Sink or Swim: Handling Pool Maintenance for your Property

A qualified and certified pool maintenance specialist is always a good resource to have in a property management company’s cache. The right service will keep a property’s pools and spas in tip-top shape throughout the pool season or year-round.

However, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup. Training maintenance technicians – and even front-office staff – how to quickly check a pool and/or spa for sanitizer level and water balance is good depth on the bench. And even for those properties that handle pool maintenance in-house, ongoing training and pool operations certification is essential.

Handling Pool Maintenance for your Property

Not every state or county requires pools be maintained by a certified pool operator (CPO), but properties that mandate it from their service companies or require it from in-house technicians are covering their bases.

Maintaining proper sanitation and chemistry balance is critical and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially during warm temperatures a peak usage. An improperly maintained pool or spa can become costly and a liability for the property, say pool and health experts. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), people who get in pools and spas can spread germs that cause sickness. Proper pool chemistry helps eliminate the spread of sickness through human fecal matter, which contains germs like Cryptosporidium, Norovirus, and E. coli.

Chemically unbalanced pools and spas or hot tubs will quickly get the attention of the health department.

Understanding water chemistry is key to maintain good pool/spa health

Bonnie Whelan, regional director of national accounts for Wilmar, taught Pool Operator Certification (CPO) courses for about 20 years and says maintaining proper water chemistry is not as simple some may think but it’s not that hard to learn.

The right chemistry is not only critical to maintaining resident safety but also preserving the operational life of the pool/spa finish and equipment. Chemical imbalances can be corrosive or cause scaling to form on equipment, as well as the finish and grout lines of the pool/spa.

The first step to proper pool chemistry health is knowing the true pool/spa water volume, Whelan says. Pool operators should be mindful of proper balances of sanitizer, ph, calcium, total alkalinity and Cyanuric acid levels based on the number of gallons of water in the pool.  Water volumes dictate how much chemicals should be added based on use.

DPD test kits are a requirement of most health departments but simple 5-in-1 test strips can also be used to quickly test sanitizer and chemistry levels that can change rapidly during high temperatures and bather use. Depending on how heavily the pool is used, tests should be done morning and evening and during peak access times — even more often for spas/hot tubs due to the small volume of water per bather.

Pool Property Management

When levels are off, sanitizing is compromised and equipment gets damaged

A lot of times, Whelan says, do-it-yourself pool maintenance goes awry when it gets handed down as technicians come and go at properties.  If none of the technicians have proper training, the chemistry could become out of balance because the message gets lost in translation.

Because they may not get checked as frequently as necessary, spas and hot tubs are at a bigger risk for contamination. The warm water temperatures, if not maintained, serve as a breeding ground for spreading germs. Water should be tested every hour or at least three times per day.

Also, Whelan warns that water in pools, spas or hot tubs that smells like chlorine is not — as commonly believed — signs that the chlorine level is high.  To the contrary, red-eyed swimmers, and strong chlorine odors indicate high levels of “combined” chlorine or “chloramines.”  This is chlorine that has combined with ammonia nitrogen compounds (urine and perspiration) and is no longer an effective sanitizer.

To help maintain safer swimming environments, properties should advise residents to forego using water amenities if they are sick or recently have been sick. Providing a showering station for washing off perspiration before entering the pool, spa or hot tub could be a wise investment, Whelan says.

Designate a CPO on the property even if pools are professionally serviced

Whelan recommends that office staff be trained to test pools for proper chemistry levels. This comes in handy when the maintenance staff may be too busy to swing by the pool.

For properties that want to take care of their water amenities, Whelan recommends designating certain staff to rigorously maintain these areas. That starts with proper training. And even if a pool service is used, having, at least, one maintenance team member designated as a CPO is good insurance.



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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