The How and Why Guide to maintaining and caring for your above ground pool.
Weekly maintenance consists of all the small tasks required of a pool owner to keep their pool in tip-top shape.
Weekly maintenance can be broken into three easy categories: pool interior cleaning, filtration system cleaning, and chemical balancing. All categories must be done routinely, they cannot be done in isolation of one another. In order to get the best results possible, pool owners should clean the inside of the pool first, clean the filtration system second, and add their chemicals last.
Although it may seem like a lot a first, even a new pool owner can comfortably complete their weekly maintenance in 45 minutes.
Step 1: Cleaning Inside the Pool
Physically cleaning your pool is very important for water cleanliness. Excessive debris inside the pool can lead to clarity, chemical, algae, and staining issues. Cleaning the inside of the pool has 3 steps; netting, brushing, and vacuuming.
Net: Using the net attachment on your skimmer pole, net the surface of the water to free any debris. Always keep the net on top of the water while working against the current of the pump for best results. Netting the top of the pool works best with a shallow net. If you have large leaf piles in the bottom of the pool, switch to using a deeper net, commonly referred to as a leaf rake. This will allow you to pick up more leaves at a time without damaging the net itself due to the reinforced design of a leaf rake.
Brush: Over time, debris and oils will build up on the walls and floor of your above ground pool, giving the liner a slippery feel. This will require brushing. The abrasion from the brush is gentle enough to clean the walls, but not rigid enough to damage the liner. Gently brush the walls from top to bottom, stopping just before the pool cove. Do not apply too much pressure or stab the brush into the cove or floor, as that can damage the liner. After the walls have been brushed, move on to brush the floor. Brush from the far end of the pool towards the skimmer, using a soft pressure. Keep at least 1-2” away from the pool cove. Push up any algae, dust, or other fluffy debris up into suspension. Any larger debris can be vacuumed up. A larger brush can be purchased from a third-party supplier to make floor brushing easier, but you must make sure it is a soft bristle brush that won’t damage the liner.
Vacuum: The most satisfying of the three cleaning methods is vacuuming. On an above ground pool, vacuuming utilizes the suction of your pump to power your vacuum, that you attach to your skimmer pole. Ensure that your vacuum hose has been completely filled with water prior to vacuuming, or you will air lock the pump. Connect your vacuum to your skimmer pole and vacuum hose, and put them in the pool beside the jet with the pump running. Hold the white cuff end of your hose in front of the jet to fill the vacuum with water, then remove the skimmer basket and plug the white cuff into the skimmer hole. You will immediately feel the vacuum gain suction. Vacuuming is a slow and steady process, as you must use the bristles on the bottom of your vacuum to push the debris up off the floor and into the vacuum's suction hole. Multiple passes over debris may be required, so patience is key. Do not try to vacuum the walls or cove, vacuuming is strictly for the pool floor. While vacuuming, keep a slight downward pressure on the pole, which will keep the vacuum tight to the floor. Do not push too hard, as that can damage the liner. Slowly and gently move the vacuum over the dirt. The bristles on the vacuum push the dust into suspension, which can then be sucked up into the vacuum. Do not get too close to the cove, and do not vacuum the walls, both actions can damage the liner. Once vacuuming has been complete and the floor is clean, you can move on to cleaning the filtration system. You will notice that after vacuuming your filter pressure will increase. This is normal and will be corrected in step 2.
Physically cleaning the pool first is important, as organic matter can smother your chemicals and prevent them from working properly. Due to vacuuming causing a spike in filter pressure and a buildup of debris in the pump basket, interior cleaning should always be done before filtration system cleaning.
Step 2: Cleaning the Filtration System
Cleaning the filtration system is often overlooked, but it is critically important. Ignoring the filtration system can lead to a dramatic decrease in pump and filter performance, which can directly cause water quality to deteriorate.
Clean skimmer basket: After vacuuming, the first stop to make is your skimmer. Open the lid and clean out any leaves or debris that has collected inside the skimmer basket. A clogged skimmer basket can greatly reduce flow to your pump, which can cause poor performance and damage.
Clean pump basket: After the skimmer basket has been cleaned, head over to the pump and turn it off. Close your shutoff valves and remove the pump lid. Similar to the skimmer basket, cleaning the pump basket will allow the proper flow of water into the pump, and ensure it is running unimpaired and won't clog or be damaged.
Backwash filter: Unroll your backwash hose to the desired location. With the pump still off, turn your filter clockwise to the backwash setting. Turn the pump back on, and let the filter backwash for 45 seconds to 1 minute. You will notice the colour of the discharged water change both inside the sight glass, and at the end of the backwash hose. Turn the pump off, then move the dial in the clockwise position to rinse. Turn the pump back on, and allow the filter to rinse for 30 seconds. Move dial back to filter, and turn the pump back on. Roll up your backwash hose and store for later use. You will notice an immediate drop in the PSI reading of your filter gauge.
Top up water: The process of backwashing and rinsing can drain a fair amount of water from the pool, so after backwashing has been completed, return to the pool to inspect the level of the water. The skimmer faceplate should appear to be 3/4 full, or slightly above the 3rd vertical screw, roughly as pictured. Make sure your pump is fully primed. "Prime" refers to the pump housing being completely filled with water with no large air pockets or bubbles. The pump needs to be full of water in order to function properly.
Cleaning the filtration system will ensure that your pump is operating smoothly, the filter is clean and working as intended, and your chemicals will have the conditions necessary to function. The filtration system should always be cleaned directly after the pool interior, but before the chemicals are added. You do not want to backwash all your chemicals away after adding them.
Step 3: Apply Chemicals
Weekly chemicals are the core way of keeping your pool safe for all bathers. UV light, rain, splash over, organic matter, and time will eat away at the chemicals inside your pool. Weekly chemical routines will ensure that your chlorine levels are sufficient to keep your pool sanitary. Once a week, every pool owner should add shock, pucks, and algaecide to maintain chlorine levels and keep algae in check. Testing with test strips will allow a pool owner to keep tabs on their chlorine levels, but also check in on their pH, alkalinity, stabilizer, and calcium hardness levels. These chemicals will need to be balanced as well, but typically as needed on a bi-weekly to monthly basis depending on the needs of the pool.
Shock: Shocking the pool is the process of adding a dose of granular or liquid chlorine to the pool in order to kill bacteria and boost chlorine levels. Shock is typically added directly to the pool with the pump running. Dosing for pool shock is 400g per 40,000L, or 1 bag per 40,000L. Once the shock has been applied, brush up any granules that sink to the floor to help them dissolve. Granular shock is superior to liquid chlorine as it is pH neutral, contains stabilizer, and easier to transport and handle. Heavier duty shocks may require pre-dissolving the shock in a bucket of warm water prior to adding to the pool.
Pucks: Chlorine pucks are the base line provider of chlorine in your pool. Although chlorine shocks can boost your chlorine levels to help kill bacteria and manage your chlorine levels, the bulk of the chemically available chlorine in your pool will come from your chlorine pucks. Chlorine pucks are a slow dissolving tablet, typically 3" in diameter that is applied directly into your pool's chlorinator, or floating chlorine dispenser. Do not apply the pucks to the skimmer and that can damage your skimmer and heater (if applicable). Roughly speaking, weekly dosages of chlorine pucks is 1 puck per 20,000L. Using test strips to verify your chlorine levels are key, as more pucks may be required when water temperatures are higher in the height of the summer.
Algaecide: Algaecide is a liquid, that is applied directly to the pool while walking around the outside edges of the pool wall for even dispersion. As the name suggests, algaecide is designed to help eliminate algae. Algaecide is entirely a preventative chemical, it is something applied every week to prevent the growth of algae. Most algaecides are copper-sulfate based and in liquid form. Dosing for algaecides is typically 25ml/10,000L.
Test Strips: Using an Aquachek 7-in-1 test strip, measure the chemical levels of your pool. This can be recorded electronically with the Pooli or Aquachek apps. The 7-in-1 strips will test for chlorine, pH, alkalinity, stabilizer/CYA, and calcium hardness, which are the essential components for pool water chemistry. Test prior to adding weekly chemicals, as testing directly after applying shock can skew test results. If your chemical levels are within or close to the acceptable ranges, you are fine. If they are outside of the acceptable ranges, take a sample in to your local pool store and they can suggest dosages to correct your levels. Test professionally once per month, or twice per month when temperatures are over 30° Celsius. Having out of balance water can void warranties and create conditions that can foster algae and lead to bather irritation.
Looking after your pool does not have to be a struggle, as long as you follow these easy 3 steps, once a week. A good weekly maintenance routine should be supplemented with monthly trips to the pool store for advanced water testing. Checking in with the pros once a month will verify that your test strips are accurate, and give you a computerized record of your levels for warranty and adjustment purposes. When temperatures are above 30° Celsius with high humidity, advanced water testing should be done every 2 weeks.
Proper circulation of your pool will be critical to make sure your weekly maintenance is as effective as possible. Depending on the size of the pump and the total volume of the pool, your pump should run a minimum of 10-12 hours a day during the season. Ideally, running the pump 24/7 is best, however 10-12 hours will suffice in most cases while keeping hydro costs down. Make sure your jet is pointed at a 30-45 degree angle towards the bottom of the pool, while facing away from the skimmer. Clean out the skimmer basket as needed for proper water flow from the skimmer to the pump.