A Guide to Opening a Pool for Swimming Season

plants in front of swimming pool

 Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 4 - 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner

The simplest solution to opening a swimming pool for the season is to hire a pool service. But if you’re up for it, you can do it yourself, potentially saving lots of money, which you can turn around and spend on upgraded pool equipment to make the job easier.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked steps in getting your swimming pool ready for the season is addressing the area surrounding your pool. Start by cleaning up plant debris from the pool deck, patio, and nearby planting beds—anything that has the potential for producing debris that might find it's way to your pool. Prune trees and hedges that have grown in recent months and might hang over your pool now or in the near future.


Many flowering plants shed their flowers in the summer, which can end up in your pool. To minimize mess and maintenance, try planting mess-free shrubs, trees, or vines around your pool area.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Tree/shrub trimming tools
  • Cover pump or submersible pump (as needed)
  • Broom or pressure washer (as needed)
  • Cover removal tool or Allen wrench (as needed)
  • Tile brush
  • Pool brush
  • Pool vacuum
  • Pool testing kit


  • Tile cleaner or baking soda
  • Metal lubricant


  1. Clean the Pool Cover

    Yuck! You've got some sort of smelly science experiment involving leaves and "stuff" that's accumulated in the seven months or so since you winterized your swimming pool. If the accumulated gunk on your pool cover is in liquid form, use a cover pump or rent a submersible pump (usually for a 24-hour period) to remove the murky water living on top of the cover.

    Consider yourself lucky if you have dried debris on your cover. This can be removed by sweeping it, followed by a quick spray of the hose or pressure washer (do this really quickly or not at all in drought-stricken regions). The real cleaning will happen after you remove the cover.

    pool cover pump
  2. Remove the Pool Cover

    Try to time the pool cover removal so that someone else can help you with the task. At the shallow end, each person should grab a corner to begin the removal. Depending on the type of cover, there are a couple of ways to remove it:

    • For solid winter covers, fan-fold the cover into 3-to-5-foot folds.
    • For mesh covers, remove springs or fasteners from anchors with a removal tool or Allen wrench. Loosely fan-fold the cover accordion style.
    David Cordner/Getty Images
  3. Clean and Store the Cover

    After removing the cover, take it to a driveway or other hardscaped area, preferably on a slant or slope for easier drainage. Thoroughly sweep and hose off the cover and use cleaner or treatment if it’s recommended by the cover manufacturer. Allow it to dry completely before storing. Tightly roll or fan-fold the cover and wrap with rope or use strapping to keep it tight. Store the pool cover indoors or in a garage—away from insects, rodents, and moisture.

  4. Inspect, Remove, Replace (as Needed)

    Hit the essential checklist items, including inspections and correcting any issues:

    • Remove plugs, etc: Remove expansion or freeze plugs from the surface skimmers and wall returns, and restore directional fittings. Empty water from the water tubes (if your pool has them).
    • Check the filter and pump: Inspect the filter and pump for damaged or worn parts. Make any necessary repairs or replacements.
    • Reinstall light: To prevent lights from cracking in areas where it freezes, underwater light fixtures are often removed from their housings, with the wires still connected. Coil the wire into the niche and reattach the light fixture.
    • Check for cracks: Examine a fiberglass or concrete pool for cracks in the pool and on any tile. Also look for chips in the plaster or indentations on the deck and coping. Since this pool-opening job is DIY, you can apply your expertise to any minor repairs that need to be made. It's also a good time to remove calcium scale and stains from the tile with a household tile cleaner or baking soda and a tile brush. For tougher stains, use a pumice stone.​
    repairing pool tile
    Chloe Taylor
  5. Reinstall Equipment

    Reset all of the user equipment, like hand-, grab- or safety rails; slides; ladders; and diving boards or the newer and safer jump boards. It's a good idea to spray metal bolts and other fasteners with a metal lubricant, and make sure everything is good and tight.


    It's easiest to clean up chrome pieces with a chrome cleaner or polish prior to installation.

    pool rail
    Em/Getty Images
  6. Install the Pump and Other Components as Needed

    If you purchased a new pump, heater, or filter to replace a damaged one, now's a good time to install it. You can also replace drainage plugs, valves, and pressure gauges that were removed.

    Check manufacturers' instructions that came with the new parts or equipment, or look for the information on the company website.

    pool pump
  7. Add Water and Clean the Pool

    Grab a garden hose and fill the pool to the midpoint on the waterline tile or middle of the skimmer weirs. Once it's at the desired level, you can now clean leaves, twigs, and debris from the pool's bottom by using a long-handled (telescoping) wall and floor brush. This is also time to dust off your algae brush and pool vacuum and put them to good use, scrubbing walls and surfaces to remove any trace of dreaded algae, in all its forms and colors.

    Pool filling up with water
    wsfurlan / Getty Images
  8. Power Up the Pool

    Are the valves in the open position? Did you fill the pump with water in hopes of it priming correctly? Was air purged from plumbing and equipment? If so, you may now turn on the power.

    With the circulation system operating, inspect the pool for leaks, cracks, and split hoses. If you discover any damage, shut off the power and contact your local pool service.

  9. Test and Treat the Water

    Run the filter for 12 to 24 hours to mix up the old and new water before testing or adding chemicals. After that, you'll want to use a pool testing kit. Be sure to check the expiration date on your testing strips or reagents and replace any that have expired. Start by testing four key parameters:

    Now it's time to shock the pool, or super chlorinate it with chlorine or a shock treatment (also called an oxidizer or burner) to destroy those pesky algae and microorganisms.

    At this point—depending on the results of your pool test kit, your preferences, the advice of a pool service professional, etc.—you might want to add other treatments to your water. These might include a stabilizer, conditioner, or algicide.

    Allow the filter to run another 24 hours and test again before letting anyone enter the pool.


    Click Play to See How Pool Test Kits Work

    Man using pool test kit
    Bill Oxford/Getty Images
  10. Splash Into Summer

    If the water in your swimming pool is crystal clear and you let your filter run for a day, the next step should be obvious: Jump in!

    And don't forget to set up a maintenance schedule during swim season.

    teen girl jumps into pool
    Adie Bush/Getty Images
  • What is the first thing to do when opening a pool?

    When opening a pool, first clean the pool cover before removing it. Not only will this allow you to store a clean cover, but it will also prevent debris from entering the pool.

  • What chemicals do you need to open a pool?

    To determine which chemicals you will need for your pool, use a pool testing kit. This will check for the water pH level and chlorine content, among other factors.

  • How long should it take to open a pool?

    The time it takes to open a pool can vary widely, depending on any repairs or extensive maintenance the pool needs. But in general, plan to spend two to three days on the project. 

Article Sources
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  1. “The Importance of Shocking a Pool.” Accessed August 11, 2021. https://lesliespool.com/blog/shocking-a-pool.html.