Swimming pools are a luxurious addition to a home, but they require more maintenance than most pool owners realize. Poor water conditions in a pool can create health hazards for swimmers, as well as cause structural damage to the pool, its components, and its accessories. Because of the consequences of poor pool maintenance, a pool owner should pay careful attention to detail when setting up their pool for the season. Below you can find information about when to open a pool, a checklist of items needed for pool maintenance, and a step-by-step process for opening your pool for the summer.
What do I need to open a pool?
The non-chemical materials you need to set up your pool include:
- Test strips
- Pool pole
- Leaf rake
- Pool brush
- Vacuum head
- Vacuum hose
- Garden hose
- Pool filter
- Gasket lubricant
- Threaded plug tape
- Pool cover cleaner
- Pool cover pump
What chemicals do I need to set up a pool?
To maintain a sanitary and safe environment in your pool, you will need:
- Pool shock
- pH increaser and decreaser
- Calcium chloride
Many pool start-up kits come equipped with every necessary chemical to open a pool. These can help you save money, but they sometimes include items that do not need to be added to every pool.
When is the best time to open a pool?
The best time to open your pool is when the daily temperature is regularly above 70 degrees. In warmer climates where these temperatures are reached in the early spring, consider opening your pool in the late spring or early summer. This prevents pollen from overwhelming your pool, which causes algae buildup and clogs filters.
What are the steps to opening a pool?
Opening a pool may seem like an overwhelming task, but, like anything, the process can be simplified by taking one step at a time.
1. Remove the pool cover
Removing the pool cover can be tricky, particularly when there is substantial debris or standing water on top of it. Use a leaf blower, soft-bristled broom, or brush to remove any loose debris. If there is a significant amount of standing water on your cover, you will need to utilize a pool cover pump. Once the cover is clear of water and loose debris, you can remove it from the pool.
2. Clean the pool cover
Once the cover is removed, it needs to be cleaned before storing. The optimal location to clean your cover is a large, flat patch of grass. When transporting your cover to the cleaning location, ensure it does not rub against any rough surfaces, such as a driveway or sidewalk. This can tear holes in the cover, compromising its ability to protect your pool. To clean your pool cover, you can use a pool cover cleaner or other mild detergents, such as dishwashing soap or car wash soap. When scrubbing the cover, use only a soft brush, such as the one used for your pool. Rough brushes can scratch the cover and tear holes. Once the cover is clean, allow it to dry and store it in a temperate, dry location. You may opt to dry it with a towel or blower to prevent dirt from accumulating while the cover air dries. The ideal storage location for a pool cover is a sealed container. This prevents rodents, insects, and other critters from nesting in the cover over the summer.
3. Remove loose debris from the water
Despite the protection a pool cover provides, leaves, twigs, and other debris can still find their way into your pool. Use your pool skimmer to remove any loose debris that may clog your filter once it is activated.
4. Remove all winterizing components and reinstall pool features
Remove all winter plugs from the pool. Reinstall the appropriate pump, heater, and filter plugs. Any railings, ladders, and other pool accessories can be reinstalled at this time.
5. Top off your pool’s water
Now that you have de-winterized your pool, you can replace the water that the pool lost while it was covered. You will want to fill your pool so that the water level is at the midpoint of the waterline tile. It is best to fill your pool now so that the pool contains the correct amount of water while you test the water’s chemical levels. Otherwise, chemicals would need to be added and tested twice during the opening process. When filling up your pool, you may wish to add a filter attachment to your garden hose if your home does not feature a point-of-entry filtration system. This prevents metals and water-hardening minerals from entering your pool.
Learn more: What is a whole house water filter?
6. Inspect and turn on your pool equipment
Before powering your pump on, check both the pump and pool filter for cracks and other signs of damage. If you find no structural damage, power the pump on and monitor the performance of the pump and filter. If your filter performs poorly, the cartridge must be cleaned or replaced. The lifespan of a filter cartridge depends on how much water flows through the filter, the amount of dirt and debris a filter processes, and how well you maintain your pool. In the worst-case scenario, a filter cartridge will last about one year. If you maintain your pool well and the filter does not have much demand, a cartridge can last for as long as five years. Sunscreen is one of the biggest contributors to shortened filter lifespan. The oils in sunscreen build up on the cartridges in a layer of film, causing the filters to work harder than they would need to otherwise.
Learn more: Maintaining a pool filter cartridge
7. Test and balance the pool water
Before you can shock your pool water, you must first balance the chemicals in the pool appropriately. To know what chemicals need to be added, you must use test strips to determine the pH, calcium hardness, chlorine levels, and alkalinity of the water.
How to adjust pool water alkalinity
When balancing your pool’s water, you must first adjust its alkalinity. The ideal range for a pool’s total alkalinity is between 80 and 120 ppm. Raising the alkalinity in a pool is as simple as adding baking soda. For a 10,000-gallon pool, 1.5 pounds of baking soda will raise the total alkalinity by about 10 ppm. To lower a pool’s alkalinity, use muriatic acid or a pH reducer. Baking soda, muriatic acid, and pH reducers alter the water’s pH. Because of this, it is crucial that you adjust a pool’s alkalinity before adjusting any other property.
How to adjust pool water pH
Once your pool’s alkalinity levels are within range, the pH levels of your pool should be as well. With a total alkalinity between 80 and 120 ppm, the pH of your pool water should be between 7.2 and 7.8. The ideal pH of a pool is between 7.4 and 7.6, but slightly higher or lower pH is acceptable. One common problem your pool may have is high alkalinity with a low pH. In this case, a pH decreaser or muriatic acid can be used. Once the alkalinity lies within the ideal range, the water can be aerated to increase the pH without raising the total alkalinity.
How to adjust calcium hardness in pool water
The ideal calcium hardness in a swimming pool is 200 to 400 ppm. If your pool’s calcium hardness is too low, you can increase it instantly by adding calcium chloride to the water. For every 1,000 gallons of water, use 2 ounces of calcium chloride to raise the calcium hardness by 10 ppm. If the water’s calcium hardness is too high, the only solution is draining a portion of the water from the pool and refilling it. You can drain and refill small amounts at a time until the calcium hardness drops within the ideal range.
How to adjust chlorine levels in pool water
The chlorine levels in a pool should lie between 1 and 4 ppm. To raise the chlorine levels in a pool, simply add chlorine tablets, granular chlorine, or shock to the pool. In a pool with ideal chlorine levels, there should be about 3 ounces of chlorine per 1000 gallons of water. To lower the chlorine levels in water, you can simply stop adding chlorine, drain and refill water from the pool, or use a chemical chlorine reducer, such as sodium thiosulfate. If you are in no rush, allow the chlorine to dissipate from the pool without replacing it until the levels reach the ideal range.
Learn more: How to accurately test pool water
8. Clean the pool’s walls
To prevent any algae from affecting your pool shock, brush the walls and vacuum the floor of your pool. This sets up the pool shock to be as successful as possible.
9. Shock the pool water
Shocking a pool involves adding a substantial volume of chlorine to kill bacteria in the water. Regardless of the type of shock you use, the instructions on the packaging will let you know the appropriate dosages to use. For a standard liquid chlorine shock, 2 gallons of shock per 10,000 gallons of water is typically used. Before adding shock to the pool, ensure that the filter is running. Add the shock to the pool slowly, pouring it while you walk around the pool’s perimeter. Allow the pump to run for about six hours, then test the pool water. The chlorine level of your pool should sit at or below 4 ppm, and the remainder of the chemicals should be within the normal range.
How often should I shock my pool?
A pool should be shocked once every one to two weeks as regular maintenance. This prevents bacteria from overtaking the space and causing health issues with swimmers. Shocking also helps your pool water remain crystal clear throughout the season.
10. Allow the pool to filter
Once you have shocked the pool, allow the filtration system to run for 24 hours. Once the cloudiness of the shock has subsided, your pool is ready for use. You may wish to test your pool’s chemical balance before opening your pool to swimmers.
Learn more: What is the best type of pool filter?
Pool setup FAQs
How soon can I swim after treating a pool?
The length of time you must wait before swimming depends on the chemicals you have added to your pool. The wait times for each chemical are:
- Adjusting pH or alkalinity – 20 minutes
- Adding calcium chloride – 4 hours
- Shocking a pool – once chlorine reaches below 5 ppm (typically 24 hours)
- Adding muriatic acid – 30 minutes
- Chlorine – once levels reach below 5 ppm
When should I run my pool pump?
A pool pump should be run during the hottest hour of the day and for a few hours during non-peak hours. During warm periods of the day, the pump will use more energy than it will at night, but it will make the water clearer and prevent algae better. Ideally, a pump should run a total of 4 to 8 hours each day. To save on energy costs, you may wish to run the pump one hour during the day and the rest of the time at night.
How often should I test my pool's water?
To maintain proper pH and chlorine levels, you should test your pool water 2 or 3 times each week. If you see any noticeable problems in your pool water, avoid swimming and test the water immediately.
How often should I brush my pool?
A pool’s walls should be brushed at least twice a week to prevent algae buildup. When brushing, always use a brush specifically designed for the material your swimming pool is made of. Using an incompatible brush can damage the surfaces of your pool.
How often should I vacuum my pool?
A pool’s floor should be vacuumed after each time it is brushed, which should happen at least once per week. This ensures that any debris or algae brushed from the walls is picked up once it settles to the floor.
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.