How to Work As a Swimming Pool Tech

In looking back at one of my past careers, it occurred to me that no one has ever seemed to write a definitive article on swimming pool maintenance from the point of view of the Pool Tech. Water chemistry is a science by itself but most people in the pool business know that there are two main chemical tests for swimming pool water and those are Chlorine level and Acidity (PH). When a pool man enters the yard he must be ready to deal with three main issues – chemicals, cleaning, and circulation. Lack of chlorine will turn the water into an algae bed. Lack of proper acidity makes the chlorine useless. Loss of circulation and lack of sunlight on the plaster surface below the water causes algae. Everything has to be in proper balance. Chemicals, cleaning, and circulation (water flowability). Walking into a yard there are many things to consider. First, this is sort of a security position because you are entering someone’s private property. After a while you learn all about their kids, their pets, their plants that must be considered delicate, and any idiosyncrasies having to do with their property and pools system. The pool removal Sydney with no use of any chemical they can assure to let go of your pool once only.

What you must carry in the yard with you to do your job is usually an extension pole, a vacuum head, a vacuum hose, a leaf net, and a wall brush. You should also have a chemical test kit handy and a pump basket wrench to use for sticky plastic lids.

I will go through the entire process as I did while I worked as a swimming pool tech, when I arrived at a swimming pool – step by step.

When you have arrived at the pool, you lay your equipment down and look at the pool. How much of a problem is it? How fast will you have to move in order to get the pool cleaned safely and get on to the next one?

Wind is the enemy of the Pool Tech. Some times of the year the pool will look fabulous and you will be able to leaf out a few small particles and brush the steps the walls, and the floor (towards the drain) down. Sometimes following high winds and/or bad rain storms you will arrive and the pool will have lawn furniture and tree limbs in it. Some have vegetation problems constantly, created by trees or sloppy landscape crew members. You will have to learn how to measure the level of clean that the customer wants. You can only do what you can in a certain amount of time allotted for each pool on your route but some times the pool is a disaster and you must run late all week until they are all back to normal at least until you leave. The following are the steps I would suggest for anyone who cleans pools for a living.

1) It is time to empty all baskets for proper circulation. That means that with some pools I need to backwash the filter before and after I vacuum. Usually though, I will arrive at the pool, empty the skimmer baskets and set them on the deck. If there is an automatic pool sweep type cleaner it is best to remove it. Until you finish.

2) Then I need to make sure the system (circulation) is turned off and then will empty the pump basket near the filter. A lot of old plastic pump basket lids stick and it is necessary to use a pump basket wrench. If the pool has an older pump, sometimes it requires priming to turn the power back on and continue circulation. A small basket or large canister will serve to prime the pump if a hose isn’t close. As I turn the pump back on, the pump basket must be full of water enough to get the system working immediately. The water will then pass through the filter and plumbing to the pool and when I look at the water circulation, I will usually get some air bubbles coming from the pool returns so that tells me it is primed and running.

3) I check the pool tile and if it is covered with debris then I take the extension pole and attach the wall brush, then brush the tile at the water level quickly once around the entire pool.

4) Then Detach the wall brush for now, attach the leaf net to the extension pole, and leaf out the surface of the water first, then I get what bigger leaves and debris I can remove from the bottom with my net.

5) Now I detach the leaf net and attach the vacuum head. The vacuum hose must be attached to the top of the vacuum head and submerged in the water with the handle of the pole sticking out resting on the edge of the pool while you stretch out your hose.

6) With some pools there is an actual vacuum port (hole in the wall) for the hose to attach to but with most pools, I have to attach the hose to the skimmer suction plumbing hole, usually located in the back portion of the skimmer under the basket area. The hose must be full of water, almost submerged as sucking air will kill the prime in the pump. Usually I suck the water through the hose until it almost reaches the end, then submerge the hose and attach it to the skimmer.

7) Now I have to return to the extension pole handle, pick it up and vacuum the bottom of the pool. In most pools I like to start with the shallow end and work towards the deep end. With smaller pools that is all that is required, with the average pool, one vacuums the shallow end, the middle from the sides, and then the shallow end from that end of the pool, traveling in a circle around the pool. Each time you push the vacuum head forwards, then turn, pull back in another row, then step to the side, push forwards, turn the head, then then pull back, then step again. After a while one can judge just how far to step to align the line in the dirt on the bottom with the width of the vacuum head. At that point you can vacuum a pool in the dark without missing anything and leaving dirt stripes in the pool. It is similar to mowing a lawn. The outside wheels of the lawn mower overlap slightly to make sure you have perfect coverage. A vacuum head is used in the same way.

8) By now the entire bottom is cleaned, the tile is clean, and the pool is free of any debris. The only thing left to clean is the dust on the walls and steps. It is time to disconnect the vacuum head, roll up my hose and reattach the wall brush. brush down the walls (from the tile down) and steps, making sure that you cover everything that vacuuming didn’t get. Brushing on the edge of skimmers, steps, and ladders is important. Always be diligent about brushing all tops and front edges of the steps as algae will start there fastest. Be careful with any area of the pool that is in shade often, as that is also a prime place where algae will start.

9) Remove your wall brush and get your equipment ready to leave the yard (rolling up hose and collecting vacuum head, wall brush, and net connected to pole) and head back to the pump and filter area.

10) Turn off the circulation and empty the pump basket again. Backwash the filter. If the filter is D.E. (diatomaceous earth) the handle will usually be in the down locked position, if it is a sand filter, it will be in the upright locked position. Put the handle in the backwash position and turn the circulation on. Let it run for about a full minute. If there is a lot of dirt coming out you will need to let it run for a couple minutes, but be careful you don’t lower the pool water level too much. Also, if there is sand coming from the backwash hose, that usually means a lateral is broken and your pool filter will need to be repaired. Turn the circulation back on and look for dirt blowback into the pool. If clear and circulation has returned, it is back in prime. If it is a D.E. filter, then need to recharge the D.E. Use a container the size of a number ten coffee to fill the filter with D.E. and pour it into the skimmer as it is running, being careful to wipe the excess off with water and your hand. Make sure the majority of the D.E. is going down and then brush the rest in with your hand. If there is a pool sweep it should be replaced now.

11) The next step when you have finished completely with back washing is the last thing you do as you are getting ready to leave. Check the chemicals. Use your chemical test kit. Usually this is two or three parts. The average pool man uses 2 parts, using OTO and Phenol Red reagents (test chemicals).

A) OTO is for acidity and Phenol red is for Chlorine level. The chlorine level should be between 2.5 and 3.0. If it is a nice light yellow it is good. Darker yellow can be up to 5.0. This isn’t harmful to people but a pool inspector for the health department will close the pool until it goes down. If it looks orange or red it is much too high and you need to add water, turn on the aerator, or add some chemical such as algaecide until the chlorine level returns to a normal level before anyone should get into the swimming pool. Most average pools only need one tablet of chlorine a week during the winter and at least two tablets a week in the summer. I am in Phoenix, Arizona where there is a lot of sun light so the chlorine dissipates more quickly than in cooler climates.

B) The Phenol Red test should be between 7.2 and 7.6. At 8.0 or higher you should add at least one quart of acid to the pool (The acid has instructions printed on it usually as to how many quarts are necessary per how many gallons of water the pool contains.)and leave the circulation running for at least an hour while you are adding it and immediately afterwards to avoid staining the plaster.

12) The last step is to check and make sure everything is good before you leave. Make sure the backwash valve is in the right position. Make sure your equipment is all together and out of the yard. If the circulation needs to run on a timer instead of constantly, it needs to be returned to timer position so it will come on when the timer is set. IF you have added acid, even if there is a timer, you need to let it run for at least an hour, most clients can be told to shut it off and back to timer mode in an hour but if no one is home, you must leave the circulation running until the timer cuts it off on the next rotation.

Leave the yard, check the gates and latches, get in the truck and go to the next pool.

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How to Care For Your Pool Cue

Now that you’ve purchased your very own pool cue, and hopefully followed some of the advice from earlier articles before doing so, you’re going to want to take care of your investment. A good cue is relatively durable and forgiving, but all cues require care and a little bit of maintenance. We’re going to be talking about wood pool cues here, graphite and fiberglass sticks are virtually bulletproof and require somewhat less care. If you are into swimming pool removal Sydney it would be nice if you cleaned up after you get rid of the pool.

CASES. You are going to need a case in order to carry your new cue to the pool hall. I would think that would be obvious but yet I constantly see people coming in carrying their new cue in their hand. Come on now, you just spent your money and took the time picking out a pool cue that you love, but you can’t spring for some sort of case? Basic cases are vinyl or soft-sided material. These will protect your cue against minor drops and dings, but not much else. I highly recommend hard cases just because they offer so much protection. Some cases are tested by driving a car over them without damaging the cue inside! Your pool cue can take a lot of damage in your car, in your house, and even at your billiard hall so protect it as best as you can.

While we’re on the subject of transporting your cue – never leave your pool cue in your car, especially in the trunk! Wood is highly susceptible to temperature changes and to humidity, so avoid storing your billiard stick in your vehicle at all cost. The wood will expand and contract which could lead to warping, loose joints, and cracked points.

THE TIP. The tip of your pool cue (the part that hits the ball) is the most important part of the stick. You can shoot pool with a tree branch or a broom handle – or the most warped stick in the house, if the tip is solid and properly shaped you can play with it! No joking! Screw- on tips are a serious no-no, so don’t even go there. “Real” tips are glued on and come in a variety of hardness. Soft tips hold chalk better and are better for applying “English” but they wear out and mushroom quickly. Extremely hard tips last forever but need constant re-chalking. Some say they make for a more accurate shot as well. A medium hardness tip should be fine for most players. The tip must be able to hold chalk, so periodic scuffing is necessary. The roundness of the tip should be maintained with a shaper. Most players compare the roundness to that of a nickel, though some prefer the tightness of a “dime curve”. Shaping and scuffing too often will cause your tip to disappear quickly, so only shape and scuff when necessary. The sides of the tip should be even with the ferrule, not mushroomed out. Get yourself a scuffer/shaper and take care of that tip!

THE SHAFT. When you first purchased your pool cue the shaft was nice and smooth, and slid through your bridge hand ever-so-easily. That didn’t last long, did it? The sweat, oils, and dirt from your hand will gum up on your shaft very quickly, making it sticky and not so smooth. How do you prevent this, and how do you clean it up? First, you cannot do much to prevent this from happening aside from washing your hands often and keeping them clean and dry. Some people use powder, like baby powder, on their bridge hand and on the cue. A tiny amount of powder that has been thoroughly rubbed in to your hand is okay – it makes your skin softer, but powder should never be used as a lubricant. Wash your hands! Powder will cause your pool cue shaft to gum up more quickly, and powder ruins the felt on the pool table. Nothing looks worse or plays worse than clean green felt with white baby powder all over it because some idiot thought that they had to dump powder all over themselves in order to shoot better! It just ain’t so – so don’t do it. It is bad for your cue and bad for the table. Have some respect, huh?

Wiping the shaft of your pool cue down with a soft cloth in the course of play will limit the amount of crud that builds up on it. Not eating or drinking with your bridge hand is a good habit to get in to as well. Using a very light leather burnishing pad occasionally is a good idea. In time however, the pores in the wood of the shaft will become completely crammed full of dirt and oils and it will need a thorough cleaning. I’m going to tell you how I do it, just remember that if you screw up you could ruin your cue. Forever. The first step is to completely wipe down the shaft (not he ferrule) with a soft cloth and some rubbing alcohol. You don’t want to soak the wood with it, use just enough to clean the wood. Continue wiping with alcohol until you don’t see dirt on the cloth. The alcohol removes the dirt and oil from the wood and opens the pores of the wood. Now you want to just let it sit and dry for several hours. Now it’s time for wax! That’s right, I said wax. You need to use 100% carnauba wax for this. Car wax is fine, as long as it is 100% carnauba wax.

Just like waxing a car, apply a coat of wax with a soft cloth or applicator and let it dry to a haze. You cannot let it dry too long, just let it sit awhile and have some patience. Once the wax has dried thoroughly you’ll want to wipe it off – and immediately start working the shaft with a leather burnishing pad (or a plain piece of thick leather if you don’t have a burnisher – which you should have anyway). Wrap the leather around the shaft and stoke it up and down as fast as you can (yes, it sounds dirty). The more you rub and the faster you rub the hotter the wax will become, which allows it to work into the pores of the wood. When you are finished you will have a beautiful, smooth shaft once again – but you’re not finished just yet! You are going to need to run through all of the steps again, except for the alcohol part. Apply more wax, let it dry, rub the heck out of it, repeat until you have at least 3-4 layers of wax thoroughly worked into the wood. Now take care of the tip and go shoot some pool!

THE BUTT. The butt of your pool cue shouldn’t need much maintenance at all. Keep it clean and wipe it down with a soft cloth during and after play. Don’t hit things with it and don’t drop (or throw) it on the floor. The joints will loosen up, the wood will crack, and parts will separate if you do. Then you’ll have to buy a whole new cue.

“Dings” in the Shaft. Nothing is more annoying than working your pool cue through your bridge and feeling little “dings” in the wood. As hard as we try to take care of our pool cues these little dents always seem to show up – as if by magic. Here is a method I learned that will remove small imperfections from your pool stick’s shaft. First, you need to wipe the shaft down with rubbing alcohol just like in the paragraph on cleaning the shaft. This will open the pores of the wood. Next, find a spot where you can place the shaft where it will not roll, and where it won’t get bumped. Lay the shaft (horizontally) down with the dings that you want to remove facing up. Now, soak a very small piece of tissue with water and roll it into a ball (think miniature spitball) and place the tissue ball directly on the indented spot on the shaft. It is important that the tissue ball not be larger than the actual indent on the shaft. Let that set until it dries completely – what happens is that the wood in that one tiny area absorbs the water from the tissue and swells, bringing that spot level with the surrounding wood. In a perfect world the “ding” will have disappeared, but what usually happens is that the “ding” becomes a small “bump” – which is fine because bumps can be worked out with a burnishing pad fairly easily. Once you have all of your “dings” up to level or slightly above level it is time to wax the shaft. Follow the instructions above for the proper method to do this. Of course another way to remove dings and dents from your pool cue would be to take it to a professional, but where’s the fun in that?

NEVER USE ABRASIVES. Ever. Period. That means no sandpaper, no scouring pads, no wet/dry paper, nothing. If it was designed to remove wood than keep it far away from your pool cue! You never want to remove a layer of wood just to make it smooth – you want to clean the existing wood to maintain the shape, balance, and feel of the cue.

Your pool cue represents an investment on your part, so keeping it clean and in good condition will make it last a lifetime – now that’s a lot of pool playing!

Written by Steve Didier

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