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Swimming pool owners might be dreaming of jumping right in, but they also know pools require prep work to ensure a divine dive – rather than a belly-flop – into the much-anticipated swim season. Two local pool pros have plenty of advice to ensure your pool is sparkling clean and ready for summer fun.

First, pool owners need to determine if they want to tackle the basics themselves or hire a maintenance team to manage their pool. “A lot of people look at pool care as being complicated, and it really doesn’t have to be,” says Sarah Hancock of Baker Pool & Spa’s retail department, located in Chesterfield Commons.

“At Baker Pool & Spa, we break everything down so that it’s as easy as ‘Add 2 pounds of this once a week, wait an hour, then add 8 ounces of this, wait 30 minutes, then you can swim.’ There’s a plan for everyone and every pool.” Pool owners can register over the phone or online to attend Baker’s pool school to learn the basics, ask questions and stock up on supplies.

For those who prefer a hands-off approach, a number of local companies offer ongoing maintenance programs. Andrew Denningmann of Westport Pools in Maryland Heights recommends pool owners consider a weekly maintenance program throughout the swimming season and a monthly maintenance program when the pool is closed. “This program provides you with a Certified Pool Operator (CPO) who checks and adjusts the water balance and monitors the equipment for proper operation,” he says.

Regardless of your hands-on or hands-off approach, the first thing to check in the spring is how well the pool cover did its job during the winter. Removing the pool cover earlier in the season allows less time not only for algae to grow but also for spring plant pollen to blow into the water, affecting the need for chemicals to clarify and balance the water chemistry. “We would recommend opening the pool earlier in the season, between freezing temperatures and consecutive warm days in the mid-70s,” Denningmann says. Depending on weather conditions, this can range from early April through May. “The warmer weather promotes algae growth and can cause a pool to turn, which is that point where a pool can be chemically treated to be cleared up versus when the water will need to be drained and the pool needs to be cleaned.”

Hancock agrees that earlier is better. “If people closed their pools correctly last fall by balancing pH, alkalinity and calcium levels; adding a sufficient dose of chlorine; closing it clean and clear of debris; and don’t wait until it’s consistently warm outside to open it, then it should be fairly to completely clean,” she says. “If pools are closed properly, you also shouldn’t have any mushrooms or frogs at the bottom. The type of pool cover on the pool also makes a huge difference in how clean the pool will be at spring opening.”

After the cover is removed, the water in the pool needs to be assessed and treated. Occasionally, a pool needs to be drained and cleaned completely, but if the cover was properly secured over the winter, most pools only need to be topped up, so they’re completely filled, and treated. “Unfortunately, the water cannot be cared for properly until the pool has been circulating for at least 24 hours,” Hancock says. “A sample of water that is taken from a pool that has sat stagnant for an extended period will give you an inaccurate reading because the more concentrated water has settled to the bottom. This is why we tell customers to take an accurate water sample from elbow deep and away from any return jets when the pool is open, so that they get the more concentrated water, and avoid unnecessary air bubbles in the water sample from a jet.”

That advice means the pool pump must be turned on, and pool owners sometimes hold their breath as they flip the switch and hope the pump works for another season. Most pumps last from five to seven years, Denningmann says, and newer models of pumps and filters are more energy-efficient and effective than older types. His current favorite recommendation for filtration: “We do recommend the use of an all-natural sphagnum moss water-treatment system. Moss is proven to use fewer chemicals and reduces water usage by reducing the frequency to backwash water filters. Pool water flows through chambers of moss, then into the filtration and chemical treatment system.”

With equipment running, maintaining crystal-clear water is a matter of vigilance. “Chemical manufacturers are always looking to come up with something newer, better, easier and more efficient than last year’s chemicals and those of their competitors,” Hancock says. “That’s why there are so many different options and prices out there.” She adds that cheaper isn’t always better. “We sell BioGuard products, which are all made with the highest-quality chemical ingredients, and take the health and safety of consumers’ well-being and long-term investments to heart.”

Even water-chemistry maintenance is becoming automated, Denningmann adds. “You can check the status of and run your pool from your smartphone, and it can also be tied into your home automation system,” he says. “There are products that have been used for years on commercial pools that are making their way to the residential market – automated chemical controllers, ultraviolet secondary sanitizers, variable-speed drives and robotic cleaners.”

Whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a maintenance service, pool care has never been easier, and it’s almost time to dive in.

Baker Pool & Spa at Chesterfield Commons, 6 THF Blvd., Chesterfield, 636-532-3133, bakerpool.com

Westport Pools, 156 Weldon Parkway, Maryland Heights, 314-432-1801, westportpools.com

Connie, a native of St. Charles and graduate of the MU School of Journalism, is a freelance writer and editor who contributes to print and online publications for clients throughout the region. She enjoys travel, hiking, kayaking and drinking good coffee