Swimming pool openings in the Northeast US typically range $400-$500. You can often save money by doing some of the work yourself, i.e. removing the cover, or vacuuming the pool. A spring start up reverses some of the steps done during winterization, and so you might call a pool opening a summerization, the steps taken to summerize the pool.

Here is a quick list of the steps involved in opening an inground swimming pool:

  • Remove, clean, fold and store winter pool cover.
  • Test water balance; adjust calcium, alkalinity and pH levels
  • Replace winter stored items; ladders, auto cleaner, baskets, plugs, gauges, etc.
  • Inspect and test electrical service to pumps, lights, heaters, etc.
  • Lube valves and o-rings. Wrap threaded plugs with new thread sealant.
  • Flood lines, prime-up pump, start-up motor and adjust valves for proper flow.
  • Brush tiles and scrub skimmers with phosphate-free cleanser.
  • Blow off, then hose off the pool deck (or wash with buckets of chlorinated pool water)
  • Skim pool surface. Vacuum pool to waste if algae is present.
  • Super chlorinate to breakpoint levels with liquid or granular chlorine.
  • Brush pool walls and steps. Re-check chemical levels in 12-24 hrs, adjust as needed.
  • Backwash filter when pressure gauge rises 8-10 lbs, or flow diminishes considerably.

Snowbelt Pool Openings

1. Remove the pool cover:

Solid Pool Covers:
Use a small cover pump to remove rain and snow melt. As the water is being pumped, "Tighten up" the cover by pulling on its edges, so the water gathers into one easily pumped area. Another tip is to use a leaf blower underneath the cover, which inflates the cover slightly, while pushing the water into one area. Use a "bag type" leaf net or your pool brush on the pole to gently remove leaves and debris from the cover. After water and debris is removed, drain water bags (or remove whatever is being used to hold down sides of cover). Water bags can be folded or rolled after being hosed clean. Remove cover quickly by fan-folding it into 3ft to 5ft folds on one end of the pool. Take cover to open area where it can be unfolded and hosed clean. A small amount of detergent can be used if needed, but usually a strong hose and a heavy push broom or pool brush will remove most of the dried gunk. A sloping yard or driveway makes this easier. When the pool cover is clean, allow to dry or use blower to hasten drying. NOTE: leaving it spread out over grass for too long on a hot day may harm your grass. Fan fold (accordion-style) the cover to facilitate its installation in the fall. Roll tightly and wrap with rope or twine to prevent it from unrolling during storage. Place in a dry, rodent free location for its summer storage. Place your water bags, cover pump, winter plugs and other winter supplies in the same area, ready to go for fall.

Mesh Pool Covers:
Use a broom, brush, leaf net, hose and/or blower to remove leaves and debris from top and edges of your mesh pool cover. Remove springs from the anchors with the removal tool. If you can't find your cover tool, in a pinch you can use a 3/4" pipe to lever springs from anchors. Use 1/4" hex key (Allen wrench) to carefully put anchors into the down position, flush with the deck. It's good practice to clean with a hose and lubricate with a light oil, like WD-40. After putting anchors down, fan fold a mesh pool cover (accordion-style) to facilitate its reinstallation in the fall. Use hose, broom or blower to clean off cover as you make each fold. Fold it seam to seam, then roll it up tightly and stuff it into the storage bag. Place on chair to dry for a few hours before moving it INDOORS for summer storage. If storing outdoors, hang mesh safety covers up off the ground, from a rope tied to rafters, or use moth balls or mint bags to repel rodents from nesting in the cover during the summer. Rodents chew small holes in the mesh cover fabric during nesting, so it's best to keep them away. Also, store mesh safety covers away from heat sources or sparks.

2. Remove expansion plugs (Freeze Plugs) from skimmers and wall returns

Put freeze plugs in a Ziploc bag and place near cover for use next fall. Discard any that are dry-rotted and/or cracked. If you use the Hayward SP1022C threaded plug with o-ring, inspect the o-ring closely for cracking. You will find winter plugs in the skimmers, and in the wall returns or spa jets, and any pool cleaner lines.

3. Reassemble filter, pump, heater, etc.

Install the drain plugs into pump, filter, heater, chlorinator, etc. Use thread sealant such as Teflon tape on all threaded plug connections. Do not over-tighten! Reinstall the pump and skimmer baskets, pressure gauges. Lubricate the pump lid o-ring, and any sticky push-pull valves or 3-way valves. If your filter is a D.E. or Cartridge type pool filter, make sure that the center clamp band is tight and properly positioned. (It was probably removed in the fall to have the filters pulled out and cleaned with a hose, so make sure it was re-installed correctly before starting pump).

Place the filter valve to the filter position and open air bleeder (beneath pressure gauge, usually). Open all incoming valves (before pump) and all return side valves (after filter). Fill pump basket with water from pool or hose. Replace pump lid tightly. Look for leaks or drips out of pump. Double check that all valves and pressure relief orifices are open. Slide valves (push-pull valves) should be in the down position on most DE filters and in the up position for Pac-Fab sand filters. Multiport valves should be on the Filter position.

4. Turn on power to pump & start system

Watch the pressure on the filter gauge closely with your hand on power switch! Turn off (quickly!) if pressure rises well above normal range; or above 30 psi. If the pressure spikes, shut off pump and recheck that all return side valves are open.

If no pressure builds up at all, and pump is not pumping, shut off power after 1 minute. Repeat priming process mentioned before. If pump still won't prime up, try closing main drain valve, if you have one, and starting off the skimmer(s) alone. If pump still won't catch prime after 5 or so attempts, check incoming pipes for air leaks, most commonly occurring on the pipe that enters the pump. Make sure that the pump lid and drain plugs are tight. If you still are having trouble getting the pump to prime, try reducing the pressure on the return side by placing a multiport valve onto waste or recirculate. Make sure that the plugs are all pulled from the pool, the water level is up high enough and a skimmer weir is not stuck in an up position.

A good method is to start the pump with the valve in the Drain to Waste position, to suck all of the nasty water out of the skimmers and main drains. Next, place the multiport into the Recirculate position and run pump until water flows into the pool. Finally, shut off pump again and switch the valve to the Filter position to complete the process.

If you have a DE filter, after starting the filter, add 1 lb of DE powder per 5 sq. ft of filter area into the skimmer. Add DE powder quickly, within 2 minutes of starting the filter. If you have a cartridge filter, you should replace cartridge element every 2-4 years, or about every dozen cleanings. Sand filters should have their sand changed every 5-7 years.

Once the system is started, adjust valves and return fittings for proper flow. Check for leaks around pump and filter; repair as needed. Note the start-up pressure on filter gauge, it's helpful to write this on the tank with a marker, or mark the gauge itself. When the pressure is 7-10lbs above this (clean) number, backwash the filter. Empty pump basket also at this time, or earlier if you notice a drop in filter pressure.

If you have a pool heater, follow pilot lighting and test firing instructions, usually printed on back of front heater door. Operate to test and adjust all other equipment.

5. Equipment inspection, Safety inspection

Spring opening time is ideal for annual preventative maintenance steps such as cleaning, lubricating, inspecting and replacing components in all of your system equipment. Check again for pressure leaks which may result in pipes or equipment blowing apart. Note water level and watch the pool for leakage during the following few days, and give everything a good inspection. Solar blankets should be kept off the pool until the chlorine and pH levels have stabilized.

Look for and correct hazardous electrical conditions, such as broken conduit or connectors, lack of proper grounding or bonding, wires exposed to weather, etc. Inspect pool for tripping and slipping hazards. Check all points of access to the pool, gates and doors leading to the pool should be locked and alarmed. Other layers of protection, such as pool covers, pool alarms, or physical barriers to the pool that do not block visibility of the pool, should be considered. Rescue equipment and a working phone are also encouraged. Most important of all for pool safety would be adequate supervision of swimmers.

6. Clean the pool

Skim pool, vacuum pool, brush pool, in that order. Leaf rake (bag) types skim nets are best, also useful for scooping large amounts of leaves or debris from pool floor. If pool is especially silty or has lots of algae, vacuum the pool to waste. This means to bypass the filter, and vacuum dirt from floors/walls out the backwash line. This prevents constant clogging/cleaning of filter. To do this, you may need to fill pool to the very top, so you can waste 1-3". Place the multiport filter valve on drain to waste position (usually 2pm, if viewed as a clock face) If you have a push-pull filter valve, or a cartridge type filter there is no easy way to vacuum to waste, except for cutting the pipe coming out of the pump and then reconnecting afterwards. After skimming and vacuuming the pool carefully, use a Pool Brush on the pool thoroughly.

7. Check and Balance Water Chemistry

Use a good quality pool water test kit. Replace test kit reagents every spring (annually). Follow pool water test instructions carefully to obtain accurate results. For pool opening chemicals, you will likely need more than just chlorine, but other water balance chemicals, or start up pool chemicals, to adjust the pH, alkalinity, hardness, and stabilizer levels.

Alkalinity first. If below the range of 80 - 120 ppm, add Total Alkalinity Increaser (Sodium Bicarbonate or baking soda) at a rate of 1 lb per 10,000 gals to raise Alkalinity levels 10 ppm.

Calcium Hardness level should be 180 - 220 ppm. Add Calcium Hardness Increaser (Calcium Chloride) at a rate of 1 lb per 10,000 gals to raise Calcium levels 5 ppm.

Test pH level after water has circulated 8 hrs. The pool pH level should be 7.4 - 7.6, add pH Increaser (soda ash or sodium carbonate) if the water is acidic/ corrosive (below 7.4). Add pH Decreaser (muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate) if water is basic/ scaling (above 7.6). A good pool test kit will allow you to perform an acid demand or base demand test to determine exact amounts of acid or base needed (demanded).

After balanced chemicals have been circulated for 8 hrs, use a good pool shock treatment to super-chlorinate the pool. Add granular pool shock treatment (Calcium Hypochlorite) to the pool at a rate of 1 lb per 10,000 gallons, or use Liquid Bleach (12.5% Sodium Hypochlorite) at a rate of 1 gal per 5,000 gallons of pool water.

Cyanuric Acid levels should be tested if chlorine is used (outdoor pools only). Add CYA (Conditioner or Stabilizer) if Cyanuric Acid levels are below 30 ppm. This pool start up chemical is optional, but is recommended for pools with lots of daily sunshine, and can reduce chlorine consumption by a dramatic amount, saving money on pool chlorine costs.

Always read instructions on start up chemicals for proper handling, treatments and application of the pool chemicals. Distribute pool opening chemicals broadly and never mix or add them together. Brushing the pool after adding pool opening chemicals is helpful to distribution and dilution. Re-test water daily for the first week and readjust if needed.

If algae is still present, re-shock pool, or add a "kill" dosage of a quality pool algaecide. Your pool is ready for use when the water is balanced, the chlorine level drops below 3.0 ppm, and water is clean and clear.

If your water is cloudy after 7-10 days, something is wrong with either your filtration, sanitation or water balance, or all three perhaps. Check and readjust chemistry, shock treat the pool again, and make sure the filter is operating correctly. Using clarifiers can help to coagulate fine material into more easily filterable clumps.

If you have stains on the pool after opening the pool, they will lighten with sunshine and chlorine, and balanced pool water. There are many ways to remove pool stains, depending on the type of stain and the type of pool surface. In many cases, just balancing the water and shock treating the pool will remove most of the stains. Remaining stains can be removed with a variety of chemical measures, beyond the scope of this article. See our page on pool stains for more information.

Sunbelt Pool Openings

If you didn't really winterize the pool, but rather reduced the amount of filter time and attention you gave the pool, then you can probably skip items 1-3 above. But follow steps 4-7 to keep things sanitary and working safe and properly. Again, consider hiring a professional pool company, at least every few years to double check your work and spot problems or maintenance items you may have missed.

Spring Pool Equipment Tune-ups

Some items, pool cleaners in particular, if not maintained, can be destroyed beyond repair with continued use. An annual spring tune-up is important for pool cleaners, pool heaters and automatic pool covers, in particular. Lubricating pool o-rings with a Teflon based pool lubricant is also a good spring task. In particular, the pump lid o-ring, and any sticky, hard to turn valves. For safety, make sure that ladder tread bolts and diving board bolts are tight.

Service companies can also make equipment tune-ups easier. Most pool service vans carry the small parts needed for your pool cleaner, skimmers, ladders, etc. But then again, so does POOLCENTER.com! Any part you need for your equipment should be promptly replaced to prevent further damage to the unit itself.

Related Product Pages:

Pool Balancing Chemicals
Pool Clarifiers
Pool Equipment Parts
Pool Shock Treatment
Pool Stain Remover
Pool Startup Chemicals
Pool Startup Kits
Pool Test Kits

Related Blog Posts:

Early Spring Pool Checkup – Preparing for Opening.
Opening a Pool Neglected for YEARS
Pool Opening at the Douglas Home
Preventing a Green Pool Opening
Spring Pool Opening 19-Point Inspection
Spring Pool Opening - Start-Up Tips & Tricks