How to Open an Inground Pool

Written by Michael Dean
August 24, 2023

opening an inground pool for the season

Ready for warmer weather? Me too! Just like winterizing your pool as the colder months come rolling in, the step-by-step process for opening your inground pool is just as essential to ensure you set up everything correctly. So let’s dive in! Here’s everything you need to know.

Main Takeaways

  • To open your pool, you have to clean and remove the cover, refill the pool, remove all winterizing plugs, ready your filtration system, clean and shock the pool, and finally, add the necessary pool chemicals.
  • Make sure to wear proper protective gear when handling pool chemicals.
  • You should open your swimming pool when the temperature is consistently over 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Materials and Tools You’ll Need To Open Your Pool

Here are the primary materials and tools you’ll need. You can also read my research on the average cost to open your swimming pool for pricing data.

  1. A pool cover pump. This will help remove standing water from your pool cover without requiring you to walk onto the cover. Most covers can’t support a human’s weight, so this is the best way to clean the top of your cover.
  2. A pool brush. This is for cleaning the sides and bottom of your pool. Most people use manual brushes, but you can also buy a motorized brush that can clean areas much faster than a regular brush. Either way, this will require a lot of stamina.
  3. A pool net (optional). If you want to improve safety, you can install a pool net on top while you’re working in the pool itself. This is especially helpful if you have a deep pool and need to prevent children from falling in while you’re not there to supervise them. Some people don’t need this. Also, consider other safety options if you have children.
  4. A pool cover cleaner. Do not confuse this with a pool cover pump. Pool cover cleaners are for washing and cleaning your pool cover before folding it for storage. If you have a thick, year-round cover you use whenever your pool is not in use; this is an excellent time to clean it anyway.
  5. Pool shock. Your pool definitely needs a good shock before you open it. Even if you maintained the chemicals throughout the winter, as some people do, shocking it before opening it is a good plan.
  6. Algaecide. Algae often grow in pools through the winter, so a special chemical to kill it is necessary. Ensure the algaecide you get is compatible with your shock and other chemicals in your pool. If it isn’t, you could risk creating a toxic gas cloud. Check out my guide on pool maintenance for more information.
  7. A chemical testing kit. The last thing you’ll need is a kit for testing your chemicals. Pool owners should have these anyway, and they’re essential for balancing your pool water before you open it for the year.

Step-By-Step Inground Pool Opening Procedure

Here’s the best way to open your inground pool. We’ve broken it down for you in a step-by-step process below.

Step 1: Clean Your Pool Cover

Before you open your pool, you need to get the winter cover off of it. To avoid dropping anything into the pool, including bacteria that you might not be able to see, use your pool cover pump and a leaf net to remove the water and debris on top. Let the cover air dry, though you can use a blower to speed the process along if you want to, then use your brush to get anything remaining.

Step 2: Remove the Cover

Carefully remove the cover, folding it over in sections until it’s entirely off the pool. This is easiest to do with two people, where you can move both sides simultaneously as you fold. When done correctly, removing the cover this way minimizes the risk of debris falling into the pool.

Step 3: Clean The Pool Cover

Once it’s off your pool, lay the cover somewhere flat and clean it off with your choice of chemicals and tools. Using proper cleaners is better than merely spraying it with water and letting it air dry.

Once it’s completely dry, store it in a sealed container. I’ve seen some creative solutions for this, including rolling racks that can store the pool cover when it’s not in use. The seal is important for minimizing the potential growth of lingering algae or bacteria.

Step 4: Refill Your Pool

Whether you drained your pool or not, it will have lost at least some water during the winter. It probably won’t be much if you used a thick pool cover instead of a thin one like most people, but chances are the water level will be at least a few inches lower. You can fill your pool with a simple garden hose.

Step 5: Remove Any Winterizing Plugs & Other Gear

Most pool owners install winter drain plugs, so remove those next. You may also need to reinstall skimmer baskets and remove anything else you used for the winter, such as inflatable cushions that help keep covers up.

Step 6: Attach All Deck Equipment

Before you get into the pool to clean it, you need to be sure you have a way out! Put deck equipment like rails, ladders, and diving boards back into place. If necessary, reapply anti-rust coatings to prevent corrosion. You may need to replace some old bolts or screws.

Step 7: Ready Your Filter System

Once your equipment is in place, ready your filter system. Most people leave these in place and simply block the pipes that lead to them during the winter, but depending on your system, you may need to physically put them back in place. Be sure to clean and wash your filters and equipment before putting them in place. If you need to replace any filters, head to my research on the best pool filter system for inground pools.

You may also need to reinstall any other equipment your pool uses, such as additional pool pumps, heating systems, jets, and miscellaneous equipment. After installing all your pool equipment, and ensuring the pipes are clear, turn them on.

If you use a saltwater chlorinator, do not turn it on at this point. You need to check your pool chemistry in later steps first.

Step 8: Clean Your Pool

Now that the pumps are running and there’s water in the pool, it’s time to clean it. Get debris off the surface with a pool net and use your brush to clean all of the surfaces. Some people use automatic pool cleaners, but I suggest doing it manually to open your pool.

Step 9: Shock The Pool

Once you’ve gotten your pool as clean as it can be, shock it. How much shock you need depends on the size of your pool, but you should get it to at least 3.0 ppm of chlorine. For a typical household pool, this usually requires an entire bag or a bottle of liquid, but check the product instructions before using it.

Here is the product I recommend if you’re using calcium hypochlorite to shock, which most swimming pool owners are.

In The Swim Calcium Hypochlorite Chlorine Granular Pool Shock

In The Swim has a reliable cal hypo shock that is effective and easy to use.

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Step 10: Check Your Pool Chemistry

After your shock is done, test your pool chemistry using a water test kit. Check your readings and make sure your pool water is balanced to the proper levels across all of these pool chemicals, which I cover in my pool chemistry guide:

Be sure to check the labels on all new products to ensure they’re compatible with each other. If in doubt, call up a local pool store associate for help.

Step 11: Use Algaecide On Your Pool

Once you’ve tested your pool and adjusted the balance, add some algaecide to kill any lingering algae from winter. Then test your pool chemistry again and rebalance it if needed.

Do not attempt to use algaecide before rebalancing your pool (unless its instructions say otherwise). Most algaecides are intended for well-balanced pool water, and using it at other times could stop it from working at all.

Here is the algaecide I recommend.

Rx Clear Algaecide 60 Plus

Rx Clear makes a strong Poly-Quat algaecide that is more expensive, but also more effective.

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Step 12: Final Steps

After adding an algaecide and rebalancing the pool if needed, let it run for at least 24 more hours and use a vacuum or another cleaner to remove any debris from the bottom of your pool. You can also turn on your chlorinator at this point (if you use one), adding additional salt as necessary. I cover that last step in more detail in my article on how to open a saltwater pool.

Don’t forget to clean the area around your pool. Algae and bacteria may try to grow on stones and pavers, so thoroughly cleaning them can help stop people from tracking them right back into your newly-cleaned pool.

This video does a nice job of visually explaining all the steps above.

Quick Tips on Safety

Here are some quick safety tips.

  • Do not touch any part of the pool you haven’t cleaned. You don’t know what kind of algae or bacteria is there. Long-handled brushes and cleaning equipment can keep you safe.
  • Wear goggles, gloves, and a breath mask for extra safety.
  • Do not lean too far over the pool. If your equipment suddenly slips, you could plunge into the water.
  • Have a second person on lookout duty, even if they’re helping you clean.
  • Read the directions on all chemicals and products you use, even if you’re familiar with them. The manufacturer may have changed them over the winter, and verifying their information is the only way to be sure they’re safe to use.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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The Best Time to Open Your Swimming Pool

The best time to open your pool depends on where you live. The best time to do it is when temperatures in your area are consistently over 70 degrees. Any colder, and you could see more algae growth.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean you can’t open your pool earlier, especially if you have a heater that can keep the water at least 70 degrees. However, if you open it early, expect to spend more time and money maintaining your pool until the weather is warm.

Questions? Let me know! I also have a guide on opening above ground pools, which isn’t too different from an inground pool.

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