I'm home from work this week, a good time in the pool business to take some time off. Work for me doesn't end, just because I'm home - in fact, it seems like the Honey-Do list gets longer when I take off time from work.
This weekend I spent some quality time with my inground swimming pool - not swimming mind you, but checking on important things to be sure that the pool is still winterized properly and there aren't any small problems - that could grow into large problems.
Here's a checklist of items to check during winter, on your own inground pool.
[ ] Pool Cover
For safety pool covers like mine, the inspection process is to be sure that the straps, or springs are all connected to the deck anchors. If you have brass cover anchors that wouldn't come up when you closed the pool, now may be the time to replace broken cover anchors. They can be removed by chipping the concrete just slightly around the anchor, and prying them up with a large flathead screwdriver. If you'd rather not mess with the anchors, lay a water tube on the edge of the cover to keep leaves from blowing under the cover.
Secondly for safety covers, is that it may need tightening. If your safety cover dips down toward the water in the middle, it's too loose. Safety covers should be drum tight, with an almost imperceptible dip in the middle. Start by tightening corner and center straps, or as needed so that all springs are about 2/3 compressed.
Solid covers, the type with water bags deserve an extra close inspection for holes. To do this, first tighten up the cover by grabbing the edge and pulling outward on all sides, to remove any wrinkles across the cover surface. Reposition water bags, and add more if there are any that have deflated. Water bags can be patched with a vinyl patch kit, or by using a dab of silicone sealant over the hole. They can also be folded or tied, to prevent pinhole leaks.
If you do see any holes in a solid pool cover, slide the cover off of the pool and make a repair using a cover patch. If the hole is near the edge of the pool, an oversized pool cover can be shifted so that the hole is over the pool deck or coping, or on the part of the cover that rises toward the deck, at the edge of the pool. Patching holes in a solid cover is important, so that your cover pump won't pump out pool water, and also to prevent debris from contaminating the pool water.
Finally, clean off solid covers, using a leaf rake on your pool pole, or the pool brush. Never use a yard rake or other sharp tools to clean a pool cover. Leaf blowers can be helpful to remove most of the leaves easily. If you use a Leaf Net on your solid pool cover, now is the time to pull it off, removing all of the leaves in one motion. Store the Leaf Net for winter, it will last longer if you do not leave it on all winter long.
[ ] Pool Equipment
Give a look to your pump, filter and heater and other pool equipment to make sure that all plugs were removed, and nothing looks broken or tilted. I checked my main drain valve, to be sure that the pipe was still closed off by the valve, and that all other valves are open. Finally, check out the power supply and make sure that the breaker and time clock, or switches are still in the off position, for the pump and the pool lights.
[ ] Water Chemistry
Pull back the pool cover, and use your pool test kit to check the water balance, breaking the ice to reach the water, if necessary. With mesh pool covers, rain and snow can drastically change the water chemistry in a few short months. Especially important is the pool pH, alkalinity and calcium levels, which can be adjusted by adding adjustment chemicals to a bucket of water, and pouring in the mixture along one side of the pool. Use a pool brush to help distribute the chemicals, and then button up the cover again tightly.
[ ] Water Level
The water level in your pool is very important during winter. The water helps support the pool cover, and without enough water in the pool, a safety cover can be damaged when it snows, and a solid cover can fall into the pool - what a mess. Water levels can also be too high for safety covers, which allow rain and snow melt to pass through. When it gets too high, it touches the center of the pool cover, and dirt and leaves get trapped, and leach dirt and tannins into the pool water.
If your pool water level has dropped, add water from a hose to fill it back up - and if the water level is too high, use a small submersible pump to lower the water, or set up a siphon hose. My pool water level was still below the skimmer, but since I was working on the pool, I placed my Little Giant pump on the second step and lowered the water level another six inches or so.
[ ] Pool Supplies
Now check out your stored items - chemicals, pool cleaner and cleaning tools. Sometimes at closing, these items get thrown into the shed or garage without much thought. Check that the pool chemical lids are tight and they are properly stored, with no chance of falling off a shelf, or being hit by the car, and out of reach of children. Pool chemicals and test kits are best stored in a climate controlled area, but never near an open flame, like a hot water heater or gas furnace. Also, if stored near steel items, even stainless steel (pool filters) will rust in the presence of chlorine gas.
Pool cleaner hoses should be loosely coiled - not too tight, or they may develop a memory. Like pool chemicals, pool cleaner hoses or vacuum hoses are best stored in a heated room, so that the cold temperatures won't damage soft plastic and rubber parts. Other supplies, like nets and brushes can be left outside, but be sure that they are hung-up safely, and not stored on the floor or other surface, where the bristles or net can be damaged or soiled.
After your winter inground pool check-up, you can rest easy and take a few more months off from pool maintenance.
Happy New Year!
SPP Pool Expert