Labor Day weekend gives homeowners one last chance to take advantage of the warm weather, but it’s also the time to think about how to winterize a pool.

“You need to protect it from the elements,” says Jimmie Meece, vice president of franchise operations with America’s Swimming Pool Co. in Macon, GA.

Freezing temperatures are the biggest concern, as pipes freezing and bursting underground is very expensive to identify and repair. But even in areas where winter means more rain and wind, proper winterization of your pool is important.

To help protect your pool from harsh conditions so you can jump right into the summer fun next year, here’s a handy guide on winterizing it.

When should you winterize?

It all depends on where you live. Homes in sunny Southern California or Arizona probably won’t have to close at all. But if you live where it gets frigid, your pool will need to be winterized before temperatures dip to 32 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent water from freezing. Try to aim to have it shut down in October, or by Thanksgiving at the absolute latest, says Meece.

If the temperatures unexpectedly plunge to 32 degrees or below before you close, you can run the pool pump for a full 24 hours. As long as the water is moving through the pipes, it won’t freeze.

Clean before you close

Start by removing any debris from the pool. Since the water won’t be filtered or treated chemically during the winter, it’s critical to ensure the water isn’t dirty when you open up the pool in the spring.

Take your skimmer net and remove any leaves. If you leave organic material in the pool for months, it can stain the surface of the pool. Be sure to store equipment like ladders or toys, too.

Next, ensure all of your pool chemicals are in the recommended range for your individual pool. Take a water sample to your local pool store if you don’t already know the recommended ranges. Meece says you want to focus on these three ranges: chlorine, pH, and alkalinity.

Lower the…