Pools and Spas Design

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Beautiful outdoor living space with wall fountain that flows into pool

It may still be chilly outside right now, but warmer weather will be here before you know it! Winter is a great time to think about updating your pool so it will be ready to jump into when summer arrives. Whether you want to give your pool a visual makeover, make it more functional or cut down on time and money spent on maintenance, there are plenty of things you can do right now to ensure a fun and successful pool season a few months down the line.

Swimming in style
If your pool has been around for a while, you may want to update the materials of the pool itself and the surrounding areas. “Replacing and updating the pool tile, coping (edging around the pool) and interior finish are good ways to give the pool a fresh look,” says Evan Horning of Neptune Pools, in Sugar Hill. “Replacing or resurfacing the pool deck can help as well.”

For concrete pool owners, updating the pool’s surface is a popular choice right now. “Many customers are renovating from white marcite plaster to pebble products,” says Kelly Erjavec of Hilltop Pools and Spas, in Jonesboro. The pebble creates a fun, textured surface, and it also comes with another bonus: a better warranty. “Pebble is better because the consumer receives a 15-year warranty compared with a two-year warranty on plaster,” Erjavec says.

Of course, if you have a pool with a vinyl liner, replacing the liner will be necessary every so often. Depending on how well you take care of the pool, it will most likely need replacing every eight to 12 years. If your pool has fiberglass steps, they might need to be updated every 20 years or so.

Aquatic add-ons
While updating the surface of your pool can make it more attractive and help keep it in good shape, it’s the extras you add on that help make the pool a fun and exciting place for your family and friends to play. Diving boards aren’t the only special features these days. Having a pool is like having one big water feature to play with, and adding other goodies to it only makes it more special. “Adding a water feature to a constructed pool is a great idea,” Erjavec says. “Water features such as slides, waterfalls, grottos, spillways and fountains can make an old pool look new and contemporary.” Adding a new spa that’s built into the pool is a popular choice as are swim jet systems that create a water treadmill of sorts.

Custom-made features will make your pool unique, and highlighting them with special lighting will create an amazing atmosphere for nighttime swimming and pool parties. “Slides and waterfalls featuring LED lighting can be added to existing pools to make them more interesting and fun,” says Lorina Zavala of Lusk Pools, in Canton. For the athletic crowd, built-in basketball hoops and volleyball nets are popular choices – although you may have a hard time getting the kids out of the pool for dinner!

What’s in the water?
Perhaps the most common update among pool owners over the last five years or so has been converting the water to a salt system for chlorination. “A saltwater pool is a chlorine pool. These systems are also referred to as saltwater chlorine generators,” Horning says. “These systems eliminate the need to purchase chlorine since it is being produced within the pool, and the byproduct of the process creates soft water.”

Saltwater systems can be used in both concrete and vinyl-lined pools. Overall, these systems provide better-quality water for swimming, and, perhaps just as importantly, they are also an economical choice, as they will save pool owners time and money. “You save money on pool chemicals, such as shock and chlorine tablets, and added equipment controls, just to name a few,” Zavala says.

When it comes to the chemicals in your pool, automated chemical management systems are the way to go. “These systems are similar to the ones that are used in commercial pools, hotels, subdivisions and water parks,” Erjavec says. “They are programmable chemical feeders that will automatically dispense chemicals to the pool to help keep the swimming pool clean, clear and safe 
 to use.” The latest systems are basically maintenance-free, and some even allow you to operate your pool remotely from a smartphone, computer or tablet.

Remember maintenance
Since the most common pool repairs are those to equipment, such as pumps, filters, cleaners and heaters, updating your pool equipment will allow for more time swimming and less time working. “Equipment upgrades, pool cleaners and alternative sanitizers can help the pool perform better and reduce maintenance,” Horning says. Automatic pool cleaners, automatic chemical feeders and salt systems are also great ways to keep maintenance at a minimum.

Don’t forget to keep your water balanced. No matter what type of chlorination you use, always test your water and balance the chemicals regularly. Failure to maintain the water balance can lead to many issues in the pool or spa’s interior as well as equipment failures. Keeping the water balanced will help protect your swimming pool and equipment, and it will also help extend the life of your pool, no matter what type it is. Remember, if you aren’t sure you can keep up with the maintenance on your own, it’s probably a good idea to hire a pool service. Once your pool’s up and running, you can start dreaming of the warm months ahead. Happy swimming!

Covered Up
Want to make your pool a little bit safer? Consider adding an automatic pool cover. They’re usually simple to install on existing pools, and in addition to making the pool safer, they also keep it clean, cutting down on time and money spent on maintenance. And when they’re used properly, automatic covers can act as passive solar collectors, increasing the temperature of the pool by as much as 12 degrees!
Source: Automatic Covers Inc.

Warming Water
Solar heating is a great option for heating pools. If you heat a pool in the cooler months, it’s best to use some type of “solar blanket” or cover to prevent excess heat “steam” from leaving. Gas heaters are going to do the best job of heating in cold weather and can be used in conjunction with other types of heating, such as solar.
Source: Neptune Pools

Heater Safety
If you do have a heated pool or spa, stay safe and make sure to test your system before you start it up for the year. You may want to have a certified technician test the gas line and wires to make sure it’s ready to go. Also, never store pool chemicals near the heater, as this could lead to a fire.
Source: Tallman Pools

Keep it up!
The No. 1 tip that experts have for pool owners is to set a maintenance schedule and stick to it. It’s much easier and less expensive to keep up with a pool than it is to wait until you have a serious issue to deal with.

Get grilling
Grilling out is a great way to spice up your pool party. Check out these burger recipe suggestions to start the season right:

The Other Burger
1 pound ground pork, about 80 percent lean
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Gently mix together ground pork and seasonings; shape into 4 burgers about 3/4-inch in thickness. Place over moderately hot coals in a kettle-style grill, lower hood and grill for 5 minutes; turn and finish grilling 4 to 5 minutes more. Burgers are ready when the internal temperature is 160 degrees F, as measured with an instant-read thermometer. Serve immediately, on sandwich buns if desired.

Variations:
Eastern Burger: To Other Burger basic mix, add 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons dry sherry and 1 tablespoon grated ginger root.
Veggie Burger: To Other Burger basic mix, add 3 drops hot pepper sauce, 1 grated carrot and 3 tablespoons chopped parsley.
South of the
Border Burger: To Other Burger basic mix, add 1/4 teaspoon each ground cumin, oregano, seasoned salt and crushed red chiles.
Italian
Burger: To Other Burger basic mix, add one crushed garlic clove, one teaspoon crushed fennel seed and 2 teaspoons each red wine and olive oil.

Makes 4 servings.
Source: National Pork Board

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