Taking care of an above ground pool means making sure it gets the repairs and maintenance it needs on a regular basis. Routine inspections are the best way to make sure that everything is working as it should. A good rule of thumb is to perform an inspection every time you need to check the quality of your pool water, which is generally once every 7-14 days. That way you can catch problems when they can be easily fixed.
This guide will take you through the various tasks that you’ll need to perform as a pool owner. Although not every item in this guide needs to be completed every 7-14 days, it is information you’ll want to keep on-hand in case the issue arises with your pool.
How to Properly Clean an Above Ground Swimming Pool
Every time you slip into a swimming pool, you leave behind organic materials. This comes from you skin cells, small fibers from your swimwear, and possible debris brought into the pool from the wind. Over time, if not cleaned, these organics can turn into surface scum, stains, or encourage algae, mold, or mildew growth.
To properly clean your pool, the first step is to remove the filter. You’ll want to wash it out with a garden hose. It’s often a good idea to have a few filters for your pool so that when you take one out to clean it, another can be put in place immediately while the other dries.
A swimming pool also needs to have a thorough brushing of the interior walls. Vacuums built to clean the walls while operating underwater is a wise investment to make as well.
Once the cleaning has occurred, you’ll need to sanitize the water. This means using a weekly treatment with concentrated chlorine or bromine tablets for most pools so that the water can remain clear. If the pool has an automatic feeder, then place the tablets into the indicated area or the skimmer to make sure you receive constant sanitization.
Some pools have salt water systems which create a natural sanitizing effect. You’ll want to check on your salt levels with such a system and only add chlorine if the water balance is off.
One issue that tends to plague above ground pool installations is algae colonization. The first step to clean up algae from a pool is to treat the water with chlorine and set the pump to keep circulating water 24/7. Once the chlorine has had a day to work, you’ll need to brush and vacuum the pool. Continue this cycle until the algae colony has been eliminate. Algaecide treatments may be necessary as well.
The best way to keep a pool clean proactively is to keep the pool filter operating for up to 12 hours each day, even if the pool is not in use. This will help the water to circulate properly and prevent pH imbalances from forming. You can test for balance using simple strips about 1-2 times per week to make sure the water isn’t overly alkaline or acidic. If it is, then use a pH balancer to restore the pool water to safe levels.
How to Vacuum an Above Ground Swimming Pool
The first step to vacuuming out a pool is to remove any of the large debris that may exist inside of it. This usually means leaves and other floating surface debris, which can be removed with a skimmer or rake. Then clean out your skimmer basket and turn on your pump so that water is going through the filter.
Then you’re ready to use your swimming pool vacuum. Attached the swivel end of the hose to the head. Then attach the head to the extension pole. At this point, you’re ready to lower the assembly into the pool until the vacuum head can touch the bottom. Then lock the pole into position.
Now hold the free end of the vacuum hose in front of your water-return outlet so the hose can fill up with water. Keep one hand on the pole so the vacuum doesn’t try to return to the surface. Keep priming the hose until you see no more air bubbles coming from the head.
Now you’re ready to brush down the sides and the bottom of your pool. Vinyl liners are designed to withstand the pressure the vacuum creates, but you’ll still want to move carefully and methodically around your pool to prevent damage from occurring. Keep the vacuum head underwater so it doesn’t lose its priming. Continue on until you have cleaned the interior surface as a whole.
Then follow the instructions to remove the water from the vacuum so it can be safely stored until the next cleaning.
Or you could purchase a robotic pool vacuum that can do all of this for you with minimal maintenance.
How to Clear Cloudy Water from an Above Ground Swimming Pool
A swimming pool should have water that is transparent, perhaps with a tinge of blue depending on how much chlorine you are using to maintain its quality. There will be times, however, that the pool water is far from transparent. When this happens, you’ll have shorter filter cycles and those who use the pool may experience eye irritation.
Organics usually turn a pool cloudy over a week or two if the issue is left unaddressed or the pool is not properly cleaned. Some pool owners have discovered that sometimes cloudy water can happen overnight. Even pools that are perfectly maintained can end up having cloudy water form. Since many factors can contribute to this use, resolving the water issue can become time consuming and difficult.
The most common reason for cloudy water is a chemical imbalance. High alkalinity, low chlorine, high chlorine, high sanitizer levels, high calcium levels, or a high pH can all create cloudy conditions within a pool. You’ll need to test for each issue to determine where you’ll need to restore balance. Once the restoration is complete, the cloudy water may begin to resolve on its own.
When a filtration system is not running as it should, cloudy water can also be the end result. Most above ground swimming pools with a filter are designed to operate 8-12 hours per day. If the filter needs to be changed and hasn’t been or the filter cartridges aren’t being used, then the pool water will almost always become cloudy. This is because the water had turned stagnant. Replace the filter or turn on the filtration system, and then clean out the filter after 48 hours.
Yet you can do everything right with water balance and filtration and you’ll still end up with a cloudy pool. Why is that? The surrounding environment also plays a role on water quality. If you have a lot of pollen in the air when using the pool, have high sun exposure, or have the pool near trees, you will have a higher risk of experiencing cloudy water. In this instance, you may need to complete a pool shock.
Yet even pool shocking is known to create cloudy water. You’ll need to run your pump for some time after the pool shock to get the water to clear up.
How to Shock an Above Ground Swimming Pool
Pool shocking is a rather simple process. You simply take your shocking chemicals and then add them to your swimming pool as instructed. Afterward you must then keep your filter and pump running for a minimum of 10 hours during and after the shock is performed.
You’ll need to dissolve your chemicals in a bucket of pool water before introducing it into your above ground swimming pool. Remember to wear safety goggles and rubber gloves during this process. You’ll also want to shock your pool in the evening for best results because it will run for 8 hours overnight.
Most of the time, a shock is required because of the introduction of organics into the system. If chlorine levels are low when organics are present, then algae colonization can happen in as little as 24 hours. A pool shock simply boosts chlorine levels back to their appropriate levels.
The amount of shock that you’ll want to use can be judged based on the color of the water in your above ground swimming pool. What color is your water?
- Light green, teal, or turquoise. This color means there is a minimal number of algae or organics in your water. A standard pool shock should suffice in this instance. If it doesn’t improve, another shock can be added.
- Dark green. If your water looks like the diving pool from the 2016 Rio Olympics, then a triple shock may be necessary for your pool.
- Black or extremely dark green. This means the algae has almost completely colonized your swimming pool. You may find that a 4x shock is necessary to restore the water integrity. You’ll also need to make sure your filters are cleaned every 12-24 hours so that the algae can be removed.
- Swimming pool water turns this color because the algae in the water has died, but has not yet been removed by the filtering process. Keep the filtration system running until the water becomes clear. You may also need to add a pool clarifier in this instance to improve the speed of the clarification process.
You cannot shock a pool too much, but you can shock it too little. With routine care and maintenance, most pool owners only need to shock their pool 1-3 times per season.
How to Drain an Above Ground Swimming Pool
Some above ground swimming pools have a simple drain that you need to use. Pull the drain, the water comes out, and you’re finished.
Larger pools, and especially those with framed walls, require more steps than this. Close the return lines to your pool so that water levels drop and air doesn’t get into your suction lines. Then you’re ready to open up your waste line.
If you have a sand filter or a DE filter, then you’ll need to shut off the pump and turn the multi-port valve to waste mode.
Make sure you have a waste line connected to your port and then rotate the pump back into the “on” position. Then open the waste line and examine the main drain operation.
If you don’t have this process to follow, you can drain your pool with an electric pump and a garden hose. Remember to bring the water away from the pool installation location to prevent the ground from becoming soggy and uneven. Continue until the pool is completely empty.
Some communities have specific regulations which need to be followed for water drainage. The chemicals in the water may prevent using the storm drainage system. Always follow local procedures and laws when draining your swimming pool.
And then a word of caution – a vinyl liner in the hot sun without any water on it will shrink rapidly. Clean out the bottom of your pool, remove any solids quickly, and replace the water as soon as you can to maintain liner integrity.
How to Repair Common Issues with Above Ground Pools
Even the best above ground pools are bound to spring a leak every now and then. Vinyl liners might be tough, but eventually they can wear out and begin to crack. This will cause the pool to begin to leak.
The most common reason why an above ground pool will spring a leak is because of an issue with the plumbing system. You can test the system in order to find the leak by pressurizing it to about 20psi. Block off the end of the pipe into your pool and just mark where you see leaks form.
Many leaks will form at a joint. You can fix this issue by using Teflon tape on the threads of the offending pipe to seal it. Holes that form in the middle of a PVC pipe will need to be cut out and then given a joint that is sealed to prevent future leaks.
This video can take you through that process:
Sometimes leaks occur because of plumbing corrosion. No patch can permanently fix corroded plumbing. You’ll need to remove the corroded sections and replace it with new piping or equipment to fix the leak.
If the liner is over 5 years old, then it may be past its useable life. This means the best way to fix the leak would be to replace the liner. You’ll need to drain your pool and remove the upper assembly in order to remove the old liner and replace it with a new one.
On the other hand, liners that are less than 5 years old may be repaired with a simple patch as long as the tear or hole is less than a US half-dollar in size. Just use an underwater patch kit on the leak location and the problem should resolve itself.
We like the 4-ounce vinyl swimming pool liner repair kit from Pool Liner Repair for this job. You can find it here on Amazon.
If you still haven’t found the leak, then the water might be leaking out of the actual pool somehow. Walk around the area of your above ground pool installation and look for areas where there is wet soil. You probably won’t see an actual puddle or stream of water. The area where the leak will be is simply going to be wetter or damper than the surrounding region.
Should you not find a leak during the external inspection, then you’ll need to get into your pool to inspect the interior of the pool. You may need to feel out the liner to find holes, cracks, or small bumps. Patterned liners can make this process quite difficult, so take your time during this process. If you find the leak, the follow the patching instructions above.
If you still haven’t managed to find the offending leak, then you can squirt food coloring into your pool around the areas where you suspect a leak may be occurring. You’ll see the coloring slowly move toward the leak so you can then find it.
Routine Maintenance Tips to Implement
- Make scrubbing and skimming part of your regular routine. Taking debris off of the top of your water is going to be a daily chore for some pool owners. Just incorporate this maintenance task into your daily routine so you can have a pristine above ground pool. Investing into a robotic vacuum can make this chore become easier to manage.
- Change out your filters at the same time every week. The filters will take out a lot of the stuff that can turn your pool water cloudy. To keep working, however, you’ll need to get into the habit of changing out the cartridges on a weekly basis. Have 1-2 spare filter cartridges available so you can just swap out a clean one for a dirty one. Then get into the habit of doing this at the same time each week. On the fourth filter swap, make sure you backwash the pipes of your filtering system to prevent organic buildup there.
- Keep your chemical levels balanced every day. The CDC of the United States recommends that six different chemicals be considered for proper pool balance. Test the water with a testing kit at least once per week – but best results come when you do it at least twice each week.
- You can still balance your pool without chemicals. If your water levels have gone out of balance, especially in regards to your alkalinity levels, then baking soda can work in a pinch. Baking soda has the same concentration levels as your pool chemicals, so you don’t have to tinker with your chemistry math. Just don’t rely on this option all of the time.
- It is better to shock proactively. A pool shock should occur whenever a cloudy pool occurs. Don’t delay the shock. You’ll use fewer chemicals and save money by shocking every time you see cloudiness in the water.
- Remember to keep your above ground pool filled. It can be easy to focus on balancing chemistry and forget that water levels need to be at a certain point for that chemistry to work. Water naturally evaporates from the pool over time, which means you’ll need to refill it periodically. An afternoon of cannon balls into your pool will also reduce water levels. Add water back into it so that the skimmer, pump, and filter can work properly and then test the water to make sure your balance is correct.
- Check out the old tennis ball in the pool trick. Sometimes oils get introduced into an above ground swimming pool. This happens a lot if someone gets into the pool while wearing sunscreen. Human skin also deposits oils into the water. If you don’t have a chemical product to absorb those oils on-hand, then use a simple tennis ball. The fibers of the ball will absorb the oils. Then just throw it away when the water is clear.
- Have your swimming pool professionally inspected annually. The only exception to this would be the self-rising above ground pools that do not have a frame. A professional inspection can help you catch potential maintenance or repair issues before they fester to become an expensive issue. A basic inspection doesn’t cost much and you’ll be preventing a potential crisis situation later in the season.
Let’s Take Care of Your Above Ground Pool Today
Owning an above ground swimming pool may be fun, but it also comes with certain responsibilities. Use this guide as a reference to make sure your pool is in proper working order and your water is properly balanced. And, if there is any doubt as to what needs to be done, it is always a good idea to consider calling a local pool professional to help out with the situation you are facing.