As lovely as in-ground pools sound, they're not always feasible to install in the backyard, whether it's because of the cost, the space available, or the type of soil in the back. An above-ground pool, however, could be an option for enjoying the water during warmer months.
Above-ground swimming pools range from economical models to more luxurious (and expensive) styles. Many can be enjoyed throughout the year, and some use saltwater systems, which are popular with in-ground models. Above-ground pools also have options for solar heating systems and energy-efficient covers.
Contemporary models may have upgraded features that are usually seen in in-ground models, including advanced filtration systems and pumps to keep them clean. However, even above-ground pools that have built-in systems need a little hands-on work regularly to stay clean and in good working condition.
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Follow a Maintenance Checklist
It's tempting to put off above-ground pool maintenance, but you will pay for it later through water problems or pool liner issues, which are expensive to fix. To ensure that you're taking proper care of the pool, follow a daily and weekly pool maintenance checklist.
Complete these tasks daily:
- Test the pH level to ensure it's between 7.4 and 7.6.
- Test the chlorine level, which should be between 2.0 and 4.0 ppm.
- Check the water level, which should be around mid-skimmer.
- Empty the skimmer and pump baskets.
- Check filter pressure and pump operation.
- Skim the surface of the water.
Once a week, complete these tasks:
- Test total alkalinity to make sure it's between 80 and 120 ppm.
- Properly dose with algaecide, clarifier, and metal control.
- Clean the pool deck and surrounding area.
- Add chlorine tablets.
- If the pressure gauge rises 7 to 9 psi, backwash or clean the filter.
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Ensure Water Circulation
Above-ground pools have issues with water circulation, which can allow algae to breed quickly. This is particularly evident in the dead spots of the pool, which typically have bad circulation, including behind ladders, around steps, under the skimmer, and in any cracks, crevices, or creases of the liner.
The pool's pump circulates the water, but sometimes it doesn't do a great job in these dead spots. You can improve the situation by installing return jets that are multi-directional but keep a pool brush on hand to manually circulate water, too.
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Protect the Pool's Wall
The pool's wall needs care just as much as the water inside of it. Avoid letting guests sit or stand (even partially) on the edges or the top rail of the pool, which can cause damage by creasing, cracking, and collapsing the sides. Rusting under the top rail can result in rust falling into the water. so opt for your model's replacement rails that are available from your pool store or an online parts supplier (you'll need to perfectly match the rails for an exact fit).
Other hazards that could damage the pool's wall include:
- Falling tree branches
- Nesting insects under the top rail
- Pecking wildlife at ground level
- Mowing too close to the wall or shooting debris from the mower hitting the wall
- Accidents resulting from bike riding too close around the pool
Birds will also make good use of the top rail to perch so make sure to continuously clean off the poop they'll inevitably leave.
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Winterize the Pool Correctly
If you don't use the pool for the entire year, it needs to be winterized at the end of each swimming season. This includes:
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- Cleaning the pool thoroughly, and adding a winter chemical kit to the water.
- Removing chemicals, cleaning supplies, and the pool's ladder to store in a safe, dry area.
- Running the filter for one hour before disconnecting the motor and pump, also to be stored in a safe, dry place.
- Lowering the water level to below the return and skimmer. Don't drain the pool entirely, as it can be damaged by hydrostatic pressure from ice conditions.
- Adding pool anti-freeze—not automobile anti-freeze—to the plumbing and installing threaded winter plugs to keep water out of the pipes.
- Covering the pool with an appropriately sized winter cover.
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Run the Pool Pump Daily
Even if you don't plan to use the pool for a day or two, you should still run the pool pump and filter for 12 to 18 hours daily. The two run together to keep the water clean. The pool pump pulls the water from the pool and into the filter to clean the water from accumulated dirt and debris. The pump is also important because it keeps the water circulating to reduce algae growth.
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Unclog the Impeller
Running the pump (and filter) daily will stress the components. So, if your pump fails, don't despair or close down the pool. It could simply be a clogged impeller inside of the pump, which is a detail that many above-ground pool owners may not often think about.
An impeller is a small part of your pump which creates the flow of water from pump to filter. But it can become clogged with leaves and other debris it reduces, and often stops, the flow of water. To unclog the pump's impeller, turn off the motor first. Find the location of your impeller with the help of your pool owner's manual. Take out the basket and with the help of a screwdriver or an impeller cleaning kit, dig in there to remove the clog of leaves and debris. Your pump will then become efficient once the clog is gone.
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Patch and Clean the Liner
It may be tempting to neglect a pinhole or teeny tear in the liner, especially if it's above the water line. It's highly advisable to patch these problems as soon as you spot them or they can tear further and cause leaking and other problems. Have a pool patch kit, including underwater pool liner patch adhesive, in your arsenal of pool maintenance tools.
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Vacuum More Than Once a Week
It's best to vacuum your pool once a week at a minimum, but often, you'll want to vacuum more than that. Your filter won't remove all the dirt and debris in your water, especially the particles that fall to the bottom of the pool and stubbornly sit there. Manually vacuuming an above-ground pool can be a challenge, so opt for a stress-free robotic cleaner that gets the job done.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Use a Solar Blanket
Adding a solar pool cover over your above-ground pool when it's not in use does more than just keep it a bit warmer. A solar blanket includes the following benefits:
- Keeps the water clean from accumulating debris and insects, especially during breezy days and nights
- Reduces water evaporation to keep your levels stable
- Extends the swimming season by keeping the water warmer
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Shock the Pool
If you hesitate to use shock in the pool because you're using other chemicals, don't be. Shocking is encouraged, and often necessary, to rid your pool of stubborn algae, especially after heavy rainfall. Shock is a granular oxidizer that comes in a powdered form of chlorine and is sprinkled in the pool for water treatment. Use it separately and at different times from other chemicals.
You typically can't shock a pool too much, even if you put in a couple of bags of powder at once. For safety purposes, it's best to shock a pool at night so the sun doesn't dissolve it, abstain from swimming until the next day, and leave the pump running all night to circulate the powder.
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Protect Your House From Leaks
Although national and local building codes require that above-ground pools are placed several feet away from your home due to electrical reasons, there remains the question of what to do if the pool fails and water starts gushing out of it at high speeds? The ground, and possibly your basement, can become flooded fast. The best protection is to install a sump pump in your basement to handle any water overflow that reaches your home.