You’ve enjoyed your backyard oasis all summer long—but with the end of the swimming season a mere breaststroke away, what should you do be doing to make sure that pool is just as perfect next spring?

“Right now, it is important to keep the pool water quality good,” advises Liquid Assets owner John Jacobsen. Even if you aren’t using the pool as much now as you were last month, he says it is vital important to keep the pH balance in line.

Take a look around. Does anything need to be fixed? Jamie O’Brien, president and CEO of O’Brien Swimming Pool Services, says its time to schedule repairs or renovation. “If you do it in the end of summer or early fall, your pool will be up and ready to swim in as soon as you want to open it in the spring,” she says, noting that problems left unsolved can grow worse throughout the winter.

However, don’t rush to close the pool just yet. “September still can be quite warm, so you don’t want to miss out on the good part of the beginning of fall,” O’Brien reminds. She names late September as the ideal pool-closing time.

“When we close the pool, we are trying to protect the pool plumbing, equipment and pool surface,” explains Westport Pools co-owner Wayne George. “The most expensive part of that is the underground piping.” When something happens to that underground piping, the repair is no quick fix. “There’s no way to fix an underground leak except to find it, dig it up and fix it,” warns George.

This problem is caused by leftover water expansion. “To close a pool, you have to blow out all of the water from the pool pipes, and if you miss anything or don’t plug it right, the water in the pipes can freeze, and then crack,” O’Brien says. She estimates fixing this type of leak can cost between $10,000 to $15,000, while hiring a professional to close the pool costs only a few hundred dollars.

For some pool owners, an additional winter problem can literally jump out at you. “Because of the hydrostatic pressure in the ground, if a fiberglass pool is drained too far, it can pop out of the ground,” O’Brien says. However, she estimates that only 20 percent of St. Louis pools are fiberglass, making it an irrelevant issue to many homeowners.

When its time to put the cover on the pool, make sure to note what kind you’re using, as George says he does not recommend mesh covers for residential outdoor pools. According to him, these covers let sunlight in, which allows photosynthesis to occur and algae to grow. “They do provide a great benefit: They look great and they’re safe,” George says. “But if you really have your heart set on using one of those in your backyard, wait as long as you can to close it and open it early.” George also recommends using an inexpensive cover underneath the mesh cover to enjoy the aesthetics and safety, while keeping the pool dark throughout the off season.

More Special Features articles.