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How to Open an Above Ground Pool (Step-by-Step)

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It’s that time of year again: pool season. Lots of sunshine in the forecast and warmer weather is finally here.

All you want to do is jump in the pool for a refreshing dip but you’ve been avoiding the unavoidable: re-opening your above-ground pool after the winter season. It’s just sitting out there, taunting you. The pool cover is a dirty puddle of rainwater and old leaves.

You’ve been dreading it, but the time has come. The sooner you open your pool, the sooner you can get back to swimming and enjoying it! So don a floppy hat and slather on some sunscreen, we’re here to walk you through it step-by-step.

What You’ll Need to Open Your Pool

Gather your equipment and let’s get started! Once you get everything together the whole task seems a lot less daunting. We’ll walk you through it and (hopefully) make this process as painless as possible.

  • Pool cover pump or sump pump
  • Soft broom or skimmer net
  • Pool cover cleaner
  • Start-up chemical kit (or just the chemicals themselves)
  • A second set of hands (a friend or someone who owes you a favor)
  • A previously-closed above-ground pool

What Are Start-Up Chemicals?

After your first water test (Step #9 to be exact) you’ll have some good starting information for exactly what you’ll need to add to balance your pool water chemistry. It may mean you just need some shock or you may need the whole kit and kaboodle. We’ll soon find out.

You may have already bought a chemical start-up kit or maybe you like to play it by ear. If you go with the kit, it should include:

  • Stain, Rust & Scale Preventer
  • Algaecide
  • Chlorine Shock
  • Clarifier
  • Sun Sorb (This handy chemical absorbs 40 times its weight in non-living organic contaminants like body oil and lotion to keep your filter and circulation running smoothly.)

Start-up kits don’t usually come with the chemicals needed to balance pH and alkalinity, so you’ll need to grab those too if you don’t already have them. 

If you want to be completely prepared for anything and not prolong the process, here’s everything you’ll ever need. Ever. (mostly.)

  • Your chlorine of choice
  • pH increaser
  • pH decreaser
  • Alkalinity increaser
  • Calcium hardness increaser
  • Metal sequestrant
  • Water clarifier
  • Algaecide

Once you have your materials and chemicals all ready to go, it’s time to get started.

How to Open Your Above-Ground Pool (Step-by-Step)

We’re going to start from the top and work our way down. Set aside most of the day to get the job done right and you’ll be swimming by tomorrow!

Step #1: Pump that pool cover

The first step is to find your pool. If you’ve left a cover on all winter, chances are it’s buried under a pile of debris and rainwater.

Start by taking your skimmer net or soft broom and try to get as much of the debris off of the cover as possible. The more you get off now, the less you’ll have to lift off with the cover or worry about falling into your pool.

Be gentle so as not to hurt your poor pool cover. It’s been tirelessly defending your pool from debris and garbage all winter. Accidentally tearing it at the last minute with a rake or spiky broom is a sad ending for something that’s been protecting your pool so diligently. 

Use your submersible cover pump to remove the water left on top. If you don’t have, a sump pump will do the trick too. Don’t try to lift the cover off with water on it. You could tear the cover and ruin it or more likely, end up dumping all of that gross water into your pool.

Step #2: Remove the pool cover (with help!)

This part is easier said than done. Pool covers can be pretty cumbersome. To get an extra set of hands, you can always bribe a friend with a pool party invitation.

Spread the cover out nice and wide somewhere flat where you can see the whole thing. Most of us aren’t blessed with a pool-cover-sized garage, so the front yard is probably going to be your best bet. This isn’t a flag, so there’s no penalty if you drop it on the ground.

Give your pool cover the old looky-loo and see if it’ll last another season. If it’s worn or torn beyond hope, then the good news is you get to skip the next step. The bad news is, you’ll need to pick up a new one before the swimming season ends.

Step #3: Scrub and store the pool cover

If your pool cover still has some life left in it, then give it a good rinse and scrub with some pool cover cleaner and a soft brush. Using any harsh chemicals or sharp implements is just asking for your pool cover to meet its untimely end.

Once you’ve cleaned a season’s worth of much off of the pool cover, grab your garden hose and rinse the whole thing down. You can either let it dry in the sun, then flip and repeat, or use a leaf blower to shave some time off of your task. 

Once the cover is good and dry, fold it up nicely, and store it in a sealed storage bag or container. Leaving a winter or safety pool cover exposed in a garage or shed is basically like putting a “For Sale” sign on it that only rodents and bugs can read. It will be in tatters come the autumn and all your work will have been for nothing.

Step #4: Reacquaint your pool and pool accessories

It’s time to redecorate your pool! Anything you removed before closing your above-ground pool for the winter, now goes back in. Items like rails, ladders, or your diving board can now return home.

As a responsible pool owner, I’m sure you took out all of your pool accessories last winter and cleaned them thoroughly before storing them safely away. If that’s the case, you’ll probably just need to do a very quick wipe-down to remove any dust before putting them back in the pool.

Step #5: Bring those water levels back up

Evaporation happens. 

Even with a pool cover, there’s a good chance that you lost a few inches of water over the winter season. Also, depending on what method you used to close your pool, you may have lost a bit in the process.

So now it’s time to fill your pool back up to its normal levels. Make sure you use a hose filter when doing so to avoid introducing any new contaminants to the pool.

Step #6: Remove winter plugs from pool equipment and skimmer lines

Take a stroll around the pool and take out all of the winter plugs that you installed in your skimmer and return lines when you closed your pool last season. 

If you used an ice compensator or a skimmer cover to prevent freeze damage, make sure you remove those as well. 

Reattach the normal plugs and return jets into the return lines as you make your way around and then do the same for your pump, filter, heater, chlorinator, and pool cleaner. After taking out all of the winterizing plugs from the pool equipment, reattach the regular plugs.

Hold it right there! Do you live in a super cold place? If so, you probably used antifreeze in your lines when you closed your above-ground pool last season. Before you remove your winterizing plugs, make sure to turn your pump to the “waste” setting and turn it on for a minute. This will get the water running and the antifreeze out.

Step #7: Hook things up and turn it on

Get connected! It’s time to hook up all of the connections before we fire-up this bad boy. 

The skimmer attaches to the pool pump, the pump connects to the filter, and the filter connects to any add-ons you might have (like chlorinator, heater, etc.). If you don’t have any of those, just hook it up to the return.

Now, it’s finally time to flip your circuit breaker and turn the pump back on. Make sure the pump is primed so water is flowing through it. With a multiport filter, you can now switch it to the “filter” setting. 

If you need to prime your pump, just turn everything back off, remove the pump cover, and add some water from the hose. Then, seal everything back up and turn it on again. This should get things flowing.

Watch your equipment for a few minutes to make sure everything is working properly and there are no leaks or drips anywhere. 

At this point, it’s a good idea to resurrect your pool filter with a nice backwash. Depending on what type of filter you use, we recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions for backwashing or cleaning your filter so nothing goes awry.

Next, it’s time to clean things up.

Step #8: (Spring) Cleaning time

Who knows what sort of gunk has built up over the winter? Rather than shuddering at the possibilities of algae and bacterial infestations, let’s just get things cleaned up.

You can’t add any chemicals until everything has been scooped out and scrubbed down so grab your long-handled pool brush and give the surfaces of the pool a good scrub down. Once you’ve brushed the sides, vacuum the pool, and then skim the surface to get the last of it.

It should be starting to look like the above-ground pool you know and love again.

Step #9: Test and balance

What’s the damage? This part is like getting the bill after a hefty car repair. Get your test kit and see where things stand after months of pool hibernation.

Those handy test strips are fine for your weekly checks but since we’re reopening the pool after the winter, it’s a great idea to get a second opinion. Take a water sample into your local pool shop to get a professional analysis, along with the test you do at home.

When you get the results, then you can start balancing. Hopefully, it’s not too drastic, but you won’t know until you test. 

In case you got amnesia over the winter, the numbers we’re looking for here are:

  • Total Alkalinity: 80 to 120 ppm
  • pH: 7.4 to 7.6
  • Chlorine: 2.0 to 4.0 ppm

Don’t put your chemicals away just yet! We still have some shocking things to do.

Step #10: A (double) shock to the system

With everything back into balance, we need to make sure the sanitizer has a fighting chance. When opening your above-ground pool, you’re going to want to give it a double dose of shock to really get that cleaning power into gear.

A double dose, you say? What does that look like? Well, it’s going to be around 2 pounds of shock for every 10,000 gallons of water or 5 gallons of liquid shock for every 20,000 gallons. It’s a good idea to add shock after the sun has set to avoid losing any to those UV rays and remember, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines whenever adding chemicals to your pool. 

Then once you’ve added the right amounts of all of the ingredients, you need to stir the pot.

Step #11: Run the filter for 24 hours

With all of your good chemicals in and bad gunk out, you actually get to relax a bit while allowing your filter to do its job — circulating and filtering your pool water. 

Run the filter for a solid 24 hours to make sure everything gets cleaned up, sucked out, and thoroughly stirred before retesting the water.

Keep an eye on things and skim out any debris that might have fallen in. After the 24-hour mark, go ahead and retest the water. If everything is where it needs to be, grab your swimsuit and towel. It’s time to relax!

Above-Ground Pool Perfection

Now that you’ve accomplished the long-avoided chore, you are good to go for another beautiful summer of swimming. With a practical understanding of how to open an above-ground pool, it just gets easier every time you do it. 

And the best part? Now you’re free to swim and enjoy the fruits of your labor for the whole summer.

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