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Tips & Tricks for Winterizing Your Above Ground Swimming Pool

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Winter will be here before we know it in Illinois. We’re already noticing the days falling shorter and temperatures cooling down at night. When autumn arrives and your pool is consistently below 65 degrees, it’s time to winterize your pool. Understanding how to properly close your above ground swimming pool is essential. It helps prevent costly damage and greatly reduces the time it takes to open your pool when the temperatures start to rise again. 

Follow the below steps to winterize your above ground pool and close it for the season. 

Supplies to Winterize Your Pool:

  • Winter pool cover
  • Test strips
  • Pool vacuum
  • Hose
  • Equipment instruction manuals 
  • Scrubber/scrub brush
  • Winterizing chemical kit – recommended
  • Winter pillow(s) – recommended

1. Test the pool water

When you’re ready to close your pool for the season, you’ll want to test your water. Making sure your water is at the proper levels will help you avoid buildup, corrosion, and other damage to your pool, and make opening your pool easier come spring. 

When closing your pool for the winter, make sure your pool levels are as follows: 

  • pH between 7.2 and 7.6 
  • Alkalinity between 100 and 15 ppm 
  • Calcium hardness between 175 and 250 ppm
  • Chlorine between 1 and 3 ppm 

2. Clean your pool & yard

You’ll want to make sure your pool is as clean as possible before closing it up for the winter season. The cleaner the better, as this will prevent damage and make the pool opening process as smooth as possible! 

Start by collecting leaves, rocks, and debris around your pool that may end up in the water, present a tripping hazard, or cause damage with increased winds. 

After your backyard and patio area is clean, move on to the pool itself. Scrub your pool to remove any dirt and debris from your liner, then vacuum it thoroughly.  It’s a good time to clean your solar cover to remove any build-up before storing it away for the winter.

While you’re at it, check your pool liner for signs of leaks and damage before starting the winterization process. If you notice any issues, you should repair or replace your liner before moving forward.  

3. Add winter chemicals.

Once your swimming pool is clean, it’s time to add the winter chemicals to the water. We recommend a winterizing chemical kit, which includes all of the chemicals you need for closing your pool.The ideal winter chemical kit contains a winterizing algaecide and chlorine or non-chlorine shock. It is also recommended to use a winterizing kit that comes with a metal control if you have a heater or use well water. 

Once you have your kit, be sure to read and follow the instructions. Oftentimes larger pools require additional algaecide or pool shock, which can be purchased separately as needed. If you don’t opt for a winterizing kit, you should purchase the shock and algaecide recommended for your pool size.

Be sure to follow all instructions and use the recommended personal protective equipment when adding chemicals to your pool. 

Let the pool pump run for at least one complete cycle after adding chemicals. This is usually 4-8 hours. You should then backwash or manually clean the filter.

Pro tip: Don’t add algaecide and shock at the same time. The chlorine can oftentimes prevent the algaecide from working properly.

Keep in mind that this is where it’s important that your water temperature is consistently at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s still too warm when you close your pool, the chemicals may be less effective and you could be in for a nasty surprise come springtime.  

4. Winterize your pool pump and filter.

To winterize your pump, remove all drain plugs and hoses. Be sure to review and follow the instructions in your owner’s manual for your specific product. Once removed, place all drain plugs in a pump basket for storage so they’re all together and don’t get lost in the shuffle. 

Next, you have to winterize your filter. How to do this depends on what type of pool filter system you have for your pool.

If you have a sand filter:

  • Set your multiport valve to winterize. 
  • Let the filter completely drain out. 
  • If necessary, remove the bleeder valve and sight glass. 
  • Backwash your sand filter.

If you have a D.E. or cartridge filter:

  • Drain the filter. 
  • Spray with cleaner. 
  • Rinse with a hose. 
  • Leave the valves open. 

Plug the returns and any other outlets, and then remove all hoses from the filter, return, and skimmer. Once your filter and pump system are clean and disconnected, you should store your equipment indoors.

5. Lower the water level.

Next, lower the water level to approximately 4 to 6 inches below the skimmer. Be careful during this process. Pools that are drained down too low can cause a lot of undue stress on the pool cover and liner, shortening their lifespan and costing you money.

Note: NEVER fully drain your above ground pool. It’s very rare that you should ever need to completely drain your pool for maintenance, cleaning, or closing. Doing so will damage your vinyl pool liner.

6. Remove, clean, and store removable parts and equipment.

Now it’s time to take care of all those extra pool parts and accessories. Take time to remove all non-permanent pool parts — including ladders, pool stairs, floats, toys, diving boards, etc. Follow manufacturer instructions for cleaning and storage. In most cases, you’ll want to rinse all these items off with a hose and use bleach or a non-chemical cleaner (like vinegar) to remove dirt, debris, and bacteria. Then, let them dry completely before storing them for the off-season.  

As you’re putting all your parts, accessories, and equipment away, check for any signs of damage. You’ll want to note if something needs to be replaced so it’s not “out of sight, out of mind” until you’re ready to open your pool again. You can likely score good deals and discounts at the end of the outdoor pool season as well. 

7. Inflate and place an air pillow.

Winter pillows aren’t 100% necessary, but they are highly recommended. Air pillows evenly distribute the water that collects on your winter cover and pushes it toward the edge of the pool, making it easier to remove and relieving pressure on your pool. 

For peak effectiveness, the pillow should be placed in the middle of the pool. Depending on the size of your pool, you may need multiple pillows. If so, tie them together using the grommets on the corners.

8. Put on the winter cover.

Once the winter pillow is in place, you can put your winter pool cover over the top of your pool. Place the cover over the air pillow and secure it by using a cable and winch, water bags, or a combination of winter cover clips and a cable. The cover should be taut. 

Pro tip: Avoid using heavy weights like concrete blocks and bricks. They could cause damage to your winter cover or your swimming pool.

After the cover is secured, you may want to run winterizing cover wrap around your pool to seal it and prevent the cover from moving, flapping, or coming off.

9. Check your pool regularly.

Your pool should now be set for the winter. However, you should remove snow and debris from your cover and check in on your pool regularly throughout the cold season. Checking in on your pool will help you spot any issues or damage before it’s too late.

Look for things like: 

  • Cracks and indentations in your pool’s walls (from ice expansion)
  • Ice build-up inside your swimming pool
  • Holes in your winter pool cover
  • Cracked or broken equipment (often caused by freezing)
  • Algae buildup

Need help closing your swimming pool?

Properly closing your pool for winter can be a time-consuming process, especially as you navigate the crazy back-to-school season and fast-approaching holidays. That’s where we come in! We offer full pool closing and winterization services for homeowners in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Whether you want someone to tackle closing your pool for you quickly and efficiently, or you just need some advice, we’re always here to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.

Click here to get your pool closing quote and get on our schedule!