Safe design and layout
First of all, following these few simple recommendations will help you enjoy your pool safely.
Before you plunge into the adventure of a backyard pool, contact your municipality to find out what installation standards you must comply with. For your safety, as well as that of young users, most municipalities require that your pool be surrounded by a fence with a minimum height of 1.2 metres (4 feet). Make sure the gates leading to the yard and the pool are equipped with secure self-latching mechanisms. If you have an aboveground pool, make sure the ladder or any other access point cannot be reached by children. Store toys, floating items and tools away from the pool and the enclosing fence; a child could be curious and want to climb over.
Children aged under three and those who do not know how to swim must wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device. Keep a ring buoy and reaching pole close at hand in case you need to intervene rapidly in an emergency.
Regular maintenance: A must
Paying special, regular attention to water quality will protect swimmers from illnesses caused by micro-organisms as well as prevent premature degradation of the pool and equipment due to corrosion or calcium deposits. During heat waves or at times when the pool is being used a lot, water quality should be tested daily. Proper maintenance of accessories and filtration components is also part of the rules to follow to ensure safe water quality.
Caution: you need to take precautions with pool maintenance products. Most of them are toxic in their pure form. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. To be sure of making the right choice (for example, when it comes to copper sulphate–based algicides), look for products approved under the Pest Control Products Act.
Chlorination of pool water is a disinfectant method that prevents infections due to bacteria, viruses and parasites. You must check the level of chorine daily and add more product as necessary. A wide range of chlorination products – from liquids to granules to pucks – are available, and the prices are just as variable.
It may be excellent for killing bacteria, but chlorine is corrosive and an irritant, particularly unpleasant for people with sensitive skin and respiratory tract. A European study even concluded that swimming in chlorinated water increases the incidence of asthma in children.
The term pH refers to the relative acidity or alkalinity of your pool water. It is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. The ideal pH is 7.4. Different types of pH testing kits are available on the market, including bottles and strips. Prices vary (from $5 to $30), but the quality of the product used for the testing is the same in all kits. However, the more expensive kits offer a wider range of types of analysis. In addition to everything you need for pH testing they may include, for example, material for checking chlorine level and detecting the presence of algae.
The hardness of water is determined by its calcium content. You must check water hardness periodically: when water isn’t hard enough, it becomes corrosive, and this can damage your pool components. Add a calcium-based product if necessary. Note, however, that you can’t “soften” water that is too hard.
You run your hand along the wall of your pool and it feels slippery? Plus, the water is a bit sticky, with a slightly greenish tinge? It means algae are starting to develop. The water is probably too warm, and residual chlorine is no longer effective. You need to add an algicide. As soon as you notice that algae are present, don’t hesitate to use this product, but remember that it’s not a substitute for chlorine, because it won’t affect bacteria and viruses.
The water is whitish and cloudy? There could be several reasons: pH too high, water too alkaline, calcium accumulation, algae proliferation, filters needing cleaning or changing, etc. If the cause of the problem is unclear, take a sample of the water to a pool store, which will do a full analysis and provide you with a treatment as well as the proper “dosage” based on your pool’s water volume.
Going away for more than a week?
- There are no miracle solutions for keeping pool water clean. Moreover, there is no point in adding extra chemicals to the pool before you leave.
- Leave the filter running.
- As an added safety measure to keep uninvited swimmers out and possibly prevent drowning, install a motion sensor that will set off an alarm and let your neighbours know when someone is in your pool area.
- You can ask a qualified technician or a friend to take care of maintaining your pool and equipment.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, you aren’t required to ask a neighbour or friend to keep watch over your pool. The pool and deck must, however, meet municipal safety standards.