How to Open an Above Ground Pool | A Detailed Guide Before the New Swimming Season

Pool and arranged eating set

The sun is out, the weather’s getting warmer, and you and your family are itching to get into the water. And if you already have one of the top-rated above ground pools, you have everything you need to do just that.

But before your can splash into your pool, there are important steps you need to take to ensure the water is ready for fun in the sun. For this reason we also recommend reading our above ground pool vacuum reviews - they are essential to keep the water clean.

Most importantly, you’ll need to be sure you know how to open an above ground pool properly. Also learn how to heat an above ground pool and let the summer begin!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the necessary steps to safely and effectively open up your pool for the swimming season. We’ll cover the whole process, including preparation, pool cover removal, filter preparation, and chemical balancing. Read on to get the best advice on how to get your above ground pool ready for months of wet and wild fun!

How to Open an Above Ground Pool

While the process is fairly simple, there are several key steps involved in opening above ground pools. In order to ensure your pool is sufficiently ready for swimmers, be sure to follow every step carefully, and don’t skip any of them. Each step is crucial to pool readiness.
Before you begin the opening process, you will need a few supplies:

  • Skimmer net for clearing debris
  • Cleaner for your winter cover (car wash soap works well)
  • 1-2 people to assist you with the process
  • Pool cover pump
  • Startup chemical kit for balancing
Blue round above ground pool

Clear Off Water and Debris from the Pool Cover Surface

By the time you’re ready to learn how to open a pool for the first time, your pool cover has likely accumulated enough leaves, water, and other debris to support its own ecosystem! So, the first—and perhaps most onerous—step to opening a swimming pool is clearing off all of the accumulated debris and draining off the water from your winter cover.

It is important to clear off the vast majority of this crud now, as anything left on the cover during this stage has the potential to drop into the water while removing the cover from the pool.
This will just add more work in the long-run, so it’s best to be diligent at this stage.

A leaf  in the pool

You will want to use a skimmer net to do this, though a soft bristly broom works very well also. Even when using gentle tools like these, though, you should always be mindful of the amount of pressure you are using. You don’t want to inflict unnecessary wear and tear on your cover in the process of cleaning it. 

Take Off Your Pool Cover

Now comes the part where you will need some assistants—if they weren’t kind enough to help you clear off your pool cover in the last step, that is! After you’ve cleared as much water and debris from the surface of the pool cover, it’s time to lift the cover off of the pool.
This is a delicate process, as you need to keep an eye on two things at once:
1. Preventing any gunk leftover from the pool cover from getting into your pool water.
2. Minimizing potential fraying or other damage to your winter cover from dragging against other surfaces.
It’s not game over if some debris from the cover falls into the pool; however, careful removal of the cover will limit the amount of work you have to do later.

Pull Winter Plugs and Accessories Out

Pool winter plugs

If you have installed pool plugs or other winterizing equipment on your pool, now is the time to remove them. Be sure to inspect the entire pool so you don’t miss any of these devices. It’s especially important to remember to remove your ice compensator from your skimmer bucket, if you installed one for the winter months. 

This is also the time to take out your skimmer plate (if you installed one to prevent water from entering the skimmer throughout the off season) and bring out your skimmer baskets and return jets. Then, attach the return jets and skimmer baskets to the return line. 

Top Up Your Pool Water

Next, get out the hose! It’s time to top off your pool water. The amount of water you’ll need to add to your pool is highly dependent on what condition you left the pool in at the end of the summer the previous year.
Regardless of the starting water level when you open up your pool for the first time, you’ll need to add at least enough water to reach halfway up the opening of your pool skimmer.
You might also consider using a filter on your hose when adding water to your pool. A good hose filter will screen out debris, some unwanted metallic elements, and other impurities, making your job easier later on, as you’ll have less work with clearing out debris and balancing the water when the time comes. 

Reinstall Pool Ladder

Unless you’re a gifted hurdle-jumper, the next step is to bring back out your best above ground pool ladders, steps, or entry system.
Make sure your preferred entry equipment is installed properly and securely from the start, to avoid accidents and prevent more work adjusting it later on. 

steps in the pool

While you’re at it, this is also the right time to bring out any other pieces of pool or deck equipment you may want to use. This might be a diving board, a slide, or any other parts you need to install before using with your pool.
Do yourself a favor now, and carefully inspect all of this equipment during this step. It’s a much better idea to discover any flaws or damage from storage and transport now, than to find out the hard—or even painful—way that there is something wrong with your equipment. 

Prep and Power Your Filter System

Once you’ve got your pool equipment set up, you’re ready to prepare the necessary hardware that makes your pool run properly. This will include your pool’s pump, skimmer, and water filter. It is crucial that you complete this step before removing debris from the water and before introducing chemicals from your pool start up kit.
While you might be tempted to just set up the equipment and get running, it’s always a good idea to check that all the equipment is working after being stored.

If everything is functioning, you’re ready for the following steps:
1. Connect pump to skimmer.
2. Connect pump to filter.
3. Connect filter to additional filter equipment you use.
4. Insert hose into return inlet.

pool skimmer

Now that everything is connected, flip everything on! If the system starts up correctly, make sure nothing is leaking or dripping. If it seems your filtration system isn’t pulling water correctly—“running dry”—you will need to learn how to prime the pool pump. This means that you turn of the system, take off the lid to the pump, and add some water.

Finally, you will want to backwash your filter to get rid of anything blocking the tract. This process may be different depending on the filter you have. Regardless of the backwashing process for your filter, be sure to do it in an environmentally-friendly way

Clear Your Pool from Any Debris

Next, take some time to remove any remaining debris from the pool water. Always perform this step before adding any sanitizing chemicals to the pool.
It’s a good idea to break out a brush to scrub along the pool walls and floor. This will dislodge any algae or other gunk from the surfaces into the water. Doing so will allow the chlorine to kill this stuff more effectively.
If you really want to ensure a sparkling clean pool for your first dip of the season, you’ll want to bust out your pool vacuum. It’s never a bad idea to use a good above ground pool vacuum before opening it for the season.

Test, Balance, and Retest Your Pool Water

Now, get out your lab coat, because it’s time to get scientific! First, you’ll want to use your preferred pool water testing method to test the water’s chemistry. For the most important readings, you’re shooting for levels in the following ranges:

  • pH: 7.2-7.8
  • Chlorine: 0-3 ppm

Once you’ve established the chemical levels of your pool water, you’re ready to add the chemicals needed for pool start up. These usually come in a kit, so follow the instructions to determine how much of each of the pool startup chemicals you need to add to balance the water, given your initial chemical test readings.

  • pH: 7.2-7.8
  • Chlorine: 0-3 ppm
  • Add Sanitizers to Your Pool

    With all of the preceding steps completed, there’s just one last thing to do. After you’ve balanced your water, it’s time for the most shocking step: adding shock! But how much shock to open a pool?
    Generally speaking, you’ll want to add 2 pounds of shock per 10,000 gallons of water. In other words, you will be adding 2-3 times the chlorine that you usually add, as this will guaranteed a full, thorough sanitizing of your water. Always shock your pool at night so the chlorine won’t interact with the pool chemicals.
    Then, simply wait 24 hours (Do not enter pool before then; it is not safe!) . 

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