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Thread: Closing an in ground pool

  1. #1
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Closing an in ground pool

    There are many ways to winterize a pool, varying both by how far North/South you are and by personal preference. This is what I do for my in ground vinyl liner pool in Maryland.

    Prep - Double check that the winter cover is still in good shape and that I still have enough water bags that don't leak to go all the way around the edge of the pool plus a few for spares. In the fall I let the water level drift down a little so it is closer to the bottom of the skimmer, instead of near the top where I keep it during the summer, this will save a little time latter.

    Wait - I wait to close until the water temperature is solidly below 60 degrees. Below 60 degrees algae is fairly unlikely to grow and when it does it grows very slowly.

    Balance - I bring PH to between 7.4 and 7.6 and make sure TA and CH are not too far out of line. This is generally easy as everything pretty much remains balanced all the time.

    Shock - Two or three days before closing, I bring the pool up to shock level and hold it there until FC holds overnight (which it generally does right off on the first night). Then I let the chlorine level fall about half way back to normal levels, typically another day and a half.

    Time to close - Everything from here on is done in a single day. With two helpers it normally only takes an hour of work over two or three hours of time (draining takes a while).

    PolyQuat - Add the startup (maximum) dose of PolyQuat according to package directions. I give it half an hour to mix with the pump running before starting to drain. While I am waiting for that I proceed with the next three steps.

    Clean - Clean up any leaves, dirt, etc. I like to close as neat and clean as possible. Some leaves always fall in while I am closing, which I don't worry about, but other than that the pool is generally cleaner than it is after my usual weekly cleaning.

    Store equipment - Remove the ladders and any other removable equipment, toys, patio furniture, etc, and store it all for the winter. The ladders can be difficult sometimes. Be sure any clamps or locks are fully released. Generally a few minutes of pulling and wiggling around, alternating with a helper, and they will come out.

    Closing supplies - Get out the winter cover. Fill the water bags one half to two thirds full and place them out of the way around the pool.

    Drain - Pump the water down till it is about four inches below the bottom of the returns. Usually I can do this with the regular pool pump, if the vacuum hose will allow the pump to stay primed. It usually works to setup a vacuum hose as if vacuuming so the pump can still draw water below the skimmer level. Some times too much air gets in and I lose prime, so I have to switch to the cover pump. If you have a main drain you can usually just use that and everything will go more easily.

    Remove fittings - Remove the skimmer basket(s) and return eyeball(s).

    Blow out the lines - Using a large shop vacuum I blow out the plumbing. If you have more than one skimmer/return this should be done one at a time. I only have one of each so it is fairly easy. I use the shop vac blower outlet to blow air into the skimmer pipe and keep going until nothing but a very fine mist is coming out of the return. Then I let it run some extra time to get as much out as I possibly can.

    Drain plugs - Remove the drain plugs on the pump, filter, and heater. I also remove the SWG cell assembly and various other parts of the Total Control system (sensors, acid tank, etc). The drain plugs get stored in the pump strainer basket, the Total Control parts go in the basement. Any drain plug hole exposed to the weather gets a layer of non-hardening joint compound on the threads to protect from rust.

    Anti-freeze - I add pool/RV anti-freeze (not automotive!) to the pipes at the rate of one gallon per ten feet or fifteen feet of pipe. It is a great help to have a curved funnel to get the anti-freeze into the return line.

    Seal the pipes - I use expandable rubber plugs to seal the skimmer pipe, return pipe, and the unions the SWG attaches to. The skimmer also gets most of a gallon of anti-freeze on top of the plug and some torn up pool noodle foam to protect the skimmer (which will also be covered by the main cover). Some people use a gizzmo in the skimmer but I prefer the rubber plug and pool noodle material as I feel more confident that the rubber plug won't come out.

    Cover - Center the cover over the pool. This is actually a fair bit of work and takes at least two people. Then I press the edges down so it lies more or less flat on the water, runs up the wall, and the remainder lies flat on the deck. Water bags are then put on the cover around the entire edge of the pool. Fold any excess cover under the water bags so there is nothing to blow around. Some people add a little water on top of the cover to keep it from blowing around, but I have found that I don't need to.

    Cover pump - I leave an automatic cover pump on the cover for as long as it is above freezing overnight in the fall and spring.

    Leaves - After all of the leaves have fallen I watch for a period with several dry sunny days in a row when the leaves have dried out fairly well and use a leaf blower to get most of them off the cover. Then I rake the remainder off with a rake with a handle extension (an extra broom handle connected with hose clamps).

    Maintenance - Over the winter I keep an eye on things occasionally. Sometimes a water bag will spring a leak and need to be replaced. Sometimes in a big storm a water bag will get blown onto the cover and need to be rescued.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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  2. #2
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    your closing sounds good, i have a couple questions, as i am going to close my self, i dont have a cover with water bags, my cover is sort of a mesh and attaches to the side, how do i get the clamps to raise so i can get the cover clamps on. and two, here in virginia beach, we really only get below freezing at night and in the last bit of january, do i need to fully winterise like you, or do i run the pump when it freezes. Thanks
    RT

  3. #3
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    If it only gets below freezing for brief periods and you don't have any really hard freezes then you can simply make sure the pump is running any time it might go below freezing and you will be fine. Every now and then the weather tricks you and there will be a hard freeze, as happened in parts of California last winter, so some people like to do a full close anyway.

    No idea about the clamps.
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  4. #4
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    right now im torn, the coldest is got last year was like 30 and that was only at night and only for about 3 weeks in Jan, now the rest of the months are still COLD, like 40's-50's. and also, the previous owners, didn't lower the water level, is there a reason to lower the level. Thanks i am ovesly new to this.

  5. #5
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    With weather like that there isn't any point in closing the pool. You just make sure the pump is running when it is getting near freezing and you will be fine.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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  6. #6
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    JasonLion;
    Thank-You for taking the time.
    Your-the -man
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  7. #7
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    Jason, EXCELLENT POST I'm sure that you never have any problems in the spring with your closing regimen. By making this post, you've saved me hours of 'hunting and pecking' on the keyboard

    I don't want to pirate your thread, but would like to give a few tips/ alternate methods:

    If you have the Hayward return eyeballs and they won't unscrew, pick up a SP-1419 - T. This nifty little piece of plastic slides into the notches of the seat allowing one to use a screwdriver or wrench to remove it without damaging the threads

    When ladders and handrails become troublesome to remove, pour some water on the anchor cup, give the rail a good wiggle and wait a few minutes - repeat as necessary until the rail comes out.

    When blowing out the skimmers, stopping the airflow for ~ 5 seconds then restarting it lets the water still in the line 'puddle' and when the air is reapplied, it comes out as a big gush, as opposed to just sputtering out. (this also works for the other lines as long as they are above the water).

    Some people can't or don't want to lower the water below the returns (or even skimmer), due to high water tables where they live. The blowing of the lines can still be done - it's just a LOT wetter . Returns can be blown from the filter pad, you have to plug them after they've been bubbling for 30 seconds, with the air still blowing through them. The skimmer needs to be blown out poolside (blow the water back to the filter pad). A piece of cardboard can be used to seal off the mouth of the skimmer. It will take a few blow/ stop/ blow cycles to get the water out of the skimmer itself, but then it's the same as doing it from the pad. (alternately, you can blow from the pad if you use an "Ultra Gizzmo" - it has a tube in it to allow blowing the lines with the water still up -- * note - I prefer the ultra gizzmo over the other brands because the 'blow tube' is sealed, the other brands that I've seen are just hollow and if the ice breaks them, water can enter the line)

    If you use a gizzmo, three wraps of teflon tape is recommended to insure a watertight seal.

    Main drains and floor returns can be blown out until they bubble for 30 seconds, then shut the valve with the air still on (this is not the optimal way of doing it, but you'd need SCUBA gear to plug them ) The idea is to blow enough air into the line so that when the valve is shut, the water stays below the frostline. If there is no valve, or it doesn't fully seal, you can blow out the line and slam a rubber plug into it (this must be done quickly, so 2 people are required, 1 to work the blower and the other to install the plug within ~ 1 second of having the blower removed, it may take more than 1 try to get it right)

    When we fill watertubes, we use a .4 HP sump pumpwith a valve adapted down to fit into the fill port on the tube, this makes it quick to fill them. Another place I worked used a garden hose with a valved 'Y' and 2 sections of 10" garden hose to fill both sides at once.

    If you have a divingboard, it will last better if you bring it inside for the winter. If you remove the stand, apply some waterproof grease or graphite paste to the bolt threads to prevent rust (just like Jason recommended for the metal threads on heaters) If you don't, the option of removing them in the future will be lost !

    Despite the fact that in 5 years of coming to the pool boards I've never seen a question regarding 'getting sticky safety cover anchors up', I'll address it anyway. If you go to use the Allen Wrench and the anchor won't come up, pour some water on it and work it up and down, what's happened is that grit and debris has gotten into the threads and the water will help wash it out . Sometimes they are so stuck that you need to put an adjustable wrench on the allen wrench to get extra torque , don't try to force it too much or you'll strip the brass, slow and steady wins the race - apply water as needed until you can get it all the way out, then rinse both the socket and the anchor threads.

    I think that's it for nowI hope that the people closing their pools will continue to visit and post on this site throughout the winter, for those that don't, I look forward to seeing you next spring

    (Jason, if you want to separate this out, by all means do so - I had thought of starting a separate thread for this, but figured that having it all in one place would make it easier for folks looking for this info -- thanks again for doing the 'real' work on closings )
    Luv& Luk
    -Ted

    Having done construction and service for 4 pool companies in 4 states starting in 1988, what I know about pools could fill a couple of books - what I don't know could fill a couple of libraries :-D

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  8. #8
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    waste - I like having everything in one place.

    Can anyone fill in with directions for mesh security covers (Loop-Loc etc)?
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    waste - I like having everything in one place.

    Can anyone fill in with directions for mesh security covers (Loop-Loc etc)?
    loop lock, thats what their called, i can get those up out of the ground,

  10. #10
    What kind of extra instructions would you like for the loop lock. I usually shock wait a few days, cover the pool but leave the pool sweep in and add the polyquat. I let the pool cleaner run for a few hours a day for the next few days. Then I loosen the cover to remove the pool sweep as well as allow access to the returns and pool sweep port for when I blow out the lines. This keep 99% of the leaves and other junk out of my pool.
    ~Megan

  11. #11
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    It's been a while since Jason asked for info on the safety covers but, better late than never

    The basic idea is that you have a mesh/ solid cover with straps every 3 - 5' (making a grid pattern of straps across the cover) which have 'spring loaded loops' attached to the straps. These attach to gromets that are embedded into the deck and can be either raised in the winter to acomidate the springs or lowered to be flush with the deck so they don't present a 'trip hazard' in the summer when people are walking on the deck. They are sturdy enough to allow a person or pet to walk across them without the cover falling in and entrapping them in the cover/ water - hence the 'safety'.

    If you want tips and 'how to' on installing your own, that's for another thread, but I can and will help you.

    Once all the gromets are up (they should have the threaded part begin at deck level, lest you wreck the threads or not have it up high enough to 'catch' the spring), unfold the cover across the pool, 2 people are recommended, but 1 person who knows what they're doing can handle this - it's just a PITA! Attach the springs to the corner gromets and then attach the ones for the opposite end corners. (If you have an irregular shaped pool, do 2 center lengthwise straps and 2 side straps put on at ~ 1/3rds) ~1/2 of the springs are 'freebee's', you don't need the tool to put the spring on, if the other side isn't attached . If there are any springs that are in a place that would make it hard to get the cover tool on them, use the 'freebee' option for them before attaching the opposite spring!!! - if you have a cut out for a slide leg or similar, 'rig-up' the strap BEFORE you put on the other spring!!

    THE COVER TOOL:
    You should have received a METAL pole to aid in the placing of the cover. One end has a rubber grip and the other is notched. To install the cover, when the spring opposite it is already attached, turn the tool so that the 'un-notched' side is away from the strap and 'crank back' on the pole - if the tension for the cover is right, you'll have to step on the spring to get it to catch the gromet - 2 people really help here, one to pull back on the pole and one to stomp on the spring, it helps if the 'stomper' helps push back on the top of the pole while performing the stomp. **** BEWARE OF THE POLE! - I gashed the web betwixt thumb and forefinger a couple of years ago on an open end (no grip) on a spring that was over tight which required 3 stitches)

    The spring coils should be 3/4 tight, it's enough to keep the cover tight enough to do it's job, but not so tight as to make the spring loops warp, nor let debris get into the pool under the cover.

    As a final thing for all owners who cover their pools-- in the Spring when you fold up the cover, fold it in a 'fan-fold' or 'sailor fold'. I'll give more on the 'fan - fold' tomorrow - waste has to go do 'family time' and eat
    Luv& Luk
    -Ted

    Having done construction and service for 4 pool companies in 4 states starting in 1988, what I know about pools could fill a couple of books - what I don't know could fill a couple of libraries :-D

    POOL SCHOOL, TF Testkits, Jason's Pool Calculator, CYA vs. cl chart, (Just a few DARNED handy links!)

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    For an easier job unscrewing the brass cover anchors, prepare them in the spring! I take them all out, vacuum out the brass casing in the concrete and then spray the anchors with WD-40. Screw them all the way down and come closing time, they unscrew with very little effort.

    Joe
    Joe

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    ok, so I know that it is closer to pool opening time vs. pool closing time here in the mid-atlantic. But, I do have a question on blowing out the lines. I'm about to purchase an air compressor. Would a basic $100 Craftsman 125 PSI compressor provide what I would need to blow out the lines when it comes time to close in the fall? Does anybody have an idea as to whether this would be sufficient for blowing the lines of a 15 zone irrigation system too?
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  14. #14
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    It depends on how your pipes run. Some setups require a lot of pressure, in some cases air volume is more important, and sometimes you need both at once. Typically, blowing out a main drain takes pressure. Blowing out a pipe that is fairly level requires volume. Blowing out a pipe that is significantly U shaped requires both.

    Even a very small air compressor will get you plenty of pressure, but even a rather large air compressor won't get you very much air volume. A shop vacuum will get you plenty of air volume, but not all that much pressure. There are special blowers designed for this that get both pressure and volume but they tend to be fairly expensive and not good for much else.
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    Re: Closing an in ground pool

    So much great info here...thanks everyone.
    Andrew
    25,000 gal IG Vinyl - PoolPilot SC48 SWG - Sta-Rite 1HP/System3 CF - AquaCal HeatPump - TF-100

  16. #16
    Senior Member DaveNJ's Avatar
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    Re: Closing an in ground pool

    When adding the PolyQuat I run the filter in re-circulate instead of filter. Not sure if its makes any difference just something I do.
    IG 18x36 oval vinyl, Spill over spa, Northstar 2hp-2spd, 2.5" piping, S310T 500lb Sand filter, 400k gas heater, AutoPilot SWCG
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  17. #17
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    Re: Closing an in ground pool

    Waste, great advice on the loop-loc type covers...
    One other thing the "closer" may want to do (or the "opener" next spring) is to apply some type of 'anti-seize' to the grommets - I use the 'crayon' type that allows you to mush the anti-seize into the grommet threads, but I guess nearly any kind would work (just be sure they are safe for brass or whatever your grommets are made of).
    This will make for a much easier process the next time you raise/lower your grommets. I use that anti-seize stuff on mower blade bolts or anything that only gets screwed/unscrewed every few months or more.
    Todd
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  18. #18
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    Re: Closing an in ground pool

    I was looking at my pool and thinking 4" below the returns seems *really* low. Are you sure? The cover is going to be all sunken in. All the youtube videos I've found just blow the lines with the pool at full level.

  19. #19
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Closing an in ground pool

    As I said a the very start, there are many different ways to close a pool.

    If you get very little ice then it is usually fine to leave the water at normal levels, just keep in mind that many of the other details change from what I described above. But if you get serious ice you need to be more careful and a partial drain is very important. Intermediate amounts of ice give you choices with different advantages and disadvantages.

    A thick ice sheet will freeze around any fittings and then as the ice shifts it will tear them out of the wall. Sometimes you can find an intermediate water level, below the skimmer but above the returns, such that the returns will stay below ice level. That is generally how pool lights are handled, they stay below ice level in most pools.

    A thin sheet of ice will crack easily, long before it causes any damage. Then you just need to be sure water won't get into the skimmer or return lines and the water level is less important.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Kinguni's Avatar
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    Re: Closing an in ground pool

    Up here I always stuff foam rope into the returns for added insurance against freeze damage to the return fittings before plugging them. I do the same in the skimmer line.

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