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Choosing above ground pools
Location is Everything The first thing that you should really take into consideration is placement. Where is the above ground pool going to be installed? Even though it's installed above the ground, it is still going to be a permanent installation so choose carefully. Many above ground pools carry warranties of 20, 30, even 50 years, so consider that it may last that long. Deciding where to put the above ground pool should be based on the space you have available, accessibility, and obstacles.
Consider a location that provides easy access from your home to the pool and also allows you to get in and out of the pool without obstruction. Pay attention to obstacles such as gardens, fences, trees, and sheds. For example, you probably won't want to walk through hedges to access your above ground pool ladder. So think about where the entrance to the pool will be placed before you make your purchase. It's important to allow adequate space (usually at least three feet) between your pool and anything else you have permanently installed in your yard. Otherwise, digging up the ground and displacing the earth could cause your nearby structure to lean, sink, or even collapse. Trees are especially important to avoid building near. Their roots can sometimes span the length of hundreds of feet and have the ability to push up through your above ground pool liner. This is an extremely unpleasant experience so avoid it at all cost. It's usually best to move any trees that may be a threat to your new above ground pool and your family's summer fun.
Ideally, you will want to select as level ground as possible to minimize the need for leveling. Above ground pools should not be placed over any underground lines, septic tanks, cesspools, dry wells, tree roots or stumps, or any buried debris. Never place above ground pools under any overhead electrical lines.
Size Matters Once you've decided where the above ground pool is going to be placed, you'll need to measure the area to determine what size above ground pool you're going to need. When measuring, allow an extra three feet if you are buying an above ground pool that uses buttresses. A buttress is an angled support beam that extends from the wall of the above ground pool to the surface of the ground. Its purpose is to keep the above ground pool stable. Many newer above ground pools now have upright support systems that do not require buttresses. Keep in mind that you might not be able to get an above ground pool that's the exact size you want, so you'll have to settle for the next closest size. Above ground pools come in three shapes; round, oval, and rectangular. Once you've decided on length and width or radius, you'll need to decide on the height. Above ground pools usually come in two heights - 48 inches and 52 inches - but taller walls are becoming more common. This measurement references the height of the above ground pool wall from the ground. So, why choose one over the other? Well, many people like the deeper 52" above ground pool better because more water usually offers better swimming. However, some prefer the smaller height of the 48" above ground pools because they have a tendency to be more affordable and the lower depth may be safer for young children.
Steel vs. Resin Another identifying characteristic of an above ground pool is the material that it's made from. A "steel above ground pool" typically refers to one that has walls, uprights, a bottom track and a top rail made of steel. A "resin above ground pool" also has steel walls but the other structural components are made of resin which is a heavy-duty plastic. Because the steel is covered with multiple layers of protective coatings, it is considered very resistant to corrosion. However, since it is plastic, resin is corrosion proof. Resin above ground pools tend to be a bit more expensive but could well be worth it, especially if you live in a damp area where rust might be more prevalent.
The Bottom Line How much you want to spend is naturally one of the main considerations when selecting above ground pools. There are several grades of above ground pools - economy, mid-grade and high-end. The main difference between these grade will be the size of the top rail and verticals (these get larger as you go up in grade), the length of the warranty, and for oval models, whether or not there are buttresses. The higher end above ground pools usually do not have buttresses which looks more attractive and takes up less yard space.
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Installing Above Ground Pools
Above Ground Pool Installation Selecting your above ground pool is only the beginning; the next step is installing it. A new above ground pool is no fun until it's holding water and proper installation is extremely important. In fact, nothing will get you heated up more than an incorrectly installed above ground pool. Some of the problems that result from a bad install may include an uneven floor or a buckled (or wrinkled) liner. Cosmetically, these symptoms don't look pleasing but what's worse is that the future could hold physical danger if these concerns aren't addressed from the start. It's much better - and less expensive - to do it right the first time.
Clearing the Area The first step in preparing the foundation for your new above ground pool is to remove any sod that would be beneath the above ground pool. Do not underestimate to persistence of grass - nut grass, bamboo grass and Bermuda grass can all grow right through an above ground pool liner. You will also need to remove sod all the way around the above ground pool wall. Before you start this process, it is a good idea to check with your local government for any local code related to above ground pool installation. Some areas of the country require as much as six feet of sod removed from around the entire above ground pool - this would mean a 6-foot wide "dirt road" around your above ground pool. This is a project that you only want to do (or pay for) once so make sure you know the code before installation.
A Level Playing Field
Once your sod has been properly removed, most likely the ground will not be level. The higher ground within the sod-cleared area will need to be dug out to match the lowest ground. The ground must be measured using a level or a transit; you cannot determine level ground just by looking at it. It is not recommended to try and build up low ground due to the immense weight of the water in the above ground pool which will simply compress it back down. If the ground is not leveled, there is the potential for serious damage to the above ground pool and injury to anyone in or around the above ground pool. There is an increased risk of the above ground pool wall collapsing or at the very least, sinking into the ground, leaving you with an unattractive sloped above ground pool. If conditions require that you raise ground instead of leveling it, you should consult professional above ground pool installers.
Down the DrainYour above ground pool could cause water to gather in your yard where it never had before. This is due to the above ground pool blocking the normal flow of drainage. Often when water gathers around an above ground pool, the owner assumes the above ground pool liner has a leak and then goes through the trouble of trying to patch or replace the liner. This is tedious and expensive so it pays to make sure you will have adequate drainage before installing the above ground pool. Again, the advice of a professional is recommended, especially if your yard forms a natural valley. No one said this would be easy, did they? But for above ground pools, the saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" truly applies. The attention you give to small details in the beginning can save you big headaches and expense later on.
Laying the FoundationClean sand is the traditional base material for above ground pools. The sand acts as a barrier between the ground and the liner and helps to protect the liner from any rocks, roots or other hard objects. It also provides some cushioning for the floor of the above ground pool, making it more comfortable underfoot. There are also floor padding products designed to provide cushioning and protection such as Gorilla floor padding. Some manufacturers say their padding can be used instead of sand. We recommend always using sand and adding the floor padding for additional protection. It is worth the investment to protect the above ground pool liner as replacing a liner involves both the cost of a new liner, installation and refilling your above ground pool. Typical instructions call for a uniform, 2-inch layer of sand (please follow the manufacturer's installation manual for your specific above ground pool). Beware of using any high alkaline substance such as peat moss as a base because it will cause corrosion of metal parts.
The foundation for the above ground pool frame is typically patio stones or blocks which are sunk until flush with the ground. These blocks are placed beneath the above ground pool posts and buttresses in order to support them. Each block must be level in all directions (both from side to side and front to back). Then you will also need to make sure the blocks are level with one another. From one block to the next block, there can be no more than 1/16" out of level. As with leveling the ground, you will need to use a transit to be sure each block is level. Unlevel supports can cause the above ground pool wall to buckle, even with a variation of only 1/8" between the blocks. Your above ground pool will come with the manufacturer's specific instructions for placement of stones or blocks.
Assembling above ground pools Please follow the manufacturer's instructions for your particular above ground pool as assembly will vary from model to model. An above ground pool will typically include the following parts: bottom rails, bottom plates, uprights, above ground pool wall, top rails, caps for uprights, coping, liner, and hardware. The skimmer and return fitting is often included also. It is a good idea to look over and count all of the parts when you receive your above ground pool kit. If your above ground pool is delivered to you by truck, you have the right and the responsibility to open and inspect each package before signing the bill of lading. If the driver tries to rush you along and get you to sign the paperwork, be aware that you are responsible for any concealed damage. It is best to take your time and be sure no damage occurred in transit. Compare what you have to the manufacturer's parts list and be sure you have received all necessary parts in good condition. Nothing is more frustrating than having a half-assembled above ground pool in your backyard only to discover you're missing part AB19 and it will take the manufacturer two weeks to ship it to you.
The Cove Above Ground pool cove is typically a wedge of sand that you build all the way around the inside edge of the above ground pool wall. Creating the cove is mandatory - do not skip this step. The 6 - 8 inch cove will keep the liner from slipping under the above ground pool wall and provide a protective layer between the liner and the metal frame of above ground pools. The sand is beveled to form a 45 degree wedge along the entire inner circumference of above ground pool walls. The sand should be uniform all the way around and tamped down. For those of you who never liked building sand castles, the good news is that pre-manufactured above ground pool cove is available in two forms, Peel & Stick which has adhesive backing, and Clip & Stick which snaps onto the track of the above ground pool wall. These coves come in 4-foot sections. When you have completed the cove, it is best to tamp down the sand in the entire above ground pool area. This will help to even out the ground and reduce divots in the floor of the above ground pool. Any sand on the above ground pool wall above the cove should be removed to prevent it from rubbing against the liner and possibly causing pinholes to form.
Installing the LinerOpen the box containing your liner very carefully -- do not use a sharp object. Unfold the liner and spread it out in the sun. This will warm up the vinyl, making it more pliable and easier to work with. Be sure to inspect your liner before attempting installation. Check for any holes or tears and examine the seams to make sure they are properly sealed. This is very important as you do not want to discover a defect after you've filled the above ground pool. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions regarding preparing the liner. Your owner's manual should give you details about punching out the skimmer and return holes in the above ground pool and installing the liner. Remember that the liner is not meant to bear any of the weight of the water so it must rest on the ground in all areas. Properly installed, there should be no air space between the liner and the ground, and no downward pressure on the liner. How you hang the liner on the above ground pool wall will depend on the style of liner (overlap, beaded, or j-hook) so refer to the instruction manual for your above ground pool.
Since there is extra material to compensate for any shrinkage of the liner, having some wrinkles in the liner material is normal and unavoidable. To smooth out the floor of the liner, you should gently push it toward the wall. To avoid damage, do not pull, drag or stretch the liner. Air between the liner and the above ground pool wall can contribute to wrinkles. To decrease this, you can use a vacuum hose, inserting it through the skimmer hole in the above ground pool wall behind the liner. Use masking tape and cardboard to seal any gaps around the skimmer hole and vacuum hose. Turn on the vacuum and gently adjust the liner while the vacuum is running. You can turn the vacuum off periodically if you reach any areas where the liner becomes difficult to adjust. The vacuum can continue to run as you fill the above ground pool but be sure to keep the hose above water level at all times.
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Purchasing your Above Ground Pool EquipmentAbove Ground Pool Pumps & Filter
Many above ground pool owners tend to think the more horsepower the better. Actually what's best is to get the proper horsepower for your above ground pool. Too much power and the water will be pushed through the filter too quickly for proper sanitation. Also, you will use more energy to run at a higher horsepower. Most manufacturers do not go higher than 1.5 hp for above ground pool pumps because it is unnecessary.
There are three types of above ground pool filters: sand, cartridge, and D.E.
Sand FiltersThe oldest and most common method of filtration is sand. Sand filters use special filter sand, normally .45 to .55 mm (also known as pool-grade #20 silica sand), which you can usually find at home improvement stores like Home Depot. This sand has sharp edges that serve to separate particles, allowing filtration to take place. Sand filters are the least expensive of the three filter types which make them very popular however they only filter particles 20 to 40 microns in size. This means that particles smaller than 20 microns are not filtered by sand. Sand filters definitely provide adequate filtration but the other two types offer better sanitation. For maintenance, sand filters must be backwashed periodically.
Cartridge Filters Cartridge filtration has been available for a relatively long time, and recently has begun to enjoy rapid growth and acceptance. This type of filter holds one or multiple cartridges inside the filter tank. These cartridges are pleated, with a paper-like look and feel. The actual material is usually comprised of polyester fibers. The pleats increase the filtration surface area and you will see cartridge filters rated by square footage. This refers to the total area provided by all of the pleats in the cartridge.
When water passes through a cartridge filter, debris catches on the surface of the cartridge element. When clean, the cartridge will trap larger particles, with finer particles being filtered out as the pores become clogged by the larger debris. Cartridge filters will trap particles 10 to 20 microns in size. The cartridge element can be removed and cleaned by pressure washing inside and out with a garden hose. This easy maintenance is the most popular feature of cartridge filters. The disadvantage is that the replacement of cartridges is more expensive than sand or D.E. Generic versions of the original manufacturers' cartridges are available for many models and will save you some money.
As the cartridge collects particles from the water passing through, the build-up of debris and dirt will cause the flow of water to decrease. In turn, the gauge pressure will rise. When the pressure rises 7-10 psi above the starting pressure, or when flow decreases below desired rate, it is time to clean or replace the filter cartridges. If cleaned regularly, the cartridges should last one to two pool seasons depending on above ground pool usage.
D.E. Filters Many pool professionals consider filtration by diatomaceous earth (also known as D.E.) to be the finest because it is capable of removing smaller particles than either sand or cartridge. D.E. is a powder comprised of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. The individual grains of powder have microscopic openings which look like tiny sponges when magnified. Water can pass through these openings but particles as small as 1 to 3 microns are trapped during the first pass through the media.
All D.E. filters have internal elements called grids that are coated with D.E. powder. It is this "filter cake" that strains dirt, dust, algae and some forms of bacteria from the water. Like sand filters, when a D.E. filter becomes dirty, it is cleaned either by backwashing the clogged D.E. to the "waste" line or regenerating and draining. To restore filtration, a fresh "charge" of D.E. is added to the filter. D.E. powder is fairly inexpensive so the main drawback to this type of filter is the maintenance.We recommend thoroughly cleaning the D.E. grid elements at least once a year. Remove the grids according to the instructions in your owner's manual and hose them off with a forceful stream of water from a garden hose. Fill a large plastic container with warm water and add about a 1/2 cup of automatic dishwasher detergent. Soak the grids in this solution for about 3 - 4 hours. After soaking, rinse off the elements again before replacing them inside the filter.
To wrap it up, sand filters are the most economical option but require periodic backwashing. Cartridge and D.E. filters are more expensive than sand but offer better filtration. Of these two, the cartridge will be the easiest to maintain but more costly when it comes to replacing the cartridges.
Steps & Ladders
There are many ways to make your aquatic entrance, from the humble to the grand. The most basic is an above ground pool ladder. Single-sided or in-pool ladders are for use with an aboveground pool deck. The ladder attaches to the deck and goes into the above ground pool. A-frame ladders are double-sided for above ground pools without decks. If you decide to build a deck later on, a useful product is the A-frame conversion kit which allows you to separate the two halves of a Vinyl Works A-frame ladder. One can then be used to enter the deck from the ground while the other goes from the deck into the above ground pool. An optional ladder pad can be added to place between the ladder and the above ground pool liner. We recommend this foam pad to help prevent chafing and protect the liner.
By far, the most popular design we carry is the Wedding Cake step which has an attractive and unique rounded design. A single handrail helps swimmers to keep their footing. An optional ladder attachment allows the Wedding Cake model to be used for above ground pools without decks. The Royal Entrance step offers two handrails which make some swimmers feel more secure, especially children, the elderly and the disabled. The optional outside ladder attachment is also available for this model.
For increased safety, an outside ladder enclosure is available for both the Wedding Cake and Royal Entrance models. The ladder enclosure is a panel that covers the outside ladder, preventing anyone from being able to climb the ladder while the above ground pool is unsupervised. The enclosure can be locked using a typical padlock. This is an important option to consider for families and neighborhoods with small children.
Another good choice for safety is a gated stair entry system which is essentially a very elaborate A-frame ladder. The outside portion features a gate which will close and latch by itself and can also be locked. Safety and liability are two serious issues to think about when planning your above ground pool and how to get in and out of it. Spend some time considering what will work best for your above ground pool and your family, friends and neighbors.
Above Ground Pool Liners
Overlap and Beaded LinersThe two most common liner types for above ground pools are overlap and beaded. The overlap liner drapes over the above ground pool wall and is clamped to the top of the wall using plastic coping strips. Overlap liners are over-sized to fit different wall heights, typically either 48" or 52", and once installed, the extra material is simply cut off. The beaded liner fits into a bead receiver or channel at the top of the above ground pool wall. These liners are designed for a specific wall height so you must be sure to select the correct size, usually either 48" or 52". Two common brand name above ground pools that use beaded liners are Esther Williams and Johnny Weissmuller. If you need to replace a beaded liner, one thing to consider is the size of the bead on your current liner. The bead size can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and we have encountered customers who ordered a replacement liner only to find the bead size did not match. It is a good idea to plan ahead and allow extra time to send a piece of the bead from your old liner to the retailer so it can be compared to the replacement liner bead.
J-Hook LinersA third style is J-hook (or Unibead) which can be installed in two ways, either using a hook that slips over the top of the above ground pool wall or snapping it into an existing bead receiver. The J-hook is designed to install on either overlap- or beaded-style above ground pools. Overlap style above ground pool owners often like the J-hook option because it gives them more pattern choices and allows them to have a liner with a decorative border around the top.
Expandable LinersThere are some special types of liners for specific above ground pools. Expandable liners are used for above ground pools that have been dug out to have a deep end. This is common with Doughboy brand above ground pools. Expandable liners have a bottom portion which expands up to 72". Some wrinkles are normal with any above ground pool liner installation but should be expected with expandable liners due to the extra material.
On-ground Pool LinersKayak and Fanta Sea brand above ground pools are rectangular on-ground pools which use a specific liner. If you have one of these above ground pools, you will need to look for "on-ground replacement liners" which are often referred to as "Kayak replacement liners" since their name is so well known. There are manufacturers other than Kayak and Fanta Sea that make liners for these on-ground pools. If you are concerned about your above ground pool warranty, it is a good idea to contact the original above ground pool manufacturer regarding installing a generic replacement liner.
Custom Liners A custom-made above ground pool liner might be required if you have an above ground pool that is an unusual size or shape. Over the years, many above ground pool manufacturers have gone out of business leaving their customers scrambling to find a replacement liner which will fit an uncommon size. Although somewhat more expensive, a custom liner is the best way to go in these cases to ensure the liner will properly fit the above ground pool. It could very well cost more money in the end to try forcing the wrong size or shape liner into your above ground pool. Custom quotes can be obtained by filling out the measuring form available at Above Ground Liner Measuring Form
Liner Thickness Above ground pool liners typically are available in two thicknesses, 20 and 25. Some manufacturers call this "gauge" while others use "mil" but these terms are interchangeable. A 20 gauge liner is the same as a 20 mil liner. There are usually more patterns available in the 20 gauge liners because these are less expensive and therefore more popular. The advantage of the 25 gauge liners is the increased strength of the liner along with a longer warranty.
Buying Smart When ordering any liner for above ground pools, it is very important to be aware that most companies cannot take back a liner that has been removed from the original packaging. This is due to the risk of pinholes in the liner caused by resting the liner against any rough surface. Even small particles of dirt rubbing against the liner can cause a tiny hole in the material. Once a liner has been taken out of its packaging, it is no longer resalable. So please be sure you have ordered the correct size, shape, style (overlap, beaded, etc.) and wall height. It is worth a few minutes of your time to measure your above ground pool if you aren't 100% sure of its dimensions. Once you receive your new liner, read the packing slip and the label on the box before opening it. If there is any discrepancy between the liner you ordered and what you received, leave it in the box and contact the retailer immediately .
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Above Ground Pool Fencing & Safety
Above ground pool fencing attaches to the top rail and uprights of the above ground pool. One fence section usually spans the space between two uprights. Some people will surround the entire above ground pool leaving a gap for the ladder or steps or, if there's a deck, install enough fence sections to meet the deck on either side. Above ground pool fencing will help keep unwanted swimmers out as well as keep your above ground pool toys and games in the water.
There are other safety devices available for above ground pools. Above ground pool alarms sense heavy objects (usually over 15 - 18 pounds) that enter the pool water. The sensor attaches to the top rail or wall of the above ground pool. When there is an intrusion, the sensor will trigger an alarm from a household receiver. If you have a gated fence around your above ground pool area, there are also gate alarms which will sound off when the gate is opened by a child. These alarms allow an adult pass-through so that adults can enter the gate without setting off the alarm. Another safety option is the Safety Turtle system that employs a receiver and a wristband. The wristband is worn by young children in the vicinity of the above ground pool. If they fall into the above ground pool, the receiver will sound an alarm.
Maintaining Above Ground PoolsMaintenance Above ground pools maintenance is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of responsibility that comes along with having a body of water in your backyard. But the benefits of cooling off in the summer, watching your kids have a blast and even having a little fun yourself make it all worthwhile. For clean, healthy and of course sparkling above ground pool water, study up on the science of above ground pools maintenance.
Circulation & Filtration The pump and filter form the heart of any above ground pool maintenance program, helping to keep your above ground pool water clear. Pumps provide the force to circulate the water in your above ground pool and push it through the filter. Ideally, you want to turn over all of the water in the above ground pool within an eight hour time period. This means that every drop of water has circulated through the filter within eight hours. The best time to run your pump is during the day, usually for 8 - 12 hours at a time.
Your filter is there to catch and remove both visible debris and microscopic particles. Sand and D.E. filters are cleaned by backwashing when the filter's pressure gauge indicates levels 8 to 10 lbs. above normal (always follow manufacturer instructions). Cartridge filters have a cartridge inside that can be removed and washed using a garden hose. Eventually, the cartridge will need to be replaced to ensure that the filter is working effectively . It is also important that the water circulates around the perimeter of above ground pools. Water in motion makes it harder for bacteria and algae to take hold and also directs more debris to your skimmer where it can be captured by your filter. Adjust the eyeball jets in your inlets to move your above ground pool water in a circular motion.
Cleaning Above Ground Pools All above ground pools have areas with little or no circulation. These areas of minimal circulation are the breeding grounds for problems like algae growth. The walls and floor should be brushed and vacuumed once a week. Even if you use an automatic pool cleaner, brushing once a week is a must. Click here for all of our Swimming Pool Accessories
Testing It is very important to test your water regularly for two key factors: pH and sanitizers. By testing your water at least three times per week you will begin to understand how bather load, weather (rain and sun) and chemical application affect your above ground pool's water. By regularly testing pH and sanitizer levels, you will ensure crystal clear water all season long. Click for our Swimming Pool Test Strips
Balancing the Water It is vital that proper pH is maintained in your above ground pool at all times. If the pH is outside 7.2 to 7.6 it will greatly reduce the effectiveness of above ground pool chemicals. Test your pH level at least three (3) times a week and use either a pH Reducer or pH Increaser to bring the pH into the proper range. If you are finding it difficult to maintain your pH, check your total alkalinity and be sure it is in the ideal range. Adjust total alkalinity levels accordingly.
Sanitizing Chlorine tablets are the most common and efficient sanitizer to use in your above ground pool. These tablets are compressed so that they dissolve slowly and steadily release free chlorine into your water to wipe out bacteria and keep your water clean. Chlorine also comes in sticks and granules. Whichever form you decide to use, you'll want to look for stabilized chlorine which is processed to protect it from the sun's damaging rays, making the chemical last longer and work more effectively . Always keep chlorine in your skimmer, floater, or automatic feeder for continuous sanitizing. Click for our Chlorine
Shock As debris builds up in the water -- such as perspiration, suntan oil, hair spray and unfortunately , urine -- it can cause eye and skin irritation and dull water. Often, chlorine is blamed for irritation and odor when in fact the real culprit is contaminants which tie up chlorine, keeping it from effectively sanitizing the water. When this happens, you should use shock which is basically a concentrated chemical treatment (usually chlorine). Shocking your above ground pool once a week will oxidize contaminants, freeing up the chlorine, and keeping your water crystal clear. Regular shock treatments will also kill resistant algae in the water. There are a variety of different products available including non-chlorine shock and shock designed for hard water areas. Click for our Pool Shock
Algae Control Since algae are visible, it tends to be the above ground pool problem that is most disturbing to above ground pool owners. This is not surprising as no one wants to see black, green or yellow fuzz growing in their above ground pool. In reality, it is not the algae that are harmful but the waste they produce by converting sunlight into food. This waste then feeds bacteria which is the real problem.
Algae spores travel through the air and enter above ground pool water. With just a few hours of sunlight on a warm day, algae can colonize your above ground pool if your chlorine level is too low. The best way to combat algae is to never let them get started. Regularly checking to make sure your chemical levels are adequate and your above ground pool water is balanced is vital. Adding algaecide is another preventative measure which will help prevent all types of algae from getting a foothold in your above ground pool. You can use algaecide weekly to discourage algae growth.
If algae have already taken hold in your above ground pool, there are some basic steps to follow. First, shock your above ground pool and keep your water circulating 24 hours a day if possible. You will be looking to achieve 10 ppm of chlorine. After shocking, you will need to brush and vacuum the entire above ground pool. Follow up with an algaecide designed for your particular algae problem (most common are black, green and mustard algae). Brush and vacuum again and try to repeat this everyday. Check chlorine and add more if it's below 5 ppm. It is also recommended that you regularly clean your filter during this process. Click for our Specialty Products
Closing Above Ground Pools for WinterIn 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 above ground pool until the spring. Properly closing your above ground pool will protect it from debris and harsh winter weather. This will help reduce the time and money needed to open your above ground pool in the spring. You'll also eliminate additional electrical and chemical costs by closing the above ground pool and avoid possible freeze damage to equipment and plumbing. Follow these steps for winterizing your above ground pool:
Step 1 Several days prior to closing the 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 above ground pool from corrosion or scale buildup that can occur while the above ground pool is 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 Your above ground pool needs 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 above ground 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 an above ground pool - 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 above ground 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 winter cover, inflate them with a leaf blower or shop vac. Tie off air pillow in the center of above ground pool; larger above ground pools will require two or more air pillows. The air pillows will shed water toward the edge of above ground pool for easier removal. They also allow forming ice to crack inward preventing damage to the shell or structure of the above ground pool. Step 8 Place winter cover over above ground pool surface, black side down, and secure it with the cable and winch under top ledge of above ground pool. In very windy areas, we recommend using winter cover seal, a tough plastic wrap material which is wrapped around the above ground pool 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.
Opening for Spring and SummerWhen spring returns, so do thoughts of sunbathing and swimming in your above ground pool. That first warm day reminds you of why you purchased that big leaf collector known as an above ground pool. It's time to clear it off and open it up in anticipation of summer fun. Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1 Clear off any leaves and debris from the winter cover and drain off collected water. The easiest way to accomplish this unenviable chore is to use a submersible pump which should remove the bulk of the muck on your cover. You might also need to use your leaf skimmer to drag off any remaining leaves. Once the cover is relatively clear, remove and thoroughly clean it. Make sure it's dry before putting it away for the summer. Any moisture left on the cover while it is in storage will encourage mildew growth so it's a good idea to let it dry completely before folding it up. Once it's dry, you can sprinkle talc powder on it to keep it dry and discourage mold.
Be sure to keep any accessories such as the cover cable and winch, air pillows, cover clips, etc. with the cover so you can find everything you need when it comes time to close the above ground pool again in the winter.
Step 2 At this point, you can clean your liner by scrubbing the waterline and coping. You will also want to remove any debris that has collected on the floor of the above ground pool. Inspect the liner for any noticeable damage, especially at the seam. A liner patch kit can be used for small repairs.
Step 3 Continue by removing any winterizing plugs, skimmer covers or other pool-closing accessories. Reinstall any parts you might have removed such as the skimmer basket and lid, gauges, drain plugs, pump strainer basket, etc. At this point, it is a good idea to lube o-rings and use Teflon tape on the plug threads. Inspect your pump basket and the interior of your filter for any debris or worn/broken parts. If you have a cartridge filter, this would be a good time to check the model number of your cartridge in case you need to replace it.
If all looks good, hook up your pump, filter and hoses to the above ground pool but be sure not to run the pump dry. The pump needs water to function properly otherwise you could burn out the pump motor. If you have a heater, chemical feeder, ladder or any other above ground pool equipment, now would be the time to reinstall these items following the manufacturer's instructions.
Step 4 Begin filling your above ground pool. When the water reaches about halfway to skimmer, follow the manufacturer's instructions for starting your pump, making sure it is primed. Usually, you'll start with the multiport valve on backwash for several minutes and then briefly switch it to rinse. Finally, you'll turn the pump off, switch the valve to filter and turn the pump back on.
Step 5 At this point, water quality is your biggest concern. Everyone wants sparkling blue water and one of the easiest ways to get it is by using a start-up kit which contains concentrated dosages of the chemicals you'll need to jump start your above ground pool. Kits generally include algaecide, clarifier, stain and rust preventative, shock and most important, instructions. These chemicals will help to cleanse your above ground pool of contaminants that have built up over the winter. You will also need to add chlorine for maintenance after the initial start-up. For the first few days, you'll want to check your levels for alkalinity, chlorine and pH everyday to be sure the water is becoming balanced. At first, chlorine levels may be a bit high but should balance out at 1.0 ppm.
If you experience any problems with unbalanced above ground pool water and can't correct them with chemicals, you should take a water sample to be tested by a local pool professional.
Replacing PartsThere will come a time when you'll inevitably need to replace some above ground pool parts. Some of the most common parts to replace on above ground pools are skimmer baskets, filter cartridges, hoses and fittings. If you have no other motivation to be organized, keep all of your above ground pool owner's manuals accessible so that finding parts won't be a nightmare. This means holding onto the manual for every piece of your system - the pump, filter, heater, cleaner, etc., and of course, the above ground pool itself. The owner's manual will usually contain an exploded parts diagram with a list of part numbers and even if it doesn't, it should still note the manufacturer and the model name and number. Don't rely solely on the markings on the equipment because these will wear off with time and exposure to the elements. These seemingly small bits of information will prove to be an enormous help both to you and whoever is trying to find parts for you.
Keep in mind that a number of above ground pool manufacturers have changed hands or gone out of business over the years. This makes it difficult to find parts for many existing above ground pools. It's a good idea to purchase a long-standing brand name above ground pool such as Cantar or Sharkline so that you'll have a better chance of getting warranty support as well as access to replacement parts.
Cool Above Ground Pool Accessories & GamesSummer fun is one of the main reasons you've decided to get an above ground pool so don't forget the toys. Sure, you can go with the classic beach ball but there are many other options for those who like to play hard. Toys and games also offer a chance to have fun and exercise at the same time - and how often does that happen? So consider pool volleyball, basketball, football or all three.
For the explorer in the family, a mask, snorkel, battery-operated tropical fish -- and a little imagination -- can turn your above ground pool into a coral reef adventure. Inflatable toys in all shapes and sizes provide hours of entertainment for younger children. Consider a giant sea-saw, water slide or a spaceship with its own squirt gun. There are inflatables to fit every personality in your above ground pool.
For fitness in the sun, waterproof weights can provide an innovative work-out, building muscle while you cool off in the above ground pool. The natural buoyancy of water makes aquatic exercise low impact which is especially good for those with joint problems or previous injuries.
At the other end of the spectrum is the sunbather who wants to do nothing but lay back and soak in the sun. There are a host of comfortable floats and loungers to choose from, complete with canopies, cushions and the all-important cup holders. So grab your sunscreen and relax.