Summer is Almost Here...Are You Ready?

In North Texas, we all know that summer really begins in May.  The days are getting hotter and the sun is out in force.  Pretty soon, you're going to be spending your days off poolside with a cold drink in one hand and sunscreen in the other.  Before that can happen, however, you need to make sure your pool is ready for you!  

Hot Summers, Mild Winters- The North Texas Way

Thanks to the (mostly) mild winter weather we get in NTX, you don't really have to "close" your pool for the winter, at least not like our Northern friends might have to do.  Here, as long as you keep your pool clean from debris, you're pretty much good to go until Spring rolls around.  However, there are a few things that you still need to do to make your pool welcoming and safe for guests.  

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Everywhere

Again, you should have been keeping that debris out of your pool all winter long, but we get it.  If you're not using it, it can be really easy to let some of that regular maintenance slide.  So that being said, first things first, bust out the skimmer and clean all the debris out of your pool.  Leaves, twigs, dirt, it's all got to go.  Leaves can really gunk up your filtration system, and leaving it for too long creates a nasty, slimy mess that no one wants to touch, which is why it's so important to keep your pool clear of this kind of debris.  No judgment if you let this one slide, but just know that it's got to get done, otherwise you can really damage your equipment.  

Next, you need to scrub off any algae that has formed in the pool.  You know that thing that looks like a broom with a really long handle that you used when you first built the pool and then hung on the fence and forgot about?  Yeah, you need to grab that thing and start scrubbing!  Give all the walls, floor, and coping a good scrub, and make sure to give extra attention to any slimy, green, yellow, black, or pink areas. 

Finally, you will want to clean your pool filter.  This one can be done by a professional, or you can also do it yourself.  Jerry shows us just how easy it is in this short video-

Chemistry Begins in the Stars...And Ends in Your Pool

Once you've cleaned all the junk out of your pool, you need to check the pH balance and adjust the chlorine.  Checking, adjusting, and maintaining the chemical makeup of your pool is one of the most important things you can do for it and for anyone who is going to swim in it.  It's what makes your pool swimmable, and what keeps it from becoming a gross, murky pond.  Shocking the pool, or adding a large amount of chlorine and other chemicals to the pool, is usually necessary if you haven't regularly maintained the pH balance of your pool during the off-season, or if your pool has developed algae.  (If the latter, you may also want to use an algaecide.)  Of course, if you have a saltwater pool, you still need to check the pH balance AND check the salinity level, making adjustments as necessary.  And remember- DON'T SWIM IN IT AFTER YOU SHOCK IT!  Give your pool at least 12-24 hours to circulate the water with the pump on before you even think about getting in.  Trust me, your skin will thank you.  

Dive Into Fun!

Now that you've got your pool sparkly clean and the pH perfectly balanced, I know you're dying to jump in...but first, you have to make sure that your pool toys from last year are clean too!  There is no point in doing all that work making your pool shine if you're just gonna throw a bunch of dusty old toys into it.  Take a few minutes and hose off any toys from last year that you're planning to use this year, removing as much dirt, dust, cobwebs, etc., as you can.  Check inflatables for punctures, and throw out anything that is damaged.  Sometimes, when left in the sun, pool noodles can start to break down, so make sure you check those too, as those little particles can clog up your filter something fierce.  

Okay, Okay, NOW Can I Get In??!??!??

Yeah, NOW you can get in.  Happy Summer, friends!  

Texas Tough

Spend any amount of time driving around the country in North Texas on a rainy day and you'll witness firsthand the sticky mess that our soil becomes when it gets a little wet.  This soil doesn't just make cars and shoes muddy, it can cause havoc for the construction industry.  Trying to build in and on clay is extremely difficult because it is highly unstable and shifts frequently.  It is important that your builder understands this and takes steps to stabilize the soil prior to pouring any concrete.  

Texas is a Blend of Valor and Swagger...and Clay

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North Texas, which includes the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, is part of what is known as the Blackland Prairies, an area of land that extends all the way from Bonham to San Antonio.  Blackland Prairie is comprised of deep, dark-grey to black alkaline clays which floods and drains quickly, alternating between sticky, squishy mud and rock hard, concrete-like dry soil that cracks in the sun like something out of an old Western.  This extreme fluctuation can make building a permanent structure tricky, because of the radical way the soil expands and contracts with the water it takes on.  Have a look sometime at some of the older homes built on pier and beam foundations around the Metroplex- the owners of these home must have their "foundation" adjusted every few years, otherwise they develop cracks in the walls, ceilings, and floors.  Too much neglect in this area, and your house could come crashing down on you!  

But I Thought a Pool Was Basically a "Swimming Hole"

Just because we are digging down and not building up doesn't mean that pool builders don't also have to contend with the instability that is North Texas soil.  In many ways, we have to work even harder, because the concrete (or gunite, as it's known) must not only hold its form in the ground, but must also support upwards of 20,000 gallons of water within the pool itself.  That's a lot of pressure, and when you don't have a stable earthen support around it, the burden falls to your builder to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to create an artificial support system and keep your pool whole.  

Is This Why My Builder Wanted a Soil Study?

Yes!  Some clients need to have a geotechnical engineer come out and test the soil so that their builder can know from the get-go if your soil will need any extra support before they start digging.  Not every client needs this, but many do, and your builder will know right away which ones most likely do, based on where you live.  Knowing upfront what to expect helps your builder plan the construction schedule so that there are no costly surprises along the way.  

How Do You *Add* Stability to This Blackland Prairie Mess?

The most common way to stabilize the soil in North Texas is through a process called Potassium Injection Stabilization.  Basically, these big machines literally inject the ground with potassium ions which then binds with the clay, creating a sturdier soil.  It is cost effective and permanent, and will protect your investment and save you from future headaches.  

Texas has 4 Seasons- Drought, Flood, Blizzard, Twister

Well, not much we can do about that last season, but for the first three, knowing your soil and taking preventative steps to reinforce it can help keep your pool in one piece while our weather yo-yos between scorching heat, impromptu snow, and torrential rains.  Be upfront with your builder about concerns that you have, and if you are confused about anything, make sure to ask questions.  Your builder is the expert and is there to share his or her expertise.  No builder wants to put their blood, sweat, and tears into building something beautiful only to have to come back in 6 months or a year to tear it down and start anew, especially if they could have done it right the first time.  Honesty is always the best policy, and in this case, it can save you (and your builder) thousands of dollars and weeks of frustration.  

Happy digging, y'all!  

 

 

Small Space, Big Ideas

Do you have a small backyard that you dream of jazzing up into a hidden oasis?  You aren't alone!  As you probably know, North Texas is full of big, beautiful houses with a veritable postage stamp for a backyard.  Spaces like this might seem like a lost cause when it comes to adding a pool, but that's where you're wrong!  You can do quite a bit with a smaller yard, if we put our heads together.  

Fountains, Gardens, Ponds

The thing about a small yard is that it looks so much bigger if you use a lot of smaller features, like fountains, planters, maybe a koi a pond!  Winding stone paths and lush flower beds can mask the size of your yard, and they are also much easier (and cost effective) to fill to the brim with gorgeous greenery and fabulous flowering flora.  Softly bubbling fountains and water sconces can add to the serenity of the scene, while a modest koi pond can give you a quiet place to sit and relax, watching the fish play in the cool, dark water.  

But I Really Want a Pool

We get it.  Pools are awesome!  That's why we build them!  And just because you've got limited space to work with doesn't mean you have to kiss that dream goodbye.  Rectangular lap pools are great for modest backyards as they take up very little room, and still leave some space for landscaping or a green patch for your pup.  

Want to try something a bit more unconventional?  Try an oversized spa!  Have all the fun of a private place to soak with the space-saving genius of a spa!  Add a small waterfall flowing into the spa and you've got yourself a romantic little getaway in your own backyard.  

What's really cool about both of these options is that since you're not blowing your budget on digging a full pool, you can spend that money on the details instead!  Go for the upgraded travertine decking, splurge on premium tile coping, heck put in a mosaic on the bottom!  Details are what makes a space stand out from the rest, and you can use this opportunity to really go all out.  

Above All, Make Sure It Screams YOU

When you're upgrading any space, big or small, you want to make sure that it showcases your personality.  After all, this is your home, right?  If you're not an avid gardener, install automatic sprinklers so that your planters can remain lush (and hire someone to pull those weeds!).  If you're a minimalist kind of decorator, skip the overgrown paths, and put in a zen garden and one or two water features.  If your car bumper sticker is the kind to say "I'd rather be in Hawaii", go for the natural stone waterfall on the spa and add some tropical plants around it so you can feel like you're on vacay everyday!  The point is, if you're going to spend your hard-earned money on upgrading your yard, you should make sure that it speaks to who you are and isn't going to burden your already busy schedule.  

I hope this has given you some ideas for how to spruce up your space.  Give us a call and let's brainstorm some more on how to give you the backyard you deserve!