I think we can finally call it – summer is over. Around here (northern Illinois), fall has already had a couple of false starts this year, but this time it looks like it’s here to stay. So, it must finally be time to close our swimming pool for the season.

our in-ground swimming pool; ready for closing

Closing our pool isn’t difficult, but it does require some planning ahead. We always hire a pool store to do the winterizing (draining as much of the plumbing as possible and pumping anti-freeze in the everything else), but we do the rest ourselves. If we don’t think ahead enough, we wind up doing it all the night before – in the dark (and sometimes in the rain). So, the lesson here – don’t be like us, plan ahead!

Here are the basic steps we take to prepare our pool for closing:

Schedule the pool closing with the pool store. This is just a quick phone call. Around here, the pool stores have different routes/towns they service each day of the week and the days do fill up, so we try to get on the schedule for the week we want maybe 3-4 weeks ahead of time. The trick is to guess when the water temperature will be cold (50s, maybe low 60s), but the air temperature won’t be freezing yet. Closing when things are cold, but not yet freezing) prevents the pool from turning green in the fall. In our case, (with the exception of this year, which was abnormally hot), this is usually right around the first of October.

Buy the closing chemicals and any other needed supplies. We don’t add closing chemicals to the pool until a day or two before the pool store comes to winterize everything, but I like to buy them earlier than that to make sure we have everything we need. Some pool stores sell a kit with all of the chemicals and instructions for when to add what. We have bought that in the past. This year, though, we chose to just add chlorine and algaecide on our own rather than buy a kit.

This year, we are also replacing the springs on our 11 year old safety cover. The cover was still in fine shape, but the springs were stretched out, which caused the cover to sag. We bought these replacement springs off Amazon. They were a pretty low cost option compared to others, so we’ll see how well they work over time.

We replaced the springs for our pool cover this year.
New springs for the pool cover.

Note: We rarely think to do this, but this would also be a good time to get the winter cover out to check it for holes, etc. before putting it on the pool. We’ve had to repair our cover once. We took it to a local awning company and they were able to patch it relatively quickly (you can see the patch in the upper left corner of the photo above). Still, it’s better to find out this is needed *before* it’s time to cover the pool. :)

Add chemicals to the pool 24-48 hours before closing. We start by testing & balancing the pool water. Then we add enough chlorine to shock the pool (2 gallons of liquid for our 21,000 gallon pool) and a closing dose of algaecide (this year, we added a full bottle of this one that we ordered off Amazon).

The new algaecide I ordered from Amazon that we’re trying this year.

Clean the pool well. We sweep and vacuum the pool one more time before we cover it for the winter. We also fish out any leaves or other debris in the bottom. The cleaner the pool is when we close it, the cleaner it will be when we open it.

Pump the pool down. We have a vinyl-lined pool, so we don’t drain it completely during the winter. Instead, we pump the water level down to just an inch or two below the skimmer. We usually do this the night before the pool store comes.

Cover the pool. We have a safety cover for our pool. It’s not difficult to put on, but it is much easier with two people, for sure. There are anchors in the concrete around the pool that we twist up. Then, we put the springs back on the cover (we store it with the springs off) and use a tool that came with the cover to stretch the springs over the anchors. This pulls the cover tight across the pool. We usually do this while the pump is running to lower the water level.

Pumping water out of the pool before closing.
Almost done pumping the pool down.

Note: Our safety cover came with a mesh bag for storage, but our pool store suggested that we use a large trash can instead. It’s worked out great! The cover easily fits inside and we can duct tape the lid on to make sure mice (and other rodents) don’t get into it over the summer. Plus, in the winter, the trash can works to store any pool floats or other bulky items we won’t need while the pool is covered.

Mark the locations of the return jets, deck jets, and skimmer. Once the cover is on, you wouldn’t know where these things are unless you’re familiar with the pool, so we get out some sidewalk chalk and clearly mark them all to make it easier for the crew that does the winterizing. They may or may not laugh when they see this, but I’m certain it makes their job easier!

Return jets, deck jets and skimmer locations are marked with sidewalk chalk.

Set out the winter plugs. The pool store will use winter plugs to cap off the deck jets, return jets, and skimmer. We re-use the same ones every year and just make sure to set these out near the pool pump before they come.

the winter plugs

Pool store completes the winterizing. The pool store finishes their tasks to winterize the equipment. They drain as much water from the pool equipment/plumbing as they can and then pump anti-freeze in the rest. This usually runs a couple hundred dollars for us (including the cost of the anti-freeze) and takes less than an hour. For a little more, they will also insure the closing and cover any work needed in the spring if something froze that wasn’t supposed to over the winter. We usually pay for the insured closing although (knock on wood) we’ve not needed that coverage so far.

Turn off power/gas & pick up the pool area. Once the pool store is done, we flip the breakers to shut off power to the pool equipment and close the valve to shut off gas to the heater. We also remove the “set points” from the mechanical timer that runs the pool pump so that nothing will try to start up if the power accidentally gets turned on before spring.

We also make sure we pick up the skimmer basket & any plugs the closing crew removed from the filter/heater when they drained them..

The pool is covered & closed for the year.

And that’s pretty much it!

Those are the steps we follow every fall to close our pool for the year. It looks like a lot when I write it all out, but it’s not actually that bad.

All covered and closed for the year.

We pretty much always do most of this over the couple of days before the pool store comes to winterize everything, but there’s really no reason why it has to be that way. Once the water/air temperature drops enough that we are ready to shut off the pump for the year, there’s no reason we couldn’t do all of our prep work and just let the pool sit until the closing date.

Who knows – one year we may actually be proactive enough to make that happen! :)

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