Above-ground pools have been a popular pool option for a long time. They are easy to install and care for but can be tricky when draining in winter. Winterizing above-ground pools isn’t difficult and doesn’t require much time or money. It’s just that if you don’t do it right, your pool could be damaged by freezing temperatures.
To minimize the risk of damage, you should drain your pool as much as possible – but how far should you go? In this article, we’ll go over some of the important considerations you should make when preparing your pool for winter.
Table of Contents
- Do You Have to Drain Your Above Ground Pool for Winter?
- How Far to Drain Above Ground Pool for Winter?
- What is a Skimmer Guard, and Do I Need One?
- How Do You Drain an Above Ground Pool?
- What Are Pool Pillows & Why Are They So Important for Above Ground Pools During Winter?
Do You Have to Drain Your Above Ground Pool for Winter?
If you’re thinking about how far to drain above ground pool for winter, the first question you probably have is whether or not it’s necessary. After all, draining your pool takes time and money, and there are many other things you could be doing with both of those resources.
The main reason for draining pools is because they can get damaged if not drained enough, and the water freezes and expands, which could end up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs after the damage has been done.
If your area has mild winters and doesn’t get much below freezing, you likely won’t have any problems leaving your above-ground pool up year-round. However, if you live in a colder climate or where temperatures get below freezing for extended periods each year, draining part of your pool may be necessary for its survival through winter.
How Far to Drain Above Ground Pool for Winter?
The answer is that it depends on the type of pool you have. There are two primary types of above-ground pools: steel and fiberglass. Steel above-ground pools usually require more water removal because they are not as strong as fiberglass pools.
Although pool manufacturers can state different numbers, aiming for 15-20 inches below the skimmer is best for most above ground pool types. That will help prevent frost damage during winter and give you enough room to add water when it warms up again in the springtime.
What is a Skimmer Guard, and Do I Need One?
A skimmer guard is a plastic or metal device that fits over your skimmer opening to prevent leaves, bugs, and other debris from entering. Some are permanently attached to your pool, and others are removable, but either way, they’re designed to keep your pump from getting clogged up.
Skimmer guards can be helpful if you live in an area where leaves fall into your pool or if you have kids who like to throw things into it. But they also have their drawbacks.
You can also buy skimmer guards that completely block your skimmer during the winter to prevent water from getting in your pipes and causing damages.
How Do You Drain an Above Ground Pool?
Draining your above-ground pool in preparation for winter is pretty straightforward. The following steps will help you get started:
Step 1: Turn Off Pump
Turn off the pump and remove the filter cartridge. Suppose your pool has a waterfall; it’s best to disconnect it from its plumbing and store it separately.
Step 2: Remove Chemicals
Remove any chemicals from the skimmer basket and put them in a safe place for reuse next summer.
Step 3: Remove Skimmer Cover
Remove the skimmer cover, if applicable, and any other debris that may have accumulated on top of the skimmer basket.
Step 4: Cover Filter Area With Tarp
Cover the filter area with a tarp or other protective material to prevent debris from falling into it as you drain your pool.
Step 5: Drain Water Below Skimmer
Finally, drain the water from your pool’s main basin until it’s 15-20 inches below the skimmer level. The draining time will depend on how far down your pump pulls water from your pool’s bottom during regular operation, but you should be done in a few hours or close.
First, you need to know that pool pillows are essential to winterizing your above-ground pool. They’re also called ice compensators, and they work by creating extra space to accommodate the expanding ice so your pool walls don’t crack or fail during winter.
The best way to think about them is like an extra expansion space for your pool. If you put a bottle of wine in your freezer, it would crack once the entire content freezes over, right?
Well, when winterizing your above-ground pool, the same thing can happen if there isn’t enough room for the water (now ice) to expand and contract as it freezes and thaws throughout winter.
Alternative Pool Pillow Options?
There are many options available if you’re looking for an alternative to pool pillows. However, they all have their pros and cons.
2L pop bottles are excellent substitutes for a pool pillow. Simply ensure they are empty, remove some air, add a top, and have an inflatable pillow to keep your pool water warm in winter.
Apart from pop bottles, you can also use other items like tire tubes or plastic toys to save money on buying expensive pool pillows.
Can You Drain All the Water from Your Above-ground Pool?
The short answer is no. It’s important to leave at least 1-2 inches of water in your above-ground pool for winter storage. Draining all of the water from an above-ground pool is not ideal because there will be dirt and debris left behind in the bottom of the pool after winterizing.
The debris can cause problems when opening up your pool in the spring because you’ll have to clean out all that dirt before filling it with water. And if you have a top-side pump and filter system, it won’t work properly if no water pressure pushes through it.
What Does it Mean to Winterize an Above Ground Pool?
Winterizing your above-ground pool is a crucial step in protecting your pool during the winter months. It involves preparing your pool for the cold season by draining it down to a certain level and putting up a cover so that no leaves or debris can get into the water when temperatures drop below freezing.
This practice ensures that everything will be ready for use when spring comes around again, and it’s time for you to take off the cover and put on some swimsuits.
Winterizing your above-ground pool is a pretty simple process. The first step is adding some chemicals to help keep it clean and safe during the winter.
You will want to use a pool closing chemical kit to prepare your pool properly for winter. These kits — like the In The Swim Pool Winterizing and Closing Chemical Kit — contain all the necessary chemicals and are often cheaper than buying them separately.
The best part about using a winterizing kit is that you don’t have to worry about what kind of chemical goes into your pool—the kit will handle everything for you. They also come with instructions on how much of each chemical they need, so all you have to do is follow them step-by-step.
Make Sure You Clear Your Lines!
When you drain your pool for winter, it’s important to remember to clear your lines as they can freeze and cause damage. If your pool has a skimmer, brush it off and remove any debris from the line.
Remove any leaves or other debris from the filter basket and clean out the backwash valve if there is one. If you have a suction-side cleaner or “sand” filter, use a garden hose with a suitable nozzle to wash out the sand in the filter. If you have an automatic cleaner, check it for wear and replace worn parts before winterizing.
Smaller Above Ground Pools Should Be Stored Away in the Winter
If your above-ground pool is smaller than 20 by 40 feet, you should take it apart and store it away in the winter. This recommendation applies to plastic assembled pools and is not really necessary if you have a metal framed pool instead.
The reason is that smaller pools are less durable than larger ones, and if left outside for long periods, they are more likely to be damaged by wind, rain, and cold temperatures.
When storing your pool, take apart all the parts you can and store them in a dry place out of direct sunlight. You can also use a large tarp to cover the pool if you need to keep it outside during winter instead.
All in all, draining your pool is a fairly straightforward affair — as is figuring out how far to drain above-ground pools for winter. Of course, ensuring you have the right parts for correctly winterizing your pool will make the process go by even more quickly and easily, but in general, this should be completed once every fall to winter.
Follow the steps we’ve outlined above, and your above-ground pool should serve you for many years to come.
Read our related pool articles:
- How Far to Drain Inground Pool for Winter?
- How Long Can You Leave Your Concrete Pool Empty?
- Filling a Pool with a Water Truck (All You Need to Know)
- 10 Best Poolside Chairs
- Why Are Backyard Pools Screened in Florida?
- 9 Ways to Keep Neighbors from Using Your Pool
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.