Updated: May 28
A rebuild of our swimming pool has been underway since we closed for our harvest in October. What's that saying about the road to hell and good intentions? Ok, so it hasn't quite been Dante's Inferno but...
I had more than a couple of guests scratch their heads last year when I said we were going to rebuild Poggiosole's pool for the 2023 season. "The pool is fine!" I was repeatedly told. And in many ways it was. Still, dating as it did to 2006, some wear and tear was starting to show. Prior to re-opening last year we had updated the pool's chlorination system, but there were a number of other problems. The liner was detaching in several areas along the stairs and vertical walls and there was some staining and wrinkling visible near the drain. The skimmers remained effective but sometimes leaves, bugs and algae would accumulate in corners, both on the surface and at the bottom. These defects bothered me: if these were the problems I could see, I wondered what issues were hidden from view that might cause a failure during a time of peak demand like mid-summer.
In-ground pools look simple enough, but, precisely because they are in-ground, most of their workings and supporting infrastructure are out of sight. Fine enough if you want to pretend that your pool is just a giant, magically clean and sparkling tub of water, but sooner or later everything from jets to skimmers to pumps and filters, not to mention all the plumbing connecting them, is going to age to the point of failure.
In our case removing the old liner was enough to reveal that my concerns were not unfounded. Dozens of litres of water were trapped under and behind various sections of the old liner, and many more inside the volumes of the three descending concrete steps. The seal around of one of the jets that pushed filtered water into the pool had failed and a small portion of the water emitted by that jet had, over the years, found its way behind the liner and into the empty spaces below the concrete stairway. Also, considerable inferno-like rust had formed along portions of the pool's steel walls where exposure to the heat of the sun had been highest.
So our pool rebuild ended up being more extensive than planned 😬. The rust was wire-brushed away and the steel panels treated with rust-resistant paint optimized for galvanized steel. The concrete steps were drained and reinforced. While we were at it we adjusted their vertical spacing such that it will be easier for children and older folks to step in and out of the shallow end. The offending, leaky jet was removed and its water supply was diverted to two new jets set deeper in the water. The remaining two jets on the south walls were doubled to four and an additional three "daisy jets" were added to the pool's bottom to circulate water more evenly and prevent debris from remaining "stuck" in the corners. The drain was doubled too, for safety reasons: a single drain can result in dangerous amounts of suction; pools with single drains now fail safety inspections unless they are strictly for personal use, which ours is not. The underwater low-voltage halogen lamps were replaced with LED units, and the two original skimmers are now four. New plumbing was run to most of this added equipment, which meant cutting stonework and digging up much of the area surrounding the pool, which is the most manicured portion of our lawn. Although the earth has been put back, it's still a muddy mess.
I lost not a few hours of sleep as all this was going on. Was all the additional hardware worth the expense? Had the irrigation system surrounding the pool been irreparably damaged by the earth moving equipment? Had the standing water that ate away at the pool's steps and steel structure been entirely removed and the rust treated sufficiently so it would not continue? Had I turned in a total neurotic or was this a simple case of buyer's remorse? The company that did the work continued to reassure me and, admittedly, each time we spoke I felt a little better about having ordered all the work, which was completed between Christmas and New Year's when a new, non-slip (and darker) liner was affixed to the entire basin.
As I type, well water is slowly refilling the pool's 90+ cubic meter volume. If we get another couple of weeks of dry weather, we'll finish levelling out the ground around the stone perimeter, check and augment the irrigators as needed, and seed new grass by mid-February. "All will be well" I keep telling myself, but I may not believe it until our pool officially reopens and guests are happily splashing about. "The pool is fine! No need to change anything!" will be praise enough for our efforts.
Postscript, 28 May: Phew. We re-opened the pool in mid-April, about a month early, to allow time to test all the changes and improvements, resolve problems, and fully restore the surrounding lawn, still badly scarred, in March, from last fall's extensive digging. I'm happy to report that after much hand-wringing I'm very pleased with the result. And I'm not alone: several family members who witnessed my ups and downs and were initially skeptical of the new gray-colored liner, are now saying that the water color is beautiful, that everything looks cleaner and more put together than before. The final word will be our guests, but in a photo I made yesterday evening of my 7-year-old son Max at water's edge in a "Narcissus pose", things are looking very good indeed. Come see for yourselves ☺️