Newbie with many pool Qs

gfxguruJuly 6, 2011

Hey all,

Brand new to the forums. I have been reading over dozens of pages of posts searching for some answers. Great stuff here.

My wife and I are in Mesa, Arizona (Phoenix suburb) and are looking to put a pool in very soon. We have visited three PBs including Shasta, California and Presidential. Right now, it seems to be down to Shasta and Presidential. For anyone in the PHX Metro, would you recommend one over another or a different PB altogether?

We are looking at a simple play pool, about an 80 perimeter with a built in table and baja deck. It will be free form and roughly 14' x 24" at its longest points. Depth from baja deck/table to other end would be a 3' x 5' x 4' with a small bench on the 4' side. 18" wide acrylic decking.

On to the pool questions.

1. Plaster finish. As we like to 'play' in or pool (volleyball/basketball/etc), we really like the smooth finish. The parents have PebbleTec and it is rough on the feet. My sister has plaster which you can run around in all day. Is plaster still a good way to go? I see they have an upgraded plaster now that is supposed be stronger than the plaster of old and last longer. I have heard of PebbleTec Fina, however I imagine the cost difference might be substantial.

2. Water features. We are really just looking for a basic starter type pool. However, after having looked around, I like the look of the waterblade. Are these a fairly inexpensive feature versus something like a waterfall or bubbler fountain in the baja shelf?

3. Pool cleaners. In ground or creepy-crawler? Again, worth the cost difference. My parents have the in-floor pop ups, the sister uses a crawler. It seems the crawler does just as good a job if not better to me. Don't the in-ground just seems to push the dust and dirt around more than anything? If there is one thing we get a LOT of, it's dust (very dry here in summer).

4. Heating. We cannot afford a built in heating system but are curious to learn more about Solar heating using the radiator layout on the tile roof where it cycles through the plumbing. They seem fairly common out here in AZ, just wonder if they are worth the investment or if they are any better than just getting a solar cover. Solar rings as well?

That's about all I can come up with for now. We are meeting this weekend to go over some designs which may introduce more questions.

I greatly appreciate any and all feedback/opinions from everyone.


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I will try to help some.

IIRC, your area has rather hard water. It doesn't take much to form scale under this situation. High aggregate finishes like PT and others are better able to tolerate acid wash/bath procedures that are used to clean off the scale deposits.

Don't expect any type of automated cleaning system to be able to cope with what happened in Phoenix the other day. They work well with keeping a clean pool clean. They won't clean a dirty pool. That requires manually vacuuming.

In floor systems, when properly designed and installed work quite well but when they break, it's a major PITA and can be expensive to fix.

Robots, such as Aquabot and Prowler are plugged in. The cord gets twisted all the time. The can be heavy to pull from the pool. They are very effective. Repairs can be costly. While belts and bags are relatively cheap, motors are expensive.

Most pressure cleaners, such as a Polaris 280, Legend, require a booster pump. They are also highly effective and easier to remove from a pool. Most people can do the repairs on their own.

Suction side cleaners are the slowest. There are various designs, some looking like pressure side units, some that look like the traditional Kreepy Krawly with the round, blue mat and some with different designs entirely.

Since water is a fairly expensive commodity, many people go with cartridge filter systems. Often, PB put a T fitting with a hose bib on the pump's discharge. A 3-way valve is better in that in addition to being able to lower the pool when over full, it can seal off the filter and allow manual vacuuming without gunking up the filter cartridges. The people in Phoenix are learning about this feature now.

A solar cover's primary job is to stop evaporation, not to heat the pool. The same is true for the rings, they just fit free forms better. Stopping evaporation stops the vast majority of heat losses to the atmosphere at night.

A roof top solar heating system in your area is free heat. While the initial outlay is a bit pricey, if you want warmer water, it can't be beat, assuming you use quality panels and have an experienced installer. A southern exposure is a must so the sun will hit the panels more directly. They can also cool the pool by running the system at night.



    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 7:28PM
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Try and get a hold of 'natural one' or 'just-a-pb'. You can find them on this site. And say thanks but no thanks to Shasta.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 9:51AM
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Thank you for the replies.

@neilaz, we did end up choosing Shasta. It was either Shasta or Presidential and in the end there was quite a strong bond and they seemed to be the most interested in us as a client. To this point, their customer service has been top notch and above many other experiences I've had with purchases, large or small. I know there have been reviews that state they are horrible, however, I have seen just as many good on many PB's in the area. I'll follow up after the whole process is done. At least with the economy in the tank yet and no one putting in pools the way there were 5 years ago, we know we should at least have the most skilled, experienced people working on our project.

@poolguynj - thank you for the extended feedback. We ended up going with a Quartz plaster (we just love the smoothest finish) as we do play a lot of games in the pool. I know it will all come down to keeping the proper chemical balance of the water. A co-employee has a plaster pool from the same company we have chosen and it is now 20 years old, just starting to show signs of rough spots.

We also added the in-ground cleaner as the neighbors have a huge pine tree that dumps all it's needles all over the yard. Plus, we figured we can always add a 'Kreepy Krawly' hose filter if need be. It was easier than not being able to add the other. We did stay with the cartridge system as it seems the easiest to keep and maintain. We also are going to give the solar rings a shot. It looks like 8-10 should cover the majority of the surface and many people and places do highly recommend them.

We also looked into the roof solar system which will probably be a 'down the road' purchase as they quoted between $4-7k. As our home faces N/S, the W side of the roof would probably work best as it gets the majority of the really hot afternoon and evening sun when things really heat up here in the desert.

I appreciate the feedback, as this is all new to us, it is both exciting and scary at the same time. The paperwork has been filed today and we look to be about 2 weeks away from dig. Plenty to do before then with landscaping and perimeter walls to take down, but really looking forward to having a pool of our own we can enjoy.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 2:34AM
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You say "a co-employee has a plaster pool from the same company we have chosen and it is now 20 years old". The problem with that is they no longer put asbestos in plaster like they did 20 yrs ago. Expect yours to get "rough" in half the time.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 9:49AM
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If I get 10 years out of it, I will be happy. I really only expected 5-10 years so anything more will be a bonus to me.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 4:07PM
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Now that you have had your pool with in-ground cleaner almost a year, I am really curious how the system did with the pine needles. Everyone says they are good for dirt and dust, but I live on a wooded lot and want some feedback on how well they perform on leaves, twigs, acorns and pine needles. Thanks for an update!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 2:29PM
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magnolia_girl, I haven't seen a wheeled sweep or robot that couldn't deal with pine needles or leaves. Some twigs and acorns will need to be gotten manually with a net. I use a scoop net, not a skimming net.

Acorns can leave brown stains if left too long. Try to get them quickly. The stain will fade with exposure to chlorine but it can take some time and they are not permanent.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 7:10AM
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