For many of us, autumn is the time for raking leaves and fertilizing the lawn, but for pool owners those shorter days and cooler nights signal the need for one more outdoor chore: winterizing and closing the pool. Like it or not, when those leaves and pine needles start to fall, it's time to say so long to the fun and sun that have been so much a part of summer.
As the winter weather approaches, there are a few important things for pool owners to keep in mind, says Robert Knickman of the Pool Center. "When to close a pool depends on the weather, personal preference and whether there is a heater in the pool," he says. "In general, the longer a pool is open and circulating, the easier it will be to open in the spring."
When closing any pool -- above-ground or in-ground -- the first step is to thoroughly clean it by removing any debris that might have fallen into the water. Also, remove all railings and ladders.
"Then, the winter chemistry goes in," Knickman says, adding that the chemistry is similar in both types of pools, with in-ground pools getting "bigger doses." "A good winter-based shock and copper algaecide are used. Often people will put in a stain-and-scale remover and a winter conditioning product we call Pool Closing Complete. Always use a good quality chemical, like Bioguard, and the right chemistry. Proper chemistry in the fall will help you open up to a better pool in the spring."
After the chemistry circulates, lower the water level until it goes down below the return. "Some people lower it below the skimmer: This depends on if there is a skimmer plug," Knickman says.
The next step of closing an in-ground pool is what many consider the "tricky part" of the whole chore -- and it's the reason many pool owners call on the assistance of a pool professional. "The big difference is in-ground PVC lines have to be blown out and antifreeze put in," Knickman says. The amount of antifreeze to use varies based on your region's climate.
Pool plumbing lines that aren't totally cleared can freeze and expand, causing the pipes to crack -- and if you have an older system, it's even riskier. That's why cleaning the lines is a process that is often best left to the pros.
Finally, it's time to cover the pool. "For in-ground pools the quality of the cover matters greatly," Knickman says, adding that a high-end cover is pricier but worth it. "They are custom measured and made for the specific in-ground pool." While in-ground pool covers are expensive, above-ground pool covers "are more forgiving for cost but last a far shorter time than the in-ground covers." Because of the way they are used, above-ground covers will "often rip or be blown off within a few years."
"That's the reason many places do not carry a high-end winter above-ground cover," Knickman says. For safety reasons, never leave any pool partially covered.
Closing a pool for the winter can take "multiple hours," Knickman says. "Without question, a professional can easily help with closing questions, chemistry and actually performing the close. In fact, we do more in-ground closings than most other labor combined."
And if you haven't booked a professional to close your pool, there is no time like the present, he concludes. "Really, it is never too early to book an appointment to close," he says. "Timing of opening and closing pools varies wildly due to climate. But booking early allows the customer to get their preferred date."