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Opening the Oasis

Here are a few things to consider before leaping into your pool this summer.

May 27, 2000|NANCY KINSEY NEEDHAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of summer no matter what the calendar says about June 21, is a really bad time to realize that the pool in your backyard is all green and slimy.

There are experts who say that keeping the perfect balance of chemicals is not all that hard. But if you're the type who can't keep the water in a one-gallon aquarium clear, it might be a challenge.

If that's the case, it's best to call a pool maintenance service--now. If you have a friend whose pool is always perfect, you might ask who cleans it. Referrals are often the best way to go.

But whether going that route or calling someone in the phone book, make sure the person has a state contractor's license and insurance, advised John Field, owner of Alpine Pool and Spa Service in Ventura.

Just look for the license number on the advertisement--by law, it should be there, he said. He also recommended asking for a copy of the insurance.

Also find out how long the company has been in business and if it is a one-man band or an owner with employees, so you know exactly who will be doing your pool each week, Field said.

Field provides his services at a cost of around $75 to $95 a month, he said.

Price is determined by the pool's size, possibility of debris falling into the pool from surrounding trees and how many kids and dogs are going to be using the pool, he said, adding that more kids and dogs mean more chemicals.

Field's service includes brushing the pool's sides and tile, netting the leaves and other debris out of the water, vacuuming what has settled on the bottom and adding chemicals.

If someone wants him to only do the chemicals, the cost is about $50 per month.

Those prices are for regular pool maintenance.

It costs more to clean out a pool that has long been neglected, he said. To drain and clean a pool is about $250. To acid wash a pool after it has been drained costs about $500, he said.

But, he said, there's hope: "Swamps can clean up good."

Virginia Boyert, wife of United Pool Service owner Paul Boyert and mother of All Seasons Pool Service owner Brent Boyert, suggests that pool owners make sure they know what they're buying.

"Always ask how much it is going to cost and exactly what service you are going to get for that price," she said.

It costs about $65 to $75 per month for her husband's and son's Thousand Oaks pool services, and that includes chemicals, brushing the sides, vacuuming and cleaning out debris, she said.

They also know about maintenance and repair work, she said, so if something goes wrong with the pool equipment, the customer does not have to call someone else.

"It's important your pool workers know what they're doing. Too much acid can ruin equipment," she said.

Too much acid can also irritate swimmers' skin and eyes, while using too few chemicals can pose a health hazard by not killing bacteria or viruses in the water.

A kit purchased for about $10 to $14 at Leslie's Pools in Simi Valley, Oxnard and Thousand Oaks can help people learn to take care of their own pools.

Employees at the stores can teach customers to use the kit, which is used weekly and lasts about a year. Or, customers can bring in a sample of pool water and Leslie's will analyze it free and explain what chemicals are needed.

About 20 minutes of testing each week and about $15 worth of chemicals a month will maintain an average-size pool and could save some money for people who prefer to do it themselves.

That is, for those who have an aptitude for chemistry. But for those who flunked the subject, it might be better to call a pool service before taking that first dive of the summer.

*

Nancy Needham writes a weekly consumer column and can be reached at nancy.needham@reporters.net.

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