How to Winterize an Above Ground Pool

The dreaded end-of-summer chore list is upon you. In addition to blowing out those sprinkler lines, moving that patio furniture indoors, and preparing for the leaf storm that is about to blow over, the pool needs to be closed. When opening day comes around, everyone is eager and excited, even willing to help. Unfortunately, the same does not apply for closing.

The good news is that since you are dealing with an above ground pool and not an inground pool, your closing process is quite simple. We have broken this down into 10 easy steps to get this done without claiming your entire weekend.

Before taking on any project like this, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a decent handle on how your pool works and what it needs to survive through a winter. If you don’t touch your pool chemicals or filter system and the weekly pool service handles everything for you, don’t attempt a closing. Let the pros handle it.

What is the Best Way to Winterize an Above Ground Pool?

Chemical Check

Step 1: Chemical Check

Now is the time to make sure the water in your pool is perfect. If you have algae issues or clarity problems with the water, do not think closing it and hoping for the best will work. You will leave yourself with a mess come springtime. If you need some basic guidelines on what the pool chemicals should be looking like, we can help with that.

  • Make sure the pH is between 7.2 and 7.8
  • Next, check the chlorine level (before shocking) and make sure it is between 2-3 ppm
  • Lastly, make sure the alkalinity is between 80-120 ppm

When you feel like your chemicals are spot-on, move to Step 2.

Step 2: Cleaning

This is the time to do a pool super-clean. In addition to scrubbing and brushing down all the walls in the pool, there are a few more steps.

Make sure to clean the ladder, any rails, or uprights as well. Spend some time cleaning the skimmer as well. Pay close attention to any black spots that may have developed and don’t forget to treat and clean those.

When cleaning, pay close attention to any buildup or spotting on the liner of the pool. Spend some time brushing and treating these spots. Something small left untreated during winter could lead to stains.

We like to complete this process a little bit before the pool gets too cold to swim. Getting in the pool and checking everything over before closing is highly recommended. When it’s too cold to get in, you have to use an extended brush; it’s useful but not quite to the level we recommend.

Pool Filter Clean

Step 3: Pool Filter Clean

Now that your pool and skimmer are perfect, it’s time to focus on the filter. It’s always best to check the manual on your filter when doing a clean, but generally speaking for diatomaceous earth (DE) or sand filters, you will need to backwash the pool. For a cartridge filter, pull the cartridge out and soak it in a cleaning solution.

This process should be something you complete several times throughout the summer. Nothing revolutionary with the closing clean on the pool filter, just make sure it gets done.

Step 4: Winter Chemical Kit

Years ago, customers would have to go around and gather all sorts of chemicals that they would need for the winter. They would potentially have to drive their car from one pool store to another to collect everything they need. Today the thought of this is almost incomprehensible.

The process now requires about three clicks and a day or two of waiting. All the chemicals will come in a box with simple and easy directions to follow. Although there are a few winter chemical pool closing kits, we recommend trying one of these.

When ordering a winter chemical kit, just make sure you pay attention to your pool size and the size the package is intended for. The last thing you want is to add half the chemicals that you need to your pool and then close it for the winter.

Generally, the pool chemical kits will contain a non-chlorine shock, water clarifier, and some anti-stain fighting chemicals. Although you can gather these chemicals individually, the packages save money and make this process much easier for you.

In addition to the Winter Chemical Kit, it can be worth looking into a WinterPill. This is a floating ball of chemicals that will release throughout the winter. One of the problems that pool owners run into is dumping a bunch of chemicals in their pool and then closing it down. How do these chemicals circulate? Don’t they need some sunlight to burn off properly? Yes and yes.

Don’t make this mistake. Between the Winter Chemical Kit and the WinterPill, you can take the guesswork out of this process, and we highly recommend doing that.

Lower the Water Level

Step 5: Lower the Water Level

This is a crucial step. When the filter is disconnected, and the cover is on, you will have no easy way to get the water out of the pool. Do not skip this step!

Check your pool manufacturer’s recommendations before lowering the water level in your pool.

The majority of pools will suggest that the water level stay about two inches below the return jets. We always found it most comfortable just to let the backwash run for quite some time and lower the level in this way. Just be sure you have a good area of your yard to release the water. It seems simple, but you would be surprised how many people create secondary problems for themselves by draining the water in the wrong spot.

Step 6: Filter and Pump Winterization

As we mentioned with several of our steps, it is best to follow the guidelines issued by the manufacturer of your pool equipment. Some things that will need to happen universally are removing all of the skimmer equipment, draining all lines, and covering the equipment to protect it from the elements.

There should be a place to insert a plug into your skimmer, and that should be done as well. If your pool filter is too large to move indoors for the winter, make sure to invest in a winter cover that is breathable but will protect the filter as well. If a filter is put in an airtight cover for the winter, condensation can build up and cause mold, or even worse, it could cause a part to crack.

Make sure the filter is empty and dry before covering it.

Step 7: Accessories

Now is the time to remove everything from your pool that does not need to be in for the winter. Hopefully, by now, all the floats and pool toys are out, but now would be the time to remove the ladder. When storing the ladder for the winter, it is best to wash and dry it before putting it away.

Air Pillow

Step 8: Air Pillow

An Air Pillow can be useful for several reasons. First and foremost, it is used to help combat the pressure of pool water freezing and causing a tremendous amount of damaging (or potentially ruining) your pool. The air pillow protects the sides of your pool from this immense pressure, especially when ice or snow are piling on the pool cover.

Although the Air Pillow cannot prevent ice and water from accumulating on the pool cover, it will help to distribute this weight evenly. When you read the recommendations from the manufacturers on the air pillow, you will see that they recommend only inflating it to about 80 percent.

If you inflate the air pillow the entire way, it could cause it to pop when the ice starts to develop.

Step 9: Cover the Pool

We know, you thought this step would never come. Why can’t it be as simple as throwing a tarp on the thing and call it a day? Unfortunately, it’s just not, but the good news is that you are almost done.

Now is the time to install your cover. If you have a deck, make sure to use water bags on your deck to keep the cover secure and in place. If you try and use the old brick and concrete block method, you may end up with a tear in your cover or, even worse, a concrete block in your pool. Water bags are the best way to handle this.

If you don’t have a deck around your pool, you can simply use a Winterizing Cover Wrap that works almost like a shrink wrap around the top edge of your pool. This will help to make sure the edges stay sealed and keep dirt and extreme weather out of the pool.

Step 10: Maintenance

Oh, you thought you were done? Don’t worry, you’re almost there. Just keep an eye on the pool throughout the winter. If you get hit with a massive snowstorm or some substantial rain check to make sure the cover is not under any stress.

Sometimes, you may need to buy a small water pump to help you get some of the water off the cover. These are relatively easy to use, and although all the steps you took should help to keep water off, sometimes it is unavoidable.


Have you ever been jealous of those people with the big inground pool? Today is the day they are jealous of you. Trust us. Winterizing an above ground pool and winterizing an inground pool are two different animals. Today is the day to be glad your pool is what it is.

If you follow our 10 steps to winterizing an above ground pool, not only will you protect your pool from the winter months, but you will guarantee yourself a much smoother opening. Nothing will make you happier you took the time to follow this guide than pulling the cover off and having the pool look ready to jump in.