by Rob Cox, October 28, 2011
Install a second skimmer in your above ground pool – in 10 easy steps!
Many above ground pools or in ground vinyl liner pools are installed with only one skimmer. Now that the trees around the pool have matured, you find yourself regretting having only one skimmer. Or maybe one skimmer is sufficient for most of the year, but come fall, the leaves are too much for it to handle.
If you’ve ever thought about adding another skimmer to your aboveground pool, then this post is for you. Adding a skimmer to your pool can be accomplished with just a little planning and effort – and very little cost. The cost of the new skimmer can be as low as $50, and adding a skimmer can be done in one afternoon.
1. Decide where to put the new skimmer. Since the pipe will have to connect to the pump, the length of the run of pipe is the first consideration. Adding another skimmer on the same side of the pool will have a shorter run of pipe, but may be too close to the existing skimmer to have a real impact. Also consider the location of the return line(s) and the direction they flow. A skimmer located too close to a rushing return line won’t be able to draw in many leaves, as the current may push them past the skimmer too fast.
2. Lower the water in the pool. To a point below the bottom of the skimmer, of course – but not too low, keep at least 6” of water above the floor. This will keep the weight of the water on the walls and on the liner. When vinyl lined pools are drained too far, weak walls may collapse inward, or the liner will relax, pull away from the wall, shrink somewhat and develop wrinkles.
3. Pull the liner away from the wall. If you have a beaded liner that fits into a track, pull up and out on the liner, to remove it from the track in this area. If you have an overlap liner, you may need to remove one or more of the top rails to gain access to the liner clips. Next, place a shallow cardboard box, or sturdy cereal box between the liner and the wall to keep the pool liner away from the area of the wall that will be cut out (with a very sharp power tool).
4. Cut the Wall. Well, measure first, and mark the cutting lines with permanent marker. On most skimmers, you will cut 4 times, 2 sides, top and bottom. Use a 4” grinder with a diamond blade cutting wheel. Cut on the outside of the pool, not on the inside, wet side. Use great care with a grinder, they are hard to handle, and can quickly lop off a finger! Use hearing and eye protection, and a pair of heavy gloves, long pants and workboots.
5. Drill the screw holes. Again, measure first – before drilling, or use the faceplate of the skimmer as a template to mark the holes. Use a steel carbide drill bit, of chosen size, and after drilling the first hole, make sure that the screws will fit through before drilling the remaining holes. Make sure that the cardboard box is still in place to protect the liner from the sharp and hot drill bit.
6. Screw the skimmer onto the pool. A gasket may be used on the back side of the wall, or not in some cases. If you want to use a gasket, you can make your own from a cereal box, using a razor knife to cut the proper size, and a hole punch to make the screw holes. Tightly screw the screws into the skimmer, through the wall, as tight as you can. You may need to remove the liner a bit further out from the pool wall to position the screwdriver properly. Be careful if using an electric drill (around water), not to drop it in the pool. I like to use a large, long screwdriver that properly fits the screw head, twisting very tightly.
7. Replace the liner into the track. Or over the wall for overlap liners. Reassemble any top rails, clips, screws, etc
8. Refill the pool to normal level. Important to fill the pool before continuing, as the added water may stretch the liner vertically. Cutting the liner for the skimmer opening, or screwing on the faceplate before refilling the pool could result in stretched holes and a leaking skimmer.
9. Screw on the Faceplate. With included gasket. Some folks like to use two gaskets, one behind the liner and one on top of the liner, below the skimmer faceplate. One gasket is usually sufficient, between the liner and the faceplate. Again, it’s very important to use a proper fit, long handled screwdriver that you can really torque. A #2 Phillips head is usually best for skimmer screws. Crank these screws as tightly as you can, using a star pattern to apply equal pressure. Screw them down until you hear the plastic creak and groan, or crack just a little.
10. Cut out the liner. The liner material inside of the faceplate. Use a razor knife to cut out along the inside of the frame (faceplate).
Oh, did I forget about connecting the skimmer to the pump? You may want to do this part as step no. 8.5 – before the pool water enters the skimmer and pours onto the ground. If you already have one skimmer, you may want to use a 3 way valve, like a Jandy valve, to control both skimmers with one valve. Alternatively, you can use separate 2 way valves on each line. You will need to install some type of valve so you can shut off the water flow for maintenance tasks. Most above ground pools use flexible, ridged hoses, with Hayward ball valves.
There you have it – installing a second pool skimmer, whether you do it yourself or hire it out, is not such a huge task – on an aboveground pool. A similar process can be used to install additional return lines or dedicated cleaner lines, where none existed before. For inground vinyl pools the process is similar, except for the usual cutting out of the concrete deck in the area. Inground gunite pools? That’s a whole nuther topic - for another day. Until then, keep on enjoying your pool!
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