The key to a fun backyard is in the planning and designing.


Spring is already here and summer beckons. It’s time to get the pool and patio ready for those friends and family you plan to entertain as soon as the weather warms up. But just as you would have the car serviced before a long drive, so too must the pool and patio be checked over to ensure both are in good working order before you welcome your guests.


The most obvious place to start your preparations is a simple walk-around. After a hard winter, the pool and the patio will have accumulated their fair share of debris, and there might even be some ice or slush still lurking in corners. So while you’re cleaning up, look for any obvious signs of damage. Fittings may have come loose on the pool, say, or frost heaving could have turned your once level patio into a mini Himalayas. Check your patio furniture too if it’s been left out over the winter, even if it’s been covered up. You’ll probably be OK with wood or metal chairs and tables, but glass and plastic don’t fare well in very cold weather. Also, be sure to open your patio umbrella and give it a twirl. It’s virtually certain that bugs — dead or alive — will have been bunking down there over the winter. And remember that the domestic pets of irresponsible owners are no respecters of property and you may have to clean up after them too.

Pool prep

Once that’s done, and if there are no obvious signs of damage, then your next move is to decide whether to prep the pool yourself or have one of the many pool maintenance companies do it for you. If you intend to do it yourself, there will be such tasks as drain plugs and drain cocks to close or put back that were opened or removed in the fall, and a check of the filtration system to ensure it is circulating water as it’s supposed to. You will also need to check and turn on the pilot light of the pool’s natural gas heater (most pools are heated that way).

Next come the chemicals. Chlorine and bromine are the two most common sanitizers used to destroy harmful bacteria in the water. A third chemical is muriatic acid, dry or liquid, that is added to the water to set the right pH balance. Humans like a slightly acidic 7.2 pH to splash about in. One more thing: take the greatest care mixing chemicals for your swimming pool. Getting it wrong will start your summer off with a real bang.

If you don’t want the fuss of pool-prep yourself, hire a maintenance firm. As usual, word of mouth recommendation is the best way to go. Costs will vary from company to company and from place to place, but figure on at least $500 to open your pool for the summer and another $50 a week or so for maintenance after that.

And don’t forget to check liability insurance.

Enjoying your summer outside is not really different from any other activity. A little preparation will ensure that friends and family have the great time you planned for them.