The Essential New Pool Start Up Process

Written by Michael Dean
December 19, 2023

starting up a swimming pool

As a new pool owner, you need to understand the steps and timeframe of starting up a new pool. While it’s tempting to dive into your swimming pool the minute it’s finished, you have to ensure the water is safe for swimming and that the plaster is cured without issues. Read ahead to get a breakdown of the new pool start up process to ensure your pool is ready for you before you swim in it.

Main Takeaways

  • Starting your pool correctly is vital to prevent spalling, crazing, mottling, scaling, and delamination.
  • The new pool start up process in the first 28 days generally involve brushing the pool and carefully balancing the water chemistry.
  • Only add salt or start the heater after 28 days of the curing process. Swimming is also advisable only after the plaster has been sufficiently cured.

Why Is It Important To Start Up Your New Pool Correctly?

It’s essential to start up your pool correctly to ensure the longevity of your plaster. Incorrectly starting up your pool can lead to long-term damage such as mottling, spalling, or even delamination. You also need to make the pool safe to swim in. The primary objectives are to eradicate plaster dust and to learn how to stabilize water chemistry. The first month of the new pool dictates its lifespan and, naturally, your investment in it.

New Pool Start Up Process 

The steps below are necessary for the start up procedure of your swimming pool. I recommend any new pool owners keep a pool professional close to consult during all stages to ensure that the first 28 days go as smoothly as possible.

Fill The Pool 

When plastering (or replastering) has been completed and the plastering crew has given you the green light, it’s time to fill your pool with water. It is crucial to fill it at a constant pace without ceasing until the water level reaches the top tiles or the pool skimmer. Doing so is necessary to avoid cracks and stains in the plaster. Use multiple hoses, if possible, to decrease the time it takes to fill the pool.

Start Up The Filtration System

Once the pool is filled with water, run your filtration system continuously for the next 72 hours. Your filtration system is necessary to begin cleaning the water in preparation for the chemicals you will add to it once it is ready for balancing. While the filtration system is running, don’t hesitate to grab a skimmer net and manually clean the pool for larger debris to help your filtration system during this step.

Test The Water

Once your pool is filled and while it’s being filtered, you need to start testing your water for chemicals. You can use either test strips, liquid test kits, or a combination of both. Make sure to sample the water in the deep and shallow ends and do so daily for two weeks.

Adjust The Water Chemicals

During the start-up procedure, the main chemicals necessary to test for and adjust are the pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness levels. The suggested levels to maintain a balanced pool are 7.2 – 7.6 for pH levels, 80 – 120 ppm for total alkalinity, and 200 to 250 ppm for calcium hardness. I cover all these chemicals in more depth in my research on pool start up chemicals.

Brush The Pool

Once the pool is filled, and while you are filtering and balancing the water, you need to start brushing the pool twice a day for two weeks. This is necessary to remove the soft plaster dust from the newly-installed plaster.

Use a brush with soft nylon bristles to brush a newly plastered pool. Be thorough and consistent and brush uniformly towards the main drainage area and in one direction. Cover all surfaces, from the walls and the floor to the platform and the steps. Use long and steady strokes, starting with the shallow side first and slowly working toward the deep end. Vacuum up any leftover residue to avoid buildup in the drainage area.

Add Chlorine

On day 3, add chlorine to the pool. Chlorine is a sanitizer that eradicates any disease-causing bacteria, possible algae growth, and other germs that make the water unsafe for human use. Liquid or granules will do the job here. You generally need to maintain a ratio of 1.5 – 2.0 ppm for the proper chlorine levels in an average-sized pool during summer.

Add Salt (Only Applicable For Saltwater Pools)

After 28 days, add salt to your pool (if intended to be a saltwater pool). Check the recommended levels of the salt chlorine generator before adding salt to the pool, which should range between 2700 – 3400 ppm. It is important to add salt slowly and stay at a low level, testing the water constantly and increasing the levels gradually.

Turn On Your Pool Heater

After 28 days, you can also begin heating your pool. Doing this before the plaster is cured is not recommended since your pool will still be full of plaster dust, which can clog the smaller tubes of the heater, causing significant and expensive damage to your equipment. It can also cause cracks and fissures in the walls of the plaster as it expands and contracts due to heat.

Please be patient and only run the heater after the plaster is sufficiently cured and the water is balanced.

Tips For New Pool Start Up

Here are my top tips for starting up a new pool:

  • When adding chemicals to the water, do not add them directly. Instead, pre-mix them in a 5-gallon bucket before adding them to the pool.
  • Use algaecide to kill off any algae matter, and use a conditioner as a stabilizer to protect the chlorine in your pool from being destroyed by UV rays.
  • Avoid swimming until you have correctly treated and balanced your water. Generally, try to avoid swimming in your newly plastered pool for at least the first five days, but the longer you wait, the better.
  • If plagued by harmless staining, discoloration, or mottling, which usually occurs during the start up process and depends on the craftsmanship of your plastering job, consider acid washing your pool.

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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Pool Plaster Curing Timeframe

Pool plaster takes a surprisingly long time to cure. Plaster cures underwater, so ensure that you fill the pool as soon as possible once the plastering process is finished. Generally, expect the plaster to be sufficiently cured by the 28-day mark. After 28 days, your plaster is strong enough to withstand most equipment and issues that may arise in the beginning. At this point of the plaster curing process, you can swim, use an automatic cleaner, and even use a pool heater.

The pool plaster will continue to cure for another few months after the first 28 days. Generally, it will take up to 10 months for the plaster to fully cure underwater. So, ensure that you follow a strict maintenance and cleaning regimen so that your plaster can cure as best as it can in its first year. This is the best way to prevent unwanted stains and roughness in your plaster.

Questions? Let me know; happy to help.

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