Homeowner: The Swimming Pool

We didn't get a waterfront home, so a home with a swimming pool was a priority. In retrospect we could also have taken a home that we both liked even if it didn't have a pool, and added one.

People told us having a pool is easy but in fact it's a lot of work. You have to measure the alkilinity every week and add chlorine, algae killer, clarifier, or other chemicals. You need to skim the surface daily, you need to clean the filter when the pump pressure falls, back-wash when the pressure rises, and you need to clean the bottom.

For cleaning the bottom Clyde got an automatic "pool vacuum" which connects to the filter inlet and jerks and spasms its way around the pool. It tends to get stuck on the pool ladder, though, so you have to check up on it every half hour.

It turns out that you can save a lot of money by turning the filter pump off at night (it's 750 Watts). We didn't know this last year, so maybe this year our electricity bills will be lower! Even better would be to have it run only in the nigh, when electricity is cheaper.

Since chlorine is nasty stuff, you can have a salt water pool instead; Canadian Tire sells a filter that adds salt fairly cheaply. Unfortuntely, salt is also a pollutant. Conquering armies used to salt their enemies' fields to cause mass starvation, if they didn't want to settle there. Better still is the European-style UV or ozone filter, which cost maybe Cdn$2000 and pay for themselves in a few years (under five years) because you don't need so many pool chemicals. We don't have the cash this year, or we'd probably try to do that.

In the fall/Autumn you need to get the pool "closed", which involves covering it up, taking the pump indoors, plugging up the various pipes and hozes, and possibly adding more chemicals.

Running the Pool

This is what we do each day.

  1. Use the skimmer (a fine net on the end of a long pole) to get rid of leaves, flies, and other debris floating on the surface, and also anything on the bottom such as dead frogs or mice.
  2. Empty the skimmer basket, and either clean the pool sock inside it or replace the sock.
  3. If the puck isn't used up, add a new one. We have been using Biogueard pucks.
  4. Check the pump pressure and see if we need to back-wash the filter (see below).

Every week, we also add some chemicals.

  1. Check the pH (acidity) of the water, with a paper strip; if it's too acid, add baking powder (sold as PH Plus), and if it's too acidic, add PH Minus. Don't overdo it: if you add too much of one chemical you have to add more of the other to counteract it, and if you end up with too many chemicals in the pool you'll have to get the water truck to deliver more fresh water.
  2. Add some stabilizer to slow down the rate at which the sunlight breaks down the chlorine in the pool; you don't need much of this with the Bioguard pucks because they have chlorine in them already.
  3. Depending on how hard your rain-water is, you might want to add a descaler or "stain prevent" once a month or so.
  4. Add shock once every ten days or so. It's expensive if you get good quality stuff, but you save the money in not needing as many other chemicals. Add it in the evening, so that it gets to circulate for a hile without the sun on it.
  5. The day after you add shock (or the day before, or the same day but not within four hours of the shock) add some algae killer.
  6. The day after the algae killer, you may see some dust or brown algae on the bottom of the pool, or the water may go cloudy with dead algae. To remove them, add pool clarifyer, or pool sparkle, and then the next day do a back-wash. The pool clarifyer either coats the particles in the pool so they stick to the filter, or it coats theparticles of sand in the filter so that it's temporarily a finer filter, and can capture finer particles. Either way, you get rid of that coating with a backwash.

Closing the Pool

What you need:

  1. A pool cover (large enough to cover the pool and the steps into the shallow end)
  2. Pool closing kit (strongshock, anti-scale, algaecide)
  3. Three or four big jugs of anti-freeze
  4. Some foam pipe insulation: it's sold as long hollow sticks of foam with yellow tape down the length
  5. Large wrench for 2" pipes, adjustable spanner/wrench for removing deep-end pool ladder, a hammer and screwdriver to help with stuck inlet valves, a strong pair of scissors to cut the foam pipe insulation.
  6. Start with the chemicals three days before you want to cover the pool.

This is a three-day process: on the first two days you add chemicals, and on the third you do the real work.


Add chemicals before you drain the pool. You might want to do a huge backwash, and get the water level down to just over the bottom of the skimmer inlet first, if it has been raining a lot and filled up the pool.

See the chemical instructions; you may need to add shock, wait a day, add algae-killer, then a few more hours, then descaler, then have the pump going for several hours before you start to close the pool.

swimming pool diagram


Next, drain out the water from the pool until it's below the level of the inlets. You probably have a slightly conical disc-shaped object; once the pool water is below the entry to the skimmer, you can put that in place where the skimmer basket would do, and water will continue to flow from the drain in the bottom of the pool, up the pipe into the bottom of the skimmer pit, and from there to through the underground pipe to the pool. Put about a foot of foam pipe insulation into the pipe to the drain before screwing in the plug, so that when the water freezes it has room to expand.


Once the water is low enough, and the water inlets are completely above water, you'll need to screw a plastic plug into the hole in the skimmer pit that goes to the bottom of the pool; otherwise, water will continue to flow until the pool is below the level of the bottom of the skimmer pit, which is quite a bit more water than you need to take out. If you empty out too much water, the pool cover won't fit properly.

Next, you need to disconnect the pump, both from the electricity (if it plugs in) and from the two-inch plastic pipes. Put the pump on one side, and take it indoors once you have finished.


Now, pour RV-style anti-freeze (it's usually pink) into the skimmer pit until you get pink drips coming out by the pool. We find this is one to two big jugs of anti-freeze. Once you see the pink fluid, put a foot or so of pipe insulation foam into the pipe and screw in the plug.

Remove any dead animals and children from the pool at this point.

Unscrew the pool inletss - just the plastic iner circular nozzle, not the screws holding the inlet to the side of the pool!


Now, you need to disconnect the filter from the pipes that go to the pool inlets, and pour anti-freeze down those pipes until you get bright pink drips coming into the pool. Put foam into the inlet pipes where the nozzles were, and then seal the holes with plugs. Don't over-tighten, you have to be able to unscrew them in the Spring!


Leave the filter on Winterize, and undo the plug at the bottom to let it drain.


Seal any open pipes, e.g. with a plastic bag and rubber bands


Cover the pool with a tarpaulin or pool cover big enough to go over the entire pool and the opening for the steps, if you have them, so that the cover rests on the water, and weigh it down around the edges, e.g. with rocks.


Take the pump, steps, diving board, hoses, vacuum, heater, etc. indoors for the winter.

[these pages are in preparation and not yet public]