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Pool Safety & Inspection: What's Below the Surface?

By: Trevor Sherwood
Tel: 732-451-1040
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Everyone knows when you buy a new home that it needs to be inspected by a professional home inspector. But, what should you do about the pool in the backyard? Unbeknownst to many homebuyers and sellers, the pool needs a professional inspection in order to make sure that it is safe enough for your family to enjoy.

Whether you are buying, selling or even inspecting a home, the swimming pool can be a very overwhelming entity. Most people just think a pool is just a vessel of water in which to swim, but there is more much below that surface that you need to be aware of when it comes to pools. Swimming pools can provide entertainment, exercise and health benefits, if they are operating properly.

A residential pool inspection is for those aspects of the pool/spa and related equipment, which are observable by visual external inspection from the ground surface. The components that are inspected are structural, mechanical, water quality and safety issues.

One of the more expensive features of a swimming pool is the structure itself. An inspection will let you know that your pool structure is sound and intact. You want to make sure that any pool tiles, coping, joints and decking are secure and haven't experienced any freeze/thaw damage from the winter season. Also, you want to make sure that your pool's interior finish is in good repair and not showing signs of deterioration.

The mechanical components of the pool are what move the water through the lines and keep things operational. You want make sure that the pumps and filter are properly sized, and allowing the optimal flow of pool water throughout the system. The piping and valves need to be inspected to ensure no visible leaks and valves are operational. You can also have your pool lines pressure tested to determine if there are any underground leaks.

While easily replaceable, time clocks, switches and gauges are items that tend to break fairly easily and need to be inspected to make sure they are operational. If your pool has a chemical feeder, you want to make sure it is feeding the proper amount of chemical into your pool. In addition to the initial inspection, heaters are items that need to be inspected annually as debris that gathers in it can render it in operational.

For sanitary concerns at your pool, water chemistry needs to be balanced at all times. You need to make sure that your pool has adequate alkalinity and pH levels both for the pool's mechanical components and bather comfort. You need to allow maintain proper sanitation levels, such as bromine or chlorine. With the advent of recreational water illnesses on the rise, maintaining proper sanitation levels is a must.

When you think of a swimming pool, safety is always a top concern. There are many safety features that pools have that if aren't in good repair can put your family in harm's way. Ladders and handrails need to be secure for entry and exit. You want to make sure that your gates and fencing meet your town standards when you have a pool. Recently, law has mandated the fencing surrounding a pool needs to be five feet high and gates are both self-closing and self-latching.

A major issue that has made headlines in the pool industry and public news alike is entrapment issues. Entrapment occurs when a person is entrapped to the vacuum flow as created by the pump. Individuals can become entrapped on any suction component of the pool, such as main drains, vacuum lines or skimming lines, either by way of hair, limb, body, evisceration or mechanical entrapment. By making sure the main drain and skimmers are operational and secure, you can prevent entrapment concerns at your pool.

In December 2007, after a highly publicized entrapment event, federal regulation was passed know as the Virginia Graeme Baker Safety Act. As of December 20, 2008, it will be against federal law to make or sell a drain cover in the United States that does not comply with ASME/ANSI 19.8. Thus, all new residential construction as of December 20, 2008, must comply with the federal law. There are additional safety measures that can be implemented at residential pools to prevent entrapment such as installing a safety vacuum release. A vacuum release system is capable of providing vacuum release at a suction outlet caused by a high vacuum occurrence due to a suction outlet flow blockage. Entrapment is a cause of drowning that can be prevented through these new measures.

At your pool, you need to make safety a top priority. By following state laws, federal regulations and using common sense, you can ensure a safe and fun season for all who use your pool.

Trevor A. Sherwood II has extensive experience in the swimming pool industry, with over 20 years of experience in service, consulting, training and education, code regulations, development and expert witness. He has contributed to aquatic textbooks and related articles, influenced State Recreational Bathing Codes and national conference presentations. He has provided leadership to such organizations as National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), Northeast Spa & Pool Association (NESPA), Community Association Institute - New Jersey Chapter (CAI), New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA), New Jersey Parks and Recreation Society (NJPRS), Pennsylvania Parks and Recreation Society (PRPS) and New Jersey and Massachusetts Health Departments. He has been retained by attorneys for both Plaintiff and Defense.

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