As a pool and spa professional, you learn very quickly that people are "funny" about their swimming pools. Perhaps it's due to the relatively high cost of pools, or perhaps it's due to the tenuous operational understanding that most pool owners have, but you must choose your words wisely when speaking to people about their beloved swimming pools. When I say, "It looks like there might be some damage to the pool," some pool owners hear, "Your pool is broken and you're going to go bankrupt and lose the house."

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As a result, swimming pool pros know that there are certain things that we can say and certain things that we should avoid saying. Pool owners, on the other hand, know no bounds. They will say exactly what comes into their heads, no matter how crazy. Here are just a few of the senseless things pool owners say that pool professionals hate to hear:

 


 

"I have a pool party this weekend..."

Really, you don't say. Let me guess, the party is so important that you intend to be completely unreasonable and demanding that your timeline is met, despite having waited so long to contact me that it is not scientifically possible to achieve the results you are requesting. So please, tell me more about your pool party!

What I wish I could say: If you have an important event coming up and you plan to use your pool for this function, you should be testing and preparing the pool weeks in advance. It is certainly understandable that your water can suddenly take a turn for the worse 24 hours before the party, but by that point, the pool shouldn't require extensive repairs.

Leaving your pool to the last minute is a big mistake. If your pool is currently requiring repair, do not book a party until after it is fixed. If you want to have a pool party the first weekend of the swim season, plan to begin balancing the water a minimum of two weeks before the event. This will give you ample time to deal with any potential repairs that may have come up from a long winter season. Remember: during peak periods, many pool professionals will be working sun up to sun down every day, so you can end up waiting if you are too far down on the list.

 


 

"I can tell by looking at the water whether it is balanced or not."

BEHOLD: the mighty water wizard! That is amazing — would you be willing to share your secrets with me? I only know how to interact with water balance through science and the physical world. It would make my job a lot easier if I had your ability to ignore every known fact about water chemistry and balance water with X-ray vision and osmosis, presumably.

What I wish I could say: Please. It is not scientifically possible to tell whether pool or spa water is balanced by eye. Our eyes are useful for all kinds of great stuff like looking at loved ones (or swimming pools!), but as far as advanced water chemistry analysis goes, the human eye leaves much to be desired.

The lack of understanding of proper water chemistry values is the No. 1 cause of premature swimming pool component failure. While it is possible that you have been lucky enough to own a pool for 10 years without balancing your water properly, adopting this attitude towards water chemistry is going to cost you one day. It might cost you a new liner five years too early, or it might cost you a bacterial infection, but rest assured: If you rely on visual inspection of your pool and spa water, you are going to have a bad time.

At the very least you need to test the water for total alkalinity, calcium hardness and pH in addition to the sanitizer levels. To do this you will need a reliable pool test kit, which are not expensive. You do not need a fancy digital pool water tester to get the job done, but a test kit will go a long way toward protecting your pool investment — and preventing me from revoking your pool ownership license and lighting your pool on fire as a quarantine measure.

 


 

"Can you just patch it? We want to get one more season out of it."

You want one more season out of your broken pool? I want to go ice skating on a rainbow...so now what do we do?

What I wish I could say: When you see deficiencies with your swimming pool, have them fixed right away. It's just like car maintenance — if you ignore the smaller things when they break, you will eventually end up needing to replace something much more expensive down the road. You would be shocked to know how few pool problems can actually be resolved with duct tape, silicone and epoxy. If you have holes everywhere in your liner and the corners have not been in the coping track for as long as you can remember, then you are overdue. Concrete pool tiles falling off — Can't you just put them back on? Sure, but there is a reason they fell off, right?

Of course, nobody wants to spend thousands of dollars to fix something they already have, but to put a swimming pool in the context of other luxury items, ask yourself this question: How many yacht owners patch up their problems with duct tape for "one more year?" Owning a pool is a financial responsibility, and there's a steep learning curve for pool owners that have a tendency to let things go longer than they should. Bite the bullet and get the work done, and in the long term you will be rewarded.

 


 

"I knew you would be coming so I went ahead and drained the pool for you."

Pardon me? You did what? There are a hundred reasons why we do not want to hear you say this about your pool, starting with the most important: draining the pool can break it permanently. From an installer's perspective, it actually works against us when pool owners "help out" like this.

For example, as you drain a vinyl liner pool you rinse it and cut into strips as you go and roll up. If you do not do this, the vinyl is covered in disgusting slime, algae, bugs etc., and even worse — if left out to dry for a few days the vinyl becomes brittle like glass. You could easily end up with hundreds of razor sharp vinyl shards on the bottom of the pool, which is a pain to clean up — especially in sand bottom pools. Put your submersible pump back in the garage and go cut your grass instead.

What I wish I could say: A vinyl pool requires water to keep the liner in place, but if you are getting the liner replaced, who cares, right? Wrong. The water helps to protect the slopes and floor quite a bit, and you could very likely buy yourself some additional floor repairs from draining early. Concrete pools should not be drained unless the groundwater around the pool is controlled and you typically pull the hydrostatic relief valves during the course of the repair. Fiberglass pools should never be drained by the pool owner, and doing so can cause permanent failure — yikes!

 


 

"Watch your step in the backyard!"

Ok, will do! I will just balance this 75-pound toolbox on my shoulders and wander back on in there. Oh yeah, dog poop here, landmines there...you do know I need to take about a hundred trips back and forth to my truck right?

Listen, I am a huge dog lover, but walking in fresh dog turds in the same boots I have to wear all day makes me fantasize about filling your pool with cement. I have to roll my hoses through your entire yard so please make an effort. It makes the work truck stink and everything basically becomes unsanitary — as if being a pool guy was not one of the least sanitary jobs you can imagine already.

What I wish I could say: Please. Having dog crap everywhere in your backyard is pretty rude when you are hiring workers who will need to navigate that area. Spend a few minutes prior to our arrival and make a sweep of the area and this will go a long way towards improving the attitude of your pool service worker. There is no stronger signal for "nobody gives a crap about this place" than dog poop all over your yard. Accidents happen — I may find the pile that you missed — and I can accept that, but if I can fill half a garbage bag with rotting canine (hopefully) excrement, you are a terrible human being and you don't deserve to go swimming.

 


 

"I hope you don't mind if my kids/my dogs are in the backyard while you are working."

You must be joking.

Oh, you are not joking. Ok, I am not a babysitting service and I do not require any more assistants than I brought with me, thank you. Swimming pools are extremely dangerous when they are all full and safe. When the deck is broken out and there are trenches dug into the ground, heavy tools, electrical cords stretching everywhere...does it look like a good place for children to hang out? Also you very, very casually mentioned that Thor is super friendly and everything but he is looking at me like I am a pork chop every time you walk away.

What I wish I could say: As bright as your dog is, I do not want his assistance with your pool renovation project until he has at least three years of pool experience. Children are cute but a huge liability on a construction site. Every part of working on and with swimming pools involves using something dangerous to curious little hands, and we are too busy trying to complete your project in a timely fashion to devote the proper amount of attention to your children. It's better for everyone if they just stay inside until we get the pool up and running again.

Most of the time your pool professional is just too nice to say anything when you let the dogs and kids into the backyard, but rest assured they would prefer a more controlled working environment. We want to be able to devote our attention completely to your pool problem, and we certainly do not want to assume any liability for someone getting hurt. This is why we are all so careful about closing and locking the gate when we leave!

Steve Goodale is AQUA Contributor of AQUA Magazine.