by Leslie Douglas, Guest Blogger ~ May 5, 2010
The snow has melted, the days are warming up, and it's time to get your pool ready to use again. I always wish this step could be magically done for me, and I can go straight to sipping margaritas. In fact, it can be done almost as easily as that, by hiring a service to do it for you. Pool service companies maintain pools for a living, so the process will go much more quickly for them. A pool service can save you a lot of time and effort. What it won't save you is money, as it can typically cost a several hundred dollars.
The downside to using a pool service is you'll have to pay for it, and depending on the condition of your pool and how much work it requires to open and get it ready for use, it can be expensive. You have to decide if the expense is worth the time you'll save. If it is, great! If you'd rather use the money for other things, opening a pool is something you can DIY.
Of course, this is a much simpler process if you took the proper precautions to prepare it for winter. If you live in the snow-belt like I do, winterizing is required to protect your pool and equipment from leaves, moisture and freezing. If you didn't, you could have a big mess on your hands.
Getting Ready to Open
The first thing I do is recruit help. I'll plan to have a pool opening party and invite some of my friends. I always provide refreshments and promise a pool party later in the summer for everyone who helped. It is a great motivator that they can come over and enjoy the pool they helped prepare. If you have kids who are old enough to do the work, get them to help out. My kids (ages 11 and 15) like to have a few pool parties of their own, so I make their helping to get the pool ready a condition to be able to use it.
Removing the Cover
Leaves, dirt, and even water may have accumulated on a solid pool cover over the winter. Sweep up the leaves leaf skimmer or broom, and use a small pump to remove any standing water. You don't want dirty, stagnant water from the cover to fall into the pool when you remove the cover. It will just make more work for you to get the pool water clean and clear. Carefully remove the cover, and set it aside to be cleaned and stored until next winter.
If you have a mesh pool cover (like I wish I had), there is much less maintenance to do and the process of cover removal is easier. The pool shown in the picture needs to have it's water level lowered. With all of the spring detrius on top, this pool cover is acting more like a tea bag! If your cover looks like this, use a small cover pump, or start a siphon going with a garden hose. Be sure not to pump out too much - just down to the bottom of the tile line.
When the water is lowered, the wet spot won't occur in the middle and the debris will blow off the cover. If it's too late, and you are opening your pool to a messy mesh cover, loosen a few of the cover springs and use leaf nets to clean as much of the debris off as possible. Then, as you're folding your mesh cover, use a garden hose and/or blower to clean off remaining bits of debris as you remove the cover from the pool, folding it accordian style.
Reassembling the equipment
If you live in an area that experiences freezing temperatures during the winter, you will have used expansion plugs, also called freeze plugs, in the skimmers and wall returns. Remove them and discard any that are cracked or dried out. I always store the remaining ones in plastic zipper bags to be used again next fall, and keep the bag with my winter cover so I don't lose them. Attach the return line eyeball fittings and drop in the skimmer baskets.
Also if you live in a colder area, you most likely disassembled the pump, filter, and heater. Reassemble them by replacing drain plugs and checking that all clamps are tightly and correctly installed. Lubricate the pump lid o-ring and fill the pump basket with water. Open all the lines and the filter air relief before starting pump. Pumps and Filters do well outside, but I prefer to remove mine from the equipment pad and store them indoors during the winter. This also gives me the chance to inspect everything to see if I need to replace any parts. If you live in one of the sunbelt states, you can skip these steps and just turn the pump back on to get the water flowing.
Watch the filter pressure guage as you start the pump, with your hand on the pump power switch. If the filter pressure jumps up very high, shut off the pump immediately and look for a closed valve, or plugs left in the return lines. If you have a DE filter, add the DE powder immediately upon filter start-up.
Once it's working, check for leaks around the pump, and the filter as well, and repair any you find. After making sure the pump, the filter, and the heater are working properly, and move on to cleaning.
Cleaning the Pool
Even with the cover on, some dirt and leaves may have made it into the water as you removed it. I get my kids to skim the water to pick up leaves and insects, then I vacuum the pool. If the pool is really dirty, you may need to backwash the pool filter after cleaning. When the skimming and vacuuming is done, then I give the pool a good, strong brushing. This also helps to circulate the water and chemicals.
After the pool is clean, I use a spring chemical kit to shock the water. It's important to make sure that any bacteria that may have built-up over the winter is killed. Add the chemicals as directed for your size of pool, remembering not to mix directly any pool chemicals. Store them tightly out of reach of children.
Getting Ready for Summer
Finally, once the pool is open for business, get the area around it ready for that party you promised. I get all my patio furniture out of storage and hose it off. Also check umbrellas or awnings for tears, and clean the deck around the pool. My cover always leaves a grimy ring around the pool deck, so we use a scrub brush on a pole and a garden hose. I let my kids do this part. Later, after shocking the pool, I use a bucket to rinse the deck again, and the chlorinated water helps lighten and brighten the concrete pool deck.
I live in an area with a lot of mosquitoes and other insects, which find the pool inviting. I have tried plants like Citronella placed around the pool that repel those insects, but decided to invest in an effective trap like the Mosquito Magnet to ensure my time spent around the pool is as enjoyable as possible.
I also make sure to stock up on some new pool toys and noodles for the kids, and we're set for a great summer around the pool.
Now, it's time to have fun!
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