As the fall and winter seasons approach, pool owners may not want to completely shut down their pools and cover them up. Instead, they may prefer to keep their pools clean and ready for use when the warm spring and summer days return. To achieve this, it is necessary to partially or fully drain the pool so that all the plumbing and mechanical equipment remains above the water line and does not freeze or crack during the cold weather. This process ensures that the pool remains in good condition and is ready for use when the weather permits. Draining a pool sounds like a straightforward task, but believe me, there are some key things you need to know before opening the floodgates or connecting your submersible pump. Over the 15 years, my family’s had our in-ground pool, I’ve learned the ins and outs through some trial and error. So in this guide, I’m going to walk through how to drain a pool step-by-step to make it fast, easy, and painless.
What Do I Need to Drain the Pool?
Before pulling the proverbial plug, make sure you have all the right supplies on hand. Trying to drain a pool and realizing midstream that you don’t have the necessary tools or enough hose length can turn the job from a couple hours to an all-day headache.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Submersible Pump (Optional)
A small submersible water pump, if your pool doesn’t have drain plugs, makes things much easier compared to the old bucket brigades our parents did back in the day! Try to get one that pumps at least 1,500 gallons per hour to speed up the draining process. You’ll also need a long enough extension cord to run power into the pool.
You’ll need at least 100 ft. of garden hose, longer if draining downhill and away from the pool. The hose diameter should match up with the outlet on your submersible pump or pool’s drain fittings.
Bricks or Concrete Blocks
Having 4-6 bricks or patio blocks handy will allow you to secure the hose and direct the water exactly where you want it to go, preventing backflow.
Use a skimmer net to remove any floating leaves or debris before draining – you don’t want that gunk left behind or clogging your pump!
- Gloves for handling pumps or hoses
- Buckets for bailing out remaining shallow water
- Water pump oil if needed for lubricating a submersible pump
- Winter pool cover to place over the partially drained pool
Safety Tips Before Draining Your Pool
Draining an entire pool holds thousands and thousands of gallons of water. If that huge volume of water is misdirected, it could easily turn your yard into a lake or inadvertently flood part of your property or house. Let’s take a minute to highlight some key safety considerations:
Check Local Regulations
Your city or homeowners association may have rules about draining pools and where that water can be discharged. Give your municipality a call tell them your plans and make sure there are no permits required. I’d hate for you to go through all this work only to end up with a fine for not following proper protocols!
Mark Underground Lines
Before starting any digging or placing the drain hose/pump outlet, walk around the pool and yard and mark where any underground gas, electric, or data lines run from the house. The last thing you want is to accidentally cut a line while putting down bricks!
Clear Debris Around Pool
Give the perimeter of the pool a quick cleaning, removing any branches, rocks, or other objects that could block water flow when it starts draining.
Don’t try to drain the pool solo – have at least one or two family members or friends help with managing hoses, operating pumps, and directing the water flow. Trying to control thousands of gallons yourself is like trying to stop a freight train!
Alright, time for the good stuff…let me walk you through exactly how to drain that swimming pool properly from start to finish. Stick with me!
How to Drain Your Above Ground or In-Ground Pool
1. Clean Out Pool Debris with a Leaf Skimmer
Hopefully you’ve kept up with periodic pool skimming throughout the swim season. But take a last pass with a skimmer net to capture any stray leaves, bugs, or other gunk floating on the surface. You don’t want it left behind as the water level drops!
2. Remove and Clean Filter Elements
Pump rooms, filter barrels, and other pool mechanicals may still have water in them once drained, so thoroughly clean out filter cartridges, grids, and mesh to prevent algae or calcium buildup over winter. Don’t skip this step!
3. Determine Drain Direction
Walk around the outside perimeter of the pool and yard to map out the best path for the drain hose to follow. Ideally you’ll have a gradual downhill slope away from the house to let gravity help! If not, try to find the flattest area to minimize backflow pressure on the pump.
4. Place Bricks or Blocks to Lock Hose in Place
Position patio blocks in a line every 6-10 feet leading away from where you’ll insert the pump or attach a hose to drain fittings. Gently lay the hose between the blocks to lock it in place and direct the water where you want it to flow.
5. Prepare Pump and Hose & Begin Draining
If using a submersible pump, lubricate any seals with oil, secure the discharge hose to the outlet fitting, and slowly lower it to the deepest part of your pool. Make sure the pump is fully submerged before turning it on! Or if draining from pool piping, connect a discharge hose securely.
6. Monitor Water Flow & Check for Leaks
Stay with the pump discharge area for the first several minutes after turning it on to ensure a smooth water flow through the hose and over land without backing up. Also check that outflow from pool drains or around hose connections doesn’t indicate any leaks.
7. Drain Until Pump Loses Prime or Water Reaches Desired Level
Most above-ground pools can be drained fully except for the last few “stubborn” inches, but avoid running your submersible pump dry once water gets very low. For in-ground pools, drain down until all plumbing and mechanical equipment is safely above water to prevent winter freezing damage.
And that’s the process in a nutshell! By following those simple pool draining steps and having the right gear on hand, you’ll be done lickety split.
The Art of Draining Your Pool Based on Pool Type
Now I’ll get into a few differences based on whether you have an above-ground, in-ground, vinyl liner, or concrete/gunite pool. Pay attention to the section matching your pool to tailor things perfectly.
Draining Above-Ground Pools
Most above-ground pools are made of flexible materials like vinyl, plastic, or thin steel walls surrounding an outer frame and can safely be drained almost completely with a submersible utility pump.
Metal frame pools may use a drain plug located at the base of one wall panel. Unscrew this plug and attach a garden hose to drain, removing it when finished and replacing the plug.
Follow these above-ground pool draining tips for smooth sailing:
- Drain pool down to a couple inches but don’t allow pump to run dry once intake is exposed.
- Angle discharge hose to allow gravity drainage downhill.
- Raise pool pump higher if needed to access it for maintenance with less water weight.
- Bail out remaining bit of water manually rather than tilting pump to drain 100%.
In one to two hours or less from flipping on the pump switch, you’ll likely have emptied 95% or more of the pool contents painlessly!
Draining In-Ground Vinyl Pools
Most modern in-ground pools use thick reinforced vinyl liner material to waterproof inside walls and flooring before filling with water rather than using concrete and plaster only.
Vinyl liner pools have at least one and possibly multiple drain fittings recessed into the floor, capped with plugs when not in use.
Here are some vinyl liner pool specific pointers:
- Locate all main drain and surge tank fitting caps and remove them before starting.
- Attach a discharge hose to the largest main drain fitting so flow isn’t restricted.
- Partially close pool skimmer and float valves to optimize drain system flow.
- Don’t drain completely if possible to avoid liner sagging or loosening.
- Allow for 40-80% of normal water level based on vinyl material quality.
Following the general process while incorporating those vinyl pool tips will have yours emptied faster than a bathtub!
Draining Concrete/Gunite Pools
Pool shells made of concrete, gunite, or plaster over rebar framework require the most care when draining to prevent surface damage or cracks.
Integrated steps, benches, and vanishing edges holding water against the shell often use individual drain plugs as well. Open all of them before getting started.
Here are concrete/gunite pool specific considerations:
- Drain slowly over several days rather than all at once if able.
- Only lower water level as much as needed to keep equipment safe.
- Never allow waterline to fall below tile or plaster area of shell.
- Use submersible dehumidifier over winter to prevent plaster cracking.
- Mist plaster surfaces while empty to keep damp throughout winter.
It may take a bit longer for these shell types, but the reward is saving that pristine backyard paradise until next season!
Winterizing Your Pool After Draining
Alrighty, the pool is now emptied out and looking like a bit of a concrete bathtub!
What’s next? Here are a few key winterization tips:
- Give surfaces a scrub and thorough cleaning since they’ll be exposed for months.
- Detach and drain all hoses, pipes, pumps, filters, chlorinators.
- Use pool antifreeze in skimmers, main drains, return jets if needed.
- Cover pool completely with a well secured winter cover.
- Clean and store all accessories off the ground over winter.
Following that winterizing game plan will have you ready to quickly reopen it when warm weather returns before you know it!
How long should it take to drain my pool?
Depending on pool size and pump flow ratings, it may only take 1-3 hours for most above-grounds and anywhere from 5-12 hours for larger in-ground pools. Just monitor water level while draining and be patient if needing to lower slowly.
Where is the best place to drain my pool water?
Find a level, grassy spot at least 20 ft. away from the foundation where discharged chlorinated water can fully soak into the ground without runoff. Think about where that water will naturally flow if the area becomes saturated.
Can I drain pool water into the street storm drain?
Short answer…bad idea! Most municipalities prohibit discharging pool water with chemicals directly into storm drains leading to natural watersheds without allowing for dissipation or filtration. Check local regulations for specific guidance.
How much should I lower water level before winter?
It depends on the pool but typically around 3-4 ft. will ensure all mechanical equipment stays high and dry above the waterline. For vinyl, lower slowly, never going below the vinyl liner tabs. And for concrete/gunite, an ideal level is halfway down tile or plaster.
Is it OK to drain my pool all the way empty?
Again this depends on the type…above-ground soft-sides can usually go bone dry with little issue. But extreme low water levels on vinyl liner or concrete pools could damage liners, crack plaster if it dries out, and cause leaks or sink holes by removing soil backfill support around the structure. I’d seek professional guidance before attempting to fully empty an in-ground pool.
Well there you have how to drain a pool friends – now you can drain your swimming pool like a seasoned pro!
Cleaning your sink drain might appear daunting, but, like maintaining your backyard oasis, approach it with the same slow and steady mindset: follow the step-by-step process, consider tips for your specific plumbing, adhere to local regulations, prioritize safety, and, if necessary, don’t hesitate to call in backup.
Here’s to smooth pool winterization so you’re ready to cannonball again come summer! Just be sure to invite me over to partake once it warms back up…see you poolside!