There are many reasons why people choose above-ground pools. They’re affordable, easy to assemble and ready to use in a few days. What’s not to love? But sadly, most pool owners treat them like inflatable pools and do the bare minimum to keep them clean. After a few days, their new pool turns a nasty shade of green and they abandon it for the local public pool.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. While above-ground pools don’t require as much upkeep as in-ground pools, they still need weekly maintenance. Keep reading to find out how to make your above-ground pool sparkle all summer long.
If someone tells you that an above-ground pool is maintenance-free, don’t believe them! Maintaining an above-ground pool is just like maintaining an in-ground pool. You need a pool pump, pool filter, pool chemicals and an automatic cleaner. The biggest difference is time. Because above-ground pools are smaller, these maintenance tasks don’t take as long. What’s more, many above-ground pools don’t have coping or decking, so they don’t need to be washed or resurfaced, and the depth of the pool is often uniform, making them faster and easier to clean. (Note: Above-ground pools with decking or built-in spas may be more labour-intensive.)
However, because above-ground pools are exposed to the elements, they can tear, crack, rust or fade. This means pool or pool linings may need to be replaced every few years. On the plus side, many premium above-ground pools can last up to 15 years, and unlike in-ground pools, they can be moved to a different location or taken to a new home.
Caring for an above-ground pool takes time and effort, but it’s easier than you think. Here are eight ways to keep your above-ground pool spick and span all year round:
Pools get dirty, so it’s important to run your pool pump every day to circulate water through your filter. Ideally, pool water should be turned over at least once or twice a day. This can take anywhere between 4 and 8 hours, depending on the size of your pool and pool pump. If you’re worried about racking up high energy bills, swap your single-speed pump for a variable-speed pump. Not only does it use significantly less energy, but it can also run at lower speed, reducing noise and allowing for more effective filtration.
To avoid cloudy or green water, test your pool water every week or take a sample to your pool shop. Make sure you check and adjust the chemicals in this order: pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, free chlorine and cyanuric acid. If you’re prone to leaves falling into the pool, throw in a phosphate remover or algaecide as a preventative measure.
Pro Tip: If chlorine levels drop due to heavy use, storms or poor maintenance, shock your pool. This will give your chlorine levels a boost and eliminate any residual bacteria or algae. For instructions on how to shock your pool, see this article. For vinyl and fibreglass surfaces, avoid adding granular chlorine directly to the pool because it could bleach the surface, instead dissolve the chlorine in a clean bucket and pour evenly across the pool away from the skimmer/filter.
Windy days can introduce leaves, seeds and grass clippings into your pool, and while your filter will remove most of these, you’ll still get residue at the bottom of the pool. This can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and algae. To avoid this, skim leaves or debris with a skimmer net and follow this up with a pool cleaner. Choose a manual vacuum if you’re on a budget, or splash out on a robotic pool cleaner if you want speed and energy efficiency.
Another way to keep your pool debris-free is to use a hanging, floating or wall-mounted skimmer. This draws water into the basket and captures debris before it clogs your filter or drops to the bottom of the pool. The basket can be emptied weekly and save you hours of skimming time.
Because above-ground pools have smaller pumps and fewer filters, they can get dirtier than a traditional pool. This means you need to keep an eye on your filter pressure gauge. If the pressure gauge reads 10 PSI above the base reading, it’s time for a clean. For cartridge filters, remove the filter from the casing and rinse it with a hose. For media filters, set the multiport valve to backwash and rinse the sand or glass media. Use a filter cleaner chemical at least once a year to remove grease and oils built up over time. Lastly, don’t forget to check the pump basket for debris that could be slowing down water flow.
Pool covers are an effective way to protect your above-ground pool when it’s not in use. Not only do they reduce water evaporation by up to 95 per cent, but they can also increase your water temperature and keep out environmental debris. For best results, use a solar or thermal pool cover, or if you’ve got a larger pool with decking, install an automatic cover.
Ideally, the water level in your pool should be high enough for your pool pump to draw water from the pool. If it’s too low, water won’t get filtered and your pool pump could burn out. It’s not unusual for water levels to drop as a result of evaporation, heat, splashing, backwashing or vacuuming, so keep an eye on your levels and top them up with a garden hose when necessary.
Above-ground pools can be made from a range of different materials, such as fibreglass, vinyl and concrete. The most common is vinyl, mostly because it’s affordable, easy to clean, and comes in a range of colours and sizes. However, sharp objects or nails can tear the vinyl liner, causing leaks and unsightly shrinking.
To avoid this, inspect your pool regularly for any tears or leaks, and keep a patching kit on hand to fix any problems. Most vinyl patches work underwater, so you won’t have to drain your pool. Vinyl liners can last up to 15 years, but if your liner is old or looking worse for wear, consider getting a replacement.
Just because your pool is small, doesn’t mean it should be emptied in the cooler months. Not only is it expensive and time-consuming to empty and refill your pool water, but it can also compromise the structure of your pool. Instead, close your pool in winter. This involves brushing and cleaning the surfaces, dropping the water level to the minimum filtration level, adding a long life algaecide, using a pool cover, running the pump for a few hours a day and balancing your water chemistry every few weeks. Winterising your pool will protect it from dirt, damage and chemical fluctuations, and make it easy to open the pool in spring. For more instructions on closing your pool for winter, check out this article.
Depending on where you live, you may need council permission to install an above-ground pool. Typically, any pool deeper than 300mm requires a permit. This applies to portable pools and swim spas too. Above-ground swimming pools also require compliant fencing and gates, so check pool fencing requirements for your state or territory.
Some above-ground pools are easier to move or relocate than others. If your pool doesn’t have decking, the process is straightforward. Just drain your pool, carefully disassemble it and then reassemble it in your desired location, making sure the new surface is level (not grass) and there’s access to a power supply. If you’re moving house, the pool will be packed and rebuilt at your new location. If you don’t know how to do this or you’re short on time or you’ve got a big pool, hire a pool relocation company to do this for you.
Above-ground pools are a great way to create a swimming oasis without breaking the bank. But unlike inflatable pools, they aren’t ‘set and forget’. Above-ground pools need just as much care as in-ground pools. This includes running a pool pump daily, keeping your water balanced, using a pool cleaner, rinsing the filter and maintaining the right water level. You can also extend the pool’s life by checking for damage (e.g. torn liners), using a pool cover and winterising your pool. By following these simple rules – and keeping up a weekly pool maintenance schedule – you’ll have an above-ground pool that’s clean, safe and dive-ready all year round.