Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pool Care

Having a swimming pool right at your back door is a wonderful thing, and it made a lot of sense back when we had the money to buy it. It's about 40 feet long, so I can swim laps easily. It has a deep end and a diving board. And Mary Ann had to have that fountain.

But it takes regular care, and a lot of money to keep it up. There's the electricity for the pump, and repair calls when it fails. The chlorine tablets to keep it clean and clear come in $80 buckets. And when we hit the road, without fail, it's green and filled with leaves when we return. I'm getting quite good at bringing it back from pea soup to blue.

This year's drought added complications. The ground shifts. During the past three or four years, I've noticed hairline cracks in the plaster, but didn't worry about it too much. A pool like this is not very strong. It's not like a brick wall, or a concrete driveway. The installers dug the pit the right shape and then layered plaster over the clay. It's not very thick, the water itself holds the pool in shape.

June or July, it seemed like the pool was losing water faster than normal. One of those hairline cracks had gotten longer, twenty feet longer. It still seemed unlikely that the water was leaking that way, so I did nothing.

The leak got worse. By September, I was adding water every other day, just to keep it up to the level where the skimmer could collect the floating leaves. As our trip to St. Louis approached, I realized I had to do something. From the pool supply place I got two kinds of underwater setting plaster or putty and attempted to repair the cracks.

It was an effort. I had to hang onto a cinder block with one hand while I worked, head down in six feet of water to squeeze the putty into the crack. Six inches, and then bob to the surface to catch my breath before going down again. It was an ugly job, but I filled the crack.

The leak didn't stop.

Okay, if it wasn't the cracks, and there was no visible leak anymore around the pump (at least after the last repair job), then it had to be either in the supply pipes or the drain pipes. Horrible thought. Fixing that would take massive excavation and expensive repair crews. But I couldn't let it leak forever either.

So step by step, I had to locate the leak. First step was to turn off the fountain for one day. The water still dropped. Next, I turned off the jets, four water jets around the perimeter of the pool, just under the surface. But they could still leak, by draining water from the pool, so I bought some plugs.

After several days now, I can say with confidence, I found the leak. Somewhere in those four pipes, there's a leak.

The good news is that I stopped the leak with $12 worth of rubber plugs. The bad news is that a permanent repair will be expensive, tearing up the decking around the pool. I don't have money for that. The plugs will have to do for now.

And Mary Ann's fancy fountain proves its worth. I don't really need those jets for now. The water circulates just fine from the fountain. Some day, maybe, we'll get it all fixed, but I just happy the leak is gone for now.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Wow, that's a big job. I'll remember that next time Scott tells me he wants a pool when we are ready to buy a house.