Service technicians George Morton and Chad Seidler

Summer is at a close—and if you’ve got a pool, that means it’s time to put the water toys away, stack the chairs in the garage and start closing down the pool itself. But even if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, Wayne George, co-owner of Westport Pools, says one thing you should leave to the professionals is the technical side of winterizing. “Closing the pool is best done by a professional company,” he says. “There’s no standard procedure for closing pools—every pool is a little different and you have to have someone who knows what they’re doing.”

George also recommends occasional checks by a professional throughout the winter, to inspect the water chemistry and prevent any unforeseen problems. He recounts a worst-case situation the company once dealt with: A family closed their pool, lowering the water level and covering it. Whenever they noticed there was water building up on top of the cover, they removed it—which is a normally good idea—but it kept coming back. What they didn’t realize was that there was a hole in the pool cover. “Eventually they pumped the pool out and didn’t know it,” George says. “In the spring, the rains came and floated the pool right out of the ground.” He explains that if the water table rises, it will build up pressure underneath the pool. “When you take the water out, you take the weight out, and if the pressure from underneath is greater, it will come right out of the ground. If you know you’re going to drain the pool, you would take steps to prevent that.”

While this is an extreme case, George says a professional touch is a good investment when it comes to pool closing. “The big issue with closing a pool as opposed to opening it is the consequence of error. If you don’t close it correctly, you can end up with Oh look, my pool is a foot out of the ground, or The pipes are broken and I’ve got to dig up my yard. It can be done, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

George adds that most of his staff members have been with the company for at least 10 years, and some as many as 30. They are all certified pool operators, and have been licensed by the National Swimming Pool Foundation. “People often ask, Can you send me winterizing instructions?” he says. “My answer is no, because I need to have somebody out there who knows what they’re doing and can sense when something isn’t right. There’s too big a risk.”

George points out that the expense isn’t usually that great, and Westport Pools offers its services on an hourly basis, rather than a flat rate. “Some people just want us to do the technical stuff and get out,” he notes. “For others, we do everything, including taking the lawn furniture and stacking it in the basement, and we’re happy to do it either way.”

The fall also is a great time to check for any other maintenance that needs to be done, George notes. Inspect the caulking and check if the pool needs to be painted or resurfaced. It’s also a great time to add a feature such as a waterfall or replace a pump, since companies tend to be less busy than they are during the spring. “If you wait till spring, it’s much more difficult because there are only so many guys to go around,” he says. “Now is a very attractive time to at least get it quoted and on the schedule, and if you can get the repairs done, even better!”

And before you know it, spring will be here—and when you open the pool, there won’t be any surprises!