The Basics of Pool Inspection
A swimming pool is always a major factor in the purchase of a home. Few people are indifferent about a pool, either you really want one or you don't. And if you do lust after a pool, what you don't want are surprises in code violations, construction flaws or maintenance mistakes.
Real Estate agents loathe pool inspectors. Agents deal in dreams, inspectors look for nightmares. An inspection will almost always give the buyer bargaining chips in price negotiations or blow the deal altogether. At best, a Realtor only can hope that an inspection will not impact the price (and sales commission) too badly.
The first thing an inspector might run into is a fence or screen. A pool fence in Florida must be 48" tall with no horizontal or vertical gaps more than 4". On a fixed fence, there must be at least one self-closing gate and all locking hardware must be at least 40" above deck level, where a child can't reach it. Web (removeable, 'child-proof') fences are acceptable in most areas as a stand-alone fence, so long as both ends are permanently anchored to a solid object (wall, screen enclosure or deck).
(photo right) Where there is a screen enclosure, sight along the center support. Anything less than straight and horizontal demonstrates ground settlement; in this case, quite severe.
The first thing I look for in a pool is the water level. If the level is not close to the middle of the skimmer opening, I assume there's a leak problem. Then I check the skimmer. If you see a pool putty repair or old pencil lines , there has been a leak problem. If you see multiple layers of pool putty, the leak has either not been located or the problem is re-occuring. If there's a hose running into the pool or fresh pencil lines, I know there's a bad leak problem happening right now.
Take a look at the tile. Look for missing and cracked tiles or wide gaps in the grout, all signs of deck movement. What may seem like icicles growing out of the grout is a sign of long-term chemical imbalance or dirty grout, a serious lack of competent maintenance.
Is the pool water the color of pea soup? You may have to partially drain the pool to get a look at the surface. How can you safely drain a pool in any area? We show you how.
(photo, left) Does the spa spill-over lean to one side and how tough is this to fix?
Look at the pool surface with the equipment 'off'. An old Realtor's trick is to have filtered water flow rippling the surface so imperfections are difficult to spot. Look for areas of missing plaster or cracks in the surface, especially a vertical crack under the skimmer or anything radiating out from the main drain. Such cracks are either cosmetic or structural, depending on whether or not they leak .
Examine the deck. Check plastic Deck Drain and expansion joint for cracks or splintering, the first sign of deck movement or cracks in the slab wide enough to fit a quarter into, a sign of settlement. A dark spot usually means a 'birdbath', something that the owner has been fighting on a weekly basis, but not really so tough to repair.
Look over the equipment. Notice any rust? Is there a salt generator and is it working? Is the equipment covered? Covered equipment last 3X longer than equipment exposed to the elements. Any water leaks at the equipment? Open the electric breaker box. Are the breakers original and aged? Is the light breaker GFI (push to test) or the antiquated 115 volt with a 12 volt transformer? Turn the light 'on'. Does it light? There may be a switch inside the house that controls the pool light, but if the light breaker is 'off' chances are that the light also needs serious attention.
(photo right) Or is some of the equipment missing? An angry homeowner will take just the motor, a pool person will take pump, motor and electric conduit and the valve and filter. That's where the money is. Find out what it will cost you to replace what's missing and how much of it you can re-install yourself.
Turn the pump 'on'. What noises do you hear? No sound may mean the main panel breaker feeding this sub-panel is 'off'. A 'hum' is not good, but may be easy to fix. Bad bearings make a grinding sound, air leaks make a turbulent sound in the strainer basket. Does the pressure gauge on the filter work? Probably not, most pool gauges don't work more than about a year. Does the flow dramatically increase when you by-pass a sand or DE filter? This will tell you that the filter requires immediate attention.
What problems can you ignore and what are the deal breakers? What can you fix yourself and what problems require an expert? These are the hints, tips and tricks that fill our latest 80 page I Need It Now pdf file delivered straight to your computer or e-reader.
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