How do I open my pool? It’s a question on a lot of people’s minds. Maybe you just installed a pool last year, or moved to a new home. Or, you may be seeking tips or a refresher on how to open your swimming pool for spring.
It’s time for the great unveiling; the time when you finally find out what has been hiding under your pool cover for the past few months. Will there be damage? Will the water be green? As anxious as many people can be about spring pool openings, it’s really quite simple and easy!
This winter was mild for most parts of the U.S., which means less damage from ice, but maybe greener water, depending on your pool cover. No matter what’s under there, follow these simple pool opening steps, in order, and you’ll have the pool open in no time!
Removing the pool cover
If you have a safety cover, begin by first clearing debris from the cover using a pool brush and/or a leaf net type of skimmer net. Pop off most of the springs to reduce cover tension – this can make cleaning easier.
Once the cover is clean, release remaining springs from each cover anchor using the installation tool. Then lower all of the brass anchors into the deck to prevent your cover (and toes) from snagging.
Carefully pull one section at a time up onto a clean area of the pool deck. Fan fold the cover, accordion style, seam to seam. Use a blower or garden hose to clean (if needed), before you make each new fold. Then fold the cover length in half, in half again – then roll up tightly.
Stuff it into the cover bag, like a big pillow into a bigger pillowcase, and set up on a chair to dry. Store indoors, if possible, or use moth balls or mint bags to keep nesting rodents away.
If you have a water-bag type, solid pool cover (or have a standard aboveground pool cover), use a cover pump to remove any water on top of the cover. As the water is pumping from the cover, clean off any leaves and debris that may be on top of the cover. Try to not leave any debris behind as this may wash into the pool as you’re removing the cover.
For inground pools, remove the water bags one at a time. Be careful not to drag them across the concrete, or drop one end to the ground, or holes will result. Drain them completely and lay them aside for some cleaning, drying and folding.
Aboveground solid cover? After pumping off all the water and removing debris, gently pull your cover pump from the surface. Loosen the winch & cable system, or cover clips holding the cover in place. With at least 2 people, fold then cover on itself, rolling it up from opposite sides.
When rolled up, take the cover to a large area, such as a driveway, to clean and fold the cover. If space is limited, clean one section at a time. Allowing it to dry before folding will reduce mold & mildew. Store indoors if possible.
Winter Freeze Plugs
Since your pool was winterized at the end of the last swimming season, you had installed winterization plugs into the pool wall returns, cleaner lines and skimmers. Make sure that all winterization plugs are removed from the pool before you start the filter pump.
There are also drain plugs for the pump and filter that were removed in the fall. Now is the time to re-install these plugs again, using Teflon tape or other thread sealant. Drain plugs with o-rings should get a bit of Teflon-based lubricant to help maintain a good seal and protect the o-ring.
You should also use some of this Teflon lube on the pump lid o-ring and on other rubber o-rings on the pool filter or push-pull backwash valve, if you have one.
Starting the system
Starting up the system will be different for every … system. First of all, if you have a multiport valve with the option to send the water to “waste,” select that setting. Doing this will prevent dirty winter water to your filter as you are priming the system. Roll out your backwash hose, and pump the wormy water out.
Make sure that all valves, to and from the pool, are open before turning on your pump to begin priming. If you have a separate main drain line, you may have more success starting the system with this valve closed, starting it “off the skimmer”, as they say.
When the system is running full steam, from the skimmers only, s-l-o-w-l-y open the Main Drain valve, to introduce a little bit of air at a time, until you can open it fully, without losing the “prime” of water.
Here come the worms! Yuck ~ some pools have more than others, worms that drop in the pool, and end up in the main drain pot. Shut off the pump and empty the pump basket (birds will love it). Move the multiport valve to the “Filter” position, and open up the air bleeder on your filter.
Start up the pump again, and keep an eye on the pressure gauge. If it spikes above 30 lbs, shut off the pump immediately and look for the reason – maybe a closed valve on the return line, or plugs left in the pool? If you have a DE filter, add the D.E. powder into the skimmer without delay.
Cleaning the pool
The initial cleaning is very important after opening up your pool for the season. Make sure to first brush the tiles and pool walls (using a PolePivot can really help with this step), then use a skimmer net or leaf rake to clear off the surface, and finally use a vacuum head and hose attached to your pool pole to clean the bottom of the pool. Depending on the amount of debris and leaves on the bottom of the pool, you may need to use a leaf canister so that you’re not overloading your hair/lint strainer.
If you have an automatic pool cleaner, brush the pool well, but wait for any high chlorine levels to subside before putting it in to clean the pool for you.
The proper chemical balance of a swimming pool starts with a high quality pool test kit. A good test kit will test for: chlorine, pH, calcium hardness, alkalinity, and cyanuric acid. Accurate testing is important for accurate treatments. Be sure to replace your test reagents annually, and store them in a cool and dark location.
Depending on your chemical levels and volume of water, calculate how much pool shock, calcium hardness increaser, pH Up or pH Down, and Alkalinity Increaser you need to add to the pool. To make this simpler, take a look at our Spring Start-Up kits. These all-inclusive kits are sold by pool volume (gallons) and contain all the necessary supplies to get your pool up and going each spring. After adjustment, re-test to make sure the water is balanced. Test once more within a day or two to be sure the chemistry of the water is still balanced.
If you had followed a winterizing procedure (and/or used a winterizing kit) when you were closing the pool at the end of the previous swimming season, your chemical balance should not be very far from where you need it to be. Your pool should also not have turned green over the winter. If that’s not the case, however, don’t panic! All you will need to do is use a quality algaecide and clarifier, -or- extra pool shock to kill the algae. Treat until the water turns a grayish-blue color, and then filter, filter, filter!
As you have been running the pool system throughout the steps of opening of the pool, you should be able to tell if there are any leaks in any of your plumbing. If you spot any leaking water, shut off the system and locate the crack or loose plumbing. Patching up small cracks or leaks in plumbing with a pool leak sealer is acceptable, however if the cracks or problem areas are larger – replace the damaged section of pipe or fittings.
Skimmers are common areas for leaking, on inground pools especially. As you are inspecting the skimmer weirs, take a look around the area where the plastic skimmer meets the pool wall. Cracking of the plaster mix around a concrete skimmer, or rusty spots around a vinyl liner usually indicate a problem. If you spot debris stuck in theses areas, this is another clue of a leaking pool skimmer. Use epoxy putty or pool plaster mix to fix up a concrete skimmer, and for vinyl skimmers use a vinyl patch kit or replace the skimmer faceplate gaskets to fix the leak.
As you are checking for leaks in the plumbing, also remember to check for leaks in the gas line for a pool heater. Leaks in the gas line may be easier to sense, but rather difficult to locate. If you can smell gas, turn off your system immediately. After allowing enough time for any gas to clear the area, use a mixture of dish soap and water to coat the gas line coming into the heater, and the tube that leads to the pilot light. If there is a gas leak somewhere in the line, you should begin to see the problem area start to bubble up. If that’s true – great, you’ve found the problem. If there is no bubbling and you can once again smell gas, turn off the system immediately, and contact a pool professional or your gas supplier to come inspect.
The sum of all things
Understanding how to handle a successful spring pool opening is the key to setting yourself up for a great swimming season. As long as you maintain a regular water testing, maintenance, and cleaning schedule you can worry less about major water treatments or repairs.
Happy spring pool opening!
InTheSwim Staff Blogger