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Updating a Pool

When I was growing up, all my friends and I had swimming pools, and we thought each one was unique. Margie’s rectangular, turquoise pool had a vinyl liner, so you never got a nubby-bottomed bathing suit from sitting on the steps. April’s aquamarine, oval pool was landscaped with pebbles all around, and her Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Tara, would jump in to "save" us whenever we dove in. My pool was powder blue and kidney-shaped with a rounded brick edge that matched the brick of our house. Looking back, I realize how they were all basically the same: blue pools with steps down into the shallow end then a slope to the deep end with the diving board and a ladder to get out—the standard pool style that has been around since our parents’ generation.

Today’s pools couldn’t be more varied. In the last ten years, since Poolworks has been in business in the BVI, Erick Oeseburg has seen unprecedented changes. “The old blue and white doesn’t cut it anymore,” he says. “The colours have become a lot more natural.” They’re less likely to be spotted from an airplane, looking less like rectangular blue scars in green landscapes and more like a part of the scenery.

In the current economic situation, when some homeowners are hesitant to upgrade into bigger homes, they’re improving their current homes instead. An easy way to increase property value is updating the pool. “There are many facets to upgrading a pool,” Erick says, “but what people want most are beautiful pictures.” The most popular visible upgrade, and also one of the newer developments in pool shaping, is changing a regular pool into a vanishing edge pool. This instantly makes the pool seem more connected to its surroundings.


Unlike the pools of my childhood, pools today are for adults as well as kids. They serve as literal watering holes where families and friends relax, socialize and cool off. Due to this change, the shape of pools has changed. “We believe very much in centre-deep pools,” says Erick, “where the perimeter of the pool is comfortable enough to stand or even has a bench to sit.” Before starting a pool renovation, Erick attempts to determine the ultimate goal of the project. He talks to the family and whoever else may be involved—architect, landscape designer, interior decorator, builder—to make sure everyone is on the same page. “If someone walks into your backyard and says, ‘What beautiful tile,’ then something is wrong if that’s the only thing they can say. What they should say is, ‘What a beautiful backyard.’”

Another reason to update a pool is for improved energy efficiency and less maintenance. “Upgrading equipment is very important to make pools more maintenance-friendly. We want it to be a pleasure to own a pool, not a nightmare,” Erick comments. He asserts that Poolworks can take a pool that costs $2000/year to run and easily turn it into a pool that costs $500/year to run. When Erick does pool renovations, he often finds a pump that is much too large for the pool. “If you look at plumbing schedule and appropriate line velocities of water through a pipe, most pools are plumbed with a one and a half inch pipe which can only take 65 gallons per minute of water. Any ½ horsepower pump can produce that, and most people have 1 ½ or 2 horsepower pumps. That’s a waste.” Another popular way to save money and energy is the use of a salt chlorine generation system which converts salt, NaCl, to hypochlorous acid, HOCl, and sodium hypochlorite, NaClO, the agents typically used to sanitize pools. Pool owners don’t have to buy chlorine, which is vast expense on the island due to importation and shipping costs. It also keeps the pool at a more even level. “The more spikes you have in your chlorine levels, the dirtier your filter gets,” Erick says. “We have pools we only have to backwash or clean the filters once a year. That’s a big difference for clients who used to have to do it every week.”

Of course there’s an initial investment for these improvements, but as Erick says, “You either pay for it now or pay for it later, and paying for it later is always more expensive.” 

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