Every year, thousands of Arizona residents email Rosie Romero’s website or call his radio show with questions about everything from how to prevent fires in their chimneys to what to do about the tree roots invading their sewer systems. One of his goals is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona.
QUESTION: Is it necessary to fill an empty swimming pool with sand ? Is it bad for the pool pump and pipes for the system to be out of action for one or two years?
ANSWER: We have never recommended that you have to fill an empty pool with sand if you are planning to reuse it within a reasonable length of time. If a system is out of commission for one or two years, however, the plumbing may dry out and develop problems.
If you want to completely abandon the pool, you need to call a pool company. Often that company will subcontract the job which can be pricy. Cost depends on the size of your pool, but also depends on access. Workers have to get an earthmover into your backyard. Plants and fencing might have to be moved or replaced. Usually the demolition contractor digs a 5 foot by 5 foot hole in the pool bottom and fills it with an aggregate base of crushed rock. This will provide drainage from rain or other water after the pool is filled.
Generally, cities require that the top two feet of the pool walls be removed. The contractor will dump this debris from the walls into the hole if the owner agrees. Finally, top soil is brought in to cover the site, and the area is graded for re-landscaping. Another option? Cover the empty pool with a deck structure.
Q: Would you replace polybutylene (PB) plumbing if you had it in your home? What’s wrong with it anyway?
A: Yes, you should — at your earliest possible convenience. If you have PB pipe in your house, it’s almost inevitable there will be a failure in a fitting or the pipes with this type of plumbing. Newer PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) piping stands up much better to high water pressure and the sediment that can build up in pipes due to the hardness of Arizona’s water.
Polybutylene is a form of plastic resin used for water pipes from 1978 until 1995. Because of its low cost and easy installation, plumbers used PB pipe as a substitute for traditional copper piping. But PB became notorious for ruptures and leaks. The chlorine in the public water supply reacts with the PB piping and the polymer that binds some of the joints. This reaction causes the pipes to flake and become brittle. Pipes also can suffer from ruptured joints.
These pipes can be gray, white, blue, black or ivory colored and are very flexible. It’s easy to identify them due to their “PB” labels .
Contact a repipe specialist for a job like this. It’s relatively inexpensive to replace PB. But you may have to remove and replace drywall and then repaint.
Q: What is the correct mixing ratio for mortar?
A: Our opinion at Rosie on the House is that because pre-mixed bags of mortar are easy to buy, it’s just not worth mixing mortar from scratch for do-it-yourselfers.
Pre-mixed mortar combines Portland cement, hydrated lime and masonry sand, blended in proper proportions to make what is called a Type S mortar, used for patios, foundations and retaining walls. You just have to add enough water to reach the right texture, usually five to six quarts for an 80-pound bag.
Put two-thirds to three-quarters of the water in the mixer, then add the pre-mixed mortar and put in more water as needed to reach the desired consistency. Mix for three to five minutes, turn off the mixer and allow mortar to “slake” two to three minutes. Then re-start the mixer and mix for another two to three minutes, adding water as needed.
Pre-mixed mortars use kiln-dried sand that has a higher water demand. So it takes a few minutes for all the water to be absorbed into the dry sand, hence the need for a prolonged mixing time. If you do not allow the mortar to set and “slake,” it will feel gritty on the trowel and will be hard to work with.