Question: We are looking for a home with a swimming pool. What should we be concerned about with a pool?
Answer: With summer just around the corner I can understand the desire for a pool. A pool can be a wonderful addition for the family but it does come with costs and concerns. If you have small children, then you want to have security for the pool. The pool should have a fence around it, which can be a removable fence, but one that insures small children can't get into the pool area with the potential of falling into the pool. In addition, you should have alarms on the doors that lead out to the backyard that will alert you that someone has gone outside to the pool area. So, safety is your first concern with a pool in regards to children. Safety does not stop there however. When you enter into a transaction you will want to have a home inspection and include an inspection of the pool and spa. The inspector will check to see if the safety features of the pool are intact. The pool motors/pumps should have a bond wire connected to a ground to insure if there is a lightning strike the machinery is grounded and the force of the electricity goes into the ground. The lights in the pool need to be protected by a GFCI outlet so if there is a short of any kind the system turns off and protects anyone that is in the pool from being shocked. This is a must if it is not operational or present. No one should ever be in a pool that is not protected from shock. To all of you who are reading this column, have your pool service check this feature and insure that you are safe when using the pool. It could be your life that you are saving. Other general concerns with a pool would be leaks at the pumps, operational pool heater, and proper operation of the filter system and water tight integrity around the pool. Often the area around the pool coping and the surrounding concrete is weathered and has gaps that allow water to seep into the area around the pool. You would have to replace the mastic around the pool to eliminate that potential. Also check for areas around the pool that may have lifted due to tree roots or shifting soil. The good news is this is what the inspector will check for when inspecting the pool and will give you a complete report concerning the condition of the pool and surrounding area. Now that I have scared you about the pool, just relax and enjoy the summer and your new home with a pool.
Answer: First, let me say that it is usually better to buy a home with a pool in the fall or winter. In the spring and summer there is the emotional desire to own a pool so you can jump in on those hot days. When the temperature is in the 60 degree range the idea of a swim is less exciting. Now as to your concerns about the pool itself. Pools are usually chlorine pools or saltwater pools. Saltwater pools tend to be less expensive to operate and some feel that the salt is better on your skin than chlorine. I think that is more personal preference than a critical element. First I would say that when you get a home inspection on the home you choose to purchase be sure that the pool is inspected as well. From my experience the following are the issues to look for when buying a pool. Safety is the main concern that means to be sure that the pool lights/spa lights are protected by a GFCI switch so that if there is an electrical problem it will trip the power off and insure that no one in the pool gets a jolt of electricity. Then the pool equipment should have a bond wire attached in case of a lightning strike. The bond wire is connected to a steel rod that is in the ground so that the electricity will be directed into the ground and not the pool. Then check the pool heater to see that it is operational and all the debris is removed so that there is no chance of a fire in the heater. Often the heaters are seldom fired up and can get yard waste or leaves in the heating area. Walk around the pool and check the copping around the pool to see if the mastic between the copping and the cement is secure with no gaps. If water seeps down it can cause some deterioration of the metal structure of the pool to rust. Look into the pool to see if there are patches of plaster that have eroded or show damage; that could indicate it is time to have the pool replastered which comes with a several thousand dollar bill. If you see rust spots in the pool, that could mean some repair would be needed on the surface as well. Check the covers on the bottom of the pool. It is now required that the covers be such that a small child can't be sucked onto them and not be able to get away. That is a minor cost but serious if not present. Finally, check the pool equipment area, are there puddles around the pumps or filter that would indicate something is leaking or a pipe may need repair. Does it have a diving board? Pools have not been built with diving boards lately so you want to be sure that the diving board is properly secured and there are no rusted out bolts holding it in place. Also, check with your insurance company about pools with diving boards as they may need to have the diving board removed to insure the property. If you have a pool in the backyard then all the gates that lead to the backyard must be self-closing and latching to protect the pool from unwanted children coming into the yard to go swimming. Pools are a wonderful addition to the Southern California lifestyle and a great place to entertain around or for the kids to have pool parties. Just be sure that all the safety checks have been made. Every year before swim season, check the GFCI to see if it is doing its job of protecting the lights. And be sure to hire a property inspector to check that pool before you close escrow.