heritage building restoration and aircraft restoration. Swimming pool restoration using sodablast is fast and stress-free.

Shane Brown, General Manager at Sodablast Solutions says, “Most swimming pools begin life as the centrepiece of a backyard, a true asset. However they quickly fade and risk becoming a forgotten garden ornament. Sodablast Solutions specialise in restoring the things that made a pool a centrepiece.”

Sodablasting a pool is extremely fast, often taking only a few hours to remove paint back to bare concrete. There’s no scrubbing, scraping or chemical strippers and most pool restorations using this method are completed (from strip to repaint) in around 2 days.

“Sodablasting can be used on almost any type of pool for varying purposes. Concrete, fibreglass, pebblemix, quartz and vinyl pools are all easily suited to sodablast and the process can be applied to either clean or strip most of the different pool types. For instance a painted concrete pool can be stripped to bare concrete, or brush blasted for extra cost effectiveness and faster turnaround. Brush blasting simply roughs the original paint and gets rid of any loose flaking paint,” said Brown.

“Bicarbonate-soda will quickly remove calcification and limescale off pool tiles and surrounds without damaging tiles, grout, paving, concrete or decking. Vinyl pools can be cleaned of slippery algae and mould and the bicarbonate-soda actually kills the spores which grow into mould and algae.”

“Sodablasting can also restore the entire ‘poolscape’ including decking, paving, concrete and even clean glass fences without damaging the underlying surface.”

“In my opinion, pools shouldn’t need ‘renovation’ every 10-20 years. Restoration can extend the life of a pool without the large costs.”

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Asbestos Dangers in Pool Linings

Mined from deep underground, asbestos was thought to be the wonder building product of the century and was widely used in Australia’s construction industry between 1945 and 1980. Its uses included everything from paint, pipes, insulation, cement, floor tiles, roofing and the list goes on.

The problem, as we are now aware, is that the asbestos fibers are deadly when inhaled.

Over the past few decades, many pools have been constructed by layering vermiculite on the excavated ground and covering this with a vinyl liner. The vermiculite eliminated the possibility that a rock, root or other object would perforate the vinyl.

Vermiculite is a natural mineral substance used to control moisture levels in many home and industrial applications. It also provides excellent insulation when heated. While any vermiculite mined today is considered safe, there is some risk that vermiculite used before 1990 is contaminated by tremolite, a particularly dangerous form of asbestos.

If you encounter a pool made before 1990 and are considering remodeling or removing it, you may want to have the material tested for asbestos before undertaking the project.

Sam MacMichael on renovating commercial pools:

Dependent on the pool surface finish and construction type, items that are deteriorating such as pool render becoming patchy, tiles loose or missing, pool cracking, vinyl liners fading, having multiple repair patches and leaking water are all indications that a pool renovation is in order.

Sometimes a pool can be salvaged, but in some circumstances the pool will need to be completely replaced.Generally, severe concrete cancer (rusting of the steel reinforcing) or poor pool shell condition with cracking can ultimately determine a pools fate, however there can be many hidden items that really require a professional inspection, core sampling and structural assessment.

In my experience, the most common elements that need addressing are the pool finishes - tiling, liners, pool render replacements and filtration upgrades. Pool tiles coming loose, being broken or chipped, resulting in safety hazards for the public is also a major cause for concern.

When dealing with commercial swimming pools nothing is ever cheap, but of the elements able to be renovated, generally pool finishes are going to be the easiest. However, this is only an aesthetic fix and the behind the scenes filtration and pool hydraulics are probably the most critical for safe and hygienic swimming water.

One thing for consideration with commercial pools is that many older pools generally do not meet the current turnover requirements to comply with regulations. This means that if renovating or upgrading the filtration system that the filter, pumps and pipework including pool hydraulics should be resized to bring it into line with current day regulations.

A safety assessment of the pool and plant room, including access, pool depth markings, hazchem signage and occupational health and safety for operators is also essential.

When renovating a commercial pool, my number one tip would be to weigh up between renovating an old pool or replacing it, as quite often the time and money spent bringing an old pool back to life can outweigh the cost of complete demolition and reconstruction.

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