October has arrived and with it, the official closure of our backyard pools. Though many people opt to leave their pools as is during the winter months, proper pool prep is needed in order to prevent corrosion, cracks and damage. Lucky for us, closing up shop at the end of the summer season is pretty easy.
Test your water's chemical balance
Start by checking your pool's chemical balance. This is perhaps the most important step, as poor levels of pH, alkalinity and water hardness can corrode your pool or create thick calcium deposits that mar your beautiful tiles.
pH level: Your pool's pH is a measure of acidity. It should be between 7.2 and 7.6, and can easily be manipulated by adding a pH increaser or decreaser. You can retest your water after adjusting, but you'll need to wait an hour.
Water hardness: Water hardness is a measure of your pool's calcium level. Look for 175 to 225 parts per million (ppm) for all pools, no matter what they're made of. Adding more calcium is simple, but if you need to decrease the level, drain some water and refill it from a different source.
Alkalinity: Alkalinity measures how well the water withstands a change in said pH. This should be between 80 to 125 ppm for plaster pools and 125 to 150 for other kinds. Adjust the level appropriately and retest after two hours.
Chlorine: Chlorine is what keeps your pool bacteria-free, but ultraviolet rays can diminish its effectiveness. Make sure to add in a chlorine stabilizer. While the chlorine level should only be 1 to 4 ppm, the stabilizer level should be 30 ppm.
Clean and store all of your pool equipment
After appropriately adjusting your chemical levels, remove all equipment, including hoses, filters, pumps and heaters, from the pool. Drain the water out from them and store them somewhere safe, like in a garage wall storage system. Keeping the equipment in a cool, dry area is imperative to keep it in prime shape for next year's pool rendezvous, making garage or utility room storage the perfect place to stash it.
Clean pool walls and skimmer baskets
Now that all the equipment is out of the pool, it's time to bust out the brush. Scrub all residue off the floor and walls, and clean the skimmer baskets.
Add algaecide or antifreeze
Algae doesn't typically grow in water that is less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but you might want to add some algaecide just in case. The stronger the algaecide, the longer it will last. If you live in incredibly cold climate, add some swimming pool antifreeze to keep the water from expanding and causing cracks. Note: Auto antifreeze and swimming pool antifreeze are not the same thing.
Your winter water level should be below the skimmer opening as well as any decorative pool tiles. Mesh covers require 12 to 18 inches of space below the skimmer, while other floating kinds only need 3 to 6 inches.
Prep the pool lines
The water lines running into the pool can retain water even after you've lowered the level, so they have to be dried to prevent cracking. Use a handheld vacuum to blow air through the pipes. Install freezer plugs into pipe entrances afterwards to make sure no water creeps back into them and freezes.
Lastly, seal up your pool with a cover. Many varieties are sold in stores, but mesh is your safest best as it doesn't let in rainwater, leaves or other debris.
It can be difficult to say sayonara to your pool at the end of the season, but putting in the elbow grease now means that it will be ready to swim in even faster when summer comes back around.