As the weather heats up and the calendar turns to summer, the allure of an affordable above-ground pool becomes almost irresistible. Unfortunately, many of us will be too intimidated by the prospect of above ground pool maintenance to take the final step toward installation.
While the maintenance requirements of an above-ground pool are significant, with a little education and a consistent schedule, caring for your pool isn’t nearly as burdensome as you might expect. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from enjoying the cool, sparkling blue waters of your own backyard pool—keep reading to learn everything you need to know about above-ground pool maintenance.
Caring for the Filter
The filter in your above-ground pool is designed to trap and remove debris of all sizes, from microscopic particles to leaves and other organic material. However, even as the filters clean your pool, you will also need to clean your filters to keep them working properly.
If you have a sand or D.E. (Diatomaceous Earth) filter, you’ll need to backwash it when its pressure gauge reaches a set level above normal, which varies according to the manufacturer and can be found in your user manual. If you have a cartridge filter, you can remove the cartridge and rinse it with a garden hose, but it will eventually need to be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Protecting the Walls
It’s easy to take your above-ground pool walls for granted, but without them, your pool wouldn’t hold the water your family loves to splash and swim in. Protect your pool walls by making sure no one sits on the walls’ edges, which can lead to creases, cracks and eventual collapse.
Trees near the pool should be trimmed regularly to prevent falling branches from damaging the walls, and children should be warned not to throw objects or ride bicycles too close to the pool walls. Be careful when mowing around a soft pool liner, and ensure sprinklers don’t deluge the pool cover.
Checking the Pump Performance
The pump and filter form the heart of any above ground pool maintenance program, helping to keep your pool water clear. Pumps provide the force to circulate the water and push it through the filter. Ideally, you want to turn over all of the water in an above ground pool within an eight hour time period. This means that every drop of water has circulated through the filter within eight hours. The best time to run your pump is during the day, usually for 8 – 12 hours at a time.
It is also important that the water circulates around the perimeter of your pool. Water in motion makes it harder for bacteria and algae to take hold and also directs more debris to your skimmer where it can be captured by your filter. Adjust the eyeball jets in your inlets to move your pool water in a circular motion.
Maintaining Proper Circulation
Above-ground pools don’t circulate water as effectively as in-ground pools, which can make your pool a breeding ground for slimy, unsightly algae. Some areas are more vulnerable to algae build-up than others, including areas around steps and ladders, under the skimmer basket and around cracks or crevices.
The pool’s pump is your best defense against the consequences of poor circulation, but in some cases, the pump alone isn’t enough to keep the water moving. Installing multidirectional return jets and regularly brushing the walls and floor to circulate water are critical force multipliers to keep the pump from being overwhelmed.
Brush and Vacuum Weekly
No matter how powerful your pump is, your pool will inevitably have areas with low or no circulation. This makes regular brushing and vacuuming all the more important for your above ground pool maintenance routine.
Areas with bad circulation tend to develop algae and other issues, so be sure to brush the walls and brush and vacuum the floor at least once a week, even if you have an automatic cleaning system.
Testing the Waters
As you probably know, swimming pool water needs to be maintained at a specific chemical balance in order to remain safe for swimming, in part because the pool’s pH affects how effectively chlorine sanitizes the water. To ensure proper pH levels, you should test your water at least three times per week.
During periods of heavy use, it’s not a bad idea to test it daily, since weather and sunscreens, lotions and other substances on swimmers’ skin can significantly alter the balances of your pool water. A digital test strip reader is the simplest method for testing your above-ground pool water; if your pH level falls outside the ideal range of 7.2 to 7.6, you’ll need to add chemicals to bring it back to optimal levels.
Maintaining Chlorine Levels
As with pH, you’ll need to test your above-ground pool’s chlorine levels to be sure it doesn’t contain too much (which can irritate swimmers’ eyes and skin) or too little (which can lead to algae and bacteria growth). Chlorine is available in several forms, including sticks, granules and tablets.
Tablets are recommended for above-ground pools, since they dissolve slowly within your skimmer, floater or automatic feeder to sustain stable levels over time. Always choose stabilized chlorine, which resists deterioration by the sun’s UV rays and maintains its efficacy longer than other forms of chlorine.
Shocking the Pool
Even with regular chlorine use and testing, your above-ground pool will eventually start to retain unwanted substances—sunscreen, lotions, sweat, hair products and even urine—that can irritate eyes and skin and make your normally sparkling water look cloudy and dull.
To eliminate this nasty build-up, you should “shock” your pool about once a week by adding a concentrated chemical treatment to remove contaminants and restore the water’s integrity. Regularly shocking the pool can also prevent treatment-resistant algae from making its home on your pool walls and floor.
Note, salt water above ground pool maintenance still requires some shock treatment. Read here for more information on this.
Preventing and Addressing Algae
For above-ground pool owners, algae is unfortunately just a fact of life. Algae spores are omnipresent in the air, and it’s inevitable that some will float into your pool water and do their best to proliferate. On a sunny day, it may only take a few hours for a colony of green, yellow or black algae to take root in a pool with insufficient chlorine levels.
Prevention is the best solution for algae attacks; frequently testing your pH and chlorine levels to make sure your water isn’t hospitable to growth is vital. You can also add algaecide to the water once a week to further discourage algae from settling.
If you’re already dealing with an algae invasion, eliminating it is a multistep process, the first of which involves shocking your pool to a chlorine level of at least 10 parts per million and maintaining constant circulation. Next, thoroughly brush and vacuum every surface in your pool, including walls, floors, ladders, stairs and filters.
Once you’ve cleaned the pool, add an algaecide specific to the type of growth you have and brush and vacuum a second time. If chlorine levels have fallen below 5 parts per million, add more to get back up to that level. Continue brushing and vacuuming daily until you have the problem under control.
Getting the Pool Ready for Winter
Unless you live in a very warm climate that’s conducive to year-round swimming, you’ll need to prepare your pool for winter dormancy. Winterizing your pool includes the following steps:
- Cleaning the pool and applying a winterizing chemical kit.
- Moving all chemicals, cleaning tools and ladder to a dry, protected location.
- Running the filter for an hour prior to disconnecting the motor and pump and removing them for storage.
- Letting water out of the pool until the water level is below the return and skimmer, leaving enough water in the pool to prevent damage from hydrostatic pressure.
- Applying pool antifreeze to the plumbing system and sealing the pipes with winter plugs.
- Placing a cover on the pool.
Bonus Checklists: Daily and Weekly Above Ground Pool Maintenance
To help you stay on top of your above ground pool maintenance tasks, keep these checklists handy until pool care becomes second nature and refer to them as needed to assist with troubleshooting.
Daily Above Ground Pool Maintenance
- Test pH levels and keep them in the 7.2 to 7.6 range.
- Test chlorine levels and add chemicals if necessary to reach 2 to 4 parts per million.
- Allow the filter to run for 12 to 18 hours.
- Keep water levels filled to the middle of the skimmer.
- Empty and rinse skimmer and pump baskets.
Weekly Above Ground Pool Maintenance
- Test alkalinity to ensure a level between 80 and 120 parts per million.
- Vacuum and brush the walls and floor and skim any large debris from the surface.
- Treat with algaecide, clarifier and metal control chemicals.
- Shock the pool.
- Check the pump and filter pressure; if the pressure exceeds 7 psi, clean or backwash the filter.
While it would be difficult to go over everything as it relates to above ground pool maintenance in one post, hopefully this task list is somewhat useful to you. If you’re looking for an incredible resource for general pool-related maintenance, we highly recommend checking out Trouble Free Pool.