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My specialties are:
* Swimming pool construction defects
* Solar pool heating
* Swimming pool service
Here are just a few reasons to consider me in your next case involving pools, spas or solar heating:
* Over 20 years in swimming pool construction.
* 2000 pools constructed
* Bachelors and Masters degrees in engineering.
* Excellent verbal and writing skills.
* Over 25 years college level teaching experience.
* Qualified in California, Colorado and Kansas.
* Excellent references
The Importance of Swimming Pool Inspections
By Richard "Rick" English. (This article appeard in Realtor magazine July 2001
Here are some facts that you probably did not want to know about swimming pools:
I've known most of these facts for decades. But the true impact never hit me until I shifted my career focus from pool construction to close-of-escrow pool inspections. As I did more and more inspections I saw some strange things. REALTORS may want to know some of these facts to share with anyone involved in buying or selling the home with a pool.
1. Less than half of the pools in San Diego County are built by a licensed pool contractor.
When I got into the pool construction business in the '70s, I started reading building permits to see how my competition was doing. I noticed one competitor named "Owner Builder" who was outselling all of us. When I looked up "Owner Builder" in the phone book, there was no listing. I discovered that this meant that the homeowner was building the pool himself. Usually they hire a consultant. Sometimes the consultant is knowledgeable. Some subcontractors have a field day with owner builders - they like to get paid in cash and leave no paper trail for a construction defect attorney (or an IRS agent) to follow. This creates a lack of accountability. If a latent defect appears years later, who is at fault? How can we prove it? How can we be sure about the quality of work under all those tons of concrete and water?
2. The building inspector does not inspect residential pool plumbing.
A pool is a closed system that never connects to your potable water supply. A few building inspectors will demand to see a pressure check to make sure the lines don't leak. But they never check to see if the lines are sized correctly. They do inspect the size and viability of the gas line to the heater. The half-inch pool refill line is also inspected since it connects to the potable water supply.
3. In most cities a soils report is not required to get a swimming pool permit.
Boilerplate pool contracts state the homeowner guarantees the soil has the correct load-bearing capacity and the soil is not expansive. The contractor (or owner builder) obtains a permit using boilerplate engineering. The engineer's drawing states that the design is for soils with certain load-bearing and expansive characteristics. That's it. In the last 10 to 15 years some cities have been a little more demanding, but the vast majority of pools are built with no soils tests whatsoever.
4. In most cities the thickness of the gunite walls is NOT inspected.
(Gunite is short for pneumatically applied concrete.) The inspector checks the distance between the steel reinforcing bars and the earth, which should normally be three inches. If that standard is met, the inspector releases the pool for gunite. The only way that the inspector could know how much material is on top of the steel (i.e., between the steel and the water) is to actually watch the entire gunite operation or by drilling samples. (One municipality does send out an inspector who stays on site for about 15 minutes of the four-hour gunite operation.) Most of us have seen pools with rust spots, caused by not enough gunite on top of the steel. This problem is so widespread that at least two firms derive their entire livelihoods from fixing rust spots in pools.
5. The subcontractor mixes the gunite on site with no regulation.
If concrete (or gunite) is ordered from a batch plant, the amount of sand, cement, rock, water and other additives are certified by a weighmaster. But when gunite is applied to a pool, a delivery of sand and cement is made to the site. The product is mixed right there in the rig. It always frightened me to see the gunite subcontractor take cement home at the end of the job. Wasn't that supposed to go in the pool?
6. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) did not approve swimming pool standards until 1991.
Until then there was no universal standard for most components of pool construction. There were inspections of the steel and the electric and gas lines, to be sure. But what about whether the pool is deep enough for a diving board? How many skimmers should it have? What size pump should it have? How many pipes should go back to the pool? What size plumbing should be used? None of these issues were addressed by any standard. The builders and owners mixed and matched and tried various combinations for over 40 years. Most of the pool plumbing I see is undersized. It does not meet industry standards. And even today there is no agency that enforces existing standards. The ANSI standards were actually developed by the National Spa and Pool Institute. They had been available for several years, but compliance was strictly voluntary. It still is today. The difference is that now builders cannot plead ignorance in litigation that might ensue from lack of adherence to the standards.
7. Thousands of pools have never had a final inspection.
Until the late '70s the final inspection was done when the pool already contained water. The inspection mainly addressed fencing. The happy customer was swimming and the happy builder had been paid. So the builder would tell the homeowner to notify him when the homeowner had finished the fences and gates. Naturally, both forgot. Around 1980, cities realized that more than 50,000 pools had been installed and a significant number had not been finalized. So most municipalities started doing a final inspection before the pool was plastered and filled, but even then some pools got filled without one.
After the builders did their damage the pool service people took over. They changed pumps and filters, heaters and lights. They installed boards and slides. They seldom obtained permits. Until recently the only certification required for the pool service profession (which requires handling some deadly chemicals) was a driver's license. While there are many excellent pool service people, there are also many who are not so well educated.
REALTORS might want to share these facts with their clients who are buying or selling properties with pools. Clients may want to consider working with a qualified pool inspector to protect themselves from potential safety and liability risks. A few property inspectors perform limited inspections for a nominal fee in which they check for proper equipment operation and any visual structural or safety problems. A pool inspection specialist can perform a much more detailed inspection for a higher fee in which he disassembles the equipment, checks equipment specifications, performs pressure checks and makes cost estimates for fixing defects. This is especially recommended for very unusual or unique pools and spas, and for general peace of mind.
Rick English was president and general manager of Padre Pools from 1977 to 1998. The firm built about 100 pools per year. He serves on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Chapter of the Assocuation of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) nd is an affiliate member of California Real Estate Inspectors Association (CREIA). Rick is also an affiliate of the National Plasterer's Council (NPC). He holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Rutgers University and a Masters of Engineering from the University of Arizona (U of A) , and has been a part-time lecturer at San Diego State University (SDSU). since 1975. You can reach him at English Consulting at 800-864-7946 or Click here to email Rick