Is It Time To 'retire' Your Swimming Pool?

This solar cover conceals the pool itself plus steps and water features and is secured by anchors that were installed into the pool decking.(Photo: Solar Safe Pool Covers)

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How often do you really use your swimming pool?

If you have children, maybe they splash around in it every day in summer. But if children aren't around, you might only use it once or twice a week in summer and never in the winter. Maybe you're not even here to swim in the summer. You go away for a long vacation or visit another house in another state.

So you might be wondering about whether to shut the pool down for a few months or even longer than that even if you live in your house full-time. There are some good options to consider for putting your pool into hibernation, and some of them are easier solutions than you might think.

The No. 1 idea to consider is a secure solar pool cover. Pool covers are a great buy all year long for a "retired" pool, even if you still plan to swim part of the year. The latest solar models on the market have a lot of advantages.

To begin with, the right solar cover can enhance safety in your backyard, a key issue for taking care of your pool when you're not at home. Many pool owners depend on fences around their pools to keep children from using the pool when an adult isn't around. But the truth is that fences can fall into disrepair, and children can climb fences when no one is there to stop them. So a really secure pool cover, particularly one with fasteners that anchor into the pool decking, can help keep those worries off your mind. A bubble wrap cover that simply rests on top of the pool and its edges is not secure enough.

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Secure pool covers also are essential if you want to put your pool into "hibernation" for a couple of weeks to six months or more. For example, if you're thinking of selling your home in a year or so, you can keep that pool covered up until just before putting it on the market when you want to clean it up and make it look attractive for buyers. Just make sure to keep the leaves and other debris swept off the top of the pool cover. You might want to run the pool filter once a week or so to keep the water clean.

A pool with water in it can actually hibernate for months as long as the pool chemistry is set at proper levels. The water will remain clear and safe to swim in later though some debris may have collected at the bottom of the pool. If you just leave it covered for a single season, you can throw chlorine in it and remove the debris and start swimming laps again.

But if you decide to let your covered pool sit a couple of years, you will probably want to drain and refill it before using it again.

These pool covers can be made to fit not only the pool but also to cover all the steps and water features connected with the pool. The cost generally ranges from $2,500 to $3,500 depending on the size of the pool. Buying a pool cover that you take off and on manually will be more work but less expensive than one that can be automatically rolled back.

All that might sound pricey, but because of the cover, you'll slow down on evaporation and reduce your water bill. You will save hundreds because you won't need to run the pump as often; you'll also save on buying chemicals. You might even reduce the amount of pool servicing. So the cover will quickly pay for itself — probably in a year or two. According to the U.S. Energy Department, a solar pool cover can reduce heating costs by 50 to 70 percent.

These savings will be greatly enhanced, of course, if you put your pool into hibernation under a cover.

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For those who want to keep swimming regularly, a solar cover will help keep heat collected from the sun in your pool. As fall comes, the cover will keep your pool at 80 degrees for several more weeks than is usually the case — without using your heater. In the spring, you can start using your pool sooner and use your heater less. Although pool covers come in several colors, Tom Bohner of Solar Safe Pool Covers in Phoenix told us that the most energy efficient covers are dark green; they absorb more sunlight.

How about covering the pool with a deck? Maybe you want to do more than shut down your pool for a season or two. You want more outdoor living space in your backyard, but you're not ready to tear out the pool completely. In that case, you can have a deck built over the pool using composite lumber to cover the pool. The deck will sit on top of a structure of wooden beams built inside the pool.

First, the pool is drained and utilities are turned off. A pump is installed to remove rainwater. The whole structure is ventilated so the shell of the pool can breathe. The pool remains intact, and at a future time, the deck can be removed and the pool can be reused, although it may need some repair work first.

Consider removal instead of hibernation: If you're really tired of pool maintenance, you can retire a pool completely, of course. The price will vary based on the size of the pool and on whether a bulldozer and earth-moving trucks can access your backyard. Typically, the cost will be more than $10,000 if you want to tackle this job. You will also need a county permit.

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The simplest and easiest process begins with draining the pool and closing down the utilities. It can be done by removing the decking around the pool and the top 2 or 3 feet of the pool walls. Then a large hole is made in the pool bottom that is filled with an aggregate base of crushed rock to provide future drainage. All the material removed from walls is pulverized and becomes part of this base. Throughout the process, the material has to be compacted. Finally, top soil is brought in to cover the site and the area is graded so that the homeowner can put in a new patio or landscaping.

The problem with the method as we've just described it, though, is that the pool is not completely gone. If you sell the house, you have to disclose the fact that part of the pool is still under the yard.

To avoid any future issues, you might want to ensure that the entire pool and all the debris is removed. It's more costly to do, but that way you or any future owner can build a guesthouse or another pool on the site with no fear of construction problems.

Next week: We'll talk about living with pets in the desert — everything from protecting your pets and making life in your house more comfortable for them to protecting your house from your pets.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Rosie on the House radio program heard in Phoenix from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3). Call 888-767-4348.

Source : http://www.azcentral.com/story/life/house-garden/2014/09/16/time-retire-swimming-pool-rosie-romero/15731295/

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