Sunday, June 24, 2007

Trying To Tighten The Hinges

I’ve added a link to the Honor Roll. It’s to the Trouble Free Pool forum. I don’t know too much about it yet, but a lot of the people who post, or posted, at the old Pool Forum post there, so that’s a good sign. And it’s open for new members, unlike the Pool Forum.

I came upon it while I was reviewing my site meter, to see how folks were getting to the blog. I saw a spike of referrals from a thread at TFP’s forum and followed it back to here

They were talking about my blog, and then my old nemesis, Lex Luthor – I mean, Sean Assam – started going on again, talking out of both sides of his mouth about how I’m just wrong about salt damage, but the good thing to come out of my blog “is better maintenance of your pool patio due to the ‘potential’ of damage from the salt.”

To be honest, I’m not shocked to see a salt rep holding two opposing thoughts in his head at the same time – the first being that I’m all wrong about salt damage to the pools in my care & the second being that there’s a definite risk to decks and coping from salt damage – but it is a bit unhinged to see those warring opinions advanced in the same paragraph.

He became even more animated and unhinged when I took the time to join the forum and introduce myself right here

It’s a neat thing that Sean B – the Site administrator and not to be confused with Pool Sean, the Salt Peddler – has provided for the Newbies to get over their first post jitters and give the Old Hands a chance to post a welcoming response. Which everybody did. Seven people responded to my post. Six of them cordially. And then there was Pool Sean…

“There is no logic to your blog entries, other than hatred to salt systems. I think it's because you have no one else to blame for these problems because everyone else you can blame (deck companies, plasters, stainless steel ladders and handrail manufacturerers [sic] ) have all denied responsibility?”

This guy is his own worst enemy, isn’t he? I mean, would you buy a salt system from a guy like this?

To take his rant one point at a time – the parenthetical part about me having no one to blame for the damage to pools – let’s start with decks. AutoPilot’s own Owner’s Manual finally admits that salt concentration due to evaporation can cause deck damage. Here’s the excerpt from page 11 of the Pool Pilot DIG-220 Owner’s Manual:

“CAUTION: Splash out water can leave a high salt concentration as the water evaporates. To prevent any potential salt damage, periodically hose off the deck, rails, and fixtures to dilute the salt concentration.”

And how did that little ditty wend it’s way into their literature? On 1/29/07 Sean Assam, in an e-mail to me about THIS blog post said, “Deck damage due to salt? I agree with Delzone in that simple maintenance of hosing down your patio weekly will prevent these types of issues and should be mentioned to the homeowners and pool dealers. As a result, I will be including such statements in our owner's manuals.”

And right there is where I get crazy with these guys. This is THEIR TECHNOLOGY. THEY INTRODUCED IT. Determining and describing incompatibilities and limitations and the maintenance procedures to mitigate them was their job from Day One.

But it took a pool cleaner from Dallas, Texas, who finally figured out after a few years of watching his customer’s pools disintegrate because of salt, to come along and badger and cajole and insult them into including what turns out to be some pretty goddamned important information into their Owner’s Manuals. What about all the years that they didn’t say anything to anybody? What about all the years they were selling these salt boxes and telling everybody that there was no down side; just soft water that was easy on the eyes. How do they get a free pass on all the damage that they now admit to having caused in the past?

Let’s take a for instance. Let’s say you bought a salt system for your pool before these guys began to admit that you might ought to hose down your hardscape just about every time you use the pool. And let’s say that you had a contemporary design with about $30,000 worth of perfectly milled limestone decks and coping. So, you missed that memo and didn’t know about the hosing down the decks part. And two years later, you’re stuck pulling off the salt system and redoing all that deck and coping.

Now, that nearly happened. I have a customer in Hghland Park, Texas who put tons of Leuter’s limestone decks and coping on his contemporary negative edge pool. I showed up two weeks after start up and the first thing I did was point out to him how the salt was already starting to eat away at the area where his kids normally get in and out of the pool. We pulled the salt system and drained and refilled and dodged that bullet.

So, that’s how a salt system that cost a couple hundred dollars to put together can cost you $30,000. And I’m the Bad Guy? And where do I get off with the idea that these things only cost a few hundred bucks to put together? Well, first, Intex sells a salt system that produces the same amount of chlorine as most of the salt systems out there designed for pools up to 25,000 gallons, and they sell it for $149.00 online at Cabela’s. And second, Sean Assam wrote to me later that same day, 1/29/07, and in response to this statement from me, “You guys have had it all your way for too long. You've all made a fortune off the misfortune of pool owners by not disclosing the whole story about salt and not giving them all the facts before they made their buying decision.” Sean said, “Damn them for being profitable! How dare they buy cheap Chinese products and sell them for a gazillion % margins! …Sorry for the sarcasm, but it's true.”

But getting back to Sean’s rant. Plasters. I don’t think I’ve ever said one word about plaster being adversely affected by salt. Have I? I could be wrong. But I don’t think I’ve published a single word calling out salt systems as causing plaster issues. If I have, somebody write to me and tell me and I’ll go back and amend that part of my blog. Really, I will.

There is of course, that one thing: The reason you wait 30 days, if you’re smart, to pour salt on new plaster. It’s because when you pour salt on new plaster, it does the same thing that a salt based water softener does; it exchanges calcium – a pretty important part of the plaster mix – with salt. A couple years later, you’ll be able to see where you poured that salt. And that’s why you wait thirty days until the plaster cures. By the way, this is something else that would have been GOOD TO KNOW WAY BACK WHEN THEY FIRST STARTED SELLING SALT SYSTEMS and is something else that I don’t see in any of the Owner’s Manuals.

Then there’s Sean’s snarky comment about ladder and rail manufacturers. Geez. Is there any segment of our industry that’s been more hard hit by this salt fiasco than the poor ladder and rail manufacturers? They’re usually the same ones who sell the diving boards and diving board stands. And they have taken a huge hit trying to stand warranty for all the damage that salt splash out has done to their equipment.

And all because the Salt Reps didn’t tell their builders and their retailers that they ought to caution their customers to upgrade to marine grade stainless steel ladders and rails and avoid diving boards in their design in places where they sell a salt system.

And they didn’t for one of two reasons. Either they didn’t know any better, and if that’s the case then shame on them, or they knew and didn’t want to admit it and narrow their market.

So, as always, I caution you: Don’t buy a salt system until you’ve looked at every issue that comes along with salt and you’re convinced that it won’t happen to your pool. AND Caveat Emptor on who you buy from, if-ya-know-what-I-mean…

Now, moving on to what I really wanted to talk about this week…

I found a pool with limestone coping and Pennsylvania blue decking that has significant deterioration, just like salt pools do, and it has never had a salt system. And so in the interest of fair play, I thought I ought to post the pics of that pool, too. You can click on any pic to enlarge.

Now, this first one shows the coping at the skimmer. You can see where, over time, the chloride level of the water, splashing and lapping up and saturating the stone, has caused crystallization expansion pressure to pop layers of the stone off, creating a flaking effect. And that’s just from the chloride build up that occurs from melting trichlor tabs and shocking the pool with cal hypo.

This next one shows a badly delaminated section of the flagstone deck close to the splash zone of the pool. Same story here. The pool water, heavily saturated with chloride, migrated to the seams in the flagstone and caused the roofjacking effect you see here.

This one shows a close up of the failed mastic joint. I wanted to show that so that folks out there who know pools will know that this pool is old. Really old. It takes more than a decade for mastic to dry out like that.

In fact, this pool’s coping and deck is over twenty years old. This pool is awaiting remodeling after the home is rebuilt.

So, this is your pool on tabs after twenty-plus years:

This is your pool on salt after two years:

And that’s always been my point about salt damage. Yes, it’s true that, given sufficient time, all chlorinated water will cause damage to stone. It’s just that in salt pools it happens in about two years. In non-salt pools, it takes just forever for it to start showing up. The reason? On salt pools, you start with 3500 ppm sodium chloride. On tab pools, you start with something below the 250 ppm mandated by the EPA as below the level of taste - because you normally fill your pool with drinking water - and build from there, draining and refilling as calcium levels and stabilizer levels dictate.

As you can see by the photos, the tab pool’s limestone coping looks better after twenty plus years than the salt pool’s does in two.

So, who’s got your back? Me? Or your friendly, neighborhood Salt Rep? Because I can promise you two things right now about tomorrow:

#1. The Sun will rise in the East and set in the West... That's right, isn't it?

B. The Salt Reps will still be selling the tired old pitch that non-salt pool’s coping and decks suffer chloride damage just like salt pools do. They will, of course, leave out the part about it taking twenty plus years instead of two.


poolsean said...

Lex Luthor? I know I'm bald also, but Lex Luthor? That makes you... Superman?
TPG, nice way to fish for more traffic to your site. You come to (TFP) to the INTRODUCE YOURSELF post and start spewing anti salt. Didn't really tell us anything about yourself though. Well, WELCOME.

Comments on your post this week (and Darn It, I promised myself I would not comment on your site anymore), you said "It’s a neat thing that Sean B – the Site administrator and not to be confused with Pool Sean, the Salt Peddler – has provided for the Newbies to get over their first post jitters and give the Old Hands a chance to post a welcoming response. Which everybody did. Seven people responded to my post. Six of them cordially. And then there was Pool Sean…"
Well, there were 11 responses and ONE person welcomed you, that was Buggs, but that's because she is TOO nice. The rest were responding to your Original Post or my reply. IS an awesome site and the members are very hospitable. Hopefully your viewers will link to this site and get some fair and balanced opinions of salt systems. Both the good and bad. This site is a great way to educate themselves on how they can easily take care of their own pools!

Now we're back to your blog and you slam me all over again. I would be foolish to not expect you do to this, especially after your post on TFP.

I have to ask (again), are you seeing these same problems with all your salt pool customers?

I'll have to accept your reply in this entry of showing damage to nonsalt pools (20 yrs) vs salt pools (2 yrs), as I think this is the ONLY answer you'll ever provide to my question: are you seeing similar type problems with non salt pool customers?

Now, interestingly enough, your own blog entry gives an example of Superman, I mean TPG, pointing out to his Highland Park Texas customer, TWO WEEKS after start up, "the salt was already starting to eat away at the area where his kids normally get in and out of the pool" ...damaged by ... Salt. gulp.
Wait, didn't you also say that you're suppose to wait 30 days before you add salt? Hmmm, you better contact the pool builder because, according to your words, in a couple of years, you'll be able to see where they poured the salt into the pool!
Or is there a two week grace period where Superman could drain and refill the pool to dodge the salt bullet? Funny thing is on TV, Superman always stood up to the bullets shot at him, but he always ducked when the gun was thrown at him.

Regarding "And where do I get off with the idea that these things only cost a few hundred bucks to put together?" Did you do your research before you actually typed this section? All salt systems should cost the same?
Have you ever heard of apples and oranges? If Hyundai is selling their Santa Fe SUV for $20,000, should the Lincoln Navigator also cost $20,000? Do you match prices with the cheapest pool service guy in your town? Do you do more? Do you maintain their pools better? Do you carry the proper insurances, take the proper training, educate yourself? Can you justify being higher than the non licensed one poler in Dallas?
You have me quoted SARCASTICALLY on cheap chinese products and sell them for a gazillion % margins.
You are dopey sometimes TPG. First, there are NO salt chlorine generators that I know of, that are manufactured in China. Second, there are a few products that make huge margins in the pool industry...salt chlorine generators are not one of them. How about a three way diverter valve or even worse, a delrin clip for your telescopic pole?

Well, once again, you've taken up my time to respond to your "pick and choose" blog entries to prove your point. If you had not mention me, I would have held to my promise to not respond to you again.

I guess you're not just Superman, you're also Perry White and this is your Daily Planet.
Good luck with that.

The Pool Guy said...

I hope everybody takes time to read this comment by this Salt Peddler. This guy is the Commercial Products Sales Manager for AutoPilot salt chlorine generators & Aqua Cal Heat Pumps.

As you can see by the tone of his comments, the guy's wrapped just a bit too tight. I answer his questions over and over and over again, like I did this week by showing that, over time, chloride levels in pools from conventional chlorine will damage stone just like what we see happening in salt pools. It'll just take longer to occur because the chloride level of salt pools is so much higher than non-salt pools. I actually agreed with his position, only taking exception to the time line for damage, and yet he still rants that I'm dodging his questions.

Even the Chem Geek over at Trouble Free Pools said in one thread that "limestone looks pretty, but it's soft for a reason -- it absorbs water so it WILL corrode over time. The question is how quickly so if it takes 5-10 years at a low 500 ppm level of salt than MAYBE it takes 1-2 years with a 3000 ppm level of salt..."

But you don't see Lex - I mean Sean - climbing all over his ass. I guess it's truer when anybody but me says it.

Sean's gunning for me so bad that he jumps at everything I say, twisiting every little thing into outrageous accusations. For instance, I mentioned that I showed up at someone's pool two weeks after start up and the pool was already up and running on salt. It's not my fault that the builder poured his salt halfway through startup. I just got a call from a potential customer, showed up to bid for service and saw what was going on. Yet in SeanWorld I'm responsible. It was the big AH-HA! moment in his rant.

You guys over at TPG and the Pool Forum keep taking this whack job's advice if you want to. But do yourself a favor. Take what he says and research his answers. You'll find that they're full of more holes than swiss cheese. And you'll find that when you try to point out the errors, he'll be a lot less friendly and helpful and cheerful.

But it is nice to hear he's bald. I, on the other hand have a full head of hair.

The Pool Guy said...

Correction: you guys over at TFP. I'm TPG. Sorry, caffeine level still a little low this Monday morning.

The Pool Guy said...

I just did some math. I have visit records that go back to March 23rd of this year. Sean uses two different IP's to visit this blog, his personal and the one at Horner Equipment. Just since March 23rd, it looks like he's spent a total of 8.5 hours - that's 510 minutes - that's 30,600 seconds - reading my blog. A total of 65, 8 minute visits in 94 days. A little over thirty of those visits were in the last thrity days. He is, without a doubt, my biggest fan. In fact, to say he's a little fixated would be kind of an understatement at this point.

Gosh, with fans like that, I hardly need to go fishing for more traffic.

Thanks to everybody at Horner Equipment for making The Pool Biz Blog such a smashing success!