Above-Ground Pools: To Winterize or Not?

If you’ve only had one summer as an above-ground pool owner, you may wonder what happens to this glorious little oasis during the colder months. Do you need to dismantle the entire pool? Should you drain the pool completely? Can above-ground pools be left out in winter?

The climate and type of pool determine whether they can be left out in winter. Owners of vinyl pools in areas with cold winters should dismantle their pools because they are susceptible to ice damage. Where climates are warmer, or it’s a different type of pool, above-ground pools can be winterized.

Winterizing your above-ground pool prevents freeze damage, algae blooms, damage to equipment and accessories and helps to keep it clean. But if you leave it to endure the winter elements, the best you could hope for is a filthy mess to clean when the new swim season starts, which could cost you a kidney to restore. Worst case scenario, your pool could suffer irreversible damage.

Can Your Above-Ground Pool Be Left Out In Winter?

While nobody enjoys packing up their above-ground pool or winterizing one, it’s a necessary evil if you want to enjoy your pool in the warm weather again without doing too much damage control after a maintenance-free winter.

What constitutes a cold winter in the context of winterizing pools? If your region has regular temperatures below 41°F (5°C), you have a sufficiently cold climate for it to affect your swimming pool. If your area doesn’t get that cold, your climate is considered warm for these purposes.

How To Close Your PVC Or Inflatable Pool For The Winter

It’s not worth gambling on your PVC or vinyl pool’s ability to withstand ice damage. If you guess wrong, it could be damaged beyond repair. Although PVC is exceptionally strong, long cold periods can make the material brittle and susceptible to tears and cracks.

It may seem counterintuitive, but before you drain your pool, give it a thorough cleaning. Vacuum and brush the floor and walls. Also, remember to disconnect your pool equipment from its power sources before draining the water.

Make sure the drain plug on the inside wall is in place, and don’t unplug it. The drain connector will disrupt it. Secure the hosepipe to the drain connector, aiming the hose away from your house or other buildings. Press the drain connector into the drain valve and tighten it to prevent it from coming loose while the water drains.

When the remaining water is below the drain level, tilt the pool away from the drain to empty the pool completely. Remember to replace the drain valve cap and the drain plug in their spots in the pool wall for storage. Use warm water and a mild household cleaner to wipe down the pool, ensuring you rinse it properly.

Allow the liner to dry before sprinkling it with cornstarch or talcum powder to prevent it from becoming sticky. Dismantle the frame if your pool has one, and fold the liner as neatly as possible for convenient storage. Alternatively, if you have an inflatable pool, deflate it, ensuring it is properly dry before packing it away.

Drain all the water out of the pump and filter parts, and clean and dry them before storing them in a dry area.

How To Winterize Permanently Installed Above-Ground Pools

When temperatures are consistently below 65°F, it’s time to start the winterizing process. Depending on the type of pool you own, winterization may differ slightly.

The winterizing process is similar for steel-framed, resin, aluminum, and hybrid pools. Hybrid pools are built from a combination of materials such as steel and resin. Any solid above-ground pool that an owner cannot or should not dismantle will require cleaning, balancing the water chemistry, and preparing the equipment for icy conditions.

1. Give the swimming pool one final, thorough cleaning. Vacuuming and brushing the pool walls removes the debris that could cause staining if left for the winter.

2. Balance the water and adjust the chemicals to their correct levels. Use these figures as a guide:

  • Optimum pH: 7.4 – 7.6
  • Alkalinity: 100 – 150 parts per million (ppm)
  • Calcium: 175 – 225 ppm
  • Chlorine: 1 – 3 ppm

3. Add some pool shock to the water before closing for the season. Directions on the container will give you the amount necessary for the pool’s volume. You can use a fast-acting shock since you won’t use the pool again for months.

4. You can also add some algaecide for good measure. The less chance the green stuff has to grow, the better.

5. Disconnect your pool lines and drain the water, allowing them to dry before storing them in a dry area. You don’t want mold to grow inside them while not in use.

6. Take out the skimmer basket and store it for the winter. Then you have two options for protecting the skimmer. You can use a winter skimmer cover that seals the entire skimmer. Then you don’t need to drop the water level below the skimmer line.

Alternatively, drain the water so that it sits below the skimmer line. If water builds up in the skimmer and freezes, the ice can crack your skimmer as it expands.

7. Drain the pump and filter. Remove and store all equipment and accessories to prevent freezing damage. One can also add antifreeze to prevent freeze damage to immovable parts.

8. Install a pool air pillow, also called an ice compensator, before shutting down the pool. It will help keep debris and water to the sides of the pool, making it easier to clean. Inflate the air pillow to 50 -60% of its capacity, giving it room to compress and not pop when there’s heavy snowfall.

9. Use a thin rope or the air pillow’s accessories to keep it in the center of the pool to protect the cover more effectively.

10. Install your pool cover using its cable and winch or cover clips and a cable. The tighter the fit, the better your pool will fare during the winter.

Pool Type Specific Winterizing Processes

To take a little extra care of your pool during winterization, keep these points in mind:

  • For resin-framed pools, use non-chlorine shock treatment. Chlorine-based shock products may react with the resin, causing discoloration and possibly weakening the structure.
  • Even stainless steel is susceptible to corrosion, and decreasing temperatures accelerate the process. You can use special anti-corrosive products on these parts to prevent this from happening to your steel-framed pool during winter. You can paint these products onto the parts before filling the pool for the first time to enhance their lifetimes.


Depending on the type of pool you own and how cold your winters get, above-ground pools can be left out during the winter if you do the necessary legwork to winterize them. If you own a PVC/vinyl pool and live in a cold climate, it’s best to drain and pack away your pool for the winter. Both options seem labor-intensive but are well worth it when you reopen your pool in the spring.