Swimming Pools in Australia – The Ultimate Guide

In this comprehensive guide, learn everything you need to know about owning a swimming pool in Australia.

Jump To:
Swimming Pool Safety
Building a Pool
Should you Look for a House with a Pool or Install one?
Maintaining Your Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool Troubleshooting
Getting Your Pool Ready for Summer
Summer Pool Maintenance
Getting Your Pool Ready for Winter
Heating your Swimming Pool
Essential Swimming Pool Supplies
Using Pool Chemicals
Pool Chlorinators
Swimming Pool Cleaners
Swimming Pool Pumps

If you are considering installing a pool at your home you should be aware of some of the legalities when it comes to Australian laws.  Each state, territory and city may have specific regulations so it is up to you to ensure that you are compliant.  As the owner of a swimming pool you are responsible for the safety of those who swim in it whether it is with your permission or not.

One of the biggest causes of accidental death for young children is drowning and most of those take place in private backyard pools.  One of the best ways to prevent accidental drowning is to ensure that adequate fencing is in place and that young children are under careful supervision when they are in the backyard.

A continuous safety barrier must be installed and maintained around the pool and this must meet today’s safety standards.  The fence must be permanent, at least 1.2 metres high with 1.8 metres on the pool-facing side if the other side of the fence is climbable.  A child must not be able to crawl under the fence.  Gates should swing out from the pool, self-close and be complete with a latch that children cannot reach.

Swimming Pool Safety

There are some basic pool safety rules that should be followed if you have a backyard pool:

  1. Always keep toys away from the pool when no one is using the pool and deflate blow-up toys after every use.
  2. Never dive into a pool that is not deep enough because it may lead to brain damage, spinal cord injuries and/or paralysis.
  3. Don’t allow any toys around the pool that can be ridden such as tricycles.
  4. Never use electrical appliances around your pool.
  5. Never run around the pool deck or allow small children to run on the deck as the surface can be extremely slippery and dangerous.

Building a Pool

If you have decided that you want to install a pool, should you do it yourself or hire a contractor?  The main thing to consider is that while this project is one that you can definitely do yourself, a contractor is recommended if you are not a do-it-yourself type of person.  On the plus side, building your own pool can save you tens of thousands of dollars, so it can definitely by the more affordable way to go.

The main considerations are budget, size, shape and intended use of your pool before you begin building.  You can also line up a variety of sub-contractors to help along the way.  Some will work with a homeowner who wants to build their own pool while others will not.  It is important to ask the right questions when you start to interview subcontractors to ensure that you get the right fit for what you need.  Pool design is very important in that the depth of the pool needs to be specific to certain lot lines and utilities contained within the property.  You must determine where gas lines are located before digging can commence.  It is also important to obtain the proper permit from your local city.  The pool plan will show the layout which is the area to be excavated and then once that has been completed the plumbing must be installed.  You need to install main drains, skimmers, filter, heater, pump, fittings, leveller, and also waterfalls if you want them.

Should you Look for a House with a Pool or Install one?

If you can find a home that already has a pool, the cost of that pool will be included in the purchase price so that you do not have to come up with the extra money to take care of installation.  The drawback to this is that you don’t know the overall condition of the pool.  When was the pool installed and how has it been cared for?  The pool may require extensive renovations and care to get it to opening stage if it has not been used for a while.  If you purchase a home with the thought of installing a pool you may never quite be able to save up the money to install that pool, so it can be budget-friendly to purchase a home that already has the pool installed.  Add to that the fact that many home buyers do not want a pool, so you have the clear advantage to purchase the home with the pool at a discounted price if the sellers are motivated to sell.

Maintaining Your Swimming Pool

In order to maintain your pool properly you need to understand the pH levels and total alkalinity.  The total alkalinity is the ability of the water to neutralize acidity and the levels of alkalinity relate directly to the pH of the water.  If total alkalinity is high then pH levels will also be high.   The pH scale ranges between 0 and 14 and neutral pH is 7.

Your pool’s total dissolved solid levels, chlorine, and calcium hardness are some very important things to consider.  You need to understand what these are and how they provide a benefit for the water in your pool.

  • Total dissolved solids are made up of magnesium, sodium, potassium, chlorides, bicarbonates and sulphates along with other organic materials that dissolve in the water;
  • Chlorine is for sanitizing and disinfecting water;
  • Cyanuric acid protects chlorine once it is in the water from the ultraviolet rays of the sun;
  • Calcium hardness is a measure of the amount of calcium that is contained in the water. If the calcium levels are too low the water can become corrosive and that can ruin your pool structure;

You need to determine the ranges for your pool including pH, chlorine, calcium hardness, total dissolve solids level and cyanuric acid.  Here are the ideal ranges:

  • pH: between 7.2 – 7.8
  • Total Dissolved Solids: below 5000 ppm
  • Chlorine: in the range of 1.0 – 2.0 ppm
  • Total alkalinity: somewhere between 80 – 120 ppm
  • Calcium hardness: 180 – 220 ppm, though some say 200 – 400
  • Cyanuric Acid: 40 – 80 ppm

Each component of your pool water has a testing timeline that you should follow so that your pool functions well.  You want the pool water fresh and clean so all of the elements need to be examined and tested at least one time per week.

Swimming Pool Troubleshooting

Here are several common problems that pool owners are most often faced with and the solutions to them.

  1. The surface of the pool becomes very green and no one wants to swim in it.  This is generally caused by low chlorine levels.  You will need to shock the pool using three times the normal amount of shock that you normally add to the water.  You might also use an algaecide to ensure that the algae is totally eradicated.
  2. If you notice an excess of foam on the surface of the water then it might be that you are using a low quality algaecide.  You will need to use an anti-foam agent and purchase a better quality algaecide in the future.
  3. Clogged Filter. When you notice that there is a large amount of dirt and debris in your pool that is not being filtered out, it’s time to check your filter.  Your filter should be cleaned once every two months and should be swapped out and chemically cleaned annually.
  4. Water is murky. If you can’t see the bottom of the pool then it is usually due to improper pH levels.  If you have had a lot of rainfall it can change the chemical balance of your pool and cause problems.  Test the pH level of the water and make the necessary adjustments.
  5. Green Hair. If you have blonde friends who swim in your pool and it turns their hair green this is due to an overabundance of minerals.  Your local pool store should have a mineral remover that works for your situation.
  6. Stains in the Pool. These can be caused by minerals or organic materials.  If you notice a stain, try to deal with it quickly because the longer it remains the harder it will be to remove.

Getting Your Pool Ready for Summer

There are many steps that you must take to prepare your pool for use in the summer, especially since it has been sitting during the off-season with no use.  The first thing that you need to do is get started well in advance of the hot weather.  You may notice that some repairs need to be made once you get closer to the pool and inspect it.  Start with the cover and the deck.  Clean both with a hose or a pressure washer.

The next step is to carefully inspect all of the equipment associated with the operation of your pool.  Examine the filter, the pump, and all lines for cracks or leaks.  Your first instinct may be to drain the pool but this is a waste of time and money.  Start using your filter and pump and drag the water with a skimmer to eliminate debris.   Once you have cleared all of the debris, it is time to add the chemicals.  Test your pH level and determine the number.  The ideal number is one between 7.2 and 7.4.  You will also need to alkalinity and that level should be somewhere between 80 and 120.  Next, test for calcium which is ideally between 150 ppm 250 ppm.   Always use separate water samples for each test that you perform.  Some pool owners will have a local professional open their pool for them so that the water is just right.  This leaves weekly maintenance which can be easily performed by the home owner.

Summer Pool Maintenance

During the summertime your pool will get its heaviest use.  There are several things that must be done to keep your pool open all summer.  First, always check up on the chemistry of your pool with a good quality water testing kit.  Keep your pH levels under 7.8 or take a sample to your local pool store and have them test it.  They will be able to tell you what you need to add to your pool water to optimize it.

Keep an eye on the water level of your pool.  When people are using the pool and jumping into it a lot of water can be lost.  In addition, the heat of the summer sun can cause evaporation.  Top up the water level if needed and adjust the chemicals.  Clean out the skimmer basket regularly, you never know what ends up in there, but sometimes you can get quite a surprise with the occasional frog or salamander.  Check the filter at least once a week when you check the chemicals and be sure to examine the pump valve to ensure it is free of hair and debris.

Getting Your Pool Ready for Winter

Once the summer is over you are ready to close your pool for winter.  This will keep your pool safe and clean and will ensure that you don’t have to do too much work to get your pool in shape for the next summer season.  Here are a few simple steps to take to get your pool winter-ready:

  1. Shock the water by adding massive amounts of chlorine. This will kill any bacteria in the pool and keep the water clean longer.  Run your pool pump to circulate the chlorine throughout the system.
  2. Scrub the tiles down and use extra care to get at the grout and areas that are not normally reached with a regular cleaning.
  3. Clean the items you use to clean the pool including skimmers, filters and brushes. Use a filter cleaner to carefully and thoroughly clean your pool’s filter.
  4. Cover the pool. If you don’t have a proper pool cover, use a tarp to prevent debris from falling into the pool. This will save a lot of work in the spring because you won’t have to clean sludge out of the bottom of the pool caused by rotting leaves and other debris.
  5. Always check the chemicals in the water over the winter and check the water level in the skimmer box along with the pressure gauge.

Heating your Swimming Pool

Heating a swimming pool can become very expensive very quickly so it is important to know about cost-effective methods that you can use to get great results.  Gas pool heaters are a good option because they are available in many different sizes and they are best used for pools that are not used that often.  Gas heaters are able to heat pool water quickly and efficiently.

Solar heaters are an effective and low cost option for heating a pool.  A solar collector is placed on a nearby roof or an area on the ground that receives plenty of direct sun on a daily basis.  Once the collector is in place the water is circulated through it with a pump and filtration system and the water is heated through the pipes and then returned to the pool.

Essential Swimming Pool Supplies

When you are running a pool for the summer season there are many essential supplies that you should keep on hand, including:

  • Pool chemicals. These are for treating the water and eliminating pathogens that can be harmful to your skin.  Chemicals also keep the pool water in an ideal condition for swimming.
  • Test strips. These are an essential tool for you to check the status of your pool chemistry.
  • These keep the pool water clean by constantly circulating and filtering the water.
  • This reduces the amount of dirt and debris that collects in your pool.
    Skimmers are useful for removing surface debris while brushes on long poles are ideal for scrubbing the sides of the pool.
  • Pools are not always naturally the ideal temperature for swimming, so heaters can assist with making your pool more inviting and accessible.

Using Pool Chemicals

Once you complete the initial pool chemical set-up for your pool, it must be regularly maintained in order to ensure that the water is safe and ready for swimming.  Your chemicals are measured using PPM or parts per million and this is the equivalent to one mg of a chemical in one litre of water.  These are the commonly used chemicals in most pools:

  • pH increaser is used to correct the acidity of pool water and slows the dissipation of chlorine.
  • pH decreaser is used to correct the condition of the water in order to allow the other chemicals to be more effective.
  • Chlorine is a sanitising chemical that eliminates algae and bacteria in the water.
  • Chlorine stabiliser is a chemical that prevents chlorine from being destroyed by the sun by extending the life of it 8 – 10 times longer.

The total alkalinity of your pool is the amount of alkaline substances that are contained in the water.  Bicarbonate alkalinity should be between 80 ppm and 120 ppm which will prevent sudden changes to pH levels.  If the total alkalinity of your pool is low, metal trim can corrode, plaster can become etched and pH can rise and lower randomly.  If the total alkalinity in your pool is high chlorine stops being an effective way to disinfect the water.

Test the water regularly and if you are unsure of what needs to be added, consult your local pool store or expert to analyze the water for you.

Pool Chlorinators

Chlorine is a key ingredient in your swimming pool.  It is the best product to be used to eliminate algae and bacteria and to sanitize the pool water.  Chlorinators are a way to deliver chlorine regularly into the water and ensure that the water is clear and clean.  There are many different types of chlorinators and delivery systems.  The type that you purchase will be dependent on your pool’s size, the cost of the system and the availability of the system that you are considering.  It is recommended that you choose a chlorinator that is manufactured by a well-known brand due to the importance of reliable chlorine delivery.

Swimming Pool Cleaners

No one wants to swim in a dirty pool, so having a decent pool cleaner is important.  There are many different types of pool cleaners including suction-side driven, electronic, pressure driven, return-side driven and robotic.  The type of cleaner that you ultimately choose will depend on the size of your pool, your budget, the type of debris that generally invades your pool and whether it is in-ground or above ground.  When you are thinking about the amount you will spend on a pool cleaner remember that you will save money in the long run by not needing to hire a professional cleaning service if you can regularly maintain the cleanliness of your pool.

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Swimming Pool Pumps

The size of pump required for your pool is based on the size of the pool that you have.  You must know the number of gallons of water contained in the pool which you can determine by measuring the dimensions to calculate the volume.  The next thing you need to decide is the flow rate of the pump or how often you want all of the water in the pool to complete one cycle through the pump and filtration system.  If your pool is used frequently then you need a high flow rate pump.  If the amount of usage varies you can choose a variable flow rate pump which you can adjust to accommodate the usage.  The pump should be easy to care for in that if the pump needs service, parts should be readily available.  It pays to do your research in order to ensure that you purchase a pump that is commonly used and sold in your local area.

As a pool owner you have plenty to think about including safety and regular maintenance.  If the maintenance is done on a regular basis it will keep your pool in good condition and eliminate the need for expensive repairs and/or work in the future.  It is useful to have a schedule to follow so that you never miss anything important:

  • Skim the surface and brush twice weekly. Empty skim baskets at the same time.
  • Vacuum once per week or when the pool is dirty or purchase an automatic pool cleaner.
  • Run pool pump for 10 -12 hours each day.
  • Check chemicals 2x per week.
  • Shock the water weekly or after a group of people use the pool.

 

Swimming pool safety and troubleshooting quick guide

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