With summer weather already on the horizon, it’s time to get backyard pools up and running. So what’s the best way to approach that task and ensure your little slice of paradise performs optimally throughout this summer and beyond?

“First, it’s important to properly clean and store your winter pool cover,” says Kevin O’Brien of O’Brien Swimming Pool Service. “Probably the most common mistake happens when people take their pool cover off, they let a lot of the dirt and debris fall into the pool and then have a big mess to clean up. You have to drain all the water off the top of the cover and remove any debris before pulling it off.” And after it’s been cleaned, it’s just as important to properly store the winter cover.

People also should avoid draining the pool during the spring’s rainy season, says O’Brien, because they run the risk of actually loosening the pool from the ground. “Make sure the pool is professionally drained, because there are precautions to take, like opening the hydrostatic release valve,” he explains. When it comes time to refill the pool, it’s crucial to rebalance the pool water’s chlorine, salt, and pH or total alkalinity. “I’ve heard of people using Chlorox bleach to treat the pool, which has a lot of byproducts that aren’t good for the pool, as opposed to the regular liquid chlorine used for normal pool sanitation,” O’Brien says.

Chris DePaul, service coordinator at Westport Pools, also recommends checking and balancing the chemicals. Besides chlorine, salt and alkalinity, DePaul says people should examine calcium hardness and CYA (another stabilizer). “I would also lean more toward using products from the pool suppliers as opposed to some of the generic products sold at the big box stores or retailers,” he suggests.

According to DePaul, the most common mistake people make is letting their pool equipment run dry. “Often, people don’t know how to properly start the equipment and get the water flowing. Doing so for the first time can be troublesome, especially with the pool having sat all winter long. If it was winterized properly, all the water has flowed out of the pipes to prevent freezing damage; now doing the reverse can be difficult.” DePaul suggests checking that valves are reopened; otherwise, water pressure could build to the point of causing leaks in the system. On the other hand, “One of the other most common mistakes is not having everything plugged that should be. When the pool is winterized, a lot of plugs are taken out in order for it to drain, and sometimes some of the plugs can be missed in springtime, when a person is starting the pool back up.”

If you’re just now contemplating putting in a pool, Patrick McCormick, president of Baker Pool, offers this advice: “You need at least 3,000 square feet of space to put in an adequate pool,” he says. Concrete pools are not more expensive to build than fiberglass pools or those with vinyl liners, he adds. Still, McCormick says, “Expect it to cost at least $40,000.” The volume of water required to fill a pool, between 20,000 and 35,000 gallons, is something to take into account, too. But greener features are being incorporated into pools today, he adds, like more efficient heaters and in-ground chlorine generators. “These are things people already have to do in California that we’re starting to do here, too,” he says.

It may be too late to build a pool for this summer, but it might be the perfect time to start interviewing pool companies. “Fall is a good time to get a project started for next year. Otherwise you’re rolling the dice,” says McCormick. And with an investment as large as a swimming pool, that’s something no one wants to do.

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