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    Winter Pool Problems (and How to Avoid Them)

    October 17, 2018
    Alicia Harris

    Winter Pool Care

    Winter! The time of year you can prop your feet up and forget about pool maintenance for a few months...right?! Well, not quite. The truth is, harsh winter weather conditions paired with a lack of regular care can severely damage a pool during the off-season months. In this blog, we'll look at some of the most common cold weather pool problems, including a few winter pool care tips to help you avoid them.

    Cover Catastrophes

    winter pool care tips

    Winter pool covers and safety covers are SO important in maintaining water quality through the winter. Many pool cover problems stem from existing cover damage, whether it be from age, general wear and tear, or holes caused by animals and debris.

    The problems with holey covers are plenty. Existing tears grow larger in time, allowing more and more debris to pass through until the cover isn't really doing its job anymore. For solid covers using a cover pump, unpatched holes pack a one-two punch. Water from the pool can get pumped out through the cover pump, which lowers the pool level and puts extra stress on the cover. If the cover ever fails and collapses into the pool, your pool opening process is likely to be much more difficult and expensive - especially if there was a lot of debris and murky water on top! Follow these simple tips to make sure your cover stays in place and the pool water stays clean all winter.

    • In most cases, holes can be patched with a winter cover patch or a safety cover patch. Repair all holes as soon as possible.
    • Keep extra cover accessories on hand in case of emergencies. Cover patches, extra water bags, safety cover hardware, air pillows, etc. are all useful to keep around, depending on which type of pool you have.
    • Regularly and carefully remove debris from the cover, including leaves, twigs and tree limbs. This keeps accumulated water cleaner, minimizes the risk of punctures, and it makes cover removal easier.
    • Use a pool cover pump to remove excess rainwater and snowmelt from solid covers.
    • Adjust safety cover straps or winter cover weights to keep the cover secure.
    • DO NOT shift or adjust the cover if there's a layer of ice on top - this can damage your pool cover.
    • If you notice the pool's water level getting lower, check to see if there's a hole in the cover supplying pool water to your cover pump. If not, you might have a pool leak. Keep reading...

    Lurking Leaks

    winter pool care tips

    Ah, the dreaded pool leak! Left unchecked, a winter leak can spell disaster for your pool. It could be an existing leak that went unnoticed through the summer, or it could be a new leak caused by freeze damage (see next section). Either way, extensive damages can occur as a result.

    As mentioned in the previous section, low water levels will wreak havoc on a pool cover. Lack of support from pool water below may cause a cover to collapse under heavy rain, snow or tree debris. Vinyl pools face even more risks from undetected leaks. Heavy layers of surface ice can shift or slip as water levels drop, ripping the vinyl liner and compounding the existing leak issue. Also, low water levels can cause vinyl liners to shift, pucker or pull away from the wall. If a leak goes undetected, inground pools are also at risk for popping out of the ground. Preventing permanent damage is pretty simple:

    • Check the pool at least once or twice each month, and track changes in water level.
    • If a leak is detected, maintain appropriate water levels until repairs can be made.
    • BONUS TIP: A leaking pool also means you're losing winter chemicals. Add more as needed to keep your pool water clear.

    Chilling Casualties

    winter pool care tips

    Freezing temperatures are no joke. Improperly winterized pools can sustain costly damage in cold weather. As water freezes, it expands about 9%, which is bad news for water trapped in pipes, skimmers and pool equipment. The increasing pressure from water expansion can cause these lines to burst. Freeze damage gets particularly expensive when replacing pool equipment and repairing underground water lines. Expanding ice on the surface of an above ground pool can also cause problems, putting pressure on the walls and causing irreparable damage. Thankfully, there are several easy ways to protect your investment from Old Man Winter.

    • Make sure the skimmer(s) and return lines are properly blown out and plugged when closing the pool. Skimmers should have a collapsible skimmer guard installed to absorb ice expansion.
    • Use non-toxic pool antifreeze. Even if all return lines have been completely cleared, many pool owners still like using antifreeze as added protection against a failed winter plug.
    • Above ground pools should use an air pillow under the cover, which helps break up surface ice and absorb expansion pressure. If it deflates, immediately replace it with a new one.
    • In milder climates where you don't have to empty the pool lines, leave the filter pump on in cooler temperatures. We recommend using automated freeze protection to keep the pool pump running when temperatures drop below a certain point.


    Winter pool care is significantly less intensive than summer maintenance. However, it's equally important. We would all like to be able to throw the cover on and be done until spring, but doing so can mean expensive repairs for your pool. Winter pool maintenance doesn't take much - just check the pool over carefully once or twice a month when you test water chemistry, and eyeball the cover anytime you're near it. If the pool or the cover need attention, take care of the little problems before they becomes a bigger issue.

    Alicia Harris