After 40 layers of paint and bumpy patch jobs, the swimming pool is looking old and tired. A job that used to entail touch-up paint and small fixes has become a battle of putting Band-Aids on chunks of uneven, peeling potholes in the concrete walls. It’s time for an overhaul.
So whom do you call? Sandblasters!
“’Sandblasting’ is a misnomer,” says Al Panariello, sales coordinator for All Pool Demolition in Midland, N.J. “Sand was pretty much outlawed in New Jersey 20-25 years ago."
Blasting Off The Past
All Pool Demolition tears down, rebuilds, and refurbishes pools. When a pool needs years of paint accumulation removed, All Pool Demolition comes in and “sandblasts” it clean. Al says sand has been replaced with a variety of substances, but “you’re not going to get paint off concrete with corncobs, baking soda or bicarbonate of soda.” These and other products, like black beauty, a by-product of coal production, are sometimes used in various “sandblasting” operations. Al finds black beauty slightly cheaper, but not worth the savings because it is “dirty.”
Dry sandblasting is illegal in All Pool Demolition’s hometown, so the company uses Ebony Grit Media, a copper slag that is sharp, angular and hard. “We’ve taken paint off pools (with Ebony sandblasting) that have been painted 40 times. It’s still called sandblasting, but just not with sand.” Their Web site--poolremoval.com—states, “Our objective is to get all the surface paint off and 90 percent of the imbedded paint. We have never had a complaint!”
To prepare for sandblasting, a pool must first be drained, but it doesn’t have to be dry. As sales coordinator for All Pool Demolition, Al is in charge of quoting jobs. He says that if a pool has not been drained already, it will add time and money to the job. His advice for those looking for companies to sandblast a pool can be summed up in few words: “Keep the bid simple.” If it is too complex, he warns, you won’t get many bidders. He also advises finding a company that protects the surrounding area and cleans up after themselves. “We tarp everything,” explains Al, “so any of the stuff that comes out goes on the tarps and not on the flowers or bushes or grass.”
To start the process, bags of ebony are placed in a sandblast pot inside the pool. The water and ebony mix blasts out of a hose at a rate of 125 psi, almost like that of a fire hose. The sharp, hard ebony hits the pool with a mighty force, washing away years of paint and patching.
Selecting The Proper Paint
Al says that, although All Pool Demolition is highly efficient in painting, most of the parks elect to repair and paint the newly scrubbed pool themselves. He recommends using epoxy paint, specifically Ramuc Pool and Deck Paint.
Pam Keeler, division manager for Ramuc in Pittsburgh, shares Al’s opinion in using epoxy for pool painting. “I agree with him totally. Epoxy is the best way to go. High-build epoxies are made to last longer because they go on thicker. They can last eight years or longer.” In New Jersey, using a product that is VOC-compliant is important. Pam explains, “They can’t use certain products, but he [Al] can use our epoxies. They’ve been on the market a very long time and they just last longer than any other product out there underwater. We make an acrylic, and it’s a nice product, but it won’t last anywhere near as long as epoxy.”
Here is Pam’s step-by-step lesson on how to paint your sandblasted pool.
Painting A Swimming Pool
The most important part of a paint job is the preparation. There are no shortcuts! Acrylic pool paints can be used on a damp surface, and don't require as long a dry time before painting. Consult the label of the paint for application directions.
· Determine the type of pool paint that is in the pool. You cannot paint a pool that has epoxy paint with rubber-based paint or vice versa. You can use acrylic paint on any surface.
· Drain any water from the swimming pool and remove all debris. Be sure to remove any hydrostatic relief plugs.
· Scrape all old, loose pool paint off the pool surface. A high-pressure power washer will help.
· If there are any cracks in the swimming pool shell, they must be cut out with a diamond blade saw or grinder. Cut the cracks one-quarter inch deep.
· Chip out any divots or loose cement. Caulk the cracks, and patch any large chips or divots with hydraulic cement.
· Acid Clean the swimming pool with a 50-percent water, 50-percent muriatic acid solution. Be sure to scrub the walls and floor and use the proper safety equipment and procedures.
· Rinse the entire swimming pool, skimmers, fittings, lights and stairs completely.
· Re-clean the swimming pool with TSP (tri-sodium-phosphate), a detergent available at all paint stores and most hardware stores. Follow the directions on the TSP container. This step will neutralize the acid, remove the glaze from the existing paint, and remove any leftover grease, oil or dirt. Rinse with fresh water completely. When you think you have rinsed the entire swimming pool, rinse it again!
· Pump out all of the water and remove any leftover debris. Remove water from the skimmer, and sponge any standing water from low spots around steps and fittings. Allow the swimming pool to dry for three to five days (acrylic paint can be applied on damp or recently wet surfaces). Tape off the tile band and fittings with masking tape to prevent getting any paint on them.
· Just before painting the pool, scrape any last-minute flakes from the pool surface. Sweep the pool and blow leaves and dirt from the pool deck. Check the weather forecast for rain or high winds. If there is a chance of rain, wait. Open the swimming pool paint and mix it well, using an electric drill with a paddle mixer. Mix for about five to seven minutes.
· Apply paint with a 3/8-inch-nap roller. Start in the deep end of the pool and work your way to the shallow end. Use an extension pole on the roller for the deep-end walls. Mid-morning is the best time to paint, after the dew has lifted. Do not apply paint if the temperature is below 40 F or above 90 F. Extremely humid weather can be bad, as the paint will not adhere. If you are applying a second coat of paint, wait two to four hours before re-applying.
· The last step is very important. You must wait five days before filling the swimming pool so the new paint job can cure completely (three days with acrylic paint). If there is rain during that time, remove any standing water after the rain has stopped. Use a sponge and leaf blower to dry the pool. If the rain lasts more than an hour or two, add a day to the cure time. After the cure time, fill the pool without stopping until it is full.
· When the pool is full, restart the swimming pool filter system and adjust the total alkalinity and calcium hardness levels to a minimum of 150 ppm. Resume normal chemical maintenance.