How To Change Sand In a Sand Filter

Written by:  Danny Rhodehamel

Every 5 - 7 years you will have to replace the sand in your sand filter. The sand actually wears out. The sharp edges of the sand particles become worn and rounded and don't capture the contanimates as well. Also the sand will start to ball up or the water will create channels thru the sand. You will notice that your pool water is not as clean or the interval between required backwashes is shorter. This guide shows you the steps required to replace the sand in your sand filter.

Tips & Warnings


Step by Step

Step 1

To change the sand in your sand filter you will have to remove the Multiport Valve on the top of your filter. If your filter was not installed with union connections, you will have to cut the piping to your filter. When you reinstall the filter after replacing the sand, this would be a good time to add unions.

Step 2

Before you start to change the sand in your filter, be sure to purchase any material or equipment you will need ahead of time. This might include sand, the O-ring between the valve and the tank, Teflon tape, lubricant, and unions. For the sand use only high rate No. 20 Silica Sand. An example is pictured at left. Check the manufacturer to determine the amount required. This unit (Hayward S180T) uses 3 50 lb bags of sand - 150 lbs total. You can also purchase our superior to sand Click here for our Sand Alternative.

Step 3

Before you start to change the sand, make sure you TURN OFF THE POOL PUMP. For maximum safety turn off the power at the circuit breaker to the pump.

Step 4

Next release the pressure in the filter tank by turning the drain cap at the bottom of the tank a half a turn counter-clockwise. Then remove the cap completely to drain the water out of the tank.

Step 5

Disconnect the waste hose that is attached to the "WASTE" line coming off the Multiport Valve.

Step 6

To remove the Multiport Valve unscrew unions that connect the piping to the "PUMP" and "RETURN" ports. If your filter does not have unions, cut the piping that connects these two ports. Be sure to leave enough room to attach unions later and stagger the cuts so that one union will not be installed on top of the other.

Step 7

Next take off the Multiport Valve flange clamp that holds the filter onto the tank. Screw off both bolts to separate the clamp. Keep track of the vinyl protector caps that are placed over the ends of the screws.

Step 8

With a gentle twisting motion, lift the valve off the pipe inside the tank. If you pull too fast or hard, you risk breaking the lateral pipes at the bottom of the tank.

Step 9

Tape the top of the pipe to prevent sand from entering and clogging the laterals.

Step 10

Remove sand carefully with a plastic cup until you can see the tops of the laterals at the bottom of the tank. If you have a wet and dry shop vac, it might be an easier and faster option to remore your sand.

Step 11

Gently pull the pipe and lateral assembly out of the rest of the sand. Then before you pull the assembly out of the tank, carefully rotate the 10 laterals up to the side of the pipe so that they will clear the hole.

Step 12

Lift the pipe and lateral assembly out of the tank.

Step 13

Check each of the laterals for breaks and replace as necessary. If the laterals are badly clogged you may want to soak them in a bucket of cleaning solution.

Step 14

Wash out the tank with a garden hose.

Step 15

Check the drain cap for cracks and replace it securely.

Step 16

Fill tank about 1/2 way full with water to provide a cushion when the sand is poured in. This will help protect the laterals.

Step 17

Next you will be replacing the pipe and lateral assembly back inside the tank. Make sure the 10 laterals are rotated up. Place the pipe and lateral assembly inside the tank.

Step 18

After the lateral assembly is inside, carefully rotate the 10 laterals 90 degrees in their down position.

Step 19

Make use the pipe is centered in the opening. Tape the top of the pipe to prevent sand from entering and clogging the laterals.

Step 20

The sand filter package came with a cardboard sand shield. If you still have this shield, place this over the pipe and within the opening. If not, you will have to take more care that the pipe remains centered when you pour in the sand.

Step 21

Pour sand carefully into the pool sand filter until laterals are fully covered. For this unit 3 bags should leave at least 6" space between the top of the sand and the top of the filter. Level sand as you pour and make sure the center pipe remains centered in the opening. Be careful when leveling the sand that you do not lift the pipe and lateral assemble up off the bottom of the tank. You will not be able to push the pipe back down without causing the laterals to rotate up.

Step 22

Remove the O-ring on the bottom of the Multiport valve and check it for wear. Since you only do this every 5-7 years, it's probably a good idea to replace this O-ring now. Lightly lubricate the O-ring with a silicon lubricant and place it on the underside of the valve.

Step 23

Remove tape from top of pipe. Slip the Multiport control valve onto the central pipe - check the O-ring to ensure it is positioned correctly.

Step 24

Install clamp around the tank and valve flange. Tighten multiport valve flange clamp with a screwdriver. Tap around the clamp with the screwdriver handle as you are tightening the clamp to help seat the clamp properly. Place vinyl protector caps over the ends of the screws.

Step 25

Reconnect the two unions to the "PUMP" and "RETURN" ports. If you did not have unions, add unions now or glue the pipes back together with straight couplers.

Step 26

With the pump OFF, depress the multiport valve handle fully and turn it to the "BACKWASH" position. Make sure that your waste line is rolled out to where you want to dump the pool waste water.

Step 27

Prime and turn ON the pool pump. Be sure that you have at least one suction and all discharge lines open.

Step 28

Run the pool pump for 2 minutes after you have a steady flow of water out the waste line (after the pump is fully primed). This will flush all the impurities or fine sand particles out of the sand media.

Step 29

Turn the pool pump OFF and turn the valve handle to "RINSE".

Step 30

Turn the pump back ON and run until the water in the sight glass is clear. This should take no more than 1 minute.

Step 31

Turn the pool pump OFF and turn the valve handle to "FILTER".

Step 32

Turn the pool pump ON. This is the normal operating mode for your filter. Note the pressure gauge reading. This is your clean sand filter pressure.

Comments (1 to 40 of 99)

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User: Inyopools

Princess - Some sand has very fine sand in the bag that gets through the laterals. Try vacuuming up the existing sand with a suction vacuum. If you get more sand, you may have a broken lateral or standpipe which means taking the sand out again to inspect the pipes.

User: Princess

Changed sand in my filter now we have lots of sand in the bottom of our pool. What did we do wrong?

User: Inyopools

H Abed - I would guess that you have a broken lateral or standpipe. You will have to change the sand in order to find out.

User: H Abed


When I backwash as usual for 2-3 minutes, I get a hand-full of sand from the waste pipe, does that mean something wrong in the sand filter or it is normal to get some sand out with the water?


User: Inyopools

square - I do not know what the plug is for. Maybe to partially drain the pool or to add a small light?

User: square

At point of refilling pool from being replastered! There is a white screw-in plug, when filling pool, water leaks from the plug! It's a early '80's pool, Anthony Pool I think! The plug is at end of pool near steps! Do you know what it is for?

User: Inyopools

adding filter sand - When you pour sand into your filter, you might want to first fill the tank half way with water to protect the laterals from the sand pouring in. When you turn the pump on to go operational, the pump will fill up the tank the rest of the way.


hi I purchase this dynamo pump and sand filter, how much water do I have to put with the sand ?

User: Inyopools

George - The bigger the better. Wet sand is heavy so a more powerful vac will get the sand out faster.

User: George

Enjoyed the article on changing filter sand. I am going to be purchasing a new wet dry vac and was wondering what size works best for getting the sand out? ie 6.5 hp with 2 1/2" hose or 5hp with 1 1/2" hose? thanks

User: Inyopools

glen4cindy - It sounds like you may have a damaged spider gasket in your Multiport Valve. If you are vacuuming the dirt to the waste port, a damaged spider gasket might allow that dirty water to also divert back to the pool through the valve's recirculation port. See our guide on "How to Replace a Spider Gasket on a Multiport Valve". If you are vacuuming in the "Filter" mode, you might have a broken lateral that would pass the dirty water unfiltered back to the pool. See our guide on "How To Replace a Lateral in a Pool Sand Filter".

User: glen4cindy

Hello, This is only the 3 year we have had our sand filter. At this time, when we vacuum, the dirt from the bottom of the pool will come back into the pool through the returns. We can have a crystal clear pool. After a short time of trying to vacuum, our pool is so cloudy we can barely see the bottom. It has been suggested our sand might be dirty and might need to be changed. But, so soon? Please help. Thanks.

User: Inyopools

huggy bear - It's not clear what you are asking here. "White or brown sand?" doesn't matter but you have to purchase sand made for pools. And are you trying to fill the 9" gap to get more filtering? You can't. Your filter needs that gap for effective rinsing during backwash.

User: huggy bear

White or brown sand in my jacuzzi 9" gap of free space now can I use scrap piece pvc pipe to extend above stack and fill tank then remove and install rest of filter

User: Inyopools

changing sand - Reasoning sounds good. Sand isn't going to wear out or clump if it's used less than average. Of course our 5-7 years is an average across the country. As long as your pool is clear, you shouldn't need to replace your sand, but sounds like you are getting close.


Good Video. I live in Wisconsin, where we are lucky to get a good 3 month swimming season. So I'm guessing that there are about 3 or 4 swimming "years" here to equal one southern swimming year, where the pool is open near year round. So should my sand last 3 to 4 times longer than the 5 to 7 years that you have listed? My current filter sand still seems to be doing well after 17 years.

User: Inyopools

Greenpoolguy - You may have a lot of algae trapped in your filter sand. Try shocking the pool again. Then repeat a backwash - rinse cycle 3 or 4 times in a row to loosen up the sand/algae. If that doesn't work, change your sand. It should be changed every 5-7 years.

User: Greenpoolguy

Hey !
Thanks for all the advice. Quick question, just started my pool last week for the 1st time (new owner of the house)and I cant get the water to clear out. It's now swampy green. I did a shock treatment, backwashed once / twice a day, raised chlorine, dropped the ph, etc. Same result. I had the water analysed at the pool shop and all seems ok (PH level, chlor, etc.)
They said that it's probably my sand that isn't filtering well (it's 6 years old). Could that be it ? When I backwash, water does come out green for a minute then turns clear afterwards.
Any help will be appreciated !


Very informative. Thanks.

User: Inyopools

JT sand filter novice - Unfortunately it sounds like the pipe assembly has been lifted off of the bottom when you replaced the sand. The only way to fix this is to remove the new sand and replace the pipe assembly on the bottom of the tank. On the positive side, you are now an expert. After doing this twice, you will be in a real good position to help a neighbor replace his sand...

User: JT sand filter novice

Really good article. Wish I'd read it before tackling this task. No problem getting the sand out but when i refilled it the pipe had obviously not stayed down the bottom - i can't get the multi-thing back on fully - it's about an inch away. Is there anything i can do?..beyond taking alot of the sand back out?

User: Paul

Great directions. My sons and I did this in a little under 3 hours. Thanks for the article.

User: Inyopools

dirtywater - Check the spider gasket in your pool filter multiport valve. If it is damaged, you may be getting waste water leaking into the filter path.

User: dirtywater

I have an above ground pool. I also have a Hayward Pro Series Sand Filter. I used a flocculant in the pool to clear the cloudiness. I vacuumed to waste and noticed the dirty water being put back into the pool thru the inlet. What gives. Just installed the filter this spring after having a cartridge filter for 3 years.

User: King Roy

Very nice - thorough

User: Inyopools

sand level - I've see numbers for the free space above the sand range from 6" to 12". If you don't know what filter you have, I would go with 9" of gap.


I don't know how much sand to put in my filter. When we moved in the label on the pump was all ready gone so I don't know brand or cubic ft. Is 6in from the top of the filter a standard for all or most pumps?

User: Inyopools

System pressure - The gauge pressure for a Hayward S180T Sand Filter will vary with your system configuration - pump size, piping etc, but it typically runs between 10 and 20 psi.


what is correct gauge pressure for a hayward sand filter S180

User: Inyopools

BeckyB - Make sure that the clamp that holds the multiport valve to the tank is on evenly and tightly. Hit clamp gently with a rubber mallet as you are tightening the clamp. Check that there are no cracks in the tank or valve when they come together.

User: BeckyB

We just had the sand in our filter changed. We also had the o ring changed because it was leaking. It is still leaking after we did that. Why would it still be leaking? It is leaking from in between the switch and the tank. Please help I don't know what else it could be.

User: ataloss

I have read all the comments. but I still have a problem. I have nothing that came with my filter system that remotely looks like laterals. There are no pipes or anything like them inside my filter

User: Inyopools

Sly - Most people don't have a place to recycle the sand. We generally place it out for the garbage in the bags the new sand came in.

User: Syl

Excellent instructions. I think I can do this. Stupid question. What do you do with the old sand? Recycle like old food compost? Or garbage bag it and throw it out?

User: Inyopools

jttoler - Make sure you leave at least 6" between the sand and the top of the tank. You may have a blown spider gasket. Are you using pool filter sand?

User: jttoler

was getting sand in the pool, discovered a crack in the centerpipe and laterals. Replaced the center pipe and laterals, followed all steps, and when I run the filter more sand than ever is coming through the return. anyone have any idea why this would happen? This is a hayward S180T932S sand filter

User: Inyopools

Toniamcm - Sounds like everything's as it should be. The sight glass is only connected to the "waste" line so water will only show during backwashing - will be empty during filtering. 15 psi is a good reading for pressure. If your sand hasn't been changed for seven years, you are probably due for a sand change. It will improve filtering. Otherwise you can run the filter and pump as is.

User: Toniamcm

I have a Hayward filter. I am getting it ready for summer. Everything is working except the sight bulb doesn't hold any water when filtering. I am not losing prime, and I have back washed and rinsed several times. The bulb will hold water when backwashing. The pressure gauge is working, but shows only 15 psi pressure. The sand hasn't been changed for seven years, would this be the cause? Can I run the pump and filter like it is until I can get it fixed. Will this damage anything?

User: susag

My shop vac was not as effective as runninng a hose in the tank to make a slurry and just taking a 1" hose and start a sucktion and then letting it drain out. Just have to make sure the hose stays a fraction of an inch away from the sand.

User: Inyopools

sand in pool - Some sand has a fine sand in the mix that goes through the filter. When you change your sand, the "rinse" cycle usually clears this sand out of your new sand. But you are past this point. Try vacuuming the sand on the floor and purging it to your waste line. Also check your multiport valve spider gasket to make sure it is not damaged.

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