How To Close An Above Ground Pool

WRITTEN BY:  Inyo Pools

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In most parts of the country, the inevitable end of summer’s warm weather will arrive. And unless you’re a polar bear, you’ll want to close your pool until the spring. Properly closing above ground pools protects them from debris and harsh winter weather. This helps reduce the time and money needed to open your pool in the spring. You’ll also eliminate additional electrical and chemical costs by closing the pool and avoid possible freeze damage to equipment and plumbing. Follow the steps below for winterizing your above ground pool.

Step by Step


Step 1

Several days prior to closing an above ground pool, test the water for pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness and chlorine. Adjust levels if necessary. It is important to get the water balanced to protect the pool from corrosion or scale buildup that can occur while it's shut down. You should test for the following: pH 7.2 - 7.6; Alkalinity 80 - 120 ppm; Calcium Hardness 175 - 250 ppm; Chlorine 1 - 3 ppm.

Step 2

Step 2 Above ground pools need to be cleaned before winterizing. Brush and vacuum the sides and floor. Use a clarifier to get water crystal clear. Lower water level while vacuuming (set filter to waste bypassing sand). Clean the tile line to remove oil and scum line so that it will not set on during winter months.

Step 3

Winterizing chemical kits are available to help protect water quality during the winter months. This is a convenient way to get all of the necessary chemicals for closing your pool. Carefully follow the instructions on the product labels. Additional algaecide and shock can be purchased separately for larger size above ground pools.

Step 4

Clean the filter, skimmer, and pump basket. Remove all unused chlorine product from the chlorinator. Cartridge filter elements and D.E. grids should be sprayed with cleaner and rinsed with a garden hose. Sand filters should be backwashed.

Step 5

Lower the water level below the returns and skimmer. Never completely drain above ground pools - hydrostatic pressure can cause damage. Using an air compressor or shop vac (attached to the blower side of the vac), blow water out of system by forcing air down skimmer and through the plumbing. Add pool anti-freeze to plumbing and install threaded winter plugs to the return fittings to keep water out of lines. Pool anti-freeze is a non-toxic formula. DO NOT USE AUTOMOBILE ANTI-FREEZE IN YOUR POOL.

Step 6

Remove all drain plugs from pump, filter tank and any other pool equipment. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for your specific equipment. Place all drain plugs in pump basket for storage so your can find them easily in the spring.

Step 7

If you are using air pillows under your pool winter cover, inflate them with a leaf blower or shop vac. Tie off air pillow in the center of the pool; larger pools will require two or more air pillows. The air pillows will shed water toward the edge of pool for easier removal. They also allow forming ice to crack inward preventing damage to the shell or structure of the pool.

Step 8

Place winter cover over pool surface, black side down, and secure it with the cable and winch under top ledge of pool. In very windy areas, we recommend using winter cover seal, a tough plastic wrap material which is wrapped around above ground pools to keep wind from getting up underneath the cover. An automatic or manual cover pump can be used to remove rain water and melted snow that collects on top of the cover.


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Kristy  Posted: 10/19/2017 20:30 PM 

When do I turn my pump to winterize?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/13/2017 14:46 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Jim - The skimmer is the approximately 4"x 6" opening in wall at the top of the pool surface that sucks or "skims" debris off the top of the water and supplies water to the pump and filter. Water is returned back to the pool through jet returns.

Jim  Posted: 10/09/2017 9:46 AM 

So, yes, remove the filter and store it inside. What do you mean by skimmer? Is that the lines that pull the water to the filter or the one that pumps it back into the pool from the filter?

Inyopools  Posted: 09/28/2017 12:21 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Jodie - You would generally drain the pool to 3-4" below the skimmer and then plug the holes below that. Here is a link to Rubber Expansion Plugs.

Jodie  Posted: 09/26/2017 14:56 PM 

I've read and others have told me to completely remove the pump from the pool and store in garage or other warm environment. Would I drain pool below all the holes in the pool or can you plug those holes with something (can you tell I'm a new pool owner??)

Inyopools  Posted: 09/17/2017 11:52 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

New - I don't see your reference to 65 degrees. I would guess it is more of an arbitrary point in the season where you probably won't be using your pool anymore and can start closing it down. You can add your winterizing chemicals anytime prior to the pool water freezing.

Gigi  Posted: 09/17/2017 8:26 AM 

I use bungee cords and hang kitty litter containers (full) from the wholes in pool cover as well as clips. Windy area didn't work with deck and cable. No cover lift.

New  Posted: 09/14/2017 18:15 PM 

Why does the directions tell me to wait until water temp is 65 or below to put chemicals in? Water temp is still 70 degrees.

Inyopools  Posted: 09/14/2017 12:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Eeeddd - Thank you for this comment. In my response 3-4 comments below, I'd suggested crisscrossing the top of the pool with ropes to keep the cover from parachuting, but this is a good answer too.

Eeeddd  Posted: 09/09/2017 8:05 AM 

Always make sure there is some water on your pool cover then the weight of the water holds tbe cover keeping it from acting like a parachute.

Inyopools  Posted: 09/07/2017 11:04 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

JSinNY - I'd recommend buying 2 or even 3 4x4 pillows. That way if one fails, you still have 1 or 2 to hold up the middle of the cover.

Inyopools  Posted: 09/06/2017 11:09 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

ldw - Your pool holds 7,000 to 8,000 gallons of water. There should be instruction on the container to tell you how much algaecide to add for your size pool. They may vary by brand of algaecide.

JSinNY  Posted: 09/04/2017 23:11 PM 

I have to buy a new air pillow before closing my pool. Last year's pillow went flat last winter. Always used a 4'x4' but I was wondering if I can/should use a bigger one under the cover? My AG pool is 15x30'. My neighbor had a new 4.5'x15' pillow that he gave me but I think that would be too big for my pool?

ldw  Posted: 09/04/2017 13:09 PM 

How many ounces of algaecide need to be added to an 18' round pool before closing? Thanks.

Inyopools  Posted: 09/03/2017 14:28 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (cover blowing) - Try tying 2 or 3 ropes crisscross across the top of the pool cover. Secure to stakes at the base of the pool.

Anonymous  Posted: 08/30/2017 19:19 PM 

How do you keep the cover from blowing up like a parachute? I am scared it is yanking on the sides way to much.

Inyopools  Posted: 08/15/2017 11:20 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

NewToThis - Lower the water level to just below the skimmer and plug the return port. Remember to drain the tubes to and from the pump.

NewToThis  Posted: 08/12/2017 15:21 PM 

FOr a 21' Wilbar REprieve (above ground),for winterizing should we lower the water level below the skimmer and below the return, or just below the skimmer and use a plug For the return? What do you recommend?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/20/2016 12:43 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

New owner - We generally recommend lowering the surface of the water below the skimmer so you shouldn't have that problem.

New owner  Posted: 10/19/2016 18:11 PM 

Do you some how cover the inlet to the skimmer so the winter cover does not force water out of the pool?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/01/2016 9:33 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

closing pool - Yes, for hard freezes, you should drain your pool below your light to prevent it from cracking. See recent comment on light cracking.

Anonymous  Posted: 09/28/2016 17:33 PM 

Drain below the light. I made that mistake once and the pressure of the ice cracked the light and the housing.

Anonymous  Posted: 09/28/2016 8:58 AM 

I live on Ontario and I am closing my above ground pool for the winter. My question is when draining the water I know you are supposed to drain it 2" below the pool return, however when I do that my light that is installed is still under water ? Will this crack the light? Should I drain the water below the light?

Inyopools  Posted: 09/20/2016 14:11 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

lost - You probably have to get the organic debris off the bottom before you will be able to have clear water. Use a wet vac or invest in an above ground suction cleaner. Make sure your chemicals are balanced. Then shock your pool to a chlorine level of 15 ppm with liquid chlorine. Brush down sides daily for a week. Re-shock if required. This may take a week to clear up.

lost  Posted: 09/18/2016 21:47 PM 

I have not been able to get my pool crystal clear all summer. Its' been swimmable but the water is no pea soup green. I can shock it and add algaecide but it wont' get crystal clear. My kids say they can feel grit at the bottom of the pool I had some pool guys open the pool this year and they let ALL of the crap that was on top of the pool fall into the pool It's been a nightmare every since. I said I was going to change the lining and everything next year because I just can't get it crystal clear this year. What should I do?

Inyopools  Posted: 09/13/2016 21:49 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

neg - If you have an above ground pool, you do not have to add antifreeze to your pools, but some people add it as a back up in case water gets back in the piping. Make sure the water in the tubes between the pool, pump and filter is blown out. You should also add a gizzmo to your skimmer to keep the freezing water from cracking your skimmer. And I would take the solar cover off of the pool during the winter. It is not as durable as the winter cover.

neg  Posted: 09/10/2016 9:54 AM 

Do you recommend using anti-freeze? I never used it before. Also, can I leave my solar cover on and put the winter cover over it? Last year I used a mesh cover which was a much heavier cover than the typical cover except I had a bunch of leaves on one side of the pool.

Inyopools  Posted: 11/02/2015 10:48 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Gizzmo - Yes. Gizzmos come in two sizes, 9" and 16". The 9" Gizzmo is recommended for the AG pools.

Anonymous  Posted: 11/01/2015 11:25 AM 

Have you ever heard of putting a Gizmo in the skimmer box of an above ground pool?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/12/2015 11:40 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Terri - The old fashion way to drain a body of water is through gravity. Fill a garden hose with water. Block the ends of the hose to keep water from draining out. Then place one end in the pool and the other end outside the pool on a downward slope. Gravity on the water in the hose will pull water out of the pool.

Terri  Posted: 10/09/2015 19:21 PM 

My local pool company says to drain 4-6" below the skimmer. Is a pump the best way to do this? Just wondering if there is a super-secret that I can't find on google. I don't really want to buy another pump, but will do so if that is the only option.

Inyopools  Posted: 09/14/2015 8:46 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

tinner2002 - I would not recommend draining your AG pool completely. The water provides the pressure needed to keep the wall from collapsing. If you have any kind of wind at all, it can blow the wall in and crease it beyond repair.

tinner2002  Posted: 09/14/2015 2:10 AM 

I live in Las Vegas where we only see temperatures as low as 28 degrees a few days in the winter. most days the low is 35 or above. I was planning on draining completely and just putting on the cover that I just ordered from you. I CAN do that, right? (21 foot x4 foot deep round splash pool).

Inyopools  Posted: 11/18/2014 12:30 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

AG Pool in winter- Most pool manufacturers recommend keeping your pool mostly full during the winter to keep it from heaving up during a winter freeze and to keep the wall from buckling in.

Anonymous  Posted: 11/17/2014 18:14 PM 

Can You Leave a Aboveground pool full in winter.

Anonymous  Posted: 10/25/2014 18:26 PM 

I wasn't sure on how much water I should have in my pool when closing it, glad I stopped on your site, other sites did not give this information. I had already added the winterizing kit, but my water level was to low, I think by adding water I'll be okay. Also helpful on the pillow, I just let it float about, since the pillow didn't come with instructions, so I will take the cover off and secure the pillow to the middleand readjust the liner to a fuller pool. Thank you. Ellen Bowser

Inyopools  Posted: 09/27/2014 11:39 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

AG Pool in winter- Most pool manufacturers recommend keeping your pool mostly full during the winter to keep it from heaving up during a winter freeze and to keep the wall from buckling in.

Anonymous  Posted: 09/24/2014 15:32 PM 

I emptied my pool before researching the proper way to shut it down for the winter, so what do I need to do to protect my liner?

Inyopools  Posted: 09/13/2013 13:34 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Sara - Most pool manufacturers recommend keeping your pool mostly full during the winter to keep it from heaving up during a winter freeze and to keep the wall from buckling in. Can you put a temporary patch on the liner to hold water until spring? If the tear is not too large, these patches are pretty effective.

Sara  Posted: 09/13/2013 4:24 AM 

I bought a foreclosed house with a 32x17 above ground steel sided pool. As a first time pool owner, your site has been fabulous for reference. I have one item that I need your advice on. The pool will only hold about 5 inches of water. I plan to replace the liner in the spring. Will the pool be ok over the winter or will there likely be damage to the walls? I live in Ohio and I expect freezing temperatures in the winter. The walls are back filled with will rock. Thanks!