When to Drain a Swimming Pool

When to Drain a Swimming Pool

Having a swimming pool in your backyard is a dream come true for many homeowners. It’s a personal oasis of fun, relaxation, and respite from the summer heat. But owning a pool isn’t all about enjoying cool dips and poolside parties. It also comes with responsibilities, including maintenance and care.

One of the most important, and often complicated, decisions for pool owners is understanding “when to drain a pool”. It’s a question that requires careful consideration, and the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

The process of pool draining can be a complex task filled with potential pitfalls. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a task that should be done regularly, but rather, only under specific circumstances. The reason is simple: pools are designed to be full of water, and emptying them can lead to serious structural problems.

In-ground pools, for instance, usually require draining and refilling only every 5-7 years, or when significant repairs are needed. The reason for this infrequent draining schedule is rooted in the dangers posed by something called hydrostatic pressure, a force exerted by groundwater against the pool’s structure.

This article aims to help you understand “when to drain a pool” and why sometimes it’s better not to. It provides insights into the reasons for and against pool draining, offering practical tips to help you make an informed decision. So, whether you’re a new pool owner or just looking to brush up on your pool maintenance knowledge, this guide should prove insightful. Let’s dive in!

When to Drain a Swimming Pool

In the life of every swimming pool owner, the question of “when to drain a pool” will inevitably arise. Draining a pool, however, isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. It’s a delicate operation that should be performed sparingly and under specific circumstances.

The first thing to understand is that pool draining isn’t a routine chore. It’s a significant event that usually only happens every 5 to 7 years or when major repairs are needed. In essence, it should be treated as a last resort, not a standard part of pool maintenance.

On occasion, certain conditions may prompt you to drain your swimming pool. One such circumstance involves the level of total dissolved solids (TDS) in your pool. TDS consists of everything that isn’t H2O in your water – from pollen and metals to organic waste, chlorides, sulfates, and algae residue. Over time, as TDS levels rise, it can become increasingly difficult to keep your pool chemically balanced. When this happens, it might be necessary to drain and refill your pool.

Sometimes, the physical structure of your pool might necessitate draining. If you have interior pool repairs to make, such as patching cracks or fixing leaks, you’ll need to drain the pool to do the work. Similarly, if you’re planning to replace a vinyl liner or conduct an acid wash on cement or gunite pools, pool draining becomes an unavoidable part of the process.

Times to Avoid Draining

Times to Avoid Draining

While there are certain situations that may necessitate pool draining, there are also times when it’s best to avoid it. Draining a pool on impulse without understanding the implications can lead to serious issues, so it’s best to be avoided.

Similarly, if groundwater levels are particularly high, it might be safer to postpone pool draining. When the groundwater pressure is high, draining a pool can cause it to lift or ‘heave’ out of the ground, leading to serious structural damage.

Another common mistake is resorting to draining when faced with green pool water. Although this might seem like a quick fix, it’s often an opportunity to fine-tune your pool chemistry and maintenance skills. Proper treatment and filtration can often clear up the problem without the need for draining.

Timing is crucial when it comes to pool draining. The weather plays a significant role in the process. Draining should ideally be done during a period of dry weather. Heavy rain saturating the ground around a drained pool can lead to complications. It’s best to check the weather forecast and make sure you have a window of dry days ahead before you start draining your pool.

Why You Should Not Drain a Pool

While knowing “when to drain a pool” is essential for pool owners, it’s equally important to understand the circumstances under which draining your pool is not the ideal choice. As with most things in life, pool draining comes with its own set of potential risks and drawbacks.

General Risks of Pool Draining

When we think about a pool, we imagine it brimming with water. Pools are designed to hold water and function best when they are full. The very structure of an in-ground pool relies on the balance of pressure created by the water inside it and the groundwater outside. When a pool is drained, this balance is disrupted, leading to an increase in groundwater pressure against the pool’s structure, which can result in damage.

One of the most significant risks of pool draining is the hydrostatic pressure – the force exerted by the groundwater on the pool’s walls and floors. This pressure is benign when a pool is full, but when a pool is empty, it can cause substantial structural damage.

When your pool is installed, the ground is excavated to create a space larger than the pool itself, resulting in a “bowl effect.” This means that when you drain your pool, the loosened earth, or backfill, around the pool can become saturated with water, further increasing the pressure on the pool walls and potentially leading to structural problems.

Specific Risks by Pool Type

The type of pool you own also dictates the risks associated with draining. If you have a vinyl pool, the liner is prone to collapse when the pool is drained. The combination of the liner’s weight and sun exposure can lead to severe deformation and potential failure.

Concrete and fiberglass pools are also not exempt from risks. The sudden increase in hydrostatic pressure can cause these pools to “pop out” or lift from the ground, which would be a catastrophic failure requiring significant repair or replacement.

Other Consequences of Pool Draining

Beyond the physical risks to your pool, there are other less obvious, but still consequential, repercussions of pool draining. For instance, when you drain your pool, you expose the pool floor and walls to the elements. This exposure can lead to drying out and cracking, particularly for vinyl liners, shortening their lifespan.

Another often overlooked issue is the potential for insect infestation. Small cracks or openings that might develop in a drained pool can become an entry point for insects, leading to infestations and further damage.

Alternatives to Complete Pool Draining

Given these risks, it’s clear that pool draining should be a last resort. There are other, less risky ways to handle pool maintenance. For instance, a good quality filter can clean out murky water over time. Sand or large filters are typically best equipped for this task. On the other hand, if you have a cartridge filter, you might need to replace it to handle heavily contaminated water.

Another strategy is partial draining and refilling, which can help dilute contaminants without putting your pool at risk. Finally, ensuring that your pool’s chemical levels are balanced can solve a myriad of issues from green water to contamination from fecal accidents or dead wildlife.

The key takeaway here is that although understanding “when to drain a pool” is essential, knowing when not to drain your pool is equally, if not more, important. Pool draining carries potential risks and should be approached with caution. It should always be considered a last resort, performed under specific circumstances, and often under professional supervision.

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