How to Open a Swimming Pool

swimming pool with sky views
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Spruce Up the Surrounding Area

plants in front of swimming pool
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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. Things to consider:

  • Clean up plant debris from the pool deck, patio, nearby planting beds—virtually anything that has the potential for producing debris in your pool.
  • Prune trees and hedges that have grown in recent months and might hang over your pool. Some plants shed their flowers in the summer, which can end up in your pool. Try planting mess-free shrubs, trees, or vines.

Clean That Mess off the Pool Cover

pool cover pump

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 (really quickly or not at all in drought-stricken regions). The real cleaning will happen after you remove the cover.

Remove the Pool Cover

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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. These methods include:

  • 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.

Cleaning and Storage

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 manufacturer of the cover. 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.

Inspection, Removal and Replacement

repairing pool tile
Chloe Taylor

Here's how to get down to business:

  • 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: Make sure to inspect the filter and pump for possible damaged or worn parts and buy a replacement.
  • Lighting fixtures: 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: Fiberglass or concrete pools should be examined for cracks in the pool and on the tile. Also, look for chips in the plaster and 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.​

Reinstall Equipment

pool rail
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That would be hand-, grab- or safety rails, slides, ladders, diving boards or the newer and safer jump boards. It will be easier to clean up these pieces with use a chrome cleaner or polish prior to installation. Reattach tightly and spray bolts with a metal lubricant.

Pump It Up

pool pump

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.

Clean Pool and Add Water

cleaning floor of pool
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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.

Power to the Pool

woman cleaning pool
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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.

Are you an experienced swimming pool do-it-yourselfer? Go for it, but really know what you're doing.

Swimming Pool Chemistry Lab

Man using pool test kit
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Run the filter 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 if expired. The four parameters to test:

  • The water's pH level
  • Alkalinity
  • Calcium hardiness
  • Chlorine content.

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.


Click Play to See How Pool Test Kits Work

For more detailed instructions, photos for each step, check out this pool test kit tutorial.

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

Splash Into Summer

teen girl jumps into pool
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Have you followed all these steps? If the water in your swimming pool is crystal clear and you let your filter run for a day, as recommended in the previous step; you know what to do.

Jump in!

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