Summer hasn’t technically begun, but temperatures are already climbing into the 90s here in Austin. We’re lucky enough to have Barton Springs and Deep Eddy Pool in town for day trips, but there’s nothing quite like cooling off by taking a dip right in your own backyard. If you have a pool, it’s time to get it swim ready.
It may be tempting to dive right in, but opening a pool correctly is extremely important for the health of your family and the maintenance of the pool itself.
Here are 10 steps to take before grabbing your towel and sunscreen this summer:
- Clean the pool cover.
First things first: tackle any debris on top of your pool cover so that dirt doesn’t fall into the pool. Blow away any leaves, and use a pump to remove any standing water from the pool cover.
- Start the “chemical open.”
Assemble the filtration system, clean out all the baskets, and remove any plugs that you put in when you closed the pool for the winter. If you have a cartridge filter, remove the cartridge and wash it with a hose. For a D.E. filter, you’ll need to take it apart, clean it, and reassemble it. A sand filter needs to be set to backwash, and then to the normal setting. You should also run the circulation system for 8–12 hours. Do all of this with the cover still on.
- Add water.
Now’s the time to top off the pool. And it should be just topping off—you never want to empty your pool completely. Draining the pool can actually lift it out of the ground, because the weight of the water holds it down.
If you’re using a garden hose, fill it in 30-minute intervals so that you don’t burn up your water pump. While you’re waiting for the pool to fill, it’s a good time to check all the handrails, ladders, and diving boards to make sure they’re still sturdy and safe.
- Test the water.
It’s best to have the water professionally tested in order to ensure the safety for yourself and your family. Take a water sample to a swimming pool store.
A professional will test the mineral, alkaline, pH, and chlorine levels of the water and instruct you on which levels need to be adjusted and by how much. While you’re there, you can pick up some DIY pool-chemistry testing strips so you can continue to measure chlorine and pH throughout the swimming season.
- Balance the chemicals.
You should listen to the pool professionals carefully on how to balance the chemicals in your pool.
Generally, pH levels should be between 7.2 and 7.4. Soda ash is used to increase pH, and muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate are used to decrease it. The total alkalinity should be between 80 and 120, which is balanced using sodium bicarbonate to increase alkalinity and muriatic acid to decrease it.
Calcium hardness needs to be between 150 ppm (parts per million) and 250 ppm. You need calcium (called “hardness”) in the water, otherwise the water will pull it from grout in the tiles and ruin the materials of your pool. You can use calcium chloride to adjust calcium hardness.
Chlorine levels are usually the easiest to adjust, because cyanuric-based tablets are sold widely. Chlorine should be between 1 ppm and 3 ppm. Just place the tablets in your skimmer basket, or, if you have a metal filter system or a heater with metal, have a professional install a plastic chlorinator so the tablets don’t eat through the metal.
- Wait for the water to clear.
It should take about a week of cleaning the filter every day for the water to clear up. Only when the water is clear enough for you to see the pool floor should you remove the cover, otherwise you’ll have made more work for yourself if new leaves and debris fall into the pool.
- Remove and store the cover.
Once you remove the cover, take the time to clean and dry it properly before storing. It’ll save you time when you’re ready to close the pool. The best way to clean it is to spread it out and spray it with a high-pressure hose. Let it dry, then sprinkle a layer of talcum powder over it so that it doesn’t stick while it sits in storage. Store it in a cool spot.
- Clean, clean, clean!
Now that the pool is free of its cover, it’s time to vacuum all the leaves, bugs, and debris from the bottom. Your pool is finally looking good enough to jump in, but … in order to get your backyard truly pool-party ready, you need to make sure the rest of the area looks as good as your newly opened pool.
You’ve already put a lot of work in, so here’s where you can sit back and let Westlake Home and Commercial Services do the rest for you. We can refresh your entire backyard with our professional deck and patio cleaning service. We clean and wash away dirt, mold, and debris with special pressure-washing techniques, tackling every outdoor surface. We only use eco-friendly techniques and a non-toxic wash solution that’s always safe for pets and children.
Our team will even wash all of your outdoor furniture at no additional charge, so you’re ready for summer cookouts and play dates at the pool immediately.
- Maintain a clean pool.
Make sure to maintain the pool regularly for the rest of the season by keeping the filter clean, vacuuming the pool each week, and testing the chemical levels every day. You should also have a professional test the water once a month. And don’t forget to buy some fun floaties for the pool!
- Take a trip to the lake.
If summer for you means not only swimming in the pool, but also heading out on the lake, we can get you set up for the season in no time with our monthly boat dock cleaning. Whether you’re docked at Lake Travis or Lake Austin, we’ll come to you by boat to pressure wash your dock, boat exterior, walkways, stairs, patio furniture, light fixtures, and walls along the water’s edge. Our monthly service, which starts at a low monthly rate, is specifically designed to keep your waterfront areas looking their best, so you and your family can enjoy them for many years to come.