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There aren’t many places as relaxing as a quietly bubbling spa, but the experience can let you down if the effects of age or neglect have not been properly mitigated. Lucy Mackey speaks with Rourke Hartwig, co-director of Equilibrium Pools, to get the low-down on when to renovate your concrete spa, and when to replace it.

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If your spa is looking a bit shabby, or not performing the way you’d like it to, it’s well worth investigating the option of renovating before you decide to replace it. “The most obvious advantage of renovating is that it’s generally more cost-effective to renovate rather than replace,” Rourke Hartwig says. It’s also usually a quicker process, which means less disruption to you and your lifestyle; as a rough guide, a spa renovation typically takes between two and four weeks.

“Another major advantage is that renovation works can usually be undertaken without council approval, provided there are no proposed changes to the external layout or overall water volume,” Hartwig explains. “This reduces the cost of the project and cuts down any potential time delays from waiting on approvals before work can be undertaken.”

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TO RENO OR NOT TO RENO

It’s important to consider what you’d like to achieve with your spa update. For Hartwig, renovations tend to fall into one or more of the following categories: updating the aesthetic; increasing functionality and efficiency; and repairing minor structural faults. The most common renovation mistakes he’s observed are the result of a lack of understanding about what’s involved – the processes and the costs, and what is and isn’t possible.

“Owners should research their options so as to make informed decisions,” Hartwig says, because sometimes renovating isn’t always the best choice. If your spa is exhibiting structural issues, it might be time to rip off the Band-Aid and replace it. “Serious structural issues may present as significant cracks or fissures, particularly along seams or joints between steps and benches or areas where the spa attaches to the pool,” Hartwig says. “Evidence of rust patches or bulging of the interior lining are also strong indicators of structural failures.” When it comes to older models, or those that are in very poor condition, the cost of renovating can approach that of outright replacement. In cases like these, where major work would be required, it may be a better option to completely replace your spa.

“The main disadvantage of renovating is that you have to work within the framework of the existing structure,” says Hartwig. So, if you’re looking to alter the shape of your spa, replacing it is probably more feasible.

Keep in mind that “changing the shape of your spa is significantly complicated, adds to the expense and can carry some degree of risk”, says Hartwig. “This is largely to do with the merging of existing and new products. In short, yes it can be done but it really has to be done right.”

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES

If you’re primarily looking to update your spa’s visual appeal, there is a lot you can do with a skilful renovation. “Modifying the material finishes is probably the best way to modernise your spa’s look,” Hartwig says. “Natural stone drop-down or waterfall-edge coping will go a long way in helping you to achieve this, however upgrading the internal lining can also make a big visual difference. Glass mosaic tiles or glass bead interiors are great options here.” Another simple change that will have great impact is updating the lighting. Switching halogen lights for multicoloured LEDs will create a striking impression, and many models can be retrofitted without much trouble.

TECH TALK

New spa gadgets and gizmos will likely have entered the market since your spa was built. “Upgrading equipment is a great way to integrate new technology in your renovation,” Hartwig says. “Advances in technology now offer amazing options for the general function, maintenance and automation of spas.”

“Combinations of variable-speed pumps, chlorinators and automation systems are viable options for spa upgrades, and typically offer the benefits of improved efficiency and functionality, while reducing maintenance and chemical requirements,” Hartwig explains. “Most of these upgrades can be made via the external plumbing network, or additional plumbing modifications can generally be made to the spa shell itself.”

If you’re concerned about your spa’s environmental impact, updating its running system is a good way to cut down on energy, water and chemical use.

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When coupled with AI technology, variable-speed pumps can reduce speed to the minimum system requirement at any given time.

Modern sanitation systems can achieve the same results in far less run-time than older models, and the same goes for heaters. Further, “covers and blankets (both physical and chemical) have had advancements over the years, saving energy and water”, Hartwig says. You can even take the opportunity to replace or augment older heating systems with solar panels!

The latest automation systems, such as AstralPool’s Viron Connect 10, can run most of these systems from your home, or even your phone. “They offer the opportunity to remotely control, activate, and preheat your spa on the way home from work so that it’s ready for use upon your arrival,” Hartwig adds.

READY, SET, RENOVATE!

When embarking on your renovation journey, there’s a few key spa parts that will most likely need your attention. “It’s fairly typical that plastic components, especially those exposed to the sun and chemical-infused spa water, will need replacing, including jet heads and suction covers,” Hartwig says. The same goes for the spa cover, which can be particularly susceptible to sun damage.

A renovation is also a good time to have essential spa equipment – including the pump and filter – checked for faults or signs of wear and tear. A dash of timely maintenance can save you significant costs by nipping potential faults in the bud. “The manufacturer’s warranty for each piece of equipment should serve as a good minimum lifespan,” Hartwig says.

“The temperature and chemical makeup of the spa’s water matrix can make a difference too; the more chemicals in the system, and the hotter the spa runs, the shorter the lifespan of the equipment.”

IT’S YOUR CALL

A well-executed renovation can easily extend your spa’s life another decade, so it’s worth putting some thought into. Consider how you use your spa, and how it could serve you better: for example, have you found the interior gets slippery, or the maintenance is excessive? Or perhaps the coping is looking worn and no longer suits the exterior cladding of your home?

If your spa shell is still sturdy, but you’d like to enhance the look or performance of the spa, then a renovation is ideal.

On the other hand, if you’d like to change the shape, or there are major structural issues present, it’s better in the long run to replace your spa entirely. Either way, Hartwig says it’s best to “have a clear vision of what you’re hoping to achieve, research your options, and engage with reputable pool builders who will offer you sound advice”.

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Images courtesy of Aegean Pools, Oceanscape Pools, Aquastone Pools & Landscapes, Artesian Pools