10 September 2014
On the road with Jason Beirne, LSPC Service Engineer
Welcome to my monthly blog; I will share with you my experiences of looking after clients’ pools and will be happy to answer any questions you have – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been working with swimming pools since 2009 - I began looking after pools whilst working a season in France, I enjoyed it so much I decided to stay and learn as much as I could. I was fortunate to gain a foundation of experience working with swimming pools in France where all my clients had outdoor pools, and that trend has followed here in the UK, with 95% being outdoor pools.
I was fascinated when I learned that the UK had a thriving swimming pool industry and eager to see what it had to offer, I joined London Swimming Pool Company 18 months ago.
My job is very rewarding. It satisfies my need for orderliness whilst at the same time being highly diverse, which is why I enjoy it so much. The general gist of overseeing and maintaining pools five days a week is the same; however where, when, why and how is wildly variable so it means that no two days are the same. A great feature of my job is that it keeps in time with the changing of the four seasons which is something I like to keep in tune with.
Ultimately I like people and in this job I get to meet a wide variety from very different backgrounds which makes it interesting - variety is the spice of life, after all. I enjoy seeing the development of a project, and working with clients, colleagues and suppliers to achieve a desired goal gives me a real buzz. Being surrounded by enthusiastic, passionate professionals is really pleasing and inspiring.
LSPC moving on up
The great thing with moving is it usually entails discovery and new perspective, so I'm looking forward to seeing the new HQ of the London Swimming Pool Company today (LSPC). The home of the company has been a stone’s throw from Wimbledon Tennis Club in leafy Southfields for some twenty or so years. With Southfields being an unsung hero among suburbs, with its great links into Central London and easy access to the south whilst all the time retaining a sense of being a village, it was very difficult to find somewhere that ticked all the boxes. Necessity is the mother of invention, and with the departments - Servicing, Maintenance, Refurbishment, Design, Construction and of course HR all expanding - something had to present itself quickly. Luckily our crack team of highly trained property analysts were scouring the market, ready to pounce at any given time - and sure enough, they pounced! New Malden now houses LSPC HQ and today is the first day I shall be attending.
No Monday morning blues
Mondays usually hold lots of questions from clients who have been using their pools over the weekend. I like to be at my first pool between 7.30am to 8.00am. It means leaving home between 6.15am and 7.25am as my first client visit changes on a daily basis. Today it's a rooftop spa in Battersea that I attend every month. I have to be there by 8.00am. The spa in question is having a bespoke thermal cover made and should be delivered to our new lair in the afternoon. The client has been on vacation and will appreciate the news as it has taken time to verify the details. The new cover will have heat seals around it with some skirting, and will be extra thick, I think it’s two inches to retain all the heat, along with extra straps to pin it down - it’s windy up top!
Client know how in Hurlingham Park
Across the river afterwards to Hurlingham Park, a client who I see very little of as he has extensive knowledge of pools having looked after them in The Philippines. It’s good to touch base, catch up on how things are with the pool and how he is finding the new cartridge filters and variable speed pump which we installed earlier in the season. I find feedback from clients very helpful, so try not to ask questions with simple “yes”, “no” answers to gain as much scope. Some people use their pools day in day out and know their pool just like a pet so it's important to listen and answer every question and gather feedback. In this instance, with some foresight, I had left some spare parts from a previous visit on site, I was able to stop a leak in the pool and it can be used straight away.
A van to be relied on
One needs to stand on solid ground whilst peering over the edge into the abyss and for me that comes in the form of a well stocked van. I like to take everything and then some spares because I never know when it will come in handy or get me out of trouble! However it isn't just a van, it’s an office – whenever a pool needs a spare part ordering, I look through the small library of brochures, or take photos and send them over to M who has a great repertoire of contacts. The van is also my chemical store which I keep replenished and restored.
Rejuvenating in Kingston upon Thames
Depending on the nature of your call to LSPC, whether it's a request to start a service term, or if you have a problem with your boiler, you will get somebody out that has the relevant knowledge and expertise. My next visit is to a residence in Kingston upon Thames that I have never attended before; all I know is that the filter will need a media change towards the end of the season (that will be by client request) and the address.
At first, the lack of information regarding the pool was quite daunting, however as you proceed, you pick up so many new tools, new methods and start to relish what may lie ahead of you. Of course, I have massive trust in the colleague who previously visited the site because he has shared all his knowledge with me. The pool is set in the grounds of a large country house next to an ageing tennis court, the two 50m hosepipes just reaching the pool from the house, and an old shed between some yew trees where the plant room is housed. The pool is around 4 x 12m and surrounded by a knee height limestone wall. It's been well made, using good materials.
Whilst the client introduces the pool he explains that he has had issues:
"The last pool company simply couldn't get the chemical balance right, and the cover to open or close, so why are we bothering with that company, we thought?”
Even though the pool is only 10 to 12 years old, it's plain to see it needs some rejuvenation. The plant room has cobwebs covering the pipework and has signs of ageing. The flow through the filter is very low preventing the boiler from igniting. So whilst the filter is getting a big backwash, I get some soapy water and start to clean all the pipework, and then attempt to re-ignite the boiler. No luck. It’s a boiler I have never seen before, so give our boiler engineer a call. Mr Beacher, who is already well acquainted with said boiler, gives me exact instructions and in two minutes it’s good to go. After finishing the service I present my findings to the client, making sure they are updated and my work is transparent.
Keeping out the rubbish in an English country rose garden!
My next client is a long standing client of LSPC and the pool has gone from zero to hero in my opinion. Returning from France I had forgotten about the English country rose garden, where the popular choice are lawns with dodgy sprinklers and sand being in a pine forest next to an ocean, so I was amazed to see gardens full of flowers, decorative trees, multi-coloured bushes and insects. However as pretty as they seem, they aren't the greatest at preserving the feel-good factor a pristine pool needs. This pool was a big culprit of leaf drop, so inevitably issues were frequent. Felling and rotavating everything in the garden that you've spent the best part of 30 years nurturing isn't top of most people's agenda, so a solution had to be found to the leaf debris in the pool.
This solution came in the form of a pool safety cover, a strong vinyl cover that sits over the pool, forming a lid so leaves, twigs and other debris don’t fall into the water. The cover opens at the turn of a key, very handy and labour free. A pump sits on the top of the cover to remove any excess water that gathers after it has rained which needs to be adjusted. I get this adjusted and open the cover up to see how the pool is doing. I haven't been here for 10 days; however, the water quality is like I had been here yesterday – pristine! Testament to the benefit of a pool cover.
Mending leaky pool in Wimbledon
When a hole in your pocket is discovered, it's a nuisance, when hole in your pool is discovered it’s a problem. My next client is in Wimbledon and received the unfortunate news that the pool had around five major leaks within the pool on both suction and return pipework; grave news.
To fix the leaks we will change the whole pipework system and re-house the plant to improve flow, completing two jobs at once and if any aesthetics such as pool surround needs updating, this can be done at the same time. It will be a fairly large task, however, one which will ensure a lifetime of use, so will be well worth our labour and the client’s investment.
For the moment, my job is to maintain that the cover hasn't fallen in, and it is kept up to a certain standard. Also it’s important that the clarity of the pool is maintained. The pool is by far the largest – easily twice the size of any other I look after, so it really does take time!
After finishing and writing my report, I head off to our new office, with my week’s worth of notes and job sheets to hand into our admin team. First things first, I need to find it! After being instructed by my Brazilian colleague Alex I get to the new office, tucked away in Shannon Commercial Centre, next to a courier company and storage site. It’s big. There is a large secure warehouse where we store chemicals and spares, separate office downstairs for all admin, and upstairs for design and construction to work in peace. It feels great.
A new chapter is just beginning and should be very exciting!