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How to replace pool ladders and acoustic ceilings

Posted: October 24, 2008 8:06 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Hello Robert,
The aluminum ladder in my swimming pool needs to be replaced. I don't see how I can get the old one out without damaging the inside of the pool. Could you help me on this?
Alex S.

Hello Alex,
First of all you have to drain the pool to pull the old ladder out which will probably do a little plaster damage, but that is easily repaired.

Once you get that ladder out of there, you'll see brass boots that sit inside the wall and up on top of the deck. The rails of the ladder sit inside these boots and are tightened with set screws. If those boots or set screws are rusted in or look bad, pull them out and replace them.

Use rapid set on the deck boots and hydraulic cement for the underwater boots to set them. Then come in with a skim coat of plaster. This is your water proofing.

The escutcheon ring goes right on top of that. Some people forget to put the escutcheon ring on the ladder rails and after they get everything to bang, they realize the rings are off and have to pull the ladder back out and start over.

Inside the pool, you're going to have to put a coat of patching plaster around the boots because this could be a potential leak. Make sure this is sealed with plaster all the way around. If the pool wall is pigmented, buy some dye and mix in the plaster to match. If you do it neat, the repair will be covered by the escutcheons and you won't see it.

While you have the pool empty, this would be a good time for an acid wash. Make sure you wear the double filtered respirator, have eye protection, long sleeves, long pants, gloves and boots - like you're going to the moon.

Dilute the muriatic acid to 50-50 with water. You don't want the acid to sit in the bottom of the pool because it will leave a nasty stain.

I suggest getting a sump pump down there to discharge it up and out of the pool. Leave the pump and a water hose running. You can brush the acid mixture on or use a Hudson sprayer. Let it set for about 15 minutes then hose it down off of the walls. This will remove any stains or algae you may have on the walls.
When you're ready to start filling up your pool, attach a rag to the end of the hose. Because of the whipping action, this rag will protect the plaster of your pool from the metal on the end of the hose.

Mr. Lamoureux,
I like your column and I like to do things myself when I have the time. I know my way around a tool shed but I haven't done this before and wanted some pointers before I got started.

Our house was built in 1971, so there is probably asbestos in the acoustic ceiling of our bedroom. I know I could have it tested to be sure, but I want a smooth ceiling anyway so I'll just use that money for the materials.

So, here's my questions. How do I safely get the old acoustic ceiling down and what is the best way to make a smooth ceiling? And about how much would it cost to pay for the job on a 15-foot square ceiling?
Brian B.

Hello Brian,
Based on the age of your home there is a good chance that your acoustic ceiling is an ACM, asbestos containing material. If it is in good shape, the APCD, Air Pollution Control District, recommends you leave it alone and keep it in good shape to avoid the release of fibers. These fibers are very small. It takes about 600 of them to equal the width of a human hair. Once they are disturbed, they float around in the air and can get into your lungs.

Since there is no known safe level of asbestos, it is recommended that any exposure should be avoided.

Since you want to scrape off that acoustic, you should first have it tested.

Look for a California state licensed asbestos consultant to come out and take a sample. They will wear an asbestos rated regulator with Hepa filters and will basically wet a small area of the ceiling, take a small sample and place it in an air-tight container. They will then take this sample to the lab for analysis.

If it contains only 1 percent of asbestos fiber, it is considered an ACM.

If so, you would need a state licensed asbestos removal contractor to come out that will use anti-dust emission controls and will treat the material within hazardous waste guidelines.

If your ceiling is safe - non ACM, cover everything in the room with plastic because this is a messy job.

Take a Hudson sprayer and wet the ceiling. I would do half the ceiling at a time. This sprayer will put on a light mist of water that will help keep the dust down. Let it sit for about 15 minutes. This will give enough time for the water to soak in to the texture.

The tool you'll want to use for this job is a paddle scraper about 12 to 18 inches wide that you can attach to a pole. Gently scrape that acoustic texture off of your ceiling. Don't scrape too hard because you don't want to gouge the drywall underneath. If it doesn't come off easily, put another very light coat of water on it, let it soak in, then keep scraping.

Once you get it all scraped, come back with a topping compound and apply a skim coat. Use topping compound, not joint compound. It comes pre-mixed in a bucket. Put it on as thin as you can because this will minimize your sanding later.

Put on the first coat and let it dry. You can even put in a carpet dryer or fan so it will dry faster. Then come back and sand. Wet sanding will keep the dust down. You are going to have highs and lows but you want to smooth out all of the rough spots.

Once you get the ceiling smooth, you're ready for the second and maybe a third coat of the topping compound.

When finished, prime and paint. The procedure for a smooth ceiling is a lot of work. Every imperfection will show and is very difficult to do if you are a first-timer, but it can be done.

You asked about hiring a contractor. This is a very labor intensive job that would take a crew three to four trips to complete. At 225 square feet, you're looking at $2,200.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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