Category Archives: Construction

Pool Plaster Spalling – Improper Installation or Poor Water Chemistry?

11_viewpointPool plaster is made up of cement, sand and water.  It is commonly troweled onto a concrete pool shell in 3 to 5 separate passes – the early passes to place the material and the later passes to create a smooth final finish.  After plaster is troweled, excess water will bleed to the surface.  Bleed water then evaporates from the surface.  There are two common mistakes made during troweling.  First, if troweling is completed when bleed water is present it will force water back into the plaster paste which causes excessively high water to cement ratio which weakens the finished surface.  Second if troweling is completed late after the surface is too dry a crust will form with a wet paste underneath.  This will create a weakened zone subsurface.  This typically happens on dry, hot days with low humidity and wind.  If this happens, the finished surface will look fine and even last awhile if the pool is full of water.  However, when the pool is emptied, a 16th to an 8th inch layer of plaster will flake off or spall in small areas or spots.  Pool plaster spalling is a rare occurrence but most often happens in areas that are challenging to apply plaster including step areas, main drains, and shallow areas.  Often, the first reaction to pool plaster failure is to blame the pool water chemistry however improper installation is typically the cause of pool plaster spalling.

All Stories

Revised MAHC Module Posted: Facility Design and Construction

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent this bulletin at 12/16/2013 04:05 PM EST

Model Aquatic Health Code

December 16, 2013

Thank you for your interest in the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), a collaborative effort of public health, academia, and industry working to protect individuals, families, and communities from preventable waterborne diseases and injuries through evidence-based guidance. Read below for the latest information.


The Facility Design and Construction Module has been revised and re-posted after the first public comment period. View the revised module and the response to comments document.


Each module has a short synopsis or abstract highlighting the most critical recommendations.

You can monitor the status of all modules on the MAHC website.

MAHC Recirculation Systems and Filtration (CH Comments)

CDC posts the Model Aquatic Health Code’s module for Recirculation Systems and Filtration for public comment with a closing date of October 9, 2013. Hydrologicblog posted this announcement with the supporting documents.

Recirculation Systems and Filtration

The Counsilman – Hunsaker team posted a group response in support of the public comment requirements. This response can be viewed at the below link.

MAHC Recirculation Systems Filtration comments

How to make your bathhouse a better place to go

Is your bathhouse a pleasant place to be?  Are you able to keep it clean?  Does your bathhouse have adequate capacity for your venue?  Does it provide sufficient accessibility for the disabled?  Do you have space dedicated for families to use?

While it is hard for any manager to say yes to all of these questions, there’s a saying in the pool industry that a nice bathhouse may not bring people in, but a bad one will keep them away.  I would argue that this saying is a half-truth.  A nice bathhouse won’t keep a serious swimmer away, but given a choice, it will attract leisure swimmers.  Moms tend to make those decisions, and moms like clean safe places.  Here are some tips for making yours a better place to go.

It really goes without saying that cleaning is the most important thing you can do.  It is the day-to-day rigor that is difficult but necessary to maintain.  Do you have a documented cleaning regimen?  Do you encourage patrons to notify you of issues?  Do you quickly resolve those issues?  If you outsource maintenance, is it clear what the contractor is to perform and what your staff performs?  Do you have the necessary tools and materials handy for staff to resolve daily issues?  Hold folks accountable for their responsibilities.  If you don’t already, consider requiring staff to use the public facilities.  This helps to spot issues quickly and eliminates the “ours/theirs” mentality.  Reward staff that is doing the best work in this area.

Make all of this as easy on yourself as possible with finishes that are durable and easy to maintain.  Tile finishes (glazed for walls and non-slip for floors) with dark grouts are about the best you can do when it comes to maintenance.  Bare concrete floors are common, but concrete is a sponge.  If not sealed regularly, it will not only stain, it will smell like its stains.  If you have dirty concrete you can’t clean, power wash it thoroughly, acid etch it and apply a penetrating sealer.  Test in small areas until you find one you are happy with, as some can be slippery.  Regularly re-seal at least as frequently as the manufacturer recommends.  If you wait until you see staining, it’s too late.  Epoxy floors are also common, but have limited lifespan.  Traffic patterns wear quickly.  Expect to re-apply regularly.  High-build non-slip epoxies such as those used in commercial kitchens will last much longer, but for the price, you can still consider tile. 

When it comes to ventilation, it is impossible to have too much.  The most important sensory perception in a bathhouse is not the eyes, but the nose.  Patrons can tolerate seeing a little grime, but if it smells bad, they may choose to use the pool next time instead of coming back to the toilet.  Yes, the cleanliness of your facilities can affect your water!  Remember that code dictates the minimum amount of ventilation required in a given room.  Bathhouse toilet rooms should have the air volume turned over much more aggressively.  Natural ventilation is great, but do not rely on it, as the breeze is not always blowing.  Stagnant air is the enemy.

Now comes the eyes – with lighting.  Bright rooms are easier to clean and simply feel better to be in.  Light-colored finishes will help tremendously in the same way.  Be careful when re-lamping light fixtures.  Don’t just by the cheapest bulbs, warm-colored lamps are much preferable to cool ones – use no lower than 3500K color temperature, and a CRI (color-rendering index) of 75 or better.  Warm light is closer to the sun’s rays and makes the view in the mirror much more attractive.  Natural daylight can tremendously brighten and warm a space.  In existing buildings, small skylights such as “Solotubes” are affordable and easy to install in most any roof.  In new projects, consider skylights and clerestory windows.

Building new?  Here are some tips that can be difficult or impossible to change later.  

  1. Build with masonry.  Masonry walls will be there for the life of the building, and will never rust, mold or rot like cavity stud walls.
  2. Provide family changing rooms.  Ten to fifteen years ago, these were novel, now they are expected.  So much so that one is rarely enough for demand at many facilities.
  3. Consider wall-hung toilet fixtures.  Being able to power wash and mop under toilets will do wonders for your ability to clean.  The argument against this is usually the risk of vandalism (jumping and breaking toilets off the wall).  Know your clientele as you make this decision.  If vandals are a realistic concern, consider stainless steel fixtures.
  4. Touch-free fixtures are much more sanitary than manual ones.  They also cut down on odors by flushing every time.
  5. Ensure that your floors properly slope to drains.  Adding another drain or two is cheap up front, but is invaluable when it comes to cleaning.
  6. If you are using partition stalls, solid plastic or phenolic partitions will last the longest.  Stay away from steel, even stainless.
  7. Plan a space for a large waste bin.  This is rarely given proper thought.  Usually, small waste receptacles are built into the wall.  This is never enough, so a big plastic bin winds up somewhere in the room, and usually in the way.
  8. You cannot have too much storage space.  While this is true for most any building type, it is often forgotten in a bathhouse.  The janitor closet always gets squeezed to barely room for a sink and a shelf.  If you don’t make it easy for yourself to clean, you won’t.
  9. Put a spigot under the sink in each room.  The plumbing is already there, so adding a spigot is nearly free today, and convenient forever. 

Hopefully there is a nugget or two in these tips that are useful to you.  If you are interested in an “extreme makeover”, consult with an architect or interior designer that has a track record with aquatic facilities. 

World Diving Trials held at FSU

The 2013 World Championship team101_5395 for the United States has been selected as USA Diving’s trials came to a close Monday, May 20th at Florida State University’s Morcom Aquatics Center in Tallahassee, FL.  In all, 15 divers will compete for Team USA at the worlds in Barcelona in July.  For a complete list of all divers and coaches that will compete in Barcelona, Spain in the FINA World Championships, please go to

The Morcom Aquatics Center has also been the host for the USA Diving National Championship in 2009.

The aquatic design and engineering of the state-of-the-art facility was done by Counsilman-Hunsaker and opened up in 2008.  For more on the Morcom Aquatics Center, please go to:  and