Pool Start-up Alternative for Plaster Pools

Orenda Technologies has recently unveiled a new start-up program that prevents the formation of plaster dust by adding calcium (calcium chloride) to low calcium tap water while filling brand-new plaster pools. We have received communications asking us if this calcium program is compatible with, or a viable alternative to the Bicarbonate Start-up Method that also prevents plaster dust.

The Orenda start-up program can, in certain situations, be an effective alternative to the Bicarb Start-up program which the onBalance team has been promoting for many years. It follows closely the principle of adjusting “aggressive” fill or tap water to a positive LSI number, preferably to about +0.5 for the filling of new plaster pools.

It is known that aggressive fill water is detrimental to new and vulnerable plaster finishes, including quartz and pebble, and can lead to plaster discoloration and deterioration problems developing afterwards.

Adding either calcium chloride or sodium bicarbonate to soft fill water will increase the LSI and will help prevent plaster dust and damage to new and (slightly) unhardened pool plaster. Under magnification, the plaster surface remains smooth, dense and hard, without etching caused by aggressive fill water. That in turn, will help plaster surfaces last and look good for 20 years or more instead of just 5 to 10 years before they start looking worn, deteriorated, and stained.

Both the Bicarb and Orenda “calcium addition” start-ups work by achieving a combined calcium and alkalinity content of at least 400 ppm (minimum) and up to 500 ppm of the fill water, and an LSI of +0.5. It is also important for the pH to be maintained below 8.4.

Orenda also claims that adding their chelating product SC-1000 during the start-up process helps prevent potential calcium scaling issues.

The immediate visible evidence that these start-up programs are superior to the Traditional start-up is by observing that there isn’t any plaster dust developing once the pool is full of water as is sometimes seen, even with quartz and pebble finishes. The Traditional start-up program as advocated by the NPC doesn’t require balancing the fill water until a day to two after the pool is full of water. That is too late. The damage has already occurred.

Click on the following video links to see the positive results of the Orenda start-up program:


As with most things, there are always variables to consider. If you are in an area where the calcium hardness level does not generally increase in your pools, then the Calcium addition start-up program would be a viable program to follow. However, if you are in an area where the calcium level does increase, and you want to avoid increasing it with chemical additions, then in our opinion, using the Bicarb start-up is preferred.

Click here to see the onBalance Bicarbonate Start-up page:

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  • Kim

    Interesting post. I would love hear any feedback from users of this product.

    We have been using Start Up Tec on our new plaster projects. We use mostly Diamond Brite or CLI products-Hydrazzo or Sin Stone Select, etc...

    I have used your bi-carb start up before and it worked well on a project in Brooklyn, NY where the tap water was actually on the acidic side.

    We have plastered a pool with "traditional" marble plaster in years as I prefer the quartz based products for their longevity.

    We fill our pools with water rucks to prevent flashing of the plaster especially on hot and sunny days. The aim is to fill as quickly as possible. The testing of the truck's water can only be done when they arrive.

    Most of our clients have well water so the fill is slow and it taxes the well itself possibly running dry or picking silt from the bottom.

    A sequestering agent is added upon filling and also during the start up days to follow along with the rest of the chemical monitoring.

    Please keep us to date and thank you for the great work for our industry!

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