Winter water level control - how to prevent ice popping tiles


New member
Dec 24, 2014
Norwood, MA
Hello. First post to TFP. Looks like a great community.

Question #1: is there a way/equipment/technique to know the water level of a closed pool (with safety cover on)?
Question #2: is there a way/equipment/technique to pump water out of the pool when closed for the winter (without removing the safety cover)?
Purpose: to be able to pump out excess water AFTER closing and before it freezes (thus saving my tiles and/or coping from popping off).

I live in MA, just south of Boston. Have an inground gunite pool that is 20+ years old. We moved into the house 2 years ago, and found, post-closing when the pool was open and operating (it was closed when we made the offer and the inspection), that a number of tiles around the water line were totally missing and many with cracks in the grouting. In the worst place there was missing/cracked concrete where the tile grout usually adheres, concrete that was turning to sand and growing algae. That first summer and winter we just left it, had some leaking which got worse as the summer went on. Filled the pool once a week or so and tried not to worry about where the water was going and what other damage might be happening.
The next spring (late May), after the pool was opened (we paid for the service) I put on the wetsuit and jumped in to 60 degree water. Using hydraulic cement (which cures in 1-3 minutes even under water pressure) I smeared the exposed concrete with the cement, filled in the worst cracked tiles and tried to generally restore the tile level to being watertight. Despite some mess (including globs of concrete that fell and adhered to the bottom of the pool and having to thoroughly backwash the filter) it worked. Much diminished leaking all summer (I also had some leaky valves near the pump). I had the pool closed for the winter, with the typical dropping of the water level, etc.
2nd winter (2013-2014) was very snowy. We could see that the water level had risen due to rain and snow melt. We attempted some pumping, but with everything frozen solid most of the time, not much we could do. Upon opening, some of the hydraulic cement had popped off, a few extra tiles in the bottom of the pool, but no apparent leaking.
3rd Summer (of 2014) after replacing the ball valves, installing a new pump motor and replacing some cracked underground PVC pipes (due to some over zealous tree removal on my part), all work I did myself, we called the contractors and arranged for new tiles, coping and (this coming spring) a new gunite surface.

By this coming spring I will have invested some significant money in a newly reconditioned pool and am looking forward to no leaks and no worries.

BUT...I have not found, on this site or on any website or product catalog, a good way to know the level of the water underneath the pool cover without removing it, and then pumping any excess water out of the pool, even during inclement weather or 1+ feet of snow. (The weather here is such that we can get feet of snow without ever having a hard enough freeze to freeze the surface water).

Thought you might enjoy my overall story and maybe be able to help me. The issue of ice and winter care has been addressed on a number of posts here, and I think I have read them all, but I have not seen answers to my two questions above.

Any suggestions?



TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
May 7, 2007
Silver Spring, MD
Welcome to TFP!

The water level under the cover can vary somewhat, but will never be higher than the water level on top of the cover. Snow height on top of the cover can be converted to water height with some effort, either using a default value for snow density or measuring the actual snow density.

Pumping out water before anything freezes is easy. Just leave a cover pump or sump pump in the pool and thread the output hose and power cord through below the edge of the cover. You probably want to use a cover pump that is safe to leave wet all winter, so you don't need to retrieve it before each hard freeze. After a hard freeze leaves ice on top of the water, there are still ways to pump water out from below the cover, but they get very involved.


Gold Supporter
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 16, 2012
Central MD
I'd recommend getting a sump pump that you can drop in by opening up the two corner (or adjacent straps) near a step. Drop it in with a hose attached and voila. An hour or three later it's down to the level you want. Make sure to follow the cover manufacturers recommendation on the maximum distance below the coping surface to lower the water or you risk ripping the cover. Pull out the pump/hose, store inside to keep unfrozen and you are good to go. I close in mid-October when the water is cooled down, then pump out in late November and then late December before the heavier snows come, in Jan/Feb usually for MD. Ours didn't freeze solid last winter which was very cold. I could easily break the deep end ice where I have a step out to set the pump on. I use out autocover cover pump but I think they are more expensive which is why I suggested a sump pump. Our winter cover is mesh which I presume yours is too, allowing water to rise.

Others may have different approaches. I like not leaving a pump/hose in all the time because it makes the cover slightly lifted up where the hose comes out which makes it easy for leaves/debris to enter the pool in our windy environment. Straps are easy to pop open with the pole tool you should have - 10 seconds to open up two straps.


Well-known member
Dec 3, 2009
Central Massachusetts
Hey from Worcester county. Just take a couple of three straps off and take a peek. Go to Lowes or the Depot and get submergable pump and put it on the top step. Pump enough water out to get it down to where you want it. Pull the pump out and button it back up. I need to do this very thing about Friday.


Well-known member
May 17, 2014
Benton, KY
I have a solid safety cover, so my level stays where I put it when I close it. I just have to pump the water off the top of the cover. If yours has a mesh panel, you will have to do like has been suggested and pop open a corner to check the level. You could get creative and put some kind of pressure sensor, or float switch, and a utility pump in the deep end where it can't freeze. You could tie a rope to the hose, and drop it in the deep end where it can't freeze, and pull it back out when you need to pump the water out.


New member
Dec 24, 2014
Norwood, MA
Hey all,

Thanks for the suggestions. I have thought of or done all of the above. Ideally, I'd like to stand in the warmth of my living room, gazing out at the snow drift covered landscape and KNOW that the water is at the right level. With some weird rain-freeze-snow-rain cycles we have had slush under the snow, allowing the water to continue rising, then a hard freeze.

I was leaning towards n240sxguy's solution, with a water level detector indicating too high, keep the sump pump in the deep end of the pool, and flip the circuit breaker in the basement that controls the outdoor outlet. I have 9 months to figure it out and will let you know if I come up with something.