Happy Monday! Sometimes it is tough, but we all (usually) make it through the weekend to show up to work on this glorious day. I’d love to digress with a story of my own weekend extravaganzas but my editor would likely catch my scandalous words much the same way your inground pool skimmer should catch those pesky bugs and leaves, frogs and mice, if it is in good working order.
Skimmers have been known to live well into their 30's and 40's, but that being said, inevitably a second generation will be needed to continue the job. If you are still with me (congratulations) then prepare for a step-by-step, how-to do-it-yourself pool skimmer installation or replacement program.
Skimmer installation may differ slightly according to which brand skimmer you have bought. I’ll assume you have worked with a fine salesperson here at Specialty Pool Products and have purchased an Inground Pool Kit, which means you are installing a Hayward skimmer.
Inground Skimmer Installation
For a new pool, just being constructed, the process of installing a pool skimmer is a lot easier than replacing a pool skimmer, which we'll get to later. For new construction, start by removing the faceplate and screws from the new skimmer assembly and also remove the lid and basket. Have a helper hold the skimmer up against the back of the wall, lining up to the skimmer opening and the screw holes. Use the four round-head screws to secure the skimmer from the inside of the pool. You can then attach one of the gaskets to the skimmer with glue or tape - a second gasket goes on top of the liner, under the faceplate. Make sure you line everything up so you are not screwing through gasket material later on.
Your skimmer is connected to the pool pump by pipe, either rigid or flexible PVC pipe or hose. it is somewhat a matter of opinion as which one to use, but to reduce those corners (reduces flow limiting the effectiveness of your pump) I would suggest going with flex hose under most circumstances. A male threaded adapter will be needed to attach the flex hose (or hard PVC pipe) to the skimmer. Use several layers of Teflon tape on the fitting threads. Screw it into one of the two holes at the underside of the skimmer (doesn’t matter which one, really). Now you can glue your pipe/hose to the adapter and run the pipe (deep underground if you are working in the frost-belt) to the equipment pad.
Once the pool liner is installed, and the water level is within a few inches of the skimmer attach the faceplate and second gasket. Use a large Philips head, and torque the faceplate screws very tightly. Now you can cut out the vinyl inside the skimmer with a razor knife and you are ready to go!
Inground Skimmer Replacement
As mentioned, a pool skimmer can last for decades, and that's good because replacing a skimmer is a tough job - but not too tough for you! If your skimmer has serious leaking problems, from cracked plaster or a bad seal against the pool wall, sometimes replacing the skimmer is the best choice. Pool skimmer replacement can cost over $1200 so the possibility of doing the work yourself can pay off.
You will need some equipment to get the job done, which you can rent at any rental shop. A concrete saw - small chop saw or large grinder, to cut the concrete around the skimmer. A small jackhammer, to break up the concrete around the skimmer. Picks and shovels, to dig out the fill around the skimmer, and unearth the pipe. If the pool wall needs repair, you may need some sheet metal and a drill to bore new holes, around the skimmer opening. After the new skimmer is attached to the wall, you'll need some plumbing supplies to reconnect the pipe, and for the new concrete, a tub or wheelbarrow for mixing and a trowel for finishing.
STEP ONE1: Break up Concrete If your pool deck is short, you may consider tunneling under the deck, instead of breaking up and replacing the concrete around the skimmer, but it's probably easier to remove and replace the concrete. If your skimmer has white plastic crack strips running around the skimmer lid, you could just break up around this area - but it may be too small of a space to work in, unless you also tunnel under the deck. Cut the deck with a saw to start, about 3'x3', or larger, around the skimmer lid. Then use a small jackhammer or sledge hammer to break up the concrete into rubble.
STEP TWO2: Remove Old Skimmer First step is to remove all of the fill dirt/gravel that surrounds the skimmer. Picks and shovels, there's not an easier way. A pry bar can be used, if you have a large one. You need to dig all the way down to the pipe, and all around the pipe, so you can cut the pipe underneath the skimmer. When the pipe is loose, you can remove the skimmer faceplate and then the 4 round-head screws that hold it to the wall. Be gentle when removing it from the wall.
STEP THREE3: Wall Repair The condition of the wall can now be inspected. At a minimum, you'll want to brush it clean. If you have light rust, you can sand it and paint it. For heavy rust, you may need to tape on sections of flat sheet metal. If the screw holes are rusting away, drill new holes, after placing new sheet metal on the back side of the wall. If you find your pool wall to be in good shape, as it usually will be, just clean it up, and dry it off. No pool wall repairs needed.
STEP FOUR4: Install New Skimmer With a helper holding the new skimmer (exact replacement of old skimmer), up to the pool wall, screw in the 4 round head screws on the pool side of the wall. If needed, on rough walls, add a bead of silicone around the skimmer, on the back side of the wall. Tape or glue one of the paper gaskets to the front side of the skimmer, a second gasket is added later, on top of the liner, when the faceplate is screwed on (which is not until the water level in the pool reaches the skimmer). Make your plumbing connection to the bottom of the skimmer, by screwing in a threaded fitting into the hole that is not plugged. Use lots of Teflon tape, or glue it in place with lots of PVC glue. Then glue your pipe into the fitting.
STEP FIVE5: Backfill and Cover When backfilling, be careful to support the pipe and skimmer by packing in dirt and concrete slowly, tamping it into place. When full, fill the top 4" with gravel, up to the bottom of the concrete deck. Cut and position plastic or wood crack strips around the hole perimeter, or use foam to create an expansion joint. Lay 4 pieces of rebar in a tic-tac-toe pattern, around the skimmer, or use steel mesh - this is for strength. Mix and pour enough bags of Sakrete™ or similar concrete mix, and trowel it into place. Maintain the slope of the deck - away from the pool, normally 1/4" per foot. After 30 minutes of drying, run a broom lightly across the surface to give the concrete some texture.
So, that's it! Skimmers are much easier to install on a new pool, that's for sure - but if you need to replace an inground pool skimmer - it's all labor - the cost of inground pool skimmers is around $100, and equipment rental should be also about $100. Save $1000, and DIY install your own pool skimmer!
SPP Pool Expert