DIY Swimming Pool Inspection?
DIY Swimming Pool Inspection
You bought your first home with a swimming pool and just found out the home inspector says they don’t include a pool inspection. Why? What now? Can you do it yourself? Stay tuned and find out.
The home inspector usually does not cover swimming pool inspections because swimming pools are not all created equal. Keeping up with the technology of the latest pool controller or how the latest pump works is hard to do if you aren't around it every day. Heck, it’s hard for us to keep up with. What if they say the heater works because they turned it on but it doesn’t heat to the set temperature because they didn’t wait two hours for the spa to heat up all the way? The good news is with the “latest technology” you don’t have to keep up with it. Figure out how this one system works and you're good to go.
What now? If you're lucky your Realtor will know a great pool company who can help out with the pool inspection. Swimming pool equipment inspections can cost from $150-$500 depending on the region and how much equipment the pool has. If you're reading this you’ve already thought to yourself, “do I have to have it inspected or can I do it myself?” The good news is there is probably an 80% chance you can do it yourself and save that inspection money for some new pool toys.
One thing to ease your mind on doing your pool equipment inspection comes with my recommendation that you or the seller provide you with a one-year home warranty. You can turn on the basic pool pump, look for definite problems and leak and call it good. If you're not comfortable with testing the heater or odd equipment yet you can skip it If you have something from the seller saying that the heater works. If and when you get the house and take the time to learn how all the equipment works and find out that the heater doesn't work you turn it over to your home warranty company. My rant with that is many warranty companies don’t want to fix anything, just collect your money. AHS or American Home Shield is the only company over all my years that seems to take care of their customers without all the hassles. But if you go with a cheaper company be prepared to call three times to get them to listen to you and they will come around.
The first thing I suggest is having your Realtor find out what the pool schedule is and what time the pump is running. You can take notice for yourself when you're out looking at homes, is the pool running and what time is it? If you can schedule one of your walkthroughs while the pump is running you’ve won half the battle. I say that only because if you have some funky control system at least you can still check out the equipment.
If your time clock looks like this, you're golden. Your inspection will be easier but your equipment isn’t up to date. Just flip the switch below the yellow clock dial and the pump will turn on. Of course, they could have bypassed this if there is a newer variable speed pump like this. This is a Pentair VS (variable speed) pump but if you see something different than this but it has a controller on the back as this one does just flip the lid and look for the button that reads “Quick Clean” on it and that should allow you enough time to do an inspection and everything will go back to schedule when it runs its course.
What to look for.
1: Look for new equipment or signs of new equipment. If the house you’re buying is under five years old then the pool equipment should still be in great condition. Turn it on and look for leaks and you should be good, inspection done, and money saved.
If the equipment is old, still look for signs of new or shiny parts. Usually, if the pump motor has been replaced it will be a different color or shiny. Check the filter for signs of replacement. Filters can come in many shapes and sizes but most commonly they will stand out as “the big thing” back there. The filter will be either fiberglass or stainless steel. Fiberglass filters look like plastic when they are new, shiny, and smooth but as they age the fiberglass starts sticking out and looking a bit scary. Stainless steel filters can start to rust around the ring that holds the top on or the backwash valve on the bottom will be leaking when they need to be replaced.
2: Turn on the pool equipment to see if it works. If you see an Intermatic time clock like the one at the top of the article then flip the switch under the yellow diel and the pump should turn on. If you see a secondary pump that is not on it will be the spa pump. You will want to go over to the spa and look around the inside edge to find a button. This is an air switch and you do want to make sure it works because it can get costly to fix. Press the button in, it might be a little hard if it hasn’t been used in a while. Wait a few seconds to see if air bubbles come into the spa or walk back to the equipment and see if it is running.
If you have a spa then you should have a heater. In this scenario to control the heater it will have a plastic door somewhere on it that you can flip up and see the control panel. Flip the toggle opposite of where it is and select spa. In a couple of seconds up to twenty seconds you should hear a loader howling wind noise. Wait a couple more seconds and carefully feel the air coming out of the top vent of the heater, it should be getting hot. This means it is working but you cannot tell if it’s completely working without letting the system reach its high point. (Remember the home warranty)
If you have a control panel you want to open it up and look for the button that says MODE on it. Click the mode button until you see in the top left window reads TimeOut.
Next, go to the row of buttons and hopefully, they are marked with what they control like this one. Turn each on and see if the corresponding piece of equipment is running and not leaking. Turn on the pool and spa lights and go to the pool and verify that they are working. Pool lights can run from $600 to $1,600 so you want to make sure they are working.
3: Look for leaks. With the equipment running, look for leaks. The most common leak is in the middle of the pump where the motor connects to the back of the pump and where the pipes connect to the pump. Next check the filter for leaks around the ring that holds the top on, the pressure gauge at the top, and any unions that connect it to the pump. Next, check the general vicinity and look at all connections where pipes come together with valves. Generally, you don’t need to call in for an inspection if you have leaks, just have the Realtor try to get it fixed, it’s usually something the owner's pool pro can fix or an old O-ring that needs to be replaced but rarely will it be something the warranty company will bother with.
4: Check Automation. If you have a spa then you may have Actuators, these are the handles that change the water flow to and from the spa so you don’t heat the whole pool accidentally. If you look back at the control panel above you see a button with the word “valves” on it. Push this button and look to see if two valves automatically start moving. Not one but two valves should move. These can cost a few hundred dollars each so I thought you might as well check them. Also, some pools don’t have them so you will turn the handles manually. I have seen my clients' family visit and turn the heater on and push the spa button and complain that the heater wasn’t working because the spa wasn’t warming up fast enough. When I got there a few days later to service the pool the whole pool was 103 degrees because they didn’t know they needed to turn the handles themselves. And yes, they didn’t apologize to me for making it seem to be my fault.
If you are still reading this then you should be ready to decide if you need to have a swimming pool inspector come out to verify any claims that you may have made or that you are satisfied with your findings and the equipment looks good. However, let’s run over to the pool itself and see what we can find. Check the tile line around the sides for missing pieces and look for any long cracks running through the tile because that can be a sign of something bigger. Is the coping (the border around the pool) for loose or broken pieces? Check the Deco Seal (caulking around the outside of the coping) to see if it is still keeping out the water. Now check the surface of the plaster. Discoloration, staining from leaves or rebar in plaster now showing, puck size chips missing are all signs of aging and mostly cosmetic. Now look for cracks from a few inches to a few feet, this could be a reason for concern.
What to do if the pool is in shambles and needs to be re-plastered and restored? The good news is the homeowner knows this and their Realtor has had to talk with them preparing them for the consequences. Listen and be fair; Try to not let the homeowner re-plaster the pool and don’t go get the most expensive re-plaster bid you can find and demand they lower the price of the home to make up for it. Reasoning; If the homeowner gets the pool re-plastered instead of lowering the price then it will be the cheapest bid they can find and usually shoddy workmanship leads to another re-plaster job a few years later all on you. Let’s be fair, they also shouldn’t pay for your dream pool to be added either. If they take the money from a fair bid and add it to an escrow account for you to spend on the pool this is your chance to upgrade to a better product like PebbleTech that will last you many years. You get a dream pool for a fraction of the cost. Win, win.
I hope this information gives you the knowledge that you need to make a vital decision on your journey further. I hope you got a screaming deal on your home purchase and I pray for years of fun and safety in and around your new swimming pool. Visit me at www.elitepoolcare.com for all your pool supply needs knowing that you will only get what I recommend after 18+ years in the trade. You saved money doing your pool inspection so don't throw it away on pool nets and supplies that are just going to fall apart. Visit my YouTube channel @HappyPools for more training videos.
Please watch my DIY Swimming Pool Inspection video for further insight.
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