How to Winterize an Above Ground Pool

covered above ground pool with snow
  • 3+
  • Intermediate
  • 30+
What You'll Need
Pool chemicals
Pool pillow
What You'll Need
Pool chemicals
Pool pillow

Winter is coming….for your pool. An above-ground pool is a perfect pastime in the warm months. If you want to enjoy your pool in the spring and summer, though, you need to make sure that you properly maintain it throughout the year.

Above-ground pools require special care and maintenance, especially to prepare them for winter.

If you have an above-ground pool, here are some things you need to know.

Should an Above-Ground Pool be Drained for the Winter?

Should you drain your above-ground pool before winter? The answer depends on a few factors.

Firstly, some inexpensive above-ground pools are made to be drained and packed away for the winter. If you own a pool like this, then yes, drain it before the winter.

These above-ground pools are made specifically to be set up for short periods of time throughout the summer, drained, and put away.

If you are unsure of whether or not your pool is made to be drained and put away in the winter, chances are your pool is not this type of pool. Generally, these pools are heavily marketed as easy to set up and take down and store during the winter.

If you have a typical above-ground pool that is not made to be taken down and stored during cold months, then do not bring your pool for the winter.

There are a few reasons why you should not be draining your above-ground pool before the temperature drops.

Why Should I Not Drain My Pool Before Winter?

There are steps that you will take to prepare your pool for winter that do not involve draining the water out of the pool.

You don't need to drain the water out of the pool because it's not necessary for the pool to be empty during the winter to be safe and protected from the elements.

Your above-ground pool was manufactured with winter and cold months in mind, so unless you are pool instructions specifically state otherwise, you can leave water in your pool throughout the winter.

If you wish, you can certainly lower your water levels before temperatures drop, leaving less water in your pool overall, but don't empty your pool.

How to Winterize Your Above-Ground Pool

above ground pool covered in snow

When you are ready to winterize your pool, you're going to want to start by gathering up all of your pool chemicals.

Once you have your chemicals ready to add to your pool, you're going to want to do a thorough cleaning.

To make this end-of-year deep clean easier, make sure to take time to clean your pool well throughout the summer months.

Start by thoroughly brushing down the walls of your pool, and paying attention to both the interior and exterior walls of the pool. Once the walls are clean, move on to vacuuming.

Take your time vacuuming the entire pool, and then clean the surface. You want to start your winterizing process with a clean pool because it will save you time and money in the long run.

If you regularly winterize your pool, you may know the chemical balance that your water needs to have to fare well during the freezing months, but if this is your first time winterizing a pool, pay attention.

The way you prepare your pool will vary depending on the area of the country that you live in. Your pool water may just be a little too cold to swim in, and never freeze.

But in some parts of the country, the pool water freezes completely across the top, down the sides, and across the bottom. So depending on where you live, you may need to tweak the chemical makeup of the water before it freezes for the winter.

Before you add any chemicals to your pool water, though, start by testing your pool water. Whether you're using test strips or a kit, make sure to collect the basic balance numbers.

If, for any reason, you are unable to collect and sample your pool water on your own, you will likely be able to take a sample of your water to a local pool store, or they can test it for you.

Then before you get fancy and add anything else to your pool, balance your chemicals like normal. This creates the perfect baseline for adding winter pool chemicals.

To complete the water balancing process, use a closing kit. A closing kit is a special kit used to balance the chemicals in your pool and stabilize the water for winter.

There are a variety of closing kits available on the market, so it's very important that you read the instructions closely when you are using a kit.

We've seen people make major mistakes by using last year's instructions on this year's kit, and pool mistakes can be pretty costly.

Once the kit has been added to the pool, check all of your numbers one more time, and then you're ready to shock the pool.

As funny as the phrase sounds, shocking the pool is a way to thoroughly sanitized the water and make sure that it's in great shape before winter comes.

Read the directions on your winter shock packet, or learn how to use you're normal pool shock for winter applications.

If you're using normal pool shock, it's more of a DIY experience, and you may need to make the winterizing pool process a multi-day event.

Once your chemicals are balanced, and your pool has been thoroughly shocked, you've done the basic necessities to make sure that your pool is ready for colder weather.

If you live in a climate where your pool is not going to freeze completely in the winter, we recommend adding winter algaecide.

Nobody wants icky green stuff growing throughout their pool in the winter that you have to clean out in the warm months, and an algaecide can help control what goes on in your pool during the winter.

If you suspect that you'll have several winter days above freezing, an algaecide is almost essential.

pool in winter

Pack It Up

Even if you're not packing up your pool, there are elements of your pool that you want to bring inside for the winter. It's the safest place for them, even in a mild climate.

We recommend bringing your pump inside after you have drained it and detached all of the hoses.

We also highly recommend bringing your filter inside for the winter.

While you're packing up it's a good time to evaluate the state of all of your pool accessories and supplies. If your filter looks like it might not last another year, make a note so that you're not surprised come summer.

We also recommend bringing in all of your other pool items, including pool toys and cleaning supplies, and giving those a good scrub down and a happy home for the winter, as well.

Organization is essential at this step in the process. Prepping the pool for winter can be really time-consuming, and it can be tempting to throw everything in a pile in the garage.

But come summer, you're going to want everything in one place and in great condition.

We recommend investing in a simple storage bin that seals well so that everything can be kept nice and safe and in one place throughout the whole winter.

That way, when it's time to set up the pool again, the process is faster and easier.

You don't necessarily need a bin that's airtight, just something that's going to keep everything organized well.

Plus, being a little bit organized at this stage in the process saves you money in the long run because you're not running out to buy new accessories because you lost something last winter.

Preparing Pool Lines For Winter

Now that your pool is prepped, you need to pay attention to the other elements of your pool that need to winterize, particularly the lines.

When temperatures drop and water freezes, it expands. Expanding water can lead to cracked pipes and broken pool lines.

If you know winter is approaching, you're going to want to clear your lines well before freezing hits. Start by disconnecting the pool lines from the pool and draining them.

You're going to want a few warm-ish days and a little sunshine to help these pool lines dry effectively. While it's unlikely that anything would happen, leaving even a little water in the lines is not a good idea.

Place them someplace warm and dry, but not directly in the sun because they could warp or sustain sun damage.

If you can, clean out the lines and get them ready for next summer by storing them somewhere cool and dry. Sometimes people will find mold in their lines when they use them after winter.

If you store your line correctly and let it dry all the way, you should be able to avoid growing any unwelcome mold in your pool line.

While you're taking care of your pool line, we also recommend that you remove your pool skimmer if you have an automatic one, and store that inside for the winter.

If your winter will be fairly mild, you can opt to simply cover your skimmer with something that protects it from the elements. Not covering your skimmer is not a great idea, though.

Do You Need A Pool Pillow?

We recommend using a pool pillow even if you don't think there will be many days below freezing.

A pool pillow is an ice compensator that helps with the pressure of ice and snow on top of your pool cover. It also protects the physical structure of the inside of your pool as well.

If you've never used a pool pillow before, we have an Insider tip for you. Don't fill the pool pillow all the way. Only fill it up a little over halfway.

After your pillow has been inflated to a little bit over halfway, place it in the middle of the pool and do your best to secure it with ropes so that it stays in the middle of the pool.

You can purchase special pool accessories that will help your pool pillow stay in the middle of the pool automatically, but you can also do it the DIY way with a little bit of Ingenuity and rope.

Periodically check on your pool pillow throughout the winter to make sure that it's roughly in the center of your pool for optimal results, especially if you live in an area with lots of snow and freezing temperatures.

Winter Pool Cover

above ground pool with cover in snow

The last step to making sure that your pool is nice and ready for winter is installing your pool cover over your pool pillow.

Before you put your liner over the pool, check for any damage from the previous year. Rips and tears in the pool cover will damage the integrity of the cover and, thus, the entirety of your winterized pool.

It's very important that you thoroughly secure the pool cover with the appropriate cables or cover clips. You don't ever want to use something like a brick to secure your cover.

Using the appropriate pool securing method will protect the cover and help prevent tearing and rips throughout the winter, while something like a brick is likely to puncture the pool cover when snow lands on top.

When to Winterize Your Pool

Wondering when to winterize your above-ground pool? Let the weather be your guide.

Once the weather in your area consistently drops below mid-60s it's a good time to begin winterizing your pool.

But you don't have to wait until it gets that cool. If you're done using your pool for the summer, take advantage of the warm weather at the end of August or early September.

Winterizing the pool is a time-consuming event, so make sure to plan ahead and give yourself time. Don't let the weather catch you off-guard.

Once the pool has been thoroughly winterized, you're going to want to check on it throughout the winter. You don't need to be out there every day, but at least once or twice a month, check on the pool.

If a problem does arise with your pool cover or the pool in general, the faster you catch it, the better.