How to Replace Pool Filter Sand

Hopefully, if you have a swimming pool, you have a filter for it because, without one, that pool will get dirty and full of unwanted contaminants. One of the most common and popular types of pool filters is the sand filter.

It is an excellent pool water filtration media, but that said, it does not last forever. Whether sooner or later, that pool filter sand will need to be replaced.

This article discusses the most critical aspects of pool filter sand. Next, we will be providing you with a step-by-step tutorial on how to replace pool filter sand.

How to Replace Pool Filter Sand

What is a Sand Pool Filter, and How does it Work?

A sand pool filter is nothing more than a canister containing specialized sand used to filter pool water.

The water is pumped into the canister, it flows through the sand, and the rough edges of the sand capture a variety of contaminants and debris. The water is then pumped back into the pool.

This is one of the cheapest, most eco-friendly, and most straightforward methods, particularly for swimming pools in terms of natural water filtration techniques. While sand may not seem like anything overly special, it works very well for water filtration.

Three Types of Pool Filter Sand

Before we talk about replacing the sand in your pool filter, you need to know there are a few different types of sand that you can use.

If you just take a quick glance, all sand might look more or less the same to you, but different sands have different properties regarding pool filtration.

Not all types of sand are effective water filtration media. When it comes to pool filter sand, there are three types to consider.

Silica Sand

The first and most common type of sand used in pool filters is silica sand. Silica sand is ground quartz, and the rough edges created by grinding it down are ideal for trapping unwanted debris and contaminants from the water.

Glass Sand

The second type of sand is glass sand, which, as the name suggests, is made by grinding down old glass. For this reason, glass sand is seen as being fairly eco-friendly.

Because glass sand grains are all different in size, there is minimal channeling. In other words, pool water flows very evenly through the sand instead of being channeled through specific areas (something that silica sand suffers from).

Glass sand is also negatively charged, making it ideal for removing manganese and iron from the water (both of which can cause pool water to appear brown).

Zeolite Sand

Zeolite sand is made by grinding down the minerals found in volcanic rocks. Zeolite is an excellent type of filter sand because it features up to 100 times more surface area than normal silica sand, making it the most effective filtration media. Moreover, zeolite sand is also excellent at removing chloramines from the water. It’s not cheap, but generally speaking, it is considered the best.

How Often Does Pool Filter Sand Need to be Replaced?

How often sand in your pool filter will need to be replaced depends on a few different factors. However, generally speaking, you can expect pool filter sand to last anywhere from 3-5 years.

If you don’t take good care of your pool, this could be as little as one or two years, but if you take great care of your pool, you might be able to extend this to six years.

Let’s look at the different factors that will affect how often your pool filter sand needs to be replaced.

  • The more often the filter runs, the more that sand is being taxed, and the quicker it will wear out
  • If the water you are using for your pool has not already been filtered as it ran through your house, there will be more contaminants and debris leftover that the pool filter will need to deal with
  • If your pool has a lot of trees above it, all of those bugs, leaves, and debris falling into the pool will decrease the lifespan of the filter sand
  • Regular filter backwashing and sand cleaning can help to extend the lifespan of a canister of pool filter sand

How to Tell if Pool Filter Sand Needs to be Replaced: Why Replace it?

OK, so the general rule of thumb is that pool filter sand needs to be replaced every 3-5 years, but as we noted, this depends on a variety of factors. So, let’s talk about the different ways you can tell whether or not your pool filter sand needs to be replaced.

  • The number one way to tell if your pool filter sand needs to be replaced is if you see that your pool water looks cloudy most of the time
  • Another way to tell is by taking sand from the filter and looking at it under a microscope. Chances are that you don’t have a microscope, but if you do, if the sand looks very smooth and rounded instead of jagged and rough, it’s time to replace it
  • If you notice that you have to backwash the filter or shock treat your pool more often, the sand likely needs to be replaced
  • If you notice that the pool filter water flow rate has decreased, then chances are that the sand is full of debris, clogged, and in need of replacement.

Filter Backwashing and Filter Sand Cleaners: This Isn’t Enough?

Backwashing the filter to clean and flush the sand will help extend its lifespan, and yes, using special pool filter sand cleaning products will also help. Both can help to extend the lifespan of the filter sand, but only by so much. Doing both of these things regularly could make the difference between the sand needing to be replaced every 3 years or 5 years. No matter how well you treat it, eventually, it will need to be replaced.

How Much does it Cost to Replace Pool Filter Sand?

Depending on your pool’s filter size and the type of sand, it can cost anywhere from just under $300 to over $1,000 to replace the sand in your pool filter.

How to Replace Pool Filter Sand: Step by Step

Now you know virtually everything there is to know about pool filter sand except for how to actually replace it. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to do just that.

  • Turn the pool pump off and ensure that it is not connected to any power source. Never work on electrical equipment when it is live, certainly not when water is involved.
  • Remove the drain cap that is located on the bottom of the sand tank. Just loosen the lid a little bit at first to release a bit of pressure, then thoroughly remove it to completely drain the tank.
  • Once the tank has been drained, you will need to disconnect the multi-port valve by unscrewing the connectors that connect the tank to the waste line, the pump, and the return lines that go back to the pool.
  • Now you need to remove the collar, which is also known as the flange clamp. This is the piece of hardware that holds the filter to the tank. You will need a screwdriver to remove the screws that hold it in place. Don’t lose the screw caps!
  • Now it is time to take off the multi-port valve by gently unscrewing it from the standpipe located on the tank’s interior. Again, don’t be rough when doing this, as there are other components inside the tank you risk damaging.
  • Get some duct tape and cover the standpipe to ensure that no sand can fall into it, or else sand will get into your pool.
  • Use a bucket, ladle, shop-vac, or whatever else you have to remove the sand. A shop vac will work best. Once again, be careful when doing this because other components in the tank can be damaged.
  • Use your hose to rinse the tank out thoroughly. You want all old sand removed.
  • Before you can start refilling the tank, attach the drain cap at the bottom. Make sure it is secure to prevent leaks.
  • Now you can fill the tank with water about halfway and then fill it with the sand. Again, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in terms of sand quantity. Once the sand is loaded into the tank, remove the duct tape from the standpipe.
  • Put the multi-port valve back on the standpipe, reattach the clamp, and reconnect all of the pipes and lines to the multi-port valve.
  • Making sure that the pump is still turned off, now it is time to backwash the filter. First, move the waste line to a suitable area. Once backwashing is complete, allow for a couple minutes of rinsing.
  • Now you can turn the pump on (you may need to prime it), and you are good to go!


There you have it – everything you need to know about replacing pool filter sand, so you can get back to cooling off from the summer’s heat!

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