New pool professionals often start with the bare minimum in their service and repair kit. Over time, through mentorship and necessity, pool pros pick up tips, tricks and tools to do their jobs faster, easier and better. Some are a little more outside the box than others but often become essential on the job. We asked pool pros about their favorites among these ‘unsung heroes’ in their tool kit.
“It easily clips to my pocket so I don’t even know it’s there. When you see as many pools as I do in a day, you don’t want to carry out your entire tool bag with you to every pool. For simple fixes or troubleshooting, my Leatherman saves me the trip back to the truck if I need a tool. It has pliers, wire cutters, a knife, a flat head and Philips screwdriver. If I can save five minutes on every job and I have 12 stops a day, that’s an hour of time saved.” Justin Ellison Owner, JJ Pools Litchfield County, Connecticut
“My Leatherman Wave has been my last-ditch trip saver so many times: tight pipe cuts, stripping LV wire and terminal wiring, filing down burrs, opening beers, removing Hayward return eyeballs without a slot tool, digging out pool putty to mix — the list of saves for this one device is inexhaustible, unlike me.” Rick Cleveland Owner, Rick Cleveland The PoolGuy, Inc. Naples, Florida
“Channellocks are essential in our business. We use them daily for numerous things, from removing a broken wall fitting to opening a can of pipe glue, loosening a union to opening a stuck pump lid. The big one are available at [box stores] for around $25.” Malcolm James Owner, The Clear Choice Pool Service Spring, Texas
“Big channellocks are the most important tool in my tool bag. Without them, work comes to a grinding halt. We use them on nearly every job we do, be it tightening/loosening unions, loosening tight pump lids or even occasionally as a hammer. They are imperative to our everyday operations, which is why we keep three pairs: one in the bag and two hidden away in the truck.” Beau DeRohan Owner, Great White Pool & Spa Boise, Idaho
“The most underrated and time-saving [item] is a good tool bag: something large enough to carry most common tools used but small enough that it’s not a pain to carry. Mine is named Brian, has saved countless trips back to the truck and keeps me organized. The one I use now is from AWP, but I change every couple of years if I find something more suitable to my current situation.” Harold Henderson Service manager, Paradise Pools & Spas Summerville, South Carolina
“I was sick of losing my tools or leaving them behind. It gets costly to rebuy screwdrivers and pliers all the time. The Husky Pack and Go tool bag is great. It has wheels, a handle and tons of pockets to organize my tools. It keeps everything at my fingertips so I’m not running back and forth to the truck all day. I keep my pliers, screwdrivers, pipe cutters, socket set and everything in between [in this bag]. The only downfall is that it gets quite heavy to lug around after awhile. I’m looking into getting the Milwaukee PACKOUT boxes. They break down into smaller sections so it’s easier on my back to carry.” Jessica Rust Co-owner, WaterDog Pools Harvey, Louisiana
One-of-a-Kind Homemade Tools
Mark Lilley, owner of Lilley Pad Pools in Chico, California, assembled his own tool to help him glue pipes under the waterline. “It’s some tubing connected to a test plug with the stem removed,” he says of the design. “I connect that to my Ryobi battery-powered inflator, then I run the tube and test plug through a valve or fitting.”
After that, Lilley inserts the test plug into the cut pipe under the waterline and inflates; the plug holds back the water so he can adequately dry the area he needs to glue. Finally, Lilley primes the pipe and valve, adds glue and assembles.
“You can then deflate the test plug, remove it and close the valve,” he adds. “Now you can continue plumbing the rest of your underwater setup without getting wet.”
The Splash Wagon
The team at Splash Swimming Pool Services in San Marcos, Texas, has extensive health and fitness knowledge. Two staff members are paramedics, one a personal trainer and another has a nursing degree. That knowledge led to The Splash Wagon.
“The highest-cost workplace injury is a back injury,” says owner Lin Boyd, a paramedic. The Splash Wagon eliminates the stress on the back. “We have long walks to get to some of our clients’ pools out in the hill country. We can’t bring our trucks all the way up to the pools; it’s unprofessional and sometimes water/waste and septic lines run through these properties. The Splash Wagon has solved all these problems — no back and forth to grab brush, net, pole, shock, acid bottles, test kits — the wagon carries everything we need.”
The Splash Wagon is a work in progress. The wheels have been upgraded to traverse rocks, gravel and cattle grates smoothly. Currently the bottom is lined with wood, but a rubber lining is coming. A ramp is in the works to make it easier to load and unload the wagon from a truck.
“And, yes, we do have a future plan to market this [to other pool pros] after we have perfected it some more,” Boyd says.
“These have allowed me to multitask to the extreme. I can do cleaning and repair work and talk on the phone at the same time. The great thing about the AirPods is that you can have a private conversation with whoever is on the phone, but if a client pops out you can easily hear anything they have to say without having to end the call or even adjusting the AirPods. Working with these from day to day makes my life much easier out in the field.” Erik Taylor Owner, Chlorine King Pool Service Seminole, Florida
“All techs are supplied with an iPad. We are using RB Retail and Service Solutions programs. RB’s Mobile Live app allows our company to be paperless. We use the iBooks app with the cloud to distribute important information that can easily be updated (billing codes, chemical part numbers, equipment manuals).
Company Cam app has drastically changed our company, making it easy to create files and document the work performed with pictures at each job.
Pentair has a great app called Pool IQ. We have used it for a selling tool, as it has most of their product line available with descriptions and videos. Other important apps are saturation index, weather apps and, of course, YouTube.” Matt Kochan Service manager, Great Valley Pool Service Frazer, Pennsylvania
Odds and Ends
“It’s one of my personal favorites. It’s very useful at getting stuff out of the pump impeller without having to break the pump down. I learned this on my own after breaking down a couple just for this reason. I knew there was an easier way after trying a screwdriver and a piece of wire. I decided on a dental pick, and it has always seemed to work best.” John Poma Owner, A+ Pool Service, LLC Lakeland, Florida
“Tennis balls can be useful in distracting dogs who are excited to see you. They are also very useful when you have two skimmers and need to block suction of one in order to vacuum the pool. Others may try to find other methods, such as a threaded plug to block the line. But a tennis ball is strong and big enough to not get sucked into the line, and buoyant enough to pop up when the system is shut off. I personally prefer to use something that doesn’t have a chance of being lost at the bottom of the pool for me to fish out, taking up time.” Kelli Carrillo Owner/operator, Legacy Pool & Spa Carmichael, California
“Mirrors of numerous sizes and shapes allow me to see around corners, read motor specs facing the wall without space [between them], get better underwater visuals around inlets and vac fittings, etc. They are useful for equipment under the skirts of portable spas.” Bob Carson President, Carson Quality Services, Inc. Jupiter, Florida
“You can’t move sand, you can’t move concrete, you can’t move dirt — you can’t do anything without a shovel. Those are all the ingredients to the structure of the pool so, without a shovel, there is no pool. All the other pieces are luxury when the pool itself is done. Therefore, it’s the most important part of building a pool. Even machinery for the dig — they may call them ‘buckets’ on the machines, but it’s just a heavy-duty version of a shovel.” Sean Ruble Co-owner, JFY Pools Marengo, Illinois
“This tool has saved my butt a bunch of times out in the field. You can reuse fittings (when replacing it is anything but easy) or you can temporarily bend pipe to make a connection in tight places to make a solid glue joint. During the one week of cold weather us Floridians get, it helps with keeping you warm.” Erik Taylor Owner, Chlorine King Pool Service Seminole, Florida
“[Using zip ties is] common sense in terms of hanging signage and stuff like that. I was taught not to leave wires, cables and conduit looking sloppy and unprofessional. There are other uses in terms of fastening water management hoses on the internals of a cleaner or fixing personal equipment. They’re great in a pinch for adaptable circumstances.” Jimi Ogletree Maintenance manager, The Pool Butler Hiram, Georgia