health conscious pool building

kerfuffle6March 4, 2014

We recently built our dream house, carefully choosing everything that went into it, due to concerns about health, maintenance, and durability. In other words, we checked out the components of all the tile, wall board, paint, stain, doors, countertops, etc. to make sure that nothing contained added formaldehyde or other dangerous chemicals, that nothing contained pesticides (Microban, which is classified as a pesticide, will probably be banned eventually by the EPA, but it is in so many products now!), that nothing was manufactured in China, etc. We also made sure everything was easy to clean and durable because we are essentially lazy and don't want to spend a lot of time cleaning and/or replacing stuff. Now DH wants a pool with a hot tub and a built-in cover. We have so many health-related concerns, as we don't want to expose our children or ourselves to harmful substances. I have searched the Internet, but I haven't found a good source of information on this topic. For example, what are the various basin linings actually made of? Do harmful chemicals leach into the pool water? Which is the "purest" material? Would we have to sacrifice durability to get it? What about decking material? What is the safest way to sanitize the water? Are all the pool covers made of vinyl (ick!)? Does the pool cover fabric actually come in contact with the pool water? If weather is a major factor in determining which materials we use, it should be noted that we live in the desert southwest. It is very sunny and dry year-round, 95+ degrees during the summer months, and we will use the pool for about six months of the year (mid-April through mid-October). Any suggestions on the most health risk-averse way to construct this pool and hot tub would be greatly appreciated.

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A few quick takes based on my own limited knowledge - I am not a builder, just a homeowner who has been learning about my new-to-me pool for the last few years. I'm sure you don't want to get into a drawn out discussion as to WHY your preferences are your preferences or debate their validity - so I'm going to look at this as if I were trying to build a pool that had the least "modern" interference on the assumption that we have adulterated so many things in our environment with substances that have short track records for safety that you'd like to use methods that are as pure as you can make them.

The shell of your pool can be constructed of many things - concrete (gunite or shotcrete are terms often used) covered with plaster is a common one here. Other finishes can be things like PebbleTec (plaster with pebble additives) or Quartz (plaster with quartz additives) which are added to the plaster for a more durable finish. Different colors are possible - you would need to research what the additive creates the colors and if you are comfortable with it. Other kinds of construction are steel walls or concrete walls with vermiculite bottom and vinyl finish. Or even fiberglass that is dropped into a hole in the ground! If I was aiming for a "less advanced, less man-manipulated" type of pool I would guess gunite with plaster is pretty simple and more natural than products like vinyl liners or fiberglass pools, but that's a gut feeling.

I sanitize my pool with chlorine bleach (from the grocery store) and use borax and baking soda to control other aspects of the pool chemistry. There are lots of ways to sanitize a pool, including a Salt Water Chlorine Generator (a machine that uses salt and a salt cell to manufacture chlorine and add to the pool - supposed to be a lower maintenance option, putting the pool more on cruise control).

Pool decks can be made of concrete, wood, stone, manufactured vinyl woods like Trex, and on and on. Again, I'd lean towards stone or concrete for environmental chemical concerns.

I haven't heard of a pool cover that isn't made of some sort of plastic base, but I don't personally have a cover to tell you if it touches the water all the time. I think in cold-weather areas, the cover rests on the water during the winter, helping to buoy up snow loads.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 6:04PM
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Hello kerfuffle6,

I'm sorry this has nothing to do with your pool questions but since you're health conscious and have researched about all the components that went into your dream home, I have a couple questions/concerns that hope you're familiar with.

We've recently built our home and after the first winter, I've noticed some unpleasant odor coming off of some of the doors (closet, bathroom). I've voiced the concerns to the builder and they did send out the quality manager to look into it. He sniffed the doors and then said there's no such smell. They left it as is and said if I could prove there's some toxic chemicals in the doors then they would further investigating it. By proving to them means I have to have the doors tested myself.

The smell was so bothersome that I have my husband removed all the doors and left them in the garage.
I'm not sure if it's just me or there's something in the paint/wood that is actually causing this problem.

Have you came across anything like this?

Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:32AM
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