Water may be the most wonderful and amazing of natural elements, but it also can be one of the most destructive. From its ability to carve the Grand Canyon to the slow rot that occurs when water finds its way into the walls of your home, you can never underestimate the damage it can do.
Even in swimming pools, structures that are by their very nature designed to contain and control it, water will often slowly deteriorate both cosmetic and structural elements. And if it’s not stopped, it can slowly destroy the entire vessel.
Every spring, we pull scores of winterizing covers off pools as we open them up for summer. When we do, we find many instances where tiles have popped off the waterline and pieces of coping have separated from the bond beam substrate. This happens because of the freeze/thaw cycles that occur over winter where the ground expands and contracts because of the freezing and thawing of ground water that surrounds the pool structure. It’s an extremely common issue that happens to almost every pool at some point.
Most of the time, it’s a relatively minor repair that can be easily handled over the course of the summer. The big problems start, however, when homeowners decline to address the issue before the following winter.
Damage caused by freeze/thaw cycles creates small cracks and fissures where water can enter the pool structure. Water slowly seeps behind the surface and spreads by way of its wicking action. Concrete is full of tiny voids, and when the surface that contains water in the pool is compromised, water gets in the structure and starts to spread.
That liquid intrusion in turn leads to deterioration of the concrete shell and its structural steel. If left unchecked, entire walls of the pool will basically turn to sand and the still will rust into nothing. It’s similar to what happens when you get a cavity in a tooth. The chemistry in your mouth slowly but surely spreads, and if you don’t repair the cavity with a filling, you lose the entire tooth.
In pools, water can intrude from not only the inside of the pool but also the ground that surrounds it. This dual threat exacerbates the damage caused by freeze/thaw cycles and worsens the spread of the concrete deterioration. It all adds up to a nasty domino effect that eventually destroys your pool structure.
All of that is why it is so important to correct these issues while they’re in the early stages. If you don’t, what starts as an extremely minor repair will, over time, turn into one that can require demolishing large portions of your pool’s structure. When left unattended over years, you might even need to remove the entire pool shell.
That is why we always recommend taking off those falling tiles and loose coping stones right away and hiring a repair company to replace the tile and coping, remove damaged concrete, and apply waterproofing agents as needed.
And, if you’re in the process of building a new pool, be sure to talk to your contractor about using water-proofing products to slow the inevitable march of water’s destructive power.
When it comes to water’s ability to damage concrete structure, or any structure for that matter, don’t wait until the problem becomes catastrophic because, eventually, it will.
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Meet Steve Kenny
Steve Kenny is an aquatic designer, builder, and service technician with more than 25 years of experience. Based in Long Island, New York, he specializes in designing, building, and maintaining commercial and residential pools and spas that feature the highest possible water quality.
He is a passionate advocate of creating a new class of aquatic professionals devoted to the science, methods, and art of ensuring pristine water conditions. Steve was formally trained in the culinary arts and has a passion for fine dining. He is an accomplished photographer and sailing enthusiast. He is also a passionate advocate of the benefits of hydrotherapy.
A devoted family man, Steve lives in East Hampton with his bride of 20 years and their three children.