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Pools, Hot Tubs and Spas

If your home has a pool, hot tub or spa, there are general requirements that should be considered to ensure the safety of the occupants. The following will assist you in evaluating your pool, tub or spa and associated items.

Checklist for Inspection

  • Check pool sides and bottom as well as the deck for cracks, tears, heaving, patches, bulging and peeling paint.
  • If there is a fence, evaluate if the gate latch is in operating condition.
  • Diving boards and slides should be securely anchored.
  • Check the condition of pumps and piping. Check for rust, noise and leaks.
  • Check functioning of pressure gauge. It may fluctuate (flutter) during operation. Filter needs to be cleaned when pressure reading has risen 8-10 psi above clean condition.
  • Check for electrical grounding system and ground fault interrupters.
  • Leaks in hot tubs: underneath, near inlet and outlet connections.
  • Pool should not be directly accessible from the house in most jurisdictions.

Pool Structure

In-ground pools should be designed to withstand the soil pressure on the sides and bottoms. They may be built of cast-in-place concrete, concrete sprayed onto a steel, reinforcing frame (gunite), vinyl liner on a structural frame, or fiberglass shell. sand or earth bottoms are generally not acceptable. Hairline cracks in concrete or fiberglass and small tears in vinyl may be repaired in most cases. Lowering the water level below the crack or tear is usually necessary. Large cracks may be serious, indicating soil movement or inadequate drainage. Professional advice should be sought.

Concrete pools should be painted every 3-5 years and re-plastered (Marcite) at 10-15 year intervals. Fiberglass may be patched, recoated, or covered with epoxy paint.

Pool Equipment

Pools and spas should have a circulation system consisting of a pump, one or more filters, and associated plumbing. There should also be a disinfection system, usually chlorination. The disinfection may be either on-line or batch. The pool equipment should be protected from freezing or capable of being winterized (drained). Some pool chemicals react violently and poisonously with one another; they should be stored carefully so that such accidents do not occur. Filters Pump operation under pressure and can be dangerous. There should be a pressure gauge and a means of relieving excess pressure.

Types of filters:

  • Membrane or cartridge type – Used for small pools, spas and hot tubs. Lowest initial cost. Cleaned by removing and washing off the accumulated fine material. Life is one to two seasons, depending on use. Becoming less popular because of the cleaning difficulty. Can remove particles down to about 20 microns.
  • Permanent media; Hi-rate sand – Consists of a tank (large, looks like a propane tank) with two openings. Tank is charged with fine white sand. If properly flushed and not allowed to get overloaded, a charge should last 4-6 years.
  • Sand filters are popular with commercial and home pools where it is desired to minimize the complications of keeping the filter clean. The sand is back-washed either through a filter to collect the fines (now a code requirement in most localities) or discharged to a sump or sewer (older installations). If a filter is used, it is removed, dumped, washed with a hose, and returned to the filter housing. Particle removal capability down to 12-15 microns.
  • Diatomaceous earth – Becoming more popular, but have a slightly higher initial cost than sand filters. Attraction is the clarity of the water. They filter out particles down to 1-3 microns. System consists of a cartridge with the outside coated with diatomaceous earth (an organic powder). When the system needs flushing, the earth, along with the accumulated fines, are washed out together and collected in a separate filter. Some units have a vibration device that redistributes the earth, allowing the filter to operate longer without back-washing. After back-washing, a new charge of earth should be added.

The circulation system should be capable of turning over all of the water in the pool every 8 hours (semi-public pools); 12 hours (residential pools); 2 hours (wading pools); or 1 hour (spas and hot tubs).

All electrical equipment should be protected by ground fault interrupters. Modern codes also require a separate grounding system for spas and hot tubs as well as pools. Ladders, stands, etc. are usually also grounded to the same line.

Pool Decks and Fences

Pool Decks

Decks of in-ground pools should be at least 4 feet wide. All walking surfaces (including steps and ladder treads) should be made of slip-resistant materials. Joints in pool decks should be kept caulked, and cracks patched to prevent water infiltration. Any crack with an elevation difference of 1/4″ or more across should be repaired by removing and replacing the slab section. Decks should slope away from the pool to keep ground water out.

Fences

All pools should be surrounded by a fence at least 4′ high. The gate should have a child-proof, self-closing latch, and be lockable. Above-ground pools sometimes have a raised deck; these should be guarded by a railing at least 27″ high.

Miscellaneous Requirements

  • All pools – There should be no protrusions, extensions or means of entanglement that could cause submerged entrapment of a bather. No parts should cause a cutting, pinching or abrasion hazard.
  • Hand holds around the perimeter, at intervals no greater than 4′, are needed wherever the depth exceeds 3.5′. The deck fulfills this requirement if the water level is no more than 12″ below it.
  • Residential pools – If the location of the change in the bottom slope nearest the shallow end is in water over 4.5′ deep, there should be a permanently attached and buoyed safety line 1′-2′ on the shallow side.
  • Steps or a ladder are needed at the shallow end if the depth there is greater than 2′. If the length of the pool exceeds 40′, steps or a ladder are required at the deep end, too. Two sets are needed if the width is over 30′.
  • Drains should be covered by a grating that is not easily removable by bathers.
  • Spas and hot tubs – Maximum water depth is 4′. Maximum depth of seat or bench is 2′. Steps, ladders, or recessed treads should be provided if water depth exceeds 2′. There should be a thermostat to control water temperature. Maximum temperature should not exceed 104°F.
  • General recommendations – Minimum recommended size for an outdoor pool is 16’x32′. Spas and hot tubs should have lockable covers. Good idea for pools, too. A surface skimmer system is recommended. There should be one skimmer per 2,000 sq. ft. of surface area.

Common Defects

  • Deck does not drain away from the pool
  • Movement, deterioration or inadequate deck members
  • Mars or damage on pool surfaces
  • No ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection
  • No ground/bonding
  • Leaks in equipment—hoses, fittings, heater
  • Spring board loose/broken
  • Slide not secured
  • Noisy pump
  • Filter inoperative
  • Pressure gauge broken
  • Torn, cut, punctured vinyl liner
  • Bulge in wall/bottom of pool
  • Water line indicates settlement or rise of pool
  • Water cloudy
  • Algae build-up on pool surface
  • Accessible from house
  • No or inadequate fence

Diving Boards and Slides

Very serious injuries can result from improper use of diving boards or installation of diving boards on pools not designed for them. An owner should consider liability exposure before installing a diving board.

The end of a slide should be no more than 20″ above the water, and there should be open water in front of the slide for a distance at least equal to twice the height of the slide.

Diving boards and slides should be securely anchored to the pool deck. They should also be oriented so that users do not run into one another or the sides of the pool.