Supplement Feature - May 2022
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How Refreshing!

Aquatic Renovations Bring New Life to Old Pools

By Dave Ramont


Starting from scratch when it comes to commercial swimming pool construction can come with some serious sticker shock, and this option—although pleasing to consider—is often just not feasible. But for communities, schools, fitness clubs, camps, hotels and other entities that have existing pools that may be outdated or simply worn out, there are smart renovation strategies that can breathe new life into these perceived relics.

Generally speaking, pools become obsolete, which is why operators consider investing more money into them, according to Kevin Post, principal with Counsilman-Hunsaker, a design, planning and operations firm working in the aquatics industry. "When you have an existing pool and you're looking at updating it or replacing anything that's going to improve operations, there are two sides that we look at on the renovations: It can be physically obsolete, as well as functionally obsolete.

"Physically obsolete, that's the equipment side," he continued. "The pumps, filters, motors—they're not meeting current health codes, maybe they're rusted and corroded, and when it comes to renovation, that's a good time to replace that equipment."

A lot of facilities look at making their mechanical systems more sustainable, and newer technologies are aiding this pursuit. "You can get higher-efficiency pumps and heaters, use higher-end filters that use less energy. There's an opportunity to get some cost savings, as well as fix ongoing issues like leaks or anything that makes the pool operate better."

Post said the biggest mechanical trend they're seeing is venues upgrading their sand filters. "After 20 or 25 years, a lot of those filters need to be replaced, so a lot of people are looking at upgrading to regenerative media."

Chemical controllers are another common upgrade, with new technologies enabling them to become part of many mechanical room functions, according to Post. "(They) give you the ability to remotely monitor your systems, get alerts, (know) when your filters need to be backwashed, when your heater's turned on or off, what your chemical levels are… it's really come a long way. Indoors, they can even be tied into building management systems, monitoring air quality and helping to improve building efficiencies. There's all sorts of technology out there to integrate the equipment now."

Secondary disinfection systems—such as ultraviolet (UV) or ozone—have become very common indoors, and Post said they're often being added during renovations as part of the mechanical room.

And what about other differences in indoor versus outdoor pools? "Outdoor pools, because they're exposed to the atmosphere, exposed to wintertime, the sun and UVs, they seem to need renovations sooner on the pool structure side, where indoors we see that they need mechanical upgrades sometimes sooner because they're run year-round."

Looking at pool interiors, Post said the most common is still concrete with a plaster finish, which has been used as a pool surface for decades. It's also economical, with the plaster typically needing replacement after 10, 15 or even 20 years. When replastering, surface preparation is critical for ensuring good adhesion of the plaster to the pool base. Typically, this involves ultra-high-pressure water-jetting, or hydro-blasting, to remove all layers of paint coatings and deteriorated materials. And while traditional white plaster is most common, many colors are now available, as are aggregate coatings including quartz and pebble.

Other interior options include a modular stainless steel panel system laminated with a layer of PVC that's meant to be mounted onto an existing concrete structure. "This way you get a brand-new pool built inside of the old, existing pool. You don't have to demo the old pool so there's a lot of cost savings involved," said Post.

Another system utilizes a reinforced PVC membrane, and Matthew Sands, who works for an Indiana-based manufacturer and supplier of refurbishment products, said these systems are frequently used for commercial renovations. "The membranes can be installed over any existing material after properly cleaning and disinfecting the pool surface. Any previous pool surface materials, such as tiles, for example, don't need to be removed in most cases as the membrane goes right over these surfaces for a faster, easier renovation."

"Commercial pool membranes for an older pool offer some compelling and affordable solutions," said Jason Mart, owner of an Indianapolis company that specializes in pool renovations, developing, manufacturing, supplying and installing aquatic products. "Every pool employs PVC piping throughout because of its reliability and durability. A membrane adds those same desirable factors to the pool interior. We protect the old concrete from the damaging effects of chlorinated water that can permeate existing concrete. It prevents water intrusion, eliminates leakage and minimizes freeze-thaw damage. That what we do. We extend the life of a pool by eliminating water intrusion."