"> Chemically starting up your above ground pool – Above Ground Pools Know it All

Chemically starting up your above ground pool


As the installer of over six thousand above ground pools, I have been asked about how to chemically start-up the pool I just built hundreds of times. Most pool installers only know about building pools and not how to maintain them.

I do know well how to maintain a pool and when I have time, I will give them some brief info on the start-up.

The most important thing to do when chemically starting up an above ground pool is to shock it. Shocking the pool will help ensure that it is safe to swim regardless of the pH, total alkalinity, and calcium levels. If you have never had a pool, I always recommend taking a water sample to a pool store and let them analyze it. This will be a good, safe start.

MOST NEW POOLS COME WITH A CHEMICAL START-UP KIT

The vast majority of people looking for info on how to start-up a swimming pool just got a new one installed. If you are re-starting up an existing pool, then yeah, you won’t have a start-up kit.

Above ground pools are usually sold as packages. In the package, you’ll get the pool, a liner, a skimmer, a ladder, a cleaning maintenance kit, and finally, a chemical start-up kit.

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN AN ABOVE GROUND POOL CHEMICAL START-UP KIT?

The short answer here is “not much”. The name “start-up kit” sounds like it would be complete, but in truth, most are pretty weak.

A chemical start-up kit can have anything included. There’s no industry standard for what comes with one. Any retailer or pool distributor can make the kit up with anything they want in it. Most of the stuff is almost useless, especially when it comes to what a pool needs for the start-up.

The one thing that they all come with though, is some kind of shock. This is good because shocking the pool is usually all that is needed to successfully start a pool up. Most will come with one or two bags of granular shock.

I have seen chemical start-up kits come with all kinds of things. They may have algaecides, clarifiers, PH up(dry acid), PH down(soda ash), or some other specialty chemical usually not needed for basic pool water chemistry.

As a seasoned pool guy, what you may use here is the chemicals for raising or lowering the PH and definitely the shock. For me, anything else is just fluff to make the kit look like it’s something.

WHAT IS “SHOCK” EXACTLY? AND WHY DO YOU NEED IT FOR A POOL START-UP?

Most pool owners don’t really know what shock is or means. Some think it’s a complicated process using a set of proprietary chemicals with some degree of precision. Yeah, it’s nothing special. Here’s a one-sentence description:

“Shocking a swimming pool means introducing a large amount of sanitizer(usually chlorine) to a body of water in a very short period of time”

There is no real mysticism to shocking a pool. You just make sure it’s a lot of chlorine and that it all goes in the pool quickly. It has to be a lot and it has to be quick so it can send a giant wave of sanitizer through the entire environment causing a stun or “shock” to all things living. Think of it as a nuclear bomb going off in the pool but without any long term fall-out or radiation.

If the chlorine is introduced too slowly, or if there isn’t enough, it won’t have the global(pool-wide) shocking effect needed to kill or stun everything.

Shocking a new body of water is a good idea because no one knows the status of the water. Shocking it ensures the death of most things harmful to humans.

IF YOU FILLED THE POOL UP WITH MUNICIPAL (CITY) WATER, THEN THE START-UP IS EASY

Municipal or what most call “city” water is already balanced and has at least a trace of sanitizer(usually chlorine) in it. City water has to be safe enough to drink, so we are good here to swim.

You still want to shock the pool though as it may have taken a full day or more to fill the pool, so the water had time to lose its trace amount of chlorine. Plus, all municipal water is not created equal. I have filled pools with city water and it came out of the spigot a light green color. Yikes! So, to be safe, shock your pool before anyone goes swimming.

In addition to shocking the pool, you can check and then adjust the PH. The ph of city water is usually within the acceptable range for swimming pools, but if you have the chemicals to raise or lower it, you might as well do so.

If you want to get fancy and don’t have kids chomping at the bit to go swimming ASAP, then you could test for and adjust the TA total alkalinity, cyanuric acid (stabilizer), and calcium hardness levels. I wouldn’t worry about them at first though. Here’s why.

The total alkalinity is in relation to the pH of the pool and usually doesn’t need to be adjusted too often. In the case of a new pool start-up, you won’t know the temperament of the pH until you’ve been balancing the pool for a while. Initially adjusting the TA may be a wasted step. Knowitall note: The PH in above ground pools can sometimes want to stay higher. Because of this, some above grounds need the TA(total alkalinity) adjusted more often.

Cyanuric acid or stabilizer levels in municipal water may be low, but I wouldn’t be too quick to raise it. The chlorine tablets that you will be using has CA in them, so most pools usually don’t need any added. In the case of a new pool, I like the chlorine levels to be able to drop easily. This is for advanced reasons not worth discussing in this article.

Cyanuric acid levels should be checked later on if you find that you are having a hard time keeping the chlorine level up in the pool. At first though, I don’t think it’s necessary.

Lastly, above ground pools have liners. This means that you really don’t have to worry about the calcium hardness levels almost at all. The reason? Because the water wants a certain amount of calcium present in it. If it doesn’t have enough, then it can become aggressive and try to get it anywhere it can.

In the case of a concrete pool with a cement-based finish, the calcium wanting water can pull whatever calcium there is in the cement finish and damage it some. In the case of an above ground pool though, there’s no calcium in the vinyl for the water to take it, so adding calcium is not needed.

SUMMARY FOR CHEMICALLY STARTING UP AN ABOVE GROUND POOL FILLED WITH MUNICIPAL WATER

1 Shock the pool

2 Adjust the PH (if it really needs it)

3 Drop a 3” chlorine tablet or two in a floating or inline chlorinator.

4 Wait an hour and go swimming

NOTE: Some instructions for applying certain chemicals will tell you to wait as long as 24 hours before swimming. Sometimes you will read this on a bag of chlorine shock. Decide to wait however long as you want to feel safe.

IF YOU FILLED THE POOL UP WITH WELL WATER, THEN START-UP MAY TAKE MORE

Well water can have anything in it. It will never have any sanitizer (chlorine) in it but may come out of the ground crystal clear and healthy enough to drink. It may come out looking like iced tea, too.

Regardless of the look of the water, unless you have run it through your home filter system, well water won’t have any chlorine in it. So, you definitely need to shock the pool hard as part of the start-up.

The most common issues with well water are with metals. Metals need to be taken out of the water so it can be clear. If your well water looks bad, my suggestion is to take a sample of it to a pool store. They will test the water and sell you what is needed to get the metals out.

I could talk a lot about how to get metals out of the water, but for the sake of this article and starting up your pool quickly and easily, simply take the sample and let the pool store do the thinking. You’ve probably got kids wanting to swim yesterday, so figure things out later and get your pool usable now.

If you’ve filled the pool with your well and it looks completely clear, then you can start it up the same as if it was city water above. Clear almost always means that there’s nothing in the water of any great amount. If there’s a lot of something in the water, it usually shows by being colored or cloudy.

SUMMARY FOR CHEMICALLY STARTING UP AN ABOVE GROUND POOL FILLED WITH WELL WATER

1 If the well water looks more than mildly cloudy when the pool is filled, then take a water sample to a pool store

Buy whatever they sell you. It may be some stuff you don’t really need, but this is a one-time thing and you want to get the pool ready to swim. Getting metals out of a pool can take some time so don’t screw around and do what it takes to get results.

2 Shock the pool

A one-pound bag of granular shock is good for up to 10,000 gallons. If your pool has more than 10k gallons, use two bags.

3 Adjust the PH if needed

This may be more important with well water as it may be way high or low.

4 Drop a 3” chlorine tablet or two in a floating or inline chlorinator.

5 If the pool water is completely clear, wait an hour and go swimming

– If not clear due to something in the well water that hasn’t been taken out yet, wait until clear before using.

WARNING WARNING WARNING!

WHEN ADDING GRANULAR SHOCK TO A VINYL ABOVE GROUND SWIMMING POOL, COMPLETELY DILUTE THE SHOCK IN A 5 GALLON BUCKET OF WATER BEFORE POURING INTO THE POOL.

Just pouring in granular shock will result in damaging the pool’s liner. The granulars of the chlorine will sit on the bottom of the pool which will bleach out the liner and cause it to get brittle.

It’s my opinion to completely dilute any chemical in water that’s not already in liquid form before introducing it to a vinyl pool. Doing this will ensure that nothing will rest on the vinyl bottom and damage the liner. Here’s a list of swimming pool chemicals and what they really are

Learn how to add chemicals to an above ground pool here.

danknowitall

Dan writes with the knowledge of having 35 years (and counting) in the above ground pool industry.

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