Winterizing Your Pool: Best Practices

As we bid farewell to Fall, ensuring your fiberglass swimming pool is winter-ready becomes crucial. One of the most important responsibilities of pool ownership in a temperate climate involves winterizing your pool by transitioning it into the colder months, safeguarding it against potential issues. So, how can you make sure your fiberglass oasis weathers the winter like a champ?

Essentially, winterizing your fiberglass swimming pool involves a few key steps… balancing the water chemistry, reducing the water level, draining the pool’s plumbing and equipment to prevent freezing damage, and covering your pool with a secure winter cover to keep out debris.

But understanding the hows and whys of winterizing a fiberglass pool can also save you time and hassle down the road. Let’s explore some of the nuances of fiberglass pool winterization, to ensure that you know your stuff and have a worry-free winter season.

What Role Does Climate Play in Winterizing My Fiberglass Pool?

Let's explore how your local climate can influence your winterization strategy. If you're in an area with mild winters, you may not need to drain your pool completely. On the flip side, colder regions require extra attention to prevent freezing. Knowing your climate enables you to prep your pool for any regional weather-specific challenges it might face in the months ahead.

Consider the frost line in your region—the depth at which the ground typically freezes. This can directly affect the appropriate winter water level for your pool. Additionally, if you're expecting heavy snowfall, investing in a robust pool cover becomes even more critical. Tailoring your winterization approach according to your knowledge of the local climate will enable you to optimize for your specific conditions.

What About Special Features? How Do I Handle Them During Winterization?

If your pool is equipped with special features like waterfalls, water features, or in-pool lighting, it may require special attention during winterization. For waterfalls, ensure the water is drained from the lines to prevent damage from freezing. Don't forget about any additional water features like fountains or jets. Properly winterizing all such components prevents water from freezing inside and potentially cracking the internal piping or unit housing. As for lighting, whenever possible you should disconnect and store fixtures safely to avoid any potential electrical issues, safeguarding both the aesthetics and functionality of your expensive pool components.

By taking the time to understand the specifics of your pool's special features, you'll be rewarded with a smooth winterization process.

Here’s a Checklist of Pool Winterizing Procedures for your Consideration:

1. Balance the water chemistry.

About a week prior to closing the pool, adjust your water balance within the ranges below:

pH: 7.2-7.6

Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm

Calcium Hardness: 180-220 ppm

Several days before closing, shock the pool with a chlorine shock or non-chlorine shock, using at least 2 lbs per 10,000 gallons (follow package directions). Allow the chlorine level to return to 1.0-3.0 ppm before adding any winter algaecide or your pool cover. Very high chlorine tends to break down both algaecides and pool covers. Never add chlorine shock and algaecide at the same time and not right before covering it. At the very least, shock the night before you plan to close the pool, and run the filter all night long. You can add algaecide under the cover, a few weeks later if needed (no, it does not need to circulate, it will disperse).

2. Remove skimmer baskets, wall fittings, cleaners, solar blankets and ladders from the pool.

Put these in a safe location during the winter. Don't coil pool cleaner hoses tightly, and be sure the cleaner and hose are completely drained.

3. Clean the pool thoroughly.

Skim, vacuum and brush the swimming pool. Leaf rakes or "bag type" skim nets work best, and are useful for scooping large amounts of leaves/debris from pool floor. If the pool is especially silty or has lots of algae, vacuum the pool to waste. This means to bypass the filter and vacuum dirt from floors/walls out the waste line. This prevents constant clogging and cleaning of the filter. Place the multiport filter valve on drain to waste position (usually at 2 p.m. position if viewed as a clock face). If you have a push-pull filter valve or a cartridge type filter, there may be an additional valve installed between your pump and filter to allow for vacuum to waste. Brush the pool thoroughly after vacuuming. When winterizing your pool the water should be as clean and clear as possible before covering, so give it one more skimming right before putting on the cover. If possible, give your pool some extra filtering before closing day, running the filter 24 hours for a few days.

4. Lower the water level in the pool.

Using the filter pump or a submersible pump, lower the water level 12" below the skimmer for mesh covers, or 3"- 4" below the skimmer for solid floating covers. Note: If you are using a skimmer cover for your pool, the water level will not need to be lowered. For pools with a separate main drain, close off the skimmers and drain the waste (DE and sand filters) out of the waste line. For cartridge filters or systems with no main drain, use a submersible pump or self-priming pump on the deck to lower the water level. If your method of lowering the water will take several days, cover the pool during the draining process to keep it clean.

5. Drain all pool equipment.

Most pumps, filters, heaters and chlorinators will have drain plugs or drain caps to allow water to drain out. All water should be drained or blown out of your pool equipment, or it will freeze and crack. After draining, DE filter grids or cartridge filters should be removed and cleaned thoroughly. If the filter and pump is small enough to remove and store indoors, this may be desirable. If not, a small amount of air from a shop vacuum, compressor or blower can be used to blow out any water that may still be in the equipment. Keep the drain plugs removed during winter in case any pipes become un-winterized. When winterizing your pool, you can store the drain plugs in the pump basket for safekeeping.

6. Lubricate the o-rings on equipment.

Fall pool closing is a good time to lubricate the pump lid o-ring with a commercial product (Magic Lube comes to mind). If you have a push-pull valve (also known as a slide valve) on the filter, lubricate the plunger o-rings as well. If you have a gas heater with cast iron headers and brass plugs, lubricate these threads or leave the plugs in after draining to prevent rusting. Filter belly band o-rings or union connection o-rings can also be lubed for better sealing and weather/chemical resistance.

7. Winterize plumbing to and from the pool.

With any in-ground pool, you should clear all water from the plumbing lines. Use a blower to push air from the skimmer, through the equipment, and back to the pool. Next, plug the lines in the pool using expansion plugs. If you don't blow the lines, add swimming pool antifreeze into the line per package instructions.

8. Add winterizing algaecide and floaters.

Remember not to add algaecide and chlorine shock at the same time (non-chlorine shock is OK). Walk your liquid chemicals around the pool for the best distribution. To reduce the chance of a floater tipping over or coming to rest on a step or swimout, tie it off in the center of the deep end using a long string or twine. Winter Algaecide and chemical floaters are the typical sanitizers used to winterize pools. Enzymes can also be used to reduce sanitizer demand, and they're popular for pools with mesh safety covers. If you have a warm, early spring, or you wish to prevent a green pool opening, plan to add more algaecide and/or refill the floaters in mid-spring.

9. Cover the pool.

A tight fit of your pool cover is ideal. Your cover should not have holes or gaps where leaves and debris may enter the pool. A safety cover provides the highest protection and safety, and is strong enough to support the weight of a person or animal. Solid winter pool covers will not protect people or animals from falling into the water, and they also require a cover pump or siphon to remove rainwater and snow melt. Water bags or Aqua Bloks are used to secure solid pool cover. Many pool covers rely on a cable and winch device to secure the cover around the pool. Note that air pillows are used in some pools to absorb the expansion of ice inside the pool.

Properly winterizing your pool is crucial to its longevity. Neglecting this step can lead to costly repairs and issues when you're ready to open your pool again. Here are some additional tips to help ensure your fiberglass pool remains in excellent condition year after year.

  • Balance the Chemistry Early: Start the winterization dance by testing and balancing your pool water a week or so before closing it up for the season. A well-balanced pH between 7.4 and 7.6 helps prevent corrosion and scale buildup during the winter slumber.
  • Clean, Then Cover: A clean pool is a happy pool. Skim, vacuum, and brush your pool before putting on the winter cover. This ensures that you're not trapping any unwanted guests (read: leaves, twigs, and debris) under the cover for the next few months.
  • Lower Water Levels: Drop the water level a few inches below the skimmer opening. Why? Because water expands when it freezes, and you don't want your skimmer to suffer the consequences. Consider it your pool's winter haircut—trim it down.
  • Blow Out the Lines: Just like a good hairdryer does wonders, a pool blower or air compressor is your go-to tool here. Blow out the plumbing lines to remove any remaining water. No water means no freezing, and that's what we're aiming for.
  • Use Pool Antifreeze Wisely: In colder climates, consider adding pool antifreeze to the lines after blowing them out. It adds an extra layer of protection against freezing. Choose a non-toxic, pool-safe antifreeze and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Protect Your Equipment: Don't forget your pool equipment! Store pumps, filters, and heaters in a dry, sheltered area. If you can't move them, cover them securely to shield against the winter elements.
  • Floats Out, Toys In: Bid farewell to the summer pool party crew. Store floats and toys indoors to keep them in top shape for the next season. Deflate anything inflatable for compact storage.
  • Invest in a Good Cover: A high-quality winter cover is your pool's best friend. Make sure it's securely fastened to withstand winter winds. Look for one with a tight fit and reinforced edges to keep debris at bay.
  • Check Your Water Level Periodically: Keep an eye on your pool's water level throughout the winter. If it drops significantly, top it up to avoid potential damage to the pool structure.

Now that you're armed with the essentials of winterizing your pool, pick a time that aligns with your area’s climate and get to work. Procrastination is the enemy here, so setting a dedicated time for winterization not only prepares your pool for the colder months, it also ensures a hassle-free pool reopening in the spring. Winterize smart, and your next pool season will be a splash of success!

At Barrier Reef Pools, we encourage you to browse our wide selection of beautiful fiberglass swimming pools. For any questions, please contact us here or reach out to us on our social media listed below. We would love to help you find your new pool!