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Start Up and Maintenance

Do's and Don'ts for Your New Pool Finish

The interior cementitious (plaster) finish of your pool is the only cosmetic part of your pool that is handcrafted in an uncontrolled environment. The curing of a plaster finish will occur over the next 10 to 12 months. This curing or maturing process causes the alkalinity, pH, and calcium levels to rise on their own as the pool actually grows calcium hydroxide, calcium carbonates, and calcium silicates which strengthens and seals the porous surface of the new finish. 60% of the maturing process is accomplished within the first 28 days and the balance of the maturing process over the next 8 to 10 months. The pool is attempting to grow crystals (a scale, plaster dust) on the surface that will look unsightly within the first 24-hour period, up to the first year if not controlled by brushing and water chemistry.

During this period it is essential that conscientious start-up and maintenance procedures be followed to prevent the finish from developing an uneven appearance. These discolorations appear as gray spots, gray cloud like colors, irregular streaks, white or lighter pasty areas or streaking, and yellowing. It is imperative that you follow the following procedures or consult a well-trained, well-educated pool professional. The builder, applicator, and manufacturer of your pool finish warranties your pool surface as a team. You and your service company become part of that team as the maintenance operator.

The “Start-Up”

Filter 24 hours per day for 2 weeks
Day 1 Reduce alkalinity & pH, add sequestering agent
Day 2 Test alkalinity, pH, & sequestering agent, adjust
Day 3 Lower alkalinity & pH if required, add chlorine
Week 1 Brush pool 2 times per day
Week 2 Brush, lower alkalinity & pH
Week 3 & 4 brush, lower alkalinity & pH
Year 1 Lower alkalinity & pH as required

A. Filling The Pool

Once the plastering process is complete the hose will be placed in the deepest part with a floating “Bobby” or rag tied on the end to help filter and defuse the water, preventing the hose end from whipping and damaging the uncured surface. Never turn the water off while the pool is filling. Do not traumatize the surface in any way.

  1. Do not allow any person, children, or pets to walk on the uncured plaster finish.
  2. If the water is trucked in, a cushion of water 18” to 24” must be in the deepest part of the pool PRIOR to beginning the water-fill from the truck. Minimize the water’s impact on the new plaster surface.
  3. Fill the pool as rapidly as possible with as many hoses as possible. Drying plaster looks irregular. As the pool is filling areas in the shallow end, step areas, or along the tile line may develop drying, check or crazing cracks. This is normal and will mend after the pool is full as it matures. Do not use the deck mounted dedicated pool fill lines.
  4. Place all hoses in the deepest area of the pool with the ends protected by a “Bobby” or rage.
  5. Do not allow the hoses to rest on the plaster or they will cause hose marks.
  6. Do not add “start-up” chemicals until the pool is filled to the middle of the tile line. Start-up chemicals will usually include muriatic acid to adjust alkalinity first, pH and a good testable sequestering agent. Under no circumstances should chlorine be used within the first 72 hours.
  7. Never turn the water completely off while the pool is filling. It will leave an intermittent fill ring (bathtub ring). Reduce the water flow if the pool will be completely filled during the night or while no responsible person is present at pool fill completion to turn off water.
  8. Until the pool finish is covered by water it is extremely vulnerable. Intermittent fills will cause discolorations. Notify construction, lawn, and fence personnel of this and that debris, splashing, and deck cleaning will stain the finish. Fertilizer contains iron and manganese, which will cause red or yellow stains on pool surfaces.

B. Starting The Pool Equipment

  1. The pool equipment must be operational at the time of pool finish application. It is impossible to maintain a controlled start-up without circulating water. Discoloration problems will occur.
  2. All lines should have been cleared at the pool prep stage prior to plastering.
  3. Remove all floor return heads to prevent streaking. The cement is green and susceptible to water velocity erosion.
  4. Operate the pump and filter 24 hours per day during the initial curing process.
  5. The filter should be clean prior to equipment fire-up. Record the pressure reading on your clean filter. When the pressure rises 8 to 10 PSI it is time to clean your filter. This will occur more frequently during the initial 28-day cure if proper water chemistry and sequest levels are maintained.
  6. Pre-coating your filter (DE, cartridge, or sand) with a cellulose material will help filter the plaster particulates and make the more frequent cleaning process easier.
  7. If applicable, main drain valves should be fully open.
  8. Use only pool vacuums (manual or automatic) with brushes for the first few weeks. Wheeled cleaners may leave wheel marks.
  9. Do not use any features should as waterfalls or fountains for the first 48 hours.
  10. Do not add any form of sanitizer for the first 72 hours.
  11. Do not swim in the pool until the pH is higher than 7.0 and the sanitizer level is within the standards of 1-3 ppm free.
  12. Specialty sanitizers, such as electrolytic chlorinators and catalytic converters should not be introduced into the pool water until the pH and alkalinity have stabilized, usually at the 30 day initial cure.

C. Caution: Chemicals

  1. Pre-dissolve all chemicals before adding to the pool water. Aways add chemicals to water, never water to chemicals. Dilution is the solution! Pre-dilute in a 5-gallon bucket of pool water. Do not add more than 5 lb. of pre-diluted dry chemical per day, or 1 gallon of pre-diluted liquid chemical at a time.
  2. Chemicals will have a significant impact on the life of your plaster finish. It is strongly recommended that licensed, trained professionals introduce chemicals. Adding large doses of any chemical at one time can cause fallout, which is a precipitation of minerals caused by shocking or traumatizing the water.
  3. Do not add chlorine for 72 hours.
  4. Lower the alkalinity to 70 ppm. If the alkalinity is already less than 80 ppm (60-70 ppm) lower the pH to 7.0. Address the alkalinity first, the pH will follow. The curing plaster will drive the alkalinity and pH up rapidly within days causing the pool water to balance itself. This will require additional muriatic acid to prevent scaling.
  5. The addition of muriatic acid will lower the alkalinity and pH at start-up. Approximately 1 gallon of 20° Baumé muriatic acid (diluted hydrochloric) will reduce 15,000 gallons 50 ppm in alkalinity. Retest after 24 hours.
  6. Add 1 quart of a quality testable sequestering agent per 10,000 gallons after the pre-diluted acid has been added.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 after testing.
  8. Too much acid will be too aggressive and can etch the plaster. This is a science, not a guessing game.
  9. Circulate the pool for 72 hours. Do not add any sanitizers.
  10. Specialty sanitizers such as electrolytic chlorinators and catalytic converters should not be introduced into the pool water until the pH and alkalinity have been stabilized, usually at the 30-45 day initial cure.

D. Sequestering Agent (Stain prevention)

  1. Quality, testable sequestering agents are used to crystallize an un-filterable metallic contaminant and make it filterable. Failure to use this product can lead to staining and improper hydration of the plaster surface.
  2. After the acid has been added to reduce the alkalinity and/or pH pre-dilute the sequestering agent (1-quart per 10,000 gallons) and add to the pool water around the perimeter avoiding the skimmer. Achieve 15-20 ppm. Never add sequestering agent or acit through the skimmer. Never add any sanitizer through the skimmer. Brush the pool immediately to help homogenize the start-up solutions.
  3. Excessive amounts of chemicals can cause unwanted results. If the right amount is a good more is not better.
  4. While it is alright to add acid and most sequestering agents right behind each other, other chemicals should be added at 24-hour intervals. Consult your well-educated pool professional for compatibility.

E. Clearing The Dust

  1. You may notice plaster dusting when you brush. The water may become cloudy. This is normal. Maintaining a clean filter, brushing 2 times per day, and following the above water chemistry parameters will help you achieve the desired results. Some pools take longer than others because no 2 pools or pool surfaces are alike. They are handcrafted from mined minerals. Slight imperfections are normal. Minor crazing and color variations occur and are normal. Your part is essential to help eliminate variations caused by start-up. Neither builders, applicators, nor manufacturers cover scaling, deterioration from water chemistry, or stains and discoloration. Chambers Pool and Plaster offers to maintain your pool during the first 30 days of the initial cure (60%) for an additional cost. This is highly recommended.
  2. Maintain a clean filter and maintain your alkalinity for the first year to help eliminate hydration problems (trapped moisture). Check your pool chemicals weekly. Your pool is a huge investment – take care of it.
  3. The alkalinity and pH should stabilize in approximately 30 days.

F. Long Term Maintenance

Cementatious finishes are the foundation of swimming pool finishes. Properly maintained they can out last any other finish available on the market today. Similar to kitchen and bath fixtures, pool finishes in contact with water daily must be brushed and cleaned regularly. The regular use of sequestering agents take the place of household cleansing chemicals.

  1. Plaster finishes can be acid bathed and polished.
  2. They have been around longer, can be repaired, and are easy to maintain. Help your pool mature!
  3. During the first year it is important not to traumatize a pool finish with low pH sanitizers on a regular basis.

G. Chemical Balances

Free available Chlorine 1-3 ppm   Calcium hardness 200 - 400 ppm
(below 250 exposed aggregate)
Combine Chlorine 0 ppm Cyanuric Acid Below 50 ppm
pH 7.4 - 7.6 Sequestering Agent 10 - 12 ppm
Alkalinity 80 - 120 ppm Metals 0 ppm
TDS Below 1200 ppm or no more than 800 ppm over fill water