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How to Quickly & Efficiently Open Your Above Ground Pool

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Swimming and relaxing by the pool on a warm day is especially sweet after a long Illinois winter. Now that temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees throughout the Chicago area, it’s time to open your pool and start enjoying that sunshine! We know that the pool opening process can feel a bit overwhelming every spring, but it doesn’t have to be super complicated or time-consuming. Below you’ll find the basics of how to properly open your pool, and some tips and tricks to help the process go smoothly! Let’s dive in!

1. Prep your pool area.

Start the pool opening process by making the space around your pool  safe and easily accessible. 

  • Note any power lines, pipes, and wiring above or buried in your yard and follow proper safety precautions. 
  • Pick up any tools, toys, lawn ornaments, and other items that may get damaged or cause you to trip.
  • Remove rocks, leaves, and branches on the ground around the pool. These are potential tripping hazards.
  • Trim shrubs or branches that may get in the way or cause debris to fall in the pool and damage your liner. 

All clear? Then you’re good to go! 

2. Inspect your pool equipment and chemicals.

Once your yard and pool area are clean and safe, you can move on to your pool equipment and supplies. We all know how harsh Illinois winters can , so make sure there was no damage to your pool pump or filter system, or your other equipment, throughout the cold season or while in storage. 

  • Check equipment for cracks, rust, dirt, and exposed wires. 
  • Make sure any small parts, like bolts and screws, are accounted for.
  • Clean and repair equipment as necessary. 
  • Replace any damaged equipment as needed.

Don’t forget to inventory your pool chemicals, too. You’ll need all the basics, chlorine tablets, pool shock, Pool pH Up and/or pH Down, and test strips or a test kit ready to go. 

  • Use proper protective equipment, such as gloves, while handling. 
  • Check bottles for leaks or damage (to avoid spills and chemical burns during use). 
  • Check all expiration dates.
  • Replace any outdated chemicals. 

Since you’re checking the label anyway, it doesn’t hurt to read any instructions and/or manuals to make sure you’re following proper handling, safety, and storage guidelines.

3. Remove, clean, and store your pool cover.

First things first,  get as much dirty water and debris off of the pool cover as possible before removing it. A cover pump is a fast and efficient way to remove water since it will do the majority of the work for you. Otherwise, you’ll need to bail the water with a bucket or siphon it with a hose. It’s important to take your time with this step and get your pool cover as clean as you can. You want to keep as much dirty water and debris out of your pool as possible. The more thoroughly you complete this step, the less time you’ll spend cleaning out your pool later!

After it’s cleared off, remove the cover slowly and carefully. Winter covers can be bulky and heavy, so we recommend getting a friend or family member to help with this step!

  • Lay your pool cover out in a dry area, like the driveway, patio, garage, or grass. 
  • Use a hose and a push broom or pool brush to clean any remaining dirt and debris. 

Let your pool cover dry completely before putting it in storage. It may help to use talcum powder and store the cover in a sealed container to avoid mold, mildew, and damage from backyard pests throughout the summer. 

If you’re using a winter pool pillow, you should deflate, clean, and store that with your pool cover. 

4. Check your pool liner for leaks and damage.

Now that your pool is uncovered, you’ll want to inspect your pool liner closely. 

Look for signs of pool liner leaks, like: 

  • Cracked or loose tiles/structural damage 
  • Standing water around your pool
  • Low water levels
  • Noticeable rips and tears in the liner

Warning: If you do have a leak, you’ll either need to repair or replace your liner before moving forward.  

This part of the process can be tricky, as leaks can be hard to spot and/or repair. If you have questions regarding your pool liner at this stage of the process, our team is here to help. Whether it’s a simple liner repair or a new pool liner installation, we’ve been trusted pool liner specialists in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs for more than 20 years. 

5. Remove winter pool plugs.

Now you can go ahead and remove any winterizing pool plugs. Check all openings, including return jets (eyeball fittings) and the skimmer bucket. If you used an ice compensator in your skimmer bucket or a skimmer cover, you can remove those too. 

After plugs are removed, reinstall your skimmer baskets and return jets to the return line.

6. Add water to your pool.

Sometimes your water level may get a little low during winter. At this point, you can use your garden hose to add water to your pool. 

Pools operate best when the water level is at approximately the middle of the skimmer opening. If the water level is too high, the water can move too slowly into the skimmer, resulting in debris getting through and accumulating in the pool. If the water level is too low, it may start to suck in air instead of water and potentially burn out your pump.

As a reminder, you never want to fully drain an above ground pool. Doing so can destroy your pool liner.

7. Reinstall your pump, filter, and other equipment.

Now it’s time to get your pool equipment back up and running! Go ahead and hook up your:

  • Skimmer basket
  • Pump
  • Filter
  • Booster pump
  • Spa equipment
  • Heater 

If you’re a pool veteran, you may already have this step down pat. However, there’s no shame if you need a little refresher. Check your owner’s manual or consult a pool professional for specific set up instructions.

8. Reinstall your deck accessories

After you’ve installed your electrical components, you can move on to the pool ladder, pool stairs, diving board, slides, and deck fittings.

When connecting stairs, ladders, and diving boards, be sure you have (and connect) all the grounding wires or straps. These are important for securing these accessories properly, but are easy to lose or damage during the pool closing process.  You can lubricate bolts on ladders, dive boards, stairs, and rails to prevent rusting and make them easier to remove when closing the pool during the winter months. 

Remember, these items see a lot of traffic throughout the summer, so it’s important that they’re installed safely and correctly. Don’t hesitate to double-check your instruction manual or reach out to a pool expert for assistance.

9. Turn on the power to your pool system.

Now you can power everything back up! If everything starts and seems to be working correctly, you’re in good shape! 

If the system doesn’t seem to be working properly, it may mean you need to prime your pump, an easy enough task to handle! To prime the pump, simply: 

  • Shut off your filter system
  • Remove the pump lid
  • Add water with your garden hose or use a bucket of pool water.  
  • Replace the lid and start the filter. 

Depending on what type of pool filter you have, you may need to add more sand or DE powder and backwash your filter thoroughly too.

10. Clean your pool.

Despite your best efforts, some debris probably made it into the pool while removing the cover and installing equipment. No worries! It happens to the best of us! After a long winter, you’ll want to make sure your pool is nice and clean anyway.  

  • Use a leaf rake or net to scoop out large debris, like leaves and twigs. 
  • Use a pool vacuum or automatic pool cleaner to tackle dirt, sand, and small debris.

11. Shock your pool.

You’re almost done! All that’s left is getting your water chemistry where it needs to be for swimming. After the winter months, you’ll want to shock your pool. 

Pool shock comes in both liquid or granular forms. Add enough shock to raise the chlorine level of the pool to about 3.0 ppm, or approximately:

  • 2 pounds of a granular shock for every 10,000 gallons of water
  • 2.5 gallons of a liquid shock for every 10,000 gallons of water

Use caution and follow instructions when handling such a high concentration of chemicals. If not used or diluted properly, these chemicals can stain or fade your pool liner and cause personal injury. 

12. Test your pool chemistry.

You’ll want to check your water frequently the first day you open the pool. After letting the system run for several hours, test your pool’s water chemistry using a good test kit. 

Ideal levels are:

  • Chlorine: 1.0-2.0 ppm
  • pH: 7.2-7.8
  • Calcium Hardness: 180-220 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm
  • Dissolved solids: below 5000 ppm
  • Cyanuric Acid: 40-80 ppm
  • Chloramine: Below 0.4 ppm

Warning: Don’t cover your pool. Let the water filter for a full 24 hours to normalize before swimming. 

Remember, a lot of things impact the water chemistry of your pool, including rain, swimmers, and debris, so you should continue to check your water regularly throughout the summer. 

13. Pull out your pool floats and toys.

As you wait 24 hours for the water levels to normalize, it’s a great time to pull out your pool toys, pool floats, and patio furniture from storage. 

Clean your pool toys and floats before putting them in the water. For most pool toys and floats:

  • Mix two cups of household bleach with one gallon of water. 
  • Use a sponge or soft-bristle brush to gently scrub them. 
  • Rinse them before using them in the pool and let them dry before storing away.

While this works for most pool accessories, be sure to check manufacturer instructions first — and keep the bleach away from your pool liner. 

14. Enjoy your pool!

After the 24 hour waiting period, test your water one more time before swimming for the first time. If all looks good, you and your family can dive in and enjoy it!  

If you have questions about opening your swimming pool, liner repairs, or liner installations, our team is always here to help keep your pool up and running all summer long!