There is nothing worse for your swimming pool than a tough winter with a hard freeze – and poor cold weather preparation.
Winterizing your swimming pool is a critical step in ensuring that your pool, whether it’s above ground or an in-ground pool, lasts for years and years.
For many pool owners, winterizing their pool is a job left for the professionals.
However, it is a task that can easily be done by a homeowner, if you are willing to take the time to go through all the proper steps.
We may be in the early part of summer, but it’s never too soon to start planning the process of winterizing your pool.
Especially if this is the first time you’ll be taking on this task or if you are a first time pool owner.
You want to make sure you have everything you need and that you are familiar with the mechanical aspects of your pool, so you don’t have to scramble when the weather is getting colder.
In this article, we’ll take a look at seven steps necessary for winterizing above ground and in-ground swimming pools, getting you well prepared for the winter.
When Should You Winterize Your Pool?
If you are living in a part of the country where it gets cold, freezing, snowing, wear a heavy coat cold, you are going to want to make sure that your pool is well prepared for the winter.
Think about winterizing your pool, like you’re giving it a nice warm blanket for the winter.
The purpose of this process is to make sure that your pool will be protected during the harshest weather of the winter and then is ready for use in the spring, with minimal effort required.
Most pool owners in these cold, “snowbelt” areas stop using their pools when temperatures dip below 65 or 70 degrees.
When temperatures are consistently 65 degrees or slightly cooler, you are going to want to start the process of winterizing your pool.
Much below 50 degrees and you will notice that some of your winterizing chemicals may not work as well.
Many pool companies will sell a winterizing chemical kit, they may indicate that you can use them in cooler temperatures, but for best results, try to winterize when temperatures are still above 50 degrees.
If you winterize too soon, and you still see temperatures above 65 degrees, you risk the chance of having algae grow in your freshly cleaned and winterized pool, which defeats the purpose of winterizing your pool.
Step 1 – Balance Water Chemistry
This is the first step to closing your pool up for the winter.
Balancing the water chemistry will keep all of the junk like algae and microorganisms from taking over your pool.
You can buy a winterizing kit that will give you all of the necessary items, but if you are already buying bulk pool chemicals, just use what you have.
Your water chemistry should fall in the following ranges:
- pH: 7.2 to 7.6 standard units
- Alkalinity: 100 to 150 ppm
- Calcium Hardness: 150 to 400 ppm
Start the process of balancing your water chemistry about a week before you’re ready to cover your pool.
This will give you time to make any fine adjustments to the levels we’ve mentioned above.
When winterizing your pool, keep pH and alkalinity at the higher end of the windows we’ve mentioned, and try to get hardness right in the middle, around 275 ppm.
Step 2 – Shock the Pool
This is a fancy way of saying that you need to boost the chlorine levels in the pool.
This is the easiest way to kill algae, microbes and drop out any sediments, pollen or small floating particles.
There are a few different chlorine-based chemicals that you can use, but calcium hypochlorite is the fastest and is generally fairly inexpensive.
Shocking your pool with calcium hypochlorite can take anywhere from 8 hours to 24 hours, depending on the size of your pool.
If you’ve waited too long before winterizing your pool, you can buy a fast-dissolving pool shock product. Do this step a couple of days before you cover your pool.
High levels of chlorine can damage your pool cover, so make the sure wait at least 24 hours before covering your pool.
Step 3 – One Last Through Cleaning
Making sure that you get as much debris out of your pool as possible will help keep crud from growing in your pool over the winter.
This also makes starting up your pool in the spring easier.
Your spring cleaning will be quick and pain-free if you clean your pool well before closing it up for the winter. Use a good leaf rake type skimmer to get out the big debris.
Then, follow that with a good scrubbing. This will loosen up any junk stuck to the walls of your pool so it can easily be vacuumed up.
When you vacuum your pool, bypass the filter and go directly to waste to avoid plugging up your filter.
Once your pool is well cleaned, add a bit of winterizing algaecide to your pool to stop any algae that might still be in your pool from growing.
Step 4 – Remove Plastic Parts
This includes skimmers, cleaners, solar covers, baskets, wall fittings and your ladders (if you have an above ground pool).
Removing these plastic parts or features that have plastic parts will protect them from breaking during the winter, just in case you do get a hard freeze.
Plastic can break easily in the cold, so making sure that all of these plastic parts are removed and safely stored will ensure that you don’t have to replace them in the spring.
Step 5 – Lower the Water Level
This step is not necessary if you are going to install a skimmer cover in your pool.
However, if you are not using a skimmer cover, you will need to drain your pool, at least partially.
For both above ground and in-ground pools, you will want to lower the water level to 12” to 18” below the skimmers.
Some in-ground pools have the ability to drain to this level using the main drain. However, above ground pools may require a submersible pump to accomplish this task.
Draining your pool may take a couple of days, so make sure that you cover your pool during this time to keep it clean.
Step 6 – Drain Equipment and Lubricate O-rings
Think about this like your sprinkler system or the plumbing in your house.
If your pipes have water in them and they freeze, they will burst, and you’ll have a big mess when things start to thaw.
The same is true for your pool lines, filters, and pumps. Make sure that all of these are well drained and free of water, to protect them from freezing.
If you can, remove your filter and pump and move them indoors for extra protection.
To completely drain pool lines you can use a vacuum or even an air compressor. Lubricate all the rubber O-rings in all of your pool equipment.
This will keep them from freezing and help them maintain their softness. This will help you avoid replacing a bunch of O-rings in the spring.
Finally fill all of the plumbing line with pool antifreeze for additional protection from freezing.
Step 7 – Cover Your Pool
Before you throw on your pool cover, you will want to install a couple of pool pillows and a few floaters filled with sanitizers.
Pool pillows are handy inflatables that will keep your cover from sinking into the water, stretching or tearing under the weight of snow and ice.
Floaters filled with a slow dissolving chlorine product will keep algae and microbes from blooming under the cover on days that may be warm, keeping your water clean and clear until the spring.
What about your winter cover?
Your winter cover should be opaque to keep sunlight from encouraging algae growth.
Secure solid in-ground pool covers using water bags or aqua blocks. Above ground pool covers will be secured with cables and a wench.
These are the basic steps to winterizing your pool.
There are additional steps that you can take, to further protect your pool, however, they are not necessary and may just add additional cost to your process.
Now do you know how to protect your pool from freezing next winter?
It does take a bit of effort and preventive measures to prepare your pool for winter.
But, we are confident that if you follow these seven basic steps, your pool will weather the winter just fine, and you’ll be ready for another summer of fun in your backyard pool.
Let us know in the comments below if you have any specific questions about preventing freeze in your pool.