After a long, cold winter, spring has finally sprung! The sun is shining, the temperatures are creeping higher, and it’s time to get your pool cleaned up and ready for swimming season. Many pool owners prefer to have a professional open their pool for them. But why not save a few bucks and do it yourself this year? We’ll help you learn how to open a pool in five easy steps.
1. Remove the Pool Cover
Your pool cover has protected your pool water from debris all winter; the last thing you want to do is dump a season’s worth of accumulated debris and dirty water into your pool! Whether you use a traditional tarp-style winter cover or a spring-loaded safety cover, you’ll need to make sure the top of the cover is at least somewhat clean to help prevent contamination during removal.
If it’s a mesh cover that snowmelt and rainwater have been draining through, just remove as much dirt, leaves and other debris as you can. This can be done with a soft broom or leaf net cover. With a solid cover, you’ll also need to remove the murky water that has accumulated on the surface of your cover. If you don’t already have an automatic cover pump or some type of submersible pump to drain this water, now is the time to get one.
Once the worst of the debris is off the cover or pushed away from the edges, and after the extra water has been removed, it’s time to remove the cover. This step is easiest if you have a second person to help you. Standing on opposite sides of the pool, fold the cover accordion style from one end to the other. Removing the cover in this way will make it easier to handle and reduce the amount of surface debris that falls into the cover. After the cover is off the pool, thoroughly clean it, leave it flat to dry, then carefully fold it for summer storage. Water weights used for winter covers will also need to be drained and dried for storage. If you notice small rips or tears in the cover, go ahead and make the necessary repairs with a cover patch kit. If the cover is badly damaged or worn beyond repair, make plans to purchase a new one.
2. Reinstall Pool Equipment & Accessories
Lots of things can happen to your pool and equipment over the winter. As you reconnect pool equipment, check for cracks caused by freeze damage, and lubricate all gaskets, o-rings and seals. If any of these pieces are showing signs of age and wear, replace them. We recommend keeping an O-Ring Go-Kit on hand for quick replacement of the most commonly needed pool equipment parts. Reconnect the pool pump, filter, chlorine feeder/generator, filter, heater and other pool equipment. Don’t forget to replace the drain plugs!
Next, re-install any ladders, diving boards, handrails, slides or pool lights that were removed during closing. Once everything is in place, remove all winterizing plugs from the skimmer and returns, and re-install the return fittings. If necessary, refill the pool back to normal operating levels (about two-thirds up the skimmer) and watch for leaks as the lines start to fill with water again. For best results, use a pre-filter on your water hose to keep stain-causing metals and minerals out of the pool.
3. Test and Balance Water
Use test strips or a water test kit to check overall water condition before getting started. Unbalanced water can affect sanitizer performance and overall pool health, so using water balancing pool chemicals is an important part of the pool opening process. It’s not uncommon for pH and total alkalinity to change during the off-season, and this is the first thing that should be addressed. Also pay attention to calcium hardness, and add calcium increaser if the number has fallen too low. If water levels are still too low to start the pool pump, you’ll need to manually agitate the water to help distribute the chemicals.
Total alkalinity: 80-120 ppm
pH: 7.2-7.6 (slightly low pH of 7.2-7.4 will allow chlorine to be most effective during pool opening)
Calcium Hardness: 180-220 ppm
4. Brush, Skim, Vacuum and Filter the Pool
Thoroughly brush all pool surfaces to knock off clinging algae spores and other buildup, then skim large debris from the surface. Manually vacuum settled dirt and debris using the “waste” setting (if possible), starting at the shallow end and working your way down to the deep end. Allow the pump to prime, then filter the water for at least 12 hours overnight before moving on to the next step. This ensures that your chlorine sanitizer won’t be wasted on organic materials the vacuum or filter can remove from the water. IMPORTANT: Do not use an automatic pool cleaner until you’ve finished opening the pool! Doing so can prolong the pool cleaning and opening process. A manual vacuum head on a telescoping pole is best for this step.
5. Sanitize and Treat the Water
From here, the easiest way to re-open a pool is to use a pre-packaged Start-Up Kit, which includes everything needed to get your pool back on track. Most kits include chlorine shock, a stain and/or metal remover, clarifier and algaecide. Some kits also offer extras like test strips, oil-absorbing sponges, phosphate removers and more. Each kit is packaged according to pool size, which helps cut out down the guesswork on chemical dosage. You can always use these chemicals individually without purchasing a kit. However, the price of a kit is significantly less than what it would cost to buy each chemical individually.
Once you’ve finished these steps, re-test the pool water and make adjustments as necessary. When your filter has been running for at least 24 hours and chlorine levels have dropped back down to safe levels (about 1-3 ppm), you’re almost done. If additional debris has settled to the bottom of the pool, make one more pass with a manual vacuum. Your pool should now be ready to use! Happy swimming!
Of all the tips we can offer for easy pool opening, the best advice is to make sure the pool is properly closed and winterized. Clean and well balanced water, a quality winter cover and properly cleaned and winterized equipment will ensure a quick opening. Closing the pool later in the fall and opening it earlier in the spring will also help prevent the pool from turning green in warmer weather conditions.
To reduce cleaning time throughout the summer, keep your plants in check. Trees, shrubs and flowering plants shed regularly, resulting in scattered leaves, limbs and more that will eventually end up in the pool. Pool opening week is the perfect time to trim trees, prune hedges, pull weeds and perform other basic yard maintenance. Give your deck and patio area extra attention, including the furniture. Keeping the area around your pool nice and clean will allow less dirt and debris to be tracked into the water. Check that all gate latches and pool alarms still work, and test cyanuric acid (also called stabilizer or conditioner) levels in the water, adding more if needed. Stabilizer will help you save on chlorine costs through the year.