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First-Time Pool Owner, Now What? A Guide for Beginners

Becoming a first-time pool owner is an exciting and rewarding experience. Having a personal oasis in your backyard, a place to relax, entertain, and enjoy quality time with family and friends, is undeniably appealing. However, alongside fun and leisure, owning a pool comes with the responsibility of proper maintenance and care. Understanding the basics of pool upkeep, from balancing chemicals to managing equipment, can initially seem overwhelming. But with the right knowledge and tools, maintaining a pool can become a seamless part of your routine. In this guide, we’ll walk you through essential tips and insights to help you navigate the joys and challenges of owning your first pool.

Understanding Circulation, Filtration, and Sanitization

As a first-time pool owner, understanding your pool's circulation, filtration, and sanitization is essential. Together, these processes create a balanced and healthy pool environment, making routine maintenance more manageable and prolonging the life of your pool equipment.


Proper circulation ensures water moves consistently through the pool. This helps evenly distribute chemicals and prevents stagnant areas where algae and bacteria can thrive. Additionally, it aids the filtration process by moving debris toward the skimmers and filter, enhancing the system's efficiency in removing impurities. Effective circulation keeps the water clear and clean.

pool pump

  1. The pool pump, the heart of the circulation system, is crucial for maintaining water quality. It draws water from the pool, pushes it through the filter, and returns the clean, filtered water to the pool. This process should occur daily. 
  2. Ensure the pump basket and skimmer baskets are clean, in good shape, and properly installed to avoid clogging the impeller. Be sure to lubricate and securely tighten the pump lid to prevent air leaks. 
  3. Run the pump for at least 8–12 hours daily, or longer as needed, to keep your pool water clean. If necessary, run it 24 hours a day to improve water conditions.
  4. Regularly check on the pump to confirm it’s operating properly and pumping the correct amount of water. Pool pumps can lose prime from air leaks or low water levels in the pool.
  5. Learn to recognize distress signals from the pump, such as odd noises or pressure changes. Look for signs of good circulation, including swirling water in the skimmer or surface ripples from the returns.


Your pool filter traps small particles to ensure clean and clear pool water. Daily pool filtration and timely filter cleaning are necessary. Otherwise, fine particles will build up quickly, making the pool water cloudy and unsafe.

Check on your pool filter pressure regularly, and understand the normal operating range for your particular filter system. Higher than normal pressure indicates a dirty filter or obstruction after the filter. Lower than normal pressure indicates a dirty pump strainer or skimmer basket, or an obstruction before the filter.

Sand filters use specifically sized and graded quartz filter sand. They can also use filter sand alternatives like FilterGlass, ZeoSand, or FilterBalls. When the filter pressure gauge rises around 8–10 psi, you should turn off the pump and backwash the filter.

pool filter cartridge

DE filters use diatomaceous earth filter powder or an alternate filtration powder like Perlite or cellulose fiber. The powder traps dirt within the porous material, and when the pressure gauge rises 8–10 psi, it's time to backwash the filter to flush out the old filter powder and debris, then add fresh DE powder back in.

Cartridge filters use a specific size of pleated polyester fabric to trap dirt and debris. Like sand and DE filters, when the pressure gauge rises 8–10 psi, or when the flow rate is noticeably diminished, clean the filter. Cartridge filters are the only filter type that does not get backwashed — you have to remove the filter cartridges from the tank and manually clean them off with a spray nozzle.

All pool filter types can benefit from an annual deep cleaning, using a filter cleaner solution to remove oils, scale, and dirt trapped deep within the filter. You can find sand filter cleaner, DE filter cleaner, and cartridge filter cleaner chemicals, for optimal cleaning of your pool filter type.


Effective sanitization — through methods like a chlorine feeder or saltwater system — will kill harmful microorganisms in the water, protecting swimmers from potential health risks. 

chlorine tablet

Most pool owners find chlorine tablets to be the most convenient and cost-effective way to consistently chlorinate the swimming pool. Use enough tablets to maintain a Free Available Chlorine level of 1–4 ppm, as verified by an at-home test kit or test strips. For the average swimming pool, this is usually about 2–3 tablets per 15,000 gallons of pool water each week.

In addition to having a consistent level of Free Available Chlorine in your pool, it’s also necessary to superchlorinate or oxidize the water about once per week. Our granular chlorine pool shock quickly raises chlorine levels to over 10 ppm to destroy invisible germs, algae, and combined chlorine molecules. If your chlorine levels are within the ideal range and the water is healthy, you can use a chlorine-free shock to oxidize the water and break down non-living organic contaminants.

To protect your chlorine from degrading in bright sunlight, use Cyanuric Acid, aka chlorine stabilizer or conditioner. Chlorine tablets and stabilized dichlor pool shock contain a small amount of stabilizer. However, to reach the recommended range of 30–50 ppm, some pools may need an initial dose of stabilizer in the water — especially after a fresh fill.

Mastering Your Pool Water Chemistry

Mastering your pool chemistry and water balance is an essential first step for first-time pool owners. To do this, you’ll need a comprehensive test kit, such as the Taylor Complete Test Kit, which will provide precise water quality test results. Test strips may be easier to use, but they aren’t as accurate. Smaller test kits may not test for all the necessary chemistry levels. Also check with your local pool store, as they may offer free in-store water testing. For example, Leslie's offers free in-store AccuBlue® water testing, which includes a customized water treatment plan to make things easier.

The recommended chemical levels for your pool are:

  • pH: 7.4–7.6
  • Total Alkalinity: 80–120 ppm
  • Calcium Hardness: 200–400 ppm
  • Cyanuric Acid: 30–50 ppm
  • Free Chlorine: 1–4 ppm
  • Total Chlorine: Within 0.3 ppm of your Free Chlorine level

For those who want to delve into more advanced pool chemistry, performing a regular Langelier Saturation Index (LSI) calculation can be very beneficial. The LSI helps determine if your pool water is balanced and can help prevent issues like scaling or staining. Online calculators, like the Pentair LSI calculator, can simplify this process. Just input your measured chemistry levels and the current water temperature to get insights and recommended adjustments.

calcium hardness increaser

cal-hypo pool shock

alkalinity increaser

Performing Routine Chlorine and Shock Maintenance

A common question we hear from new pool owners is, "How often do I need to add chlorine?" The answer is at least once a week. Most pool owners use 3" chlorine tablets to maintain the required 1–4 ppm of Free Chlorine, replenishing them as they dissolve, or refilling the chlorine feeder at least once a week. Maintaining a consistent level of Free Chlorine in your pool kills bacteria, destroys algae, and oxidizes contaminants such as body oils, cosmetics, and sweat from swimmers. 

Another question new pool owners typically ask is, "How often do I need to shock the pool?" Before we answer that question, let’s explain what it means to shock your pool. 

Shocking the pool involves adding enough pool shock to sanitize the water and eliminate contaminant buildup. There are generally three main reasons to shock your pool: 

  1. Algae: Use granular chlorine (pool shock) and a strong brush to eliminate algae in isolated spots or a widespread bloom.
  2. Microbes: Granular chlorine can also kill disease-causing viruses, germs, bacteria, protozoa, and other harmful microbes by raising chlorine levels to 10, 20, or even 30 ppm.
  3. Chloramines: When Free Chlorine combines with other molecules, it forms chloramines, which cause strong chlorine-like odors and eye irritation in the pool. Superchlorinating the pool breaks down these chloramines.

So, how often should you shock your pool? The answer is, weekly! Even if your pool water looks clear, a weekly shock treatment helps to ensure healthy, swimmable water. We also recommend shocking your pool after a pool party, extreme weather conditions, at the sight of cloudy or foamy water, and if you’re struggling to get a good chlorine reading. As mentioned earlier, if your Free Chlorine level is within range, or at least above 2 ppm, a chlorine-free shock treatment can help break down non-living organic matter in your pool. There's less wait time before swimming when you use chlorine-free shock, making it an ideal solution for a pre-party pool water treatment to help fend off swimmer contaminants.

Gathering Your Essential Pool Chemicals

Before you can start maintaining any pool, you’ll need to purchase a few basics. These include chlorine tablets and pool shock. If your pool uses a saltwater system, you'll only need pool shock for occasional treatments. The type of shock you need depends on your pool type and primary sanitizer.

To manage your pool’s pH balance, you’ll need to invest in water balancers and a good test kit. The most common balancers include a pH increaser and pH reducer. At some point, you might need an alkalinity increaser, calcium hardness increaser, or cyanuric acid increaser (chlorine stabilizer). Many pools benefit from additional treatments such as clarifiers, algaecides, and stain-prevention chemicals.

Understanding Your Pool Equipment

pool filter pressure gauge

The pool pump is the heart of your pool’s circulation system, pulling water from the pool skimmer and main drain and pushing it through the filter, heater, and automatic chlorinator before returning it to the pool. The pump has a small strainer basket to catch larger debris, while smaller debris is trapped by the pool filter, which should be cleaned or backwashed regularly to maintain proper flow.

Monitor the filter pressure gauge; when it reads 8–10 psi higher than the normal, clean pressure, it’s time to backwash or clean the filter. High pressure indicates a dirty filter, while low pressure might signal a clogged pump strainer, skimmer basket, or impeller.

If your pool has a heater, it will warm the water by 1–2°F with each pass. Chlorinators, placed after the heater, use 3" chlorine tablets or sticks to maintain chlorine levels. Alternatively, some pools may rely on a salt cell or floating tablet feeders.

Automatic pool cleaners can significantly reduce manual cleaning efforts. There are various types, such as in-floor systems with pop-up heads that push debris to the drain and skimmer, or roving cleaners that require some maintenance, like emptying debris bags/canisters and replacing parts.

Routine Maintenance Tasks

The key to maintaining a beautiful and healthy pool is through routine maintenance. Here are essential tasks to perform. 

Daily Tasks:

  • Check water color and clarity, water movement, and water level.
  • Observe the pump flow and listen for unusual noises.
  • Inspect the filter pressure gauge to ensure a clean filter and proper water flow.

Weekly Tasks:

  • Clean the pool by emptying baskets and debris bags, brushing surfaces, and skimming the surface. Use a manual vacuum as needed to remove debris from the floor.
  • Test and balance the water’s chemical levels.
  • Shock your pool to remove chloramines, swimmer debris, and microbes like germs and algae. 
  • Add chlorine tablets to the automatic chlorinator or floater, if applicable.

Monthly Tasks:

  • Clean dive and slide surfaces, focusing on removing oil, sunscreen, and airborne debris that affect your pool’s texture and functionality.
  • Lubricate O-rings with pool lube to avoid air and water leaks in your pump, filter, heater, or valves. 

Seasonal Tasks:

  • Perform a deep filter cleaning using a pool filter cleaner to remove oil and scale buildup.
  • Tune up the pool cleaner by checking and replacing wearable parts.
  • For pools in colder climates, cover and close the pool for winter.

For a more in-depth breakdown of what your pool maintenance schedule should look like, read our Pool Maintenance Schedule for Beginners article! 

Owning a pool blends the worlds of leisure and responsibility. As a new pool owner, it’s important to understand all that comes with maintaining your pool — mastering water chemistry, routine maintenance, and equipment management. With consistent care, you’ll be a pro in no time! For more information on pool care and maintenance, check out additional articles in our blog

In The Swim makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and In The Swim assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. In The Swim assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.