The Ultimate Guide to Inground Swimming Pool Maintenance
When I was a kid, I hated my mom’s chore charts. I vowed, with the seriousness of any 8-year-old, that if I had children, I would never make them do that.
I now make chore charts for myself. Moms really do know everything.
As you plan out the swim season, it may help to make a pool chore chart for your family—or at least to mentally review what you'll need to do.
At River Pools, we specialize in manufacturing and installing fiberglass pools, but we're still familiar with vinyl liner and concrete pools. They have a place in the market! We want to provide understandable, accurate information for all three pool types, including an overview of your pool to-do list:
- Opening and closing your pool
- Maintaining your pool’s water level
- Running your pool’s pump/filter system
- Cleaning out debris
- Balancing the water chemistry
- Brushing your pool
- Getting rid of algae
- Replacing your pool’s vinyl liner
- Resurfacing your concrete pool
With only two exceptions (resurfacing and liner replacements), all these maintenance tasks apply to every pool.
So no matter what type of pool you have (or want to have), this to-do list will work for you. Don't you love when things are easy like that?
Opening and closing your pool
As a general rule, you should open your pool for the season when the temperature is consistently above 70°F (21°C) during the day. This helps prevent algae and pollen from building up in the warm weather.
- Remove the pool cover.
- Hook up the filter/plumbing system.
- Turn the filter system on.
- Clean/vacuum the pool.
- Add chemicals to balance the water chemistry.
Then you can swim to your heart’s content! Or, alternatively, let the kids swim to their heart’s content while you “rest your eyes” on a chaise lounge on the tanning ledge. You’re living the dream either way.
On the flip side of the coin, you should close your pool before the temperatures fall under 30°F (-1°C) at night.
How to close your swimming pool:
- Clean and balance the pool.
- Vacuum any debris off the pool bottom.
- Allow pool chemicals to filter for 24 hours.
- Follow your installer's directions for lowering the water level (never for fiberglass).
- Remove all plugs and water from the pump and filter system, including any heating elements like a heat pump.
- Blow out and plug all the plumbing lines.
- Remove any ladders or handrails.
- Put the cover on the pool. For solid vinyl or tarp covers, place a pump in the center of the cover to pump off any rainwater.
It’s sad to say goodbye, but remember—a thorough, correct closing will make the springtime opening infinitely easier and more satisfying.
Maintaining your pool’s water level
During pool season, monitor your pool's water level by seeing where it is on the opening of your skimmer. Keep it between the mid-point and within one inch of the top of the skimmer opening.
< And commit this rule to memory: don’t drain your pool.
The only real reason to drain a fiberglass pool is for a major repair, which basically never happens. But if you feel you do need to drain your pool, never do that by yourself! Always talk to a professional first—A) to get their opinion on whether draining the pool is truly necessary, and B) if so, to have them brace, drain, and repair it.
Good news, though: we go to great lengths on our end to ensure you don't have issues with your fiberglass pool.
First, we manufacture our pool shells using our unique methodology called Cross-Lynx Composite Technology to ensure your pool will stand the test of time.
Second, we install your pool using our revolutionary series of construction best practices—hich, by the way, is used by all authorized River Pools dealers across the country.
Running your pool’s pump/filter system
To calculate how long you'll need to run your pool pump, you need some other numbers first.
(You should already know how much water your pool holds overall.)
How much water does your pump filter in a set time period? That speed is your flow rate, measured in gallons per hour.
Types of pool pumps:
- One-speed (it has a single flow rate and that’s it)
- Two-speed (you can flip back and forth between two set options)
- Variable-speed (you can change the flow rate to conserve energy)
How long does it take for the pump/filter systems to cycle all of the water in the pool once? That’s the turnover rate, measured in hours.
Divide your pool’s water (gallons) by your pump’s flow rate (gallons per hour) to get the total time needed (hours).
For most pools, the turnover rate will be between 4 and 7 hours. Keep in mind that a concrete pool will often need 2 full turnovers to maintain clear, clean water. You’ll want to budget that extra cost for your electricity.
Cleaning out debris
Cleaning up surface debris like leaves and bugs is pretty simple stuff. You or a young relative with too much energy can just grab the telescopic pole and skimmer net out of the pool shed and go to town.
For more serious solids, an automatic vacuum robot will take care of you. Just make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions so it stays in good condition, and talk nicely to it so it feels appreciated.
You may also use pool clarifiers or flocculants to clear out small particles that the skimmer or vacuum can't catch. These chemicals make those itsy-bitsy particles clump together, forming bigger lumps that you can scoop or vacuum out of the water.
Balancing the water chemistry
Chlorine isn't the only thing your pool needs to stay clean and clear.
You’ll keep track of 5 main aspects of your water chemistry to ensure they stay within these ranges:
- Total alkalinity: 80–120 ppm
- pH: 7.2–7.8
- Calcium hardness: 100–300 ppm fiberglass / 200-400 for vinyl and concrete
- Stabilizer (cyanuric acid): 20–50 ppm
- Chlorine: 2.0–3.0 ppm
They all affect each other, so follow that specific order when you test and modify the water. It’ll save you a headache.
Brushing your pool
Brush your pool once a week. Not difficult or time-consuming, but important. It’s especially critical for concrete pools, which are the perfect breeding ground for algae.
A pool brush looks like a broom head; you attach it to your telescopic pole (like what you use for a skimmer). If you hire a professional pool cleaning service, they will handle this for you.
For a concrete pool, use a stainless steel brush to get into all the little crevices and attain maximum cleanliness.
For a fiberglass or vinyl liner pool, use a nylon (or otherwise soft) pool brush to clean off grime or dirt. Sharp or heavy-duty tools could damage the pool.
Getting rid of algae
Algae usually grows when chlorine is low and pH is high or low.
You may find algae floating in the water or clinging to the sides and bottom of the pool.
Reoccurring algae is most common in concrete pools because they're so porous. Vinyl liner pools may get it in the seams or areas where the liner seals to the plastic stairs. Fiberglass pools will rarely, if ever, have algae if properly maintained.
Kill algae using the SLAM method—Shock, Level, And Maintain.
- Verify your water chemistry is within the ideal range.
- Add chlorine (and stabilizer if necessary) until it's at the proper level.
- Shock/superchlorinate the pool at dusk.
- Add algaecide, if you like.
- Brush the entire pool surface with a pool brush.
- Frequently clean the filters.
- Run the pump on high speed nonstop until the water clears.
Replacing your pool’s vinyl liner
On average, vinyl liner pools need to have the liner replaced every 5–9 years. Although you could do this yourself, we recommend you hire a professional, especially if you haven’t replaced a liner before.
How to replace a vinyl liner:
- Drain the pool.
- Remove the old liner.
- Inspect the walls, liner track, and floors for any necessary repairs.
- Spread the liner over the pool and lock the liner bead into the track.
- Use a vacuum to suck the air out from behind the liner.
- Fill the pool with water.
- When the water reaches the steps, seal the liner under the steps.
- Replace the wall plates and gaskets on the returns, skimmers, and lights.
The line replacement usually costs around $4,000–$4,500. Each time. Ouch.
One advantage of fiberglass pools is that there’s no liner to replace—no worry about leaks or punctures, no extra maintenance cost, no lost swim time.
Resurfacing your concrete pool
A concrete pool will need to be acid washed every 3–5 years, at $450 each time, to keep the interior finish from fading and to stave off algae.
Sadly, it’ll still need to be resurfaced/refinished every 10–15 years, which costs around $10,000 each time.
Multiple factors influence the cost to resurface a concrete pool:
- Condition of the pool
- Area of the country
- New surface finish
- Size of the pool
- Type of interior finish
- Type of waterline tile
Epoxy paint (the DIY option) rarely turns out well for anyone, so you really should hire a professional and use plaster, exposed aggregate, or tile for your pool’s interior finish.
If manufactured well and maintained properly, a fiberglass pool’s gelcoat should never need to be refinished. Our unique manufacturing methodology, Cross-Lynx Composite Technology, fuses each layer of the pool shell together for maximum strength and durability.
Pool maintenance summary
Like a house or car, your pool needs regular maintenance to look and function its best. If you keep up with it, it’ll be easy-breezy. And if you have a fiberglass pool, the work is even less intense and less frequent.
We want to help you, and we provide all the information so you can make the best decision for you and your family. You can look over the basics of fiberglass pools if you aren’t familiar with them and compare all three pool types.
Located near Richmond, River Pools manufactures fiberglass pools for distribution throughout North America. If you would like to find a dealer, or if you live in Virginia or Maryland and would like to talk to us about installing your pool, get in touch with us!
Editor's note: This blog article was updated on January 7, 2019.