"> How to drain an above ground pool – Above Ground Pools Know it All

How to drain an above ground pool

Draining some water out of an above ground pool for the reason of the water level too high from rainwater or to backwash a sand or DE filter is easy and can be done using the pool’s pump and discharge line. This article is about when you completely drain an above ground pool.

Every year, I change a lot of liners in existing above ground swimming pools. Usually, I require the pool owner to have the pool drained completely bone-dry before I get there.

After I tell I need them to drain their pool, I get a very common question. How do I drain the pool? There are a couple of options and I’ll cover them all here.

You can drain an above ground swimming pool by using either a sump pump or your garden hose creating a siphon. If changing the liner – poking holes in the bottom of the pool works well.


Traditional above ground swimming pools are made with a metal wall and have a separate liner made from vinyl that goes inside the wall and holds the water. This type of above ground are lasting and can range in cost from roughly $1500 to $10,000.

With the more expensive vinyl lined above grounds, the liners take on the shape of the pool when filled with water (as they are made to be slightly smaller than the pool and stretch perfectly place). These pools should never be drained unless you are changing out the liner or you have a major repair that needs an empty pool.

The reason – If the liner sits without water in it for even a short period of time, then the liner will begin to shrink, and soon the liner will no longer fit when you try to re-fill the pool. You will fill the pool and the now shrunk liner will pull off of the wall and you’ll need a new one.

If you have one of the cheaper soft-sided type of above ground pools made by companies like Intex and Coleman, you can drain the water from it with no real harm to the pool. Some with this type of above-ground will drain it if the water is too green (or some other nasty color), or to take down for the winter months.


Fifteen years ago, I replaced a pool for a customer because a tornado tore up his neighborhood. He told me that he watched (from his window) the tornado suck all the water from his 27′ round pool in about forty-five seconds and then destroy it after it was empty. Awesome story!

That customer then knew of five ways to drain an above ground pool. For the rest of us though, there are only four ways to drain an above ground.

1 Rent and use a sump pump

Sump pumps come in different sizes and all will do the trick of draining your pool. The size will just depend on how long it takes to drain it. A big commercial type with a 2” or bigger hose may be able to drain the pool in an hour. The small ones that just use a garden hose can take a couple of days to do the job.

A sump pump will sit in the water at the bottom of the pool and have an electric cord and a drain hose attached to it. You simply plug the cord (which is long enough to come up and out of the pool) into your extension cord, run the drain hose out in the yard away from the pool, and it will start sucking the water out of the pool and into the yard.

Sump pumps usually won’t drain all of the water out of the pool. It will leave an inch or two depending on the design of the pump. Some sump pumps sit flat at the bottom and can suck almost all the water out. Most are somewhat elevated, some they will leave an inch or two of water in the pool.

If you want to know how long a particular sump pump will take to drain the pool, you can find out how many gallons per minute of water it sucks, and then divide that by the number of gallons your pool has. So, let’s say the sump pump you rent pumps 10 gallons per minute, and your 24’ round above ground pool has about 14,000 gallons.

14000 gallons ÷ 10 gallons per minute = 1400 minutes

1400 minutes ÷ 60 (minutes in an hour) = about 23 hours to drain.

2 Use a garden hose and siphon

If you are older than, say 40 years old, then you may have been a part of siphoning gas from one car to another back in the day. This is exactly the same thing.

For those who have never done it, this method for draining a pool can be a little tricky. It will work well though.

You’ll need a garden hose that is in good shape. Many are old with holes and kinks or are badly twisted and collapsed. Crappy old garden hoses will make it tougher or not work at all. You’ll also need something to weigh down the end of the hose that is going in the water.

  1. Using something heavy enough to keep it in place, put one end of the hose in the pool and weight it down to the bottom.
  2. Run the rest of the hose over the pool wall and straight out away from the pool and into the yard or street. Sometimes, this alone will cause a siphon.
  3. Blow into the yard end of the hose as hard as you can. If the hose is long and you have an air pump or shop vac, you can somehow use the air pump or reverse the shop vac to blow air into the hose.
  4. After step 3, immediately attempt to suck air in the opposite direction. Suck air from the hose to encourage water to start drawing from the pool to the yard.

If you did it right and have a good hose, then water will begin to come out of the hose and into the yard from the pool. If untouched, this will continue until the pool is empty.


If you aren’t having any luck creating a siphon from the above method, then you can try weighting down the one end of the hose in the pool (step one above) and then briefly attaching the other end of the hose to one of your outside spigots.

Once attached to the spigot, turn the water on. This will start water going into the pool (if you follow me so far). Then turn the spigot off and immediately unscrew the spigot and place that end of the hose in the yard.

This often will cause the water to reverse flow in the hose causing a siphon.

3 (Only if replacing the liner) Poke holes in the liner at the bottom of the pool

For me, if you are draining the pool to replace the liner (which should be the only reason to drain the pool SEE ABOVE), this is the preferred method for draining the pool.

This is the easiest way to drain an above ground pool. You don’t need to rent anything or suck on anything and you don’t have to worry about flooding out your yard or your neighbor’s.

You can use your pool pole (the one you use for your skimmer, vacuum, and brush) and jam it into the liner at the bottom of the pool. This will allow the pool to drain slowly into the earth.

If you want poke just a couple of holes, then the pool will drain very slowly. Some will take a few days to drain this way. If you want it to drain quicker, then poke more holes in the liner. The rate of drainage will increase the more holes you poke.

One of the biggest advantages of using this method of draining the pool for a liner change is that you can get the pool bottom bone dry. Some above ground pool bottoms aren’t very smooth.

NOTE: There are a couple of instances where you can’t do this. If your pool is in an area where it stays wet (high groundwater), then the pool will not drain in this way. And even if the pool drains, the pool water draining into the earth may make the ground too wet to change the liner. Some pools in wet areas cannot have any added moisture to the ground before changing the liner.

Also, if your above ground pool is partially in the ground and there is a risk of the walls caving in, then timing becomes important. You’ll want to drain that pool and get a new liner in it and re-filled as soon as possible. With that, use a sump pump.

4 Use your pool’s main drain

This, of course, is only an option if you have a main drain in your above ground pool. If you do, then it’s super easy.

  1. Turn off the valve coming from your skimmer
  2. Turn on the valve coming from your main drain. Now the suction is dedicated to the main drain only
  3. For cartridge type filters, open up the drain plug. For sand filters, turn the multi-port valve to waste.
  4. Attach a backwash hose to the drain out or waste and run out into the yard or away from the pool somewhere.
  5. Turn off the valve going back to the pool. This disallows for any draining water to go back to the pool
  6. Turn the pump on and drain the pool all the way down.

Please keep in mind that you don’t ever want to drain a vinyl lined above ground pool unless you are changing the liner. If the pool water is really bad and you feel you must drain the pool, I recommend draining it down and leaving a foot or so of water and start refilling immediately. Although I don’t recommend it many people drain pools to prepare for a hurricane.

It would be better though to learn to bring the pool back to clear again chemically. With that, you won’t risk possibly having to replace your liner.


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

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