Owning a pool or spa is a significant responsibility. With both, safety is paramount. Pools, in particular, require a lot of looking after to keep them in good working order and safe.

Fencing rules

Since 1987, when the law requiring fencing of swimming pools was introduced, the number of pre-school children drowned in home swimming pools has halved.

All pools, spa pools and ponds more than 400mm deep must be fenced. This is to stop small children getting in unsupervised and drowning.

The law also requires that:

  • Gates must have self-latching locks.
  • Fences be a minimum 1.2 metres high.
  • Gates must open away from the pool.

See Fencing of swimming pools for more information.

It is not enough just to have a pool fence – you must maintain it and safeguard the area. Repair any broken fencing immediately.

Make sure the gate is not left open, the kids don’t leave bikes or ride-ons against the fence and you don’t put pots or garden furniture where they could be used by kids to climb up and over the fence.

Indoor spa pools also have rules governing whether they have to be fenced or secured. The rules depend upon whether the building in which the pool is housed is used primarily for the spa or not. So whether the spa is in your home or in a separate building used mainly for the spa will govern which rules apply.

Outdoor spa pools have to be fenced.

Contact your local council for more information on your legal responsibilities or Water Safety New Zealand for information on water safety.

Like bathrooms, pool and spa surrounds must be considered as wet areas. Pools and spas also usually incorporate steps and ladders that become slippery when wet.

To reduce the risk of slipping:

  • Use surface finishes that provide good slip resistance.
  • Ensure surfaces around pools and spas are sloped to effectively drain water away.
  • Apply slip resistant surfacing to steps.

All pools, spas and ponds more than 400mm deep come under the requirements of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act.

Emptying your swimming pool

Before emptying your swimming pool, check with the manufacturer on how to do this as some pools can “pop out” of their excavations when the weight of the water is removed.

Your regional council will have a preferred way of discharging pool water so contact them first. The options are to discharge on to land (if you have a large enough section), into the sewer or into the stormwater system.

Whichever option you choose, try to remove as much of the chlorine and other contaminants as possible before discharging. You can do this by adding a de-chlorinator or leaving the cover off the pool and by clearing out leaves and other debris.

If discharge on to land is not an option, then the sewer is often the next preferred choice as it can cope with residual chemicals. The least preferred option is the stormwater system. Large discharges into stormwater drains can affect the ecosystem of the river or other watercourse the pool-water discharges into.

You should not empty your pool into the stormwater system if it is raining as this could also overload the system. Wherever you discharge the water, manage the flow rate so it does not overload the system.

For salt water pools you should discharge the water into the sewer rather than the stormwater system. Check with your local or regional council.

When water spills on to the deck or pool surround it can be slippery. Consider installing anti-slip surfacing or anti-slip paint.

Concrete pools

Concrete pools can be the most expensive to build and maintain, but they are the most solid. If you are skilled in concrete work, it can be an economic way to go. If the pool is painted you should have a regular schedule for cleaning and repainting (every 2-3 years) so that deterioration doesn’t get too severe. Proprietary plasters can last for many years.

  • Concrete deterioration can be caused by corrosion of the metal reinforcement. You should consult a professional before attempting any repair.
  • Cracked concrete can occur when new concrete shrinks if not properly cured. Subsidence or thermal movement may also cause cracking. Seek professional advice. Cracks that have stopped moving can be filled with epoxy resin or specialised grout. Check with the pool manufacturer or specialist pool construction company. If cracks are still moving, check with the manufacturer or a specialist pool construction company about how to address this.
  • Premature paint failure: Is due to unsuitable paint or water chemical imbalance. Sandblast to remove existing coat, and recoat with a suitable replacement. Consider installing an automatic water treatment system to maintain the pH and carbonate levels

Vinyl-lined pools

This is the cheapest option for pool liners. Liners last about 10-15 years but can be replaced.

  • For punctures or tears contact the manufacturer for advice on repairs.
  • Deterioration of liners is due to treatment chemicals, UV exposure or corrosion of steel support panels. If the liner is degrading, replace it. Don’t install a new liner over corroded supports. Speak to your pool manufacturer for specialist advice.
  • Kinks or distortions at the bottom of the liner can be caused by delamination or by fracturing of the cement base due to swelling or shrinkage in the subsoil. The pool will need to be taken off the base for repairs and for the base to be reconstructed. Speak to your pool manufacturer for specialist advice.
  • Staining is caused by algaecidal chemicals. To cut down on algae formation, clean the pool more often.
  • Corrosion of metal liner support and frame is common in marine or severe environments. Treat minor rust by sanding, priming with a zinc-rich primer, metal primer and painting. If the corrosion is severe, replace the liner support. Wash regularly to prevent further corrosion.

Fibreglass-lined pools

Probably the most popular form of swimming pool in New Zealand, fibreglass liners can either be pre-fabricated or sprayed on-site to a formed substrate. Fibreglass pools are relatively easy to clean and maintain.

Gel coating: gives fibreglass pools their colour and surface. This coating can be replaced as it starts to fade and deteriorate with age. It is a job for the professionals. Speak to the pool manufacturer for more information.

Swimming pool money savers

  • Heating: Installing a solar pool heater can cost more initially than installing a gas or electric one but ongoing costs are much lower. Heat pumps are also cheaper than electric pool heaters as they use ambient heat from the environment and transfer it to the water
  • Leaves: If leaves constantly drop into the pool, you’ll find it harder to manage the chemical balance. This will increase the amount of chemicals you use.
  • Pool cover: Cover your pool well when it’s not in use. This will reduce heat loss. It will also reduce evaporation, meaning you’ll save on chemicals and you won’t have to top up the water as often, and it’ll keep the pool cleaner.
  • Lighting: Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs in outdoor fittings to save on lighting costs.
  • Wind: Wind can greatly increase the amount of evaporation from a pool. Installing wind breaks will help reduce your energy costs. However, be careful not to create too much shade, as this will reduce the amount of passive solar heat gain.

Spa Pools

Apart from maintaining a good chemical balance there is little preventative maintenance you can carry out on modern portable spa pools.

Keeping the chemicals in balance will extend the life of the pool and its filtration system as well as improve your bathing experience. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your type of pool

Also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific maintenance tasks they recommend, including emptying and cleaning the spa.

  • Slippery deck/surround: When water spills onto the deck or surround it can be slippery. Consider installing an anti-slip surface.
  • If your spa is indoors, make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
  • Cartridge filters need to be hosed regularly to get rid of body fats and other solids. If the water temperature drops or the spa is not working properly, check the filter first.
  • Ultraviolet lamps become less effective over time and will eventually need replacing. Contact the manufacturer.

Spa pool money savers

  • Ensure the spa is well insulated and covered when not in use – this could save you $7-$15 a week.
  • Keeping the chemicals in good balance will not only extend the life of your spa, but will keep the chemical costs down.