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PVC Membrane Saves Old Commercial Pools

For municipalities tired of patching plaster, this liner type may be the answer

If you’re responsible for pool maintenance and management for a municipal or commercial aquatic facility, particularly in freeze-thaw locales across the United States and Canada, you’re probably uncomfortably aware of the annual ritual of repairing peeling plaster, cracks and leaks, all in anticipation of another summer of heavy use. And after the winter of discontent many of us have lived through, your maintenance budget might already have been drained, diverted to snow-removal costs.

The answer to repair and budget woes, annual repairs and patches might reside in PVC Membrane: a 60 mil, reinforced PVC lining product that claims to provide 15 years of plaster-free, sandblast-free, no-hassle pool openings. Ron Melbourne of Membrane Concepts says the vast majority of calls to his Boston-area office are for older pools. “We’re seeing a lot of cement or gunite pools that have been plastered over with fiberglass or with several layers of paint,” he says. “They’ve all tried many of the same things in the past to alleviate or fix things that are causing problems on the pool surface.”

Adding salt to the wound, these common annual repairs are usually the equivalent of a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. The PVC membrane provides a shell that won’t give or crack with seasonal temperature fluctuations. The pool vessel is now watertight, without the need to pinpoint the area of a pool that’s causing the problem.

Melbourne says the installation of the membrane requires minimum prep — no need to fill cracks or sandblast — although repair any holes and make the pool surface as smooth as possible. “We start the actual install by laying down an 11-ounce fleece, similar to a heavy winter coat, that is applied to the pool surface with a non water–based adhesive,” Melbourne says. “The fleece helps to soften and cover any minor imperfections on the pool floor and walls. Then we apply the 60 mil PVC liner, which is custom cut for the pool we’re working on. When the installation is done, you have a nonporous surface that is much easier to clean than the pitted surface we commonly see in pools.”

Added comfort is another plus for pool users. The combination of malleable PVC on top of fleece is more enjoyable than the hard cement or gunite surfaces of most pools. This is perfect for commercial pool settings that offer water aerobics.

While Melbourne says about 90 percent of his business is commercial installation, he does see some residential pool owners taking note of the benefits of PVC membrane. “For a typical pool owner who doesn’t have any pool issues and just wants a replacement liner, this isn’t the product,” Melbourne says. “For those homeowners with a higher end pool, this has advantages. For those types of residential applications, this product can also increase the value of a pool. There might be a spa next to the pool that we can also line. Education is key to getting this product into the residential market. Most homeowners simply don’t know about it. As that changes, the PVC membrane will become just as viable an option for residential pool owners as commercial facilities.” The product comes in about a dozen colors that replicate the color palette commonly associated with painted pools. Thanks to the PVC and a smooth pool surface, Melbourne says many of his clients are using fewer chemicals, which decreases the costs of pool operation.

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