Your new backyard pool is being installed, and you need to get ready to take care of it. What do you need to start with? You’ve opened the door on years of fun for you and your family—but you need some advice on where to start. Pool maintenance is not difficult, but it does require your commitment. It is much more difficult to bring your pool back to a healthy state than it is to maintain that state. Remember, you are not alone. Any number of pool care professionals are only a phone call away, but here’s a list of things you’ll need to get started on the right flipper.
Shock is one of the most important chemicals you need to have on hand for your pool. The chlorine you use on a daily basis will kill most of the bacteria. Shock will super chlorinate the pool water. Shock kills the rest of the bacteria in your pool, making it safe to swim in. It will help clear your water if it looks cloudy. Shock is also useful in treating a mild case of algae. You will probably need to shock your pool on a regular basis. You may need to increase the frequency if your pool is receiving hard use or if there have been severe rainstorms in your area.
2. Test strips
Test strips are used to determine what chemicals need to be added to your pool in order to keep the water clean and bacteria-free. It is extremely important to test your water every week (or after the aforementioned storms you may get). You will simply wet the strip for a few seconds in the pool water, and the strip will change colors. You then compare the colors on your strip with the colors on a chart that is included with the strips to determine what chemicals, if any, need to be added. The strips measure alkalinity, pH, free chlorine, total chlorine, total hardness, cyanuric acid, and bromine if you use that instead of chlorine. There should not be any smell to your pool water. If your pool smells like chemicals or it smells like a pond, it’s time to test and treat.
This is a definite must-have tool for your pool. The skimmer is a flat net attached to a long pole that allows you to reach out into the pool. Some poles are made to attach to interchangeable heads, including a brush head or a leaf bag head. You will probably use the skimmer every time you swim, to pick up any debris that is floating on the top of the water like leaves, flower petals, and insects. Your skimmer is also useful for reaching pool toys that were accidentally left or dropped in the pool.
4. Manual Vacuum
The manual vacuum will be essential for cleaning your pool. The vacuum head is designed to make reaching into the corners of your pool easy. This tool is great for spot cleaning, as well as general overall cleaning. Most vacuum heads come separately from the hose and pole—so you may need to buy the hose separately. If you have a skimmer pole, you can usually just use that with the vacuum.
5. Pool Brush
Remember that multi-purpose pole we’ve mentioned? The pool brush is also attached to the pole and used mainly to clean the sides of the pool. There are brushes for concrete, gunite, and plaster pools only, as well as brushes for vinyl-lined pools. Some of the brushes have a magnetic edge that is helpful to find missing jewelry. Your pool brush will be essential if you get a buildup of algae in your pool. After treatment with an algaecide, the dead algae will need to be brushed off the sides of the pool and vacuumed up. This brush makes this a relatively easy job.
6. Pool covers
There are different types of pool covers. Here are the most common:
Winter: You will need a cover for your pool in the winter. Not only are they important for protecting your pool, but they’re also a safety feature that helps prevent accidents.
Leaf: There are also leaf covers that are placed on top of your winter pool cover. Once it snows, it’s removed, along with the leaves, making the opening of your pool in the spring much easier. While the leaf cover isn’t essential, you may feel differently if you live in an area with a lot of trees or if the neighbor’s mature maple overhangs your pool.
Solar: Also considered optional is a solar blanket. The solar blanket is cut to fit exactly over the water of your pool. It just lies on top of the water when your pool is not in use. The solar blanket can raise the temperature of your pool by as much as 15 degrees, and it also prevents evaporation of water from your pool. The solar blanket can extend your swimming season by allowing you to use your pool earlier in the spring and later in the fall.
7. Robotic Pool Cleaner
While this isn’t essential, it is really nice to have. Most people don’t like to manually vacuum their pool before a swim, so you skim the pool and jump in despite the debris that collected in the corners at the bottom of your pool. Now, imagine a pristine pool—whenever you want to swim. The robotic pool cleaner is worth its weight in gold because it does just that. While you’re at work or sleeping at night, your robot is cleaning away. There are different brands and types of robot cleaners available, but they all do the same thing. They will travel back and forth across your pool and even crawl up the walls and steps, working continuously until your entire pool has been vacuumed.
8. Pool Float
An essential function of your backyard pool is to provide relaxation. What’s more relaxing than lounging on a slice of pizza or a majestic swan or a colorful parrot? The designs of pool floats today are incredible and almost unlimited. There are floats for a single person, as well as floats made for a group of three or more. There are even floats to hold your drinks. Pick one that suits your personality and enjoy relaxing in your beautiful pool.
9. Safety Latches and Alarms
Your backyard pool, while fun, also comes with the responsibility of making it as safe as possible. Safety starts outside of the pool. Your pool will be extremely attractive on a hot summer day, which is especially concerning with very young children. Experts recommend that you install layers of safety.
Fencing around your pool is the obvious barrier. Make sure you install fencing that complies with the local regulations. Your fence should be at least four feet high and not provide footholds that small children can use to climb over the fence.
The gates leading into the pool area should have self-closing latches. The latch should be on the inside of the fence. It should be lockable also.
If your home is the fourth wall of your pool enclosure, all doors and windows should have alarms that will sound if anyone opens them.
If you have an above ground pool, make sure the entrance to your pool is also protected. It should be fenced in or have safety features like the flip up ladder, which has the ability to flip up the steps and lock them into place.
Consider purchasing motion detectors for both in and out of the water. A motion detector on the perimeter of your pool will sound if anyone or anything enters the space that accesses the pool. You don’t want family pets to fall into the pool, either. There are also motion detectors that float in the water and are activated when someone enters your pool.
10. Equipment Storage
You will definitely need a place to store your chemicals and pool maintenance equipment. The chemicals need to be kept dry and out of the reach of children. However, you will probably want the pool equipment you use frequently to be easily accessible. Many people build a small pool house to protect the mechanical components of the pool, but they also provide storage for the pool equipment and chemicals. To keep kids and animals safe, the pool house can be locked. If the pool house is not an option for you, the chemicals will have to be stored in your garage, but you will want the frequently used pool equipment, like your skimmer, conveniently close to the pool. What you don’t want is a jumble of hoses and tools lying on your pool deck. It’s unsightly, and it poses a safety risk of falls. There are storage items made for this. Brackets can be attached to the fence that will hold the poles and hose, and Velcro wraps can hold your hoses neatly.
11. Toy Storage
If you have kids, you will have lots of toys. How do you store the floats, balls, and pool noodles? You won’t want them strewn all over the pool deck, either. There are all sorts of storage bins available to choose from. Some are solid, so the toys aren’t visible when not in use. Usually, these are bench size, so they can double as seating. Some large bins are made of mesh over a frame. This allows for water to drain and for quick drying. Many bins are on wheels, so they can be moved easily to an unobtrusive spot when not in use. Other bins come with racks attached over the bin to hold all the pool noodles. You also will need to store the outdoor backyard games. Things like Frisbees and plastic whiffle bat and balls can be stored in a smaller container, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be waterproof. Things like a croquet set, badminton rackets, and other outdoor backyard games will need to be stored in a weatherproof container or space.
12. Sunscreen and First Aid
There isn’t such a thing as too much sunscreen. Purchase a good-quality sunscreen with a high SPF rating and apply liberally and often, at least every two hours. Make sure it’s available and encourage your guests to use it also. The last thing you want is a fun-filled day at the pool followed by several days of discomfort from a sunburn. Sunscreen can easily be added to a pool-side first aid kit. Hopefully, you will never need it, but even a waterproof Band-Aid to cover a bug bite or scratch can be helpful.
There are so many things available for your backyard pool. They can be functional, fun, or just downright beautiful to look at. This list is meant to be a starting place. As you use your pool and become more experienced, you’ll likely add things to your pool to make things easier on yourself. Don’t feel like you have to buy everything at once. While anything that makes the maintenance easier or quicker is worth the cost in the long run, it’s not worth breaking the bank. Get what you need, and then start enjoying your pool with family and friends.