Outdoor Recreation

5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Owning a Pool

I don't know what half of this does.
I don't know what half of this does. Photo by Bill Jacobus/Flickr
By the time I had bought my house, I had spent 20 years swimming in apartment complex pools. I thought that gave me a rough idea what dealing with them entailed, and I was so very wrong. Here are some nasty surprises I got as a first-time pool owner.

5. Covers Are Mostly Useless

We bought our house in March, and it had been tarped by the previous owner. I naively thought this meant that the pool was protected under there from both UV rays and debris. When I finally pulled it off around May, it was a stagnant pond filled with leaves and pollen. Unless you’re using a hard solid cover (and maybe not even then), the magic of microscopic life is still going to happen under there. I now know what the purpose of the cover really was: a way to save on pool maintenance by deceiving suckers like me.

4. Dear God, the Wildlife

As I started to bring my pool back into a usable state, I discovered just how much the local wildlife liked invading my little suburban swimming hole. While clearing the drain, a foot-long snake came slithering out. Other friends have told me they’ve found everything from birds to raccoons floating in their water. This morning, I found a bug I had never seen before in four decades living in Houston. All I know is that it was the size of a tangerine.

By the way, you can buy little floating escape ramps for the errant wildlife. It’s way better than fishing dead frogs out of the filter basket.

3. Ph is Very, Very Important

I thought, “What’s the big deal? You throw in some chlorine and you’re good!” People who have had their pools for a while and likely shaking their heads at me now.

Maintaining the Ph level of your pool is arguably the most important part of keeping it clean. Pretty much none of your other products will work right if the Ph isn’t balanced. I started off with the Ph way too low and brought into the good range thanks to a lot of store-brand baking soda. That helped me get the pool sparkling clean until the heat wave started. Now, I’m clawing it back down from too high because that makes your chlorine almost useless. Speaking of which…

2. *Shakes Fist at the Sun*

You know what else makes chlorine useless? Direct sunlight. Intense UV rays can degrade the efficacy of chlorine by 90 percent, which is bad considering how expensive the chemical has gotten. This string of 100-degree-plus days has been burning the chlorine out of my pool too fast for it to kill the algae. I’ve had to start adding it at midnight like an offering to a dark pool god.

1. Filter Cleaning

We had a pool briefly when I was growing up, but it was little more than a cement hole in the ground. I’d never really been exposed to modern filtration systems, so I didn’t know the joy of cleaning the big cylindrical filters.

As I fight algae-filled water, I’ve had to clean the filter up to three times a day. This involves wrestling the seals open, lifting out a giant tube swimming with dead plant life and bug legs, then spraying it with a water hose until the water runs clean. It’s a nasty business that usually ends in me being soaked and smelling like Swamp Thing’s twig and berries.

It’s worth it. Being able to swim whenever I want without dealing with other people is amazing. Plus, I’ve never found a filled diaper at the bottom of my pool, which is something. I’d get to enjoy it more if I’d known some of these things before I started.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner