Summer is winding to a close.
There are still many hot days left to enjoy the family pool this year. However, as kids return to school, many of you are already considering closing the pool soon. Don’t do it just yet though. One of the comments we hear in passing every year is “I closed the pool too darn early.” The average daytime temperature in September in Cincinnati is almost 80°. And that’s the monthly average. The first few weeks are almost always warmer.
Still, it’s human nature to plan ahead. With this in mind, let’s look at some inspection and maintenance points to consider with your above-ground pool.
The skimmer and return fitting.
Examine the pool wall below these features. If you see water marks or calcium stains, these areas need serviced. The probable cause is a gasket deteriorating and needing replaced. Chlorine is an oxidizer, and after several years of constant exposure, it might eat away at the gasket seal. Plus, if your pool water is below the acceptable pH range (acidic), this can compound the problem. It’s time to replace the gaskets. Eastgate Pools keeps gaskets on-hand for pools we have sold, and they are quite inexpensive. I recommend you also replace the skimmer’s pool-side faceplate. It gets brittle over time and can crack when tightening the screws.
For most do-it-yourselfers, the procedure is simple, although it helps to have a helper. Most pool owners lower the water level below the skimmer and return. With your helper holding the skimmer box outside the pool, enter the pool and remove the screws. Make sure you stand as far from the wall as possible so you don’t pull the liner down. Then simply swap the old gasket and faceplate for new, put the screws back in, and gently snug them down. Do not overly tighten and make sure you use a properly sized screwdriver and be careful it doesn’t slip.
Once complete, add water and return the level to normal, checking for leaks. If there are any, confirm that all screws are tight. A screw that turns just a quarter turn—even less—may cause a skimmer to leak.
If you’ve been fighting liner leaks all summer but seem to be losing the battle, it’s time to change it. It’s easy to put it off until spring, but don’t procrastinate. You do not want a leaky liner over the winter. As the water level drops, your winter cover takes on great strain at the seams and can rip out. More importantly, the stress can damage top rails and even buckle the wall. Furthermore, you don’t want your pool to drain so low that it becomes susceptible to winter storms. Remember that water pressure helps hold your pool up.
There are helpful videos on how to change a liner, but we offer printed directions that are easy to follow. They provide step-by-step guidance. And when you are in the pool, they are easier to refer to than a video.
Pay special attention to the directions to wipe down the inside of the wall. You’ll undoubtedly need to touch up the sand base, even if just a bit. Any sand that is stuck to the wall must be removed. When the liner presses against the wall, that grain of sand doesn’t give. Vacuum heads and swimmers will rub against the trapped sand and will poke tiny holes in the liner.
It’s not really maintenance. Call it forced pest control. Wasps love building their nests under top rails. Before removing rails to change liners, see if any are present. I’m not a fan of killing wasps as they are valuable pollinators. However, I’m also not a fan of getting stung, and if you are allergic to their venom, be doubly careful. Another time to check for nests is before you put on the winter cover. You’ll be stringing the cable under the rail. If you spray wasp killer on the nests, make sure to hose the metal down when finished. You can also try hosing the nests away, but this might just rile the little beasts. If you do try this, don’t use a pressure washer as it can damage the metal’s finish.
Speaking of winter covers…
Over the past 40-plus years we’ve heard lots of stories about winterization errors. The most common? “I thought I could get one more year out of the winter cover. I was wrong.”
Simply stated, if in doubt, get a new winter cover. A winter cover is subjected to high winds, ice storms, snow, wind-borne debris, and even small branches. It takes more abuse than the pool itself. Come springtime, you don’t want to be forced to deal with the mess of a failed winter cover. You’ll spend more straightening up the water than on the cover itself. And the aggravation, time, and effort?
Get the new cover.
Do you live in an area where your supply water has high calcium content? If so, I recommend changing the sand every year or two. Over time, sand traps calcium inside the tank. Calcium can even block up the drain plug’s internal strainer. While it looks like the filter drained, there may still be water inside the tank. If enough accumulates, it can crack the tank when it freezes. Sand is cheap. Filter tanks…not so much.
Pools are like cars. Both require occasional maintenance. Just as you must change tires on cars, you eventually need to change liners on pools. Change your car’s oil when it gets dirty and change your filter’s sand when necessary. Wiper blades wear out. So do skimmer gaskets. In short, attention to detail and a little TLC will add years to the lifespan of your car and your pool.