All you need to know about cleaning and repairing your pool steps.
Sometimes we just need the right vocabulary so we can speak the same language. Below are some diagrams that will help.
One of the advantages of our methods and materials is our ability to repair and refinish your steps in place, with the liner installed and the water lowered. Our work will take a day to perform and will then require 48 hours afterwards, without traffic or water immersion, to cure. The pool can then be refilled and enjoyed. Of course, if your liner is being replaced at the same time, we much prefer it removed to allow for a larger work area, less risk and dry feet!
Some steps require multiple repairs and a complete refurbish where others only need the one area or tread repaired. We require the water to be 1 tread lower than the step or area we are to fix in this instance. Much less hassle and expense with a short turnaround time for the repair.
Like any outdoor item, pool steps age and get dirty. We often receive requests to refinish stairs that require no repairs, but the stairs are dingy. We have found that mildly abrasive products like Ajax, Comet or liquid toilet cleaners work well. We have tested some commercially available boat hull cleaners, like StarBright, and found that they clean and brighten stairs very well – please follow instructions and spot test.
We find that pressures washers are too intense for steps, even the factory coating and we definitely advise not to pressure wash our StepGel finish or other aftermarket coating.
Once cleaned, a boat wax can be used on surfaces above the waterline to maintain the clean look and to protect from UV exposure.
This section on blisters is based on our 25 year experience and research. We cannot speak to other industries and products. All of our knowledge and experiments are confined strictly to FRP steps in chlorine and salt pools.
As FRP or Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic steps age they often develop “bumps” or “bulges”. These are called blisters. We have found that in reference to pool steps that they pose no risk of leaking or of structural decay. They are a cosmetic issue only. While they are a time consuming but straightforward repair the difficulty comes in having a permanent solution.
What causes the formation of a blister?
We think there are several ways they develop on pool steps.
An osmotic blister develops if moisture or a low-concentration solution from the environment diffuses or passes through the semi-permeable coating to form a high-concentration solution with the salt, chlorine or other chemical on the substrate surface.
In the pool environment this can be PH fluctuations, the addition of pool chemicals or even the changeover to salt water systems. These fluctuations can increase the osmotic pressure and create blisters, create bigger blisters or more of them.
Cold Wall Effect Blisters
Your stairs are set into concrete below grade and backfilled. The ground surrounding your steps will likely never warm past 10-12 Celsius or 55 Fahrenheit, even in peak summer while your pool water will reach towards 30 Celsius or 90 Fahrenheit. This temperature differential creates condensation, similar to a cold can of pop on a hot day. Moisture will migrate towards areas of lower temperatures, and so, when the temperature of the water inside the pool is higher than the temperature of the soil on the other side of the stair, condensation will occur and build up between the outer plastic layer and the structural fiberglass, building up osmotic pressure and increasing the rate of osmotic blistering. The greater the difference in temperature, the greater the risk factor.
Over the years we have tested many fillers, resins and epoxies both common and exotic in our search for a blister “cure”. We continue to tinker as new ideas and products are found but we have determined that blister maintenance, not repair, is a more realistic approach. No matter the repair material or method we have used, blisters are likely to reappear in some form. A bulge may not develop, but a stain will appear in the same area as the blister before. This can be within the same season as the repair, or years after. After all visible blisters are repaired it is not uncommon for new blisters to appear elsewhere.
We also have to recognize that if the manufacturers cannot stop this from occurring and do not have a solution either – we know this because we do warranty work – we are not likely to find a permanent repair.
We REALLY do not like the use of foam for structural repair! Foam injection may last a season or 2 or 5 if you're lucky, but at some point it has to be removed and packed properly using structural materials. We spend a good deal of time every season removing “the competitions” repairs.
Remember! Bricks Don't Quit!
We are constantly in discussion and researching with the leading fiberglass/acrylic pool stair manufacturers allowing us to develop better repair and refinishing techniques. The Pool Step Specialists have been performing the warranty work for a number of acrylic and fiberglass pool step manufacturers since our inception.