What to expect when buying a pool or spa from big box stores

So you’re ready to reward yourself with a little slice of luxury. You want that portable spa or pool that you and the family have been eyeing for a long time. The big box stores and membership wharehouses have it on sale, now is the time to strike. They have the purchasing power and now have it down to where it’s easily within reach. Before you pack up and make the trip down to their huge facility, slow down and look at what you may — or may not — be getting for your investment.

Who’s The Expert?

  • When you go to select your model, you’re sure to have some questions. A big box store often has revolving door issues with various departments. If Don or Donna is employed in that particular department, just how much do they know about the product you are about to invest your hard-earned money into?
  • With the box store, you may have spoken to one person on Tuesday who gave you information. On Friday, they’re off and you’re speaking with someone else. Realistically, neither Don nor Donna may be there and your salesperson has been pulled from the curtain and blinds or paint department to help you with your purchase. Even on a good day, how much training has the salesperson had. How long have they worked in that department?
  • When it’s delivered, you want it as near as possible to the area where it will be permanently located. The box stores have a clear delivery policy. You can choose from curbside delivery or delivery at curbside. From there, you’re on your own.
  • Was the warranty information explained thoroughly? Is there a warranty after it’s delivered? If the merchandise is flawed, the box stores do not have service technicians to come to your home.
  • Who installs your prized possession? If it becomes damaged during installation, what recourse do you have? Who takes ownership of the problem? You?

Certified Experts

  • Big box stores thrive and survive on sales. Secard Pools thrives on customer relationships. When you’re a customer instead of a sale, the experience can change — dramatically.
  • Pricing from your local big box store  can sometimes be a misconceived value. While you may be able to save on cereal or saw blades, portable pools and spas are not their forte. Not only are the products from Secard Pools far more superior, you may be surprised to know that they cannot beat our prices.
  • You can expect your salesperson at the local Secard Pools to be knowledgeable. This is what they do; this is their area of expertise. They don’t sell paint, blinds or storm doors. Their training is from the factory and years of experience. They are proud of their product and they want you to know all about it.
  • With proper access, delivery is made to your specifications. Your spa or pool comes to your home and is placed where you want it. A home visit for a problem is simply a call away.
  • Secard Pools can easily provide installation. We know the proper installation methods and, should there be a problem, it becomes our problem, not yours.
  • At Secard Pools, we explain and support all aspects of warranties that apply. Your protection extends past the sale. Secard Pools takes ownership of our product and your satisfaction.
  • Any water chemistry issues can be handled by your local Secard Pools retail location. Bring a water sample to us for free analysis and a quick resolution of your problem. The box store is not equipped to handle such issues.

Would you rather be a customer or a sale? At Secard Pools, a customer is a long-term agreement between us and you. A sale is a short-term relationship and something big box stores thrive on. Once you’re gone, their only concern is the next sale.

Photo credit Patrick Hoesly

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Understanding Vinyl Pool Liner Thickness

When talking about the “mil” or “guage” of vinyl pool liners, you should first get a decent understanding of what these terms actually mean. The most common term for vinyl, “mil” (not to be confused with millimeter) is a unit of measurement equal to one thousandth of an inch. Therefore, a 20 mil liner thickness is equal to 20 thousandths of an inch. The term “gauge” (not to be confused with mil), is a bit more of a moving target. See, multiple industries measure items such as wire, shotgun barrels, sheet metal, photographic film and hypodermic needles by their gauge. This can be very confusing as in a case like shotgun barrels where the smaller the gauge, the larger the barrel. This is not the case when it comes to vinyl pool liners where the higher the gauge, the thicker the material.

When shopping for pool liners, it is very important that you are aware that gauge is not equal to mil. Some manufactures or retailers like to offer their liners in terms of gauges because they sound thicker than a true mil. To be technical, a 30 mil liner is equivalent to 0.0300 inches. A 30 gauge liner is equivalent to 0.0260 inches (26 mil). Therefore, if you see a liner advertised at 35 gauge, it is truly a 30 mil liner. To avoid this confusion, always make sure and purchase from a company that advertises in mil, versus gauge.

To give some additional perspective, here is the mil of some everyday items:

Item Thickness (in mils)
Standard sheet of paper 10 mil
Dime 49 mil
Human hair 2 mil

When deciding what’s best between the thicknesses of vinyl pool liners for in ground pools, a variety of factors should be considered. Such as the location of the pool in relation to sun exposure, how much time the pool will spend covered and the type of surface the liner will be laid on.

If the pool will experience longer exposure to direct sunlight throughout the year or when you’re dealing with a rougher surface material, such as a concrete or a sand and concrete mixture, the appropriate, preferred mil of vinyl pool liner would be the 28-30 mil. Although thicker material will typically cost you about 5 – 10% more, it is 29 – 32% thicker than 20 mil, and will no doubt provide adequate thickness and protection for its purpose.

With that being said, all pool liner material, no matter the thickness will boast the smooth nature vinyl is famous for, come in an array of patterns to choose from, and in most cases, carry the same warranty.

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Save time, the environment and money with salt chlorination

How often do you come across helpful information that will keep more money in your pocket? In this day and age it seems we all need to watch our budgets with a sharper eye for ways to reduce expenses and our home’s maintenance costs. What if your pool could automatically sanitize and balance itself, all while putting a few bucks in your pocket and saving mother nature all at the same time?

Cooling off in your swimming pool after work, doing a few laps to unwind, or relaxing in your spa with your family and friends are a few of the advantages of owning a pool or hot tub. Pool maintenance costs can add up quickly if you use conventional pool maintenance practices which rely on chlorine to keep the water clean. Freshwater pools need water testing weekly with chlorine added regularly for sanitary pool conditions and also to prevent algae. Chlorine is expensive and many find it harsh on their skin when used in the traditional freshwater pool. A traditional pool also requires quite an investment in time to maintain the proper chlorine level and to get the pool’s water to chemically balance.

You can ensure the pool’s maintenance is efficiently taken care of by automating your pool with a salt chlorinating system. It not only reduces your chemically produced chlorine use to zero, reduces costs but will also make your pool’s water feel good on your skin.

Salt chlorination system installation

Installation of the system is quick and easy and does not replace any of your existing pool equipment. After a simple plumbing modification, just add the correct amount of salt and the chlorinating system does the rest. It works by first adding salt to your pool’s water at the rate of 3500 ppm salt content (equivalent to the salt content of the human body). The salinated water then goes through the chlorinating system, which uses electrolysis to break down the salt. The chemical reaction produces a chlorine gas. This chlorine gas prevents algae and purifies the water of your pool or spa. Chloramines are what give traditional pools the terrible smell and red, burning eyes. The electrolytic process oxidizes, or “burns off” these chloramines leaving your pool water clean, pure and luxuriously soft.

Salt doesn’t evaporate like chlorine does which is where the savings come in. Constantly adding chemicals is a thing of the past. No more mixing, measuring and hassling with harsh chlorine again. The savings are significant financially as well as freeing up the chunks of time you won’t be spending maintaining your pool. Say goodbye to itchy skin, strong chemical odors, faded bathing suits and red eyes forever.


Save money and go green

If saving the planet is your forte, you’re on the right track. A salt chlorination system will help you “go green” without your pool going “green”. Limiting the transportation to and from the pool store, reducing the introduction of harsh chemicals into the environment from your pool and cutting out the waste from chlorine packaging are all ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Now there’s an easier, more efficient and cost effective way to maintain your home pool or spa. Keep your pool’s water sparkling clean, fresh and crystal clear at all times. An automatic chlorinating system is a wise choice for easier maintenance at a lower cost to you. It’s amazing what a little salt can do!

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Vinyl vs. Fiberglass vs. Plaster Pools, The match up:

When deciding on what type of in ground pool to install, it is essential to do the proper research before buying. The decision between vinyl, fiberglass or gunite (otherwise known as plaster) for in ground pool selection generally comes to down to factors such as installation costs, how long it will take to install, overall maintenance, and appearance. Everyone’s tastes are different but when it comes to cost and upkeep, vinyl is the clear winner. There’s no reason to be afraid of vinyl as this is not a new technology. Vinyl liner pools may be new to you, but they are certainly not new to Secard Pools.

Plaster pools do offer the most options in terms of design. Depending on your budget, you can design a plaster pool that is one of the most visually-pleasing spaces in your backyard, including those that feature grottos, rock slides, a waterfall or are lagoon-like in appearance. The shape of the pool itself, such as assorted asymmetrical designs, is another design option. Though asymmetrical shapes and water features are a possibility for vinyl pools as well, you are typically very limited when it comes to your options with fiberglass pool shapes and sizes.

Unlike vinyl pools, fiberglass and plaster pools are very expensive to install. The installation costs for a vinyl pool are about $11,000 to $25,000, while installing a plaster pool could cost you anywhere from $35,000 to a staggering $150,000 and fiberglass pools ranging from $20,000 to $40,000. The costs of installing a plaster pool could be even higher depending on how intricate your design plan is.

Not only are vinyl pools less expensive to install, they are also much quicker to install! Adding a vinyl pool to your property generally takes a few weeks, while installing a plaster pool can take anywhere from two to four months. Fiberglass pools tend to be on the shorter end of the scale for installation because you typically have to choose from a shell configuration that the installer has in stock.

While you generally have to replace your vinyl pool liner every 10 years, it is still much less expensive than resurfacing a plaster or fiberglass pool which needs to be done every 10 to 15 years. Additionally, vinyl pool liners and fiberglass shells are resistant to staining while the porous nature of a plaster design makes staining a frequent possibility. Plaster pools require more pool chemicals to keep the pool clean and stain-free. Vinyl pool liners and fiberglass shells are not only stain-resistant but are also algae-resistant. Many pool liners now feature thicker liners that are durable against wear and tear. You will therefore save money on pool chemicals and other maintenance costs if you choose a vinyl liner or fiberglass pool.

If water features are important to your overall pool design, note that such features are now a possibility with all three pool types, though they were previously features for plaster pools only. Browse pool packages to find water features and other design items that work for your vision.

It’s hard to argue with the overwhelming pros of vinyl liner pool design as it costs relatively little to install, takes only a short time to install, is easy to maintain, and offers many of the same features as a plaster pool! If you want a pool for your property but don’t have hours upon hours to dedicate to the scrubbing of algae and other time-
consuming pool maintenance issues, then vinyl liner pools are the optimal design for you.

Take a look at the following chart comparison for the visual touchy-feely:
Compare Features Vinyl Fiberglass Plaster
Affordable No No
Short installation time No
City or county permits required
Tractor access required
No crane access required No
Customizable shape No
Customizable depth No
Unlimited shapes and sizes No
Can withstand an earthquake No No
Smooth surface No
No acid washing required No
Heater friendly
Salt water friendly
Low resurface cost No No
Easy to clean No
Easy to repair No No


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Pool Care for Vinyl Liner Pools

Water Chemistry

Your liners life and looks depends on an accurate water balance. Keeping proper pH levels will help maximize your chemical’s full potential such as the ability for chlorine to kill algae and bacteria.

Learning the proper technique for water testing is essential. Our sales staff will be glad to show you how and can supply you with the needed testing kits. Always follow the manufacturer’s documentation for your safety and the safety of your family and friends.

In-Season Chart

In-Season Chart
Factor Range Test Frequency Function
pH 7.2 – 7.60 Daily Allows other chemicals to operate properly
Free Chlorine Residule 1.0 – 1.5/ppm* Daily Kills bacteria
Total Alkalinity 60 – 125/ppm* Weekly Ability of pool to counteract change in pH
Cyanuric Acid 30 – 75/ppm* Monthly Stabilizes water chemistry
Calcium Hardness 175 – 250/ppm* Monthly To avoid corrosive conditions in pool systems

*ppm = parts per million

pH Level

pH Levels are the acidity or alkalinity of pool water on a scale of “0- 14”. The extreme acid is “0” and the extreme alkali is “14”. Proper pH range is 7.2-7.8. pH readings above 7.8 will lead to scaling on all pool surfaces and cloudy water, inefficient sanitizing, and swimmer discomfort. pH readings below 7.2 will lead to corrosion of metal parts such as heaters and ladders, wrinkled vinyl liners, and swimmer discomfort.


Chlorine will do the job of killing the bacteria in the water if the circulating range of 1.0 – 1.5 ppm is maintained. Anything above this range will attack the liner, bleaching it and shorten its life. Below this range may not kill the bacteria causing unhealthy conditions and possible unsightly staining to your investment.

Letting granular chlorine come into contact with the liner before it has fully dissolved will also damage your liner. To avoid this, dissolve it first in a bucket of water, and pour it in various locations around the pool. This technique is also used with liquid chlorine.

Never mix chemicals together as this may cause personal harm, instead add chemicals to the pool water separately and circulate throughout pool before adding second chemical. Circulation can be achieved by sweeping your pool.

Automatic Pool Sweeps and Maintenance Equipment

It is very important that you only use vacuum head, pool sweeps, brushes or other maintenance equipment that have specifically been designed for your vinyl liner pool. Never use the telescopic pole in the pool without the attachment, the pole is very sharp and may damage the liner.

Vinyl Liner Repair

Should your liner receive a cut or tear, it can usually be repaired using specialized products for vinyl pool liner repair. These adhesives are made to work above or below the water line. Ask your Secard Pool Sales consultant for correct repair procedure and products available.

Water Level

Always keep the water level up to allow your skimmer to operate as designed. Allowing you pool’s water level to fall below this can cause the liner to shrink causing tears and cracks. The water actually holds the liner in place. Never drain your pool, consult with your pool man first!

The Water Line

To reduce grime build up and ultra violet deterioration, a good, non-alcohol, non-petroleum based vinyl protective liquid applied to a clean vinyl surface will work. Please Ask one of our sales associates to help you select a product specially suited for this use.

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