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A step-by-step guide on how to winterize a pool

If you’re closing down your pool for the colder months, you’ll need to winterize it. Here’s how.

Anna Baluch
January 16, 2024

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When winterizing your home, make sure to take care of your pool. You can improve your pool's overall health and longevity while trimming down the work needed to reopen it for the swim season. Below, we’ll explore how to winterize a swimming pool and the extra steps needed to preserve a salt water pool. 

When to start winterizing your pool

Preparing a pool for winter is a worthwhile task to add to your yearly home maintenance checklist. Ideally, you’d begin winterizing a pool when the temperatures in your area drop below 65 degrees Fahrenheit or lower on a consistent basis. 

While it may be tempting to start winterizing early, doing so can lead to algae issues. On the other hand, you shouldn’t put it off, or you may damage your equipment due to freezing temperatures. The process should take about a week to complete, so plan accordingly. 

How to winterize a pool

If you have a traditional chlorine pool, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to preserve it through the cold season:

1. Clean and vacuum the pool

First, thoroughly clean your pool. If you’ve kept your pool well-maintained during the season, this should be a fairly easy task. Scrub the sides with a brush and remove all debris from the floor with a pool vacuum. Your goal should be to eliminate any leaves and other debris that may lead to algae buildup. 

2. Balance the water chemistry

Then, use a testing kit to test the water chemistry in your pool against specific parameters, including: 

  • Alkalinity: 80 to 150 ppm
  • pH: 7.2 to 7.6
  • Calcium hardness: 175 to 275 ppm

It’s okay if the parameters are a bit higher. As long as your pool remains unused while the weather is cold, these levels will naturally decrease. Otherwise, you can use baking soda to increase the alkalinity and pH levels or calcium chloride to raise the calcium hardness. 

3. Add winterizing chemicals

Winterizing chemicals are designed to float on top of the leftover water to clean and remove contaminants like algae, bacteria, and chloramines. You can find these chemicals in a pool winterization kit online or at a local pool supply store. Your kit should come with detailed instructions from the manufacturer. Be sure you disperse the chemicals evenly instead of focusing on one area. 

4. Lower the water level

After your pool is clean and has the correct chemistry, you’ll need to lower the water level. If you have a mesh pool cover, your water level should be approximately a foot below the skimmer. If your cover is solid, a water level half a foot below the skimmer is ideal. The easiest way to lower the water level is to put a multiport valve on your pool pump if it has one. If not, you can use a pump with a hose to drain some of the water. 

5. Put away pool equipment 

Be sure to remove any pool equipment, like diving boards and slides. Clean, dry, and store them in a shed or another safe place. Storing pool equipment will help you avoid damage that comes from cold temperatures. 


6. Winterize the pool pump and plumbing system

A critical step in safeguarding your pool from severe weather is to winterize the pool pump and plumbing system. To do so, turn off the power and disconnect your pump and filter. Then, empty out all of the water and remove the drain plugs. It’s a good idea to hold the pump upside down to get rid of any excess water. Don’t forget to store your drain plugs somewhere safe so you can easily access them during the start of pool season.

If you have an in-ground pool, be sure to use a high-powered air compressor to blow out any residual water from the plumbing lines, eliminating the risk of freezing and subsequent expansion. Additionally, you’ll want to close off the skimmer and return lines and use winterizing plugs to seal them tightly. 

7. Cover the pool securely

The final step to securing your pool is to cover it. You can choose from a safety cover or a winter one. While a safety cover offers more protection, securing it can be tricky. A winter cover is easier to apply, but water can accumulate on it during heavy rain or snow storms. Regardless of the type of cover you choose, ensure it fits tightly and is free of tears. 

How to winterize a salt water pool

If you have a salt water pool, here are a few extra steps you’ll need to follow:

1. Adjust the salt levels

Like with a regular pool, you’ll need to check the water chemistry. Unlike a regular pool, you’ll want to evaluate the salinity in the pool, too. Use testing strips to test the salt levels in your pool. You’ll want to see levels around 3,200 ppm. If your salt levels are too high, remove some salt water from the pool and refill it with regular fresh water to dilute it. 

2. Clean the salt cell 

The salt cell is attached to the chlorine generator in your pool and converts salt into chlorine. Remove the salt cell so you can gently clean it with a wooden tool or high-pressure hose. Store the cell in a dry place. 

3. Winterize salt system components

Next, winterize the components of your salt system, including the filter, SWC, skimmer, and plumbing systems. Turn to the manufacturer’s website or handbook for directions. You’ll likely need to unplug, clean, and store each component. 

4. Add winterizing chemicals

While you can purchase a salt water closing kit, you may also be able to find a chlorine pool kit safe for salt water pools. Most kits come with chemicals like an algaecide and stain sequestrant to prevent the growth of algae. There should be directions on how to use the chemicals properly. 

How much does it cost to winterize a pool?

If you hire a pool professional to take the task off your plate, you can expect to pay between $150 - $400 for labor and materials. You can DIY the task and save anywhere from $75 - $200. 

Factors like whether you have an in-ground or above-ground pool can also impact the cost. For example, accessing and draining an above-ground pool is easier — and therefore cheaper. Additionally, add-ons like an air pillow to balance the weight of snow and ice or a winter pill to help with algae growth can increase the expense.

Final thoughts

There’s no denying that a pool is a costly investment that comes with ongoing maintenance. By winterizing your pool, you can keep it in good shape and reduce the risk of high repair bills once reopening season rolls around. 

Don’t let the cost of winterizing your pool lead you to defer necessary maintenance. Instead, leverage your home wealth to cover the cost and preserve your pool. Consider a Home Equity Investment (HEI). You can get approved with less-than-perfect credit and don’t have to worry about monthly payments. 

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