The best way to ensure that opening your pool in the spring is a cinch is to make sure you close it properly the previous fall. If you don’t, you could encounter a dirty, algae-laden pool; frost-damaged equipment and pipes; cracked tiles; damaged vinyl liners; and a host of other problems. The procedures for closing pools and spas are covered in the previous chapter. If you heed that advice, your spring cleanup will be a breeze. Just follow these basic steps, and you’ll be ready to swim or soak in as little as one day.
Opening A Pool
As with winterizing a pool, you may opt to have a service company open your pool for you. In fact, if you hired a company to winterize your pool, it might be best to have the same company reopen your pool because its service technicians will be familiar with any unique situations your pool presents. However, of you successfully winterized the pool yourself, you should be able to open it yourself with little difficulty. Here’s how.
Clean the Cover and Deck
Before you even think about removing the cover, clean the deck area to prevent any debris from being swept into the pool. This will also give you a nice working area for cleaning and preparing the cover for storage. Use a pump to remove any standing water on the cover. Now if the cover slips into the pool while you’re removing it, you won’t be dumping a lot of debris and dirty water into the pool.
Remove and Store the Cover
Carefully remove the cover and lay it out on the deck. Depending on the size of your pool and the type of cover you have, this may require a few people. Clean the cover according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually with a stiff brush and mild detergent), then allow it to dry thoroughly before folding it up for storage. After the cover has been cleaned, dried and folded, store it in a clean dry place away from the sun.
If your cover needs water tubes to secure it in place, you should empty them now and clean them for storage. For aboveground pools, remove the air pillow, deflate it and store it.
Remove the Plugs
If the pool was winterized properly, there should be plugs in all the fittings where equipment and hoses were attached to the pool. The plugs kept water out of the cleared lines so that it couldn’t freeze and crack the pipes. Remove them now.
If your pool was winterized with antifreeze, you’ll need to lower the water level until it’s below the blocked lines. Then remove the plugs – one at a time – and drain the antifreeze into a bucket. You may need to use a compressor or shop vac to clear the lines of antifreeze.
Reconnect the Light Fixtures
In some regions, pool companies insist on lowering the pool water level when winterizing. This means that the light fixtures need to be removed because they could crack when the water freezes. If the pool is not drained, the light fixtures can be left alone because the water shouldn’t freeze at that depth. If your light fixtures were removed from their wall niches, now’s the time to replace them.
Reconnect Deck Equipment
Sometimes when a pool is winterized, deck equipment – such as ladders, handrails, diving boards, and slides – are removed and stored. Now’s the time to reattach them. Make sure you reconnect any grounding wires that were attached to metal parts. It’s a good idea to lubricate all bolts on the diving boards, ladders, and rails to prevent them from rusting during the summer. This will make them much easier to remove next fall.
Reinstall the Skimmer Baskets and Fittings
For aboveground pools, the entire skimmer may have been removed and a winter plate installed in its place. Replace the skimmer now. Also hook up any hoses from the skimmer and return jets that lead to the pump and filter.
For all pools, insert the skimmer basket and reinstall the return jet fittings that were removed when the pool was winterized.
Examine the Pool Shell
If you have a concrete or fiberglass pool, look for cracks or surface irregularities in the shell. If you have a vinyl-lined pool, look for tears and washouts. A washout occurs when excessive groundwater (due to heavy rains or quick thaws) erodes the sand beneath the pool’s vinyl floor, which may result in the liner resting on sharp rocks and stones. Also look at the pool coping and waterline tile to make sure it’s in good condition.
Repairs should be made now, before you open the pool for swimming. Most shell repairs should be addressed by a pool professional. Some minor repairs, such as a small tear in a vinyl-liner – can be done yourself with a kit available from pool supply stores.
If you need to call in a professional, don’t wait another minute. Spring is an extremely busy time for pool professionals, who may be out in the field opening pools for hundreds of homeowners. The longer you wait to call, the farther down the waiting list your job goes.
Clean the Tile
Clean any scale or stains from the tile so that it looks as good as new.
Reconnect the Pump, Filter, and Heater
If no repairs need to be made to the pool structure, or once they have been made, it’s time to reinstall the pump (if you removed it), the filter, and the heater (if you have one). Check and reconnect the wiring and pipes. Make sure all the fittings are clean and tight and replace any drainage plugs, valves and pressure gauges that were removed for the winter. If you have a booster pump for water features or an automatic pool cleaner, reinstall them too.
Check the filter for cracks in its casing. If you have a sand filter, removed any mud balls that have formed. If you have a DE filter, get prepared to add a slurry of diatomaceous earth and water to it, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Make sure any grounding wires are properly connected to equipment that needs them.
Fill the Pool
Make sure the water level is at the proper height.
Turn on the Power
When the pool was winterized, the power should have been turned off at the circuit breaker. Now you can switch it back on, leaving the equipment turned off until you can get back to the pool. Set up all equipment timers and switches to their normal operating position.
Check Valves and Fill the Pump
Make sure that all valves are in the open position, but bypass the filter for now until you’re sure the system is flowing properly. Fill the pump with water to make sure it primes properly. You can do this by pouring water in through the leaf trap. Make sure the skimmer weir (or flap) is operating correctly.
Start Up the Pool System
Make sure the pump primes and the system flows properly. Look for leaks, split hoses and cracks throughout the system. When you first start the filtration system after a long period of disuse, you may notice that some valves are leaking. The leaks could be the result of dried-out gaskets; once the gaskets are wet, the leaks may stop. If the valves don’t stop leaking, they probably require new gaskets or may have a structural defect, in which case they may have to be replaced. Turn off the power until a service technician has made necessary repairs.
Backwash the Filter
To prevent previously trapped debris from entering the pool, backwash sand and DE filters thoroughly. Be prepared to add a fresh slurry of diatomaceous earth and water to your DE filter when you switch back to normal filtration. If you’re using a cartridge filter, make sure the cartridge is clean in case you didn’t clean it thoroughly when you winterized.
Treat the Water
If the pool is relatively clear, test for sanitizer residual, pH and alkalinity. Make sure you are using fresh test strips and/or reagents in your test kit to ensure proper readings. Add the appropriate chemicals to bring these water-balancing factors into their proper ranges. Most professionals recommend shocking the pool water upon reopening the pool to kill any bacteria and algae and to burn up any organic water in the water. Shocks are available in liquid and granular form, and you’ll want to add enough to raise the chlorine level to 3 ppm (parts per million). Mix and apply the chemicals according to the directions on the packaging to avoid damage to the pool surface and equipment.
If your pool is green with algae, the shock will help, but you may also need to add an algaecide.
It’s important that you test, balance and treat the water as soon as possible. After the pool cover is removed, sunlight will greatly accelerate the growth of algae and bacteria, making them harder to treat.
Opening a Spa
Opening a spa or hot tub after a winter hiatus is simply a matter or reversing the steps taken to winterize the spa. If the spa was winterized properly, there’s little that can go wrong. If the spa wasn’t winterized properly, then much is at risk.
Assuming your spa was winterized properly, follow the basic steps outlined below or reopen it. Your spa may have some unique issues that your spa professional will have to help you with. These guidelines, however, are sufficient for the vast majority of residential spas.
Remove the Tarp/Cover
If you covered your spa with a tarp for the winter, remove it. Clean up the tarp and allow it to dry before storing it. Then remove the spa’s insulating cover.
Clean the Shell
Drain any water that found its way inside the spa, and clean away any dirt. Inspect the shell for cracks or splits, especially if water got into the spa shell and froze. Any damage to the spa shell should be repaired by a spa professional before going any further.
Once you’ve wiped out any water or dirt and inspected the shell for damage, use an acrylic cleanser to clean the shell. Don’t use any cleaners that contain harsh abrasives that could scratch the shell. Then rinse the cleanser from the surface and drain away the dirty water from the inside of the tub.
Some experts recommend waxing an acrylic spa shell at this point to restore its luster. Use only an acrylic wax, not a variety designed for automobiles or furniture. Use a soft cotton cloth to buff the surface to a shiny finish.
Clean the Filter
If you didn’t clean the filter when you winterized the spa, clean it now. You may need to use special cartridge filter cleaner to remove deposits on the filter element. Such specialty cleaners are available from you spa dealer. The reinstall the filter in the spa.
Clean the cover
Most spa covers are made of a foam core surrounded by vinyl. Over time, the vinyl can dry out and crack. To extend the life of your spa cover, you should clean and condition it.
Reassemble the Spa Equipment
If the spa was winterized properly, a number of fittings for the equipment should have been left unscrewed or open. Make sure these are all reconnected and tightened. Close any drains that were left open. Look around for any obvious signs of winter damage, such as cracks where water may have been overlooked and allowed to freeze. If there’s a problem, call in the professionals.
If you have an external gas heater, make sure the gas is properly connected and all heater parts are in good working condition. If you smell gas turn off the gas and call in the professionals immediately.
Fill the Spa
Fill the spa with fresh water and observe it for possible leaks as water flows into all the jet tubing and equipment. If there are any leaks, stop the water and fix them immediately. Leaks at fittings may indicate a need for new gaskets or O-rings.
Turn on the Power
Once the spa has been filled, turn on the power. First switch the circuit breaker for the spa back on (it should have been turned off when the spa was winterized), then check the GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) for the spa to make sure it works properly.
Check the spa operation. Use the control panel to make sure each pump, air blower, light and any other spa feature is working properly. If you don’t have adequate flow through the heater, you could burn out the elements rather quickly.
Balance the Water
Balance the water and adjust the sanitizer level. Wait for the spa to heat up to the desired temperature and retest the water. Make any necessary adjustments.
Once the water is balanced, you can slip in and enjoy!