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Closing Time: Preparing your pool for the winter season

By Jason Cramp

Although we hope summer will go on forever, there is no escaping the fact winter will soon be here, so it is never too early to plan for the colder months ahead.

The purpose of winterizing is twofold—to protect your pool from the ravages of winter, and secondly, to make next year’s opening a lot easier—saving you both time and money.

There are basically two ways to go about it—close the pool yourself, or have a trained service technician do it for you. A professional will remove water from all the lines and replace it with anti-freeze, plug up the lines, drain the pool, add winterizing chemicals, balance the water, install a winter cover and remove and store deck furniture and equipment.

The importance of proper winterizing cannot be overemphasized.

If a pool is not winterized properly, there can be problems such as damage to equipment or pool structure as the water freezes. You must remember water will expand when it freezes. Many homeowners are familiar with broken pipes due to freezing and pools are no different, although on a far larger scale.

There are two components to winterizing your pool—mechanical and chemical. The mechanical portion protects the pool and equipment from freezing, while the chemical portion focuses on keeping the pool’s interior surfaces and water clean over the long winter months.

For those who want to take on the task themselves, here are four detailed steps on what you will need and what you have to do.

If a pool is not winterized properly, there can be problems such as damage to equipment or pool structure as the water freezes.

1. First things first
Start by disconnecting, removing and storing pool hardware such as slides, ladders, diving boards, and maintenance equipment. If some items cannot be removed, simply cover them with builder’s plastic to protect them from the elements. At this point, you should also remove the patio furniture from the deck and store it in a dry area over the winter.

The next step is to remove any debris from the pool that may stain any surfaces. This can be done using a hand-held leaf skimmer to remove leaves, twigs, and bugs from the surface of the water. The tile along the waterline should then be scrubbed with a brush and pool cleanser, and the sides and bottom of the pool should be vacuumed. Do not use household cleaning products as they can leave suds in the water—instead, use products specially formulated for pools. Once the water is clean, you can lower the water level, but keep in mind cities such as Toronto have strict guidelines when it comes to discharging chlorinated water pools. Check with local authorities so you know what the bylaws are in your community.

A common assumption about winterizing an inground pool is that you have to drain all of the water from the pool. Not true! In fact, if all the water from your pool is removed, you can cause cracking and heaving of the pool walls when the pool shifts due to pressure from ground water.

Underground piping and pool walls can shift by the action of frost around a pool. The movement of pool walls is caused by leaving the water level too low. The water level in a steel/vinyl pool should never be lower than one-third the depth of the shallow end. For example, if the pool normally has 0.9 m (3 ft) of water in the summer, there needs to be a minimum of 0.6 m (2 ft) of water at the start of winter.

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