Renovation Time

By Jim McCloskey

The weather has taken a turn toward heat in the time since I wrote my last blog:  It’s been in the 90s several times recently, and it reminds me of an even hotter stretch early in May 1989, when we moved into our current house and settled in as a family with our first swimming pool.

When we arrived with our truckload of boxes and furniture at around 9 am that first day, it was only a few minutes before we noticed that the pool was bright green, shot through with filaments of algae emboldened by a lack of any water circulation and a run of hot days in the week since the previous owners had left and we were cleared to move in.

We’d deliberately arranged for utilities to stay active through the transition, so that wasn’t the issue.  Actually, someone had taken it upon him- or herself to remove the “on” tab from the pool’s clock, either to save us some money or, more likely, to ensure we’d need to make an emergency call to someone who could remedy the situation.  However it came down, it was an unpleasant surprise made somewhat worse by the fact that, with two very young children to get settled, I was too busy to do anything about it right away.

The thermometer topped 105 degrees that first day of our occupancy and stayed in triple digits for several more days.  On the third day, I finally made it over to a local pool store with a water sample and a weary smile on my face.  The woman behind the counter looked at me like I had a couple heads, but when I explained the situation she swung into action and laid out a game plan that would keep me busy after work for the next two weeks.

Gallons of chlorine, quarts of algaecide, hours of brushing and three filter split-and-cleans later, the water was clear and happy again:  Nearly three weeks had passed, and finally we were able to take our first swim.

I’ve been my own pool guy ever since.  I started mowing lawns and maintaining landscapes when I was eight, had always done my own interior painting and most of my own carpentry,  plumbing and minor electrical work – and there was no way I wanted anyone else to have a hand in caring for my pool, which I’ve now run for 29 years.  There have been occasional repairs and installations for which I’ve called in help through the intervening years, but once I pulled through the introductory hell of un-greening the water in May 1989, I’ve always figured there wasn’t much of anything I couldn’t handle.

That’s worked for a long, long time, but now we’re recognizing the fact that our pool is nearly 40 years old and needs big-league help.  The drainage system has never been adequate, for one thing, so the decks have been pushed around by our clay soil and we’ve had some issues with cracked coping stones and a few popped waterline tiles.

The plaster is original, too, and needs attention.  By the time we moved in, generous acid use by our predecessors had stripped copper from the pipes (yes, they’re all copper up to the equipment pad) and turned most of the once-white interior a blotchy robin’s-egg blue.  We never minded it, but now, older and wiser and finally a bit impatient, we’ve decided to leave its rundown appearance behind us and go instead with something nice, smooth, consistent and fresh.

The equipment has seen some upgrades through the years, including the addition of variable speed pumps, a more efficient heater for the spa and a salt chlorinator, but we want to start all over with an ozone system.  We also want to include a real automation system in place of the one an electrician friend and I rigged up a couple decades ago using a bunch of X-10 home-automation switches.  It never worked very well, but it nonetheless convinced me that the concept has merit.

But mainly it’s the cosmetic stuff.  The outdated perimeter ribbon of drab decking, the never-pretty waterline tile, the bullnose coping in the spa that hits me right in the shoulder blades and the faded, deteriorating plaster finish all cry out for attention – and they’ll be getting it sometime soon.

We’re just beginning our conversations, and I can guarantee you that you’ll hear all about our progress in this space as the project unfolds.  Watch for it!

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