There are a surprising number of factors to consider when shopping for winter pool covers, and sorting out the differences between them can initially seem like a daunting task. In the following post I will highlight their main features and things to consider with each option so you can make an informed decision. The best pool cover may be the one that fits your specific needs and your specific budget.
Solid Pool Covers
A solid winter pool cover is so named because water and debris cannot pass through the cover. Sometimes they are just referred to as “pool tarps” because they simply lay on top of the water. Solid in ground pool covers are secured by water bags or vinyl water tubes that are placed into loops which are sewn around the perimeter of the cover. Water tubes can be sold separately or you can purchase a solid pool cover and the correct amount of water tubes as a kit. Above ground pool covers come with a cable and winch system; the cable threads through grommets that are spaced out around the edge of the cover and the winch tightens the cable so the pool cover fits snugly against the walls of the pool.
Solid pool covers are usually your least expensive option. Many companies, including In The Swim, offer several different grades of solid winter covers, so you can make the best pool cover decision, based on what’s in your wallet at the time.
Solid pool covers are meant to be oversized (they are said to have an “overlap”) so that the cover can lie on top of the water even after you lower the water level for the winter. In The Swim’s solid winter covers have a built in 4′ overlap that will fit a given size pool after the water level is dropped by 18 inches. Even if a solid pool cover is properly sized and resting on the water as it should, it is important to remember that these winter covers are not able to support significant weight and that children or pets would very easily pull the cover into the pool if they were to walk out on it. This is a larger safety concern for in ground pools since they are at ground level and if there is no fencing or barrier around them pets or small children could become trapped on the cover.
It is recommended that you periodically pump off rain and snow melt from your cover with a small pool cover pump. Excess water weight will stress the seams of a solid pool cover and create a potentially unsafe situation. In addition, water attracts worms, and worms attract birds, who can poke small holes in your pool cover with their sharp beaks and claws.
Using a leaf catcher, also called a leaf net, on top of your solid pool cover is a good idea if you have a lot of trees around your pool. Leaf catchers are basically a mesh netting that you place on top of your winter cover when you close the pool in the fall, and then you remove it after all the leaves have fallen so that the leaves don’t sit on top of the cover all winter long. Leaf nets make an easy job of removing leaves from a solid pool cover.
Mesh Pool Covers
Mesh winter covers, not to be confused with mesh safety covers, are installed just like solid covers, so they are meant to lie on top of the water. The mesh material allows rainwater, snow melt and very fine debris to pass through the winter cover while preventing leaves and larger debris from entering the pool. The trade-off of mesh pool covers vs. solid pool covers is that you will most likely spend a little more time vacuuming your pool in the spring to get rid of the fine silt and additional algae that may accumulate using a mesh cover; while a solid cover requires you to pump off dirty water from the cover and remove wet leaves and other debris that may have accumulated over the winter. Mesh covers can contribute to additional algae growth in the pool because small amounts of sunlight and organic debris will be able to penetrate the mesh material. If you are a pool owner that does not remove their cover until late in the spring, this cover may not be the best option as by spring time most of your winterizing chemicals may have depleted and algae will be able to grow quickly.
Mesh in ground pool covers are installed using water bags just like solid pool covers and will also usually be available for purchase as a kit with water tubes. Above ground mesh covers will also come with a cable and winch system. Mesh winter covers need to lay on top of the water as well and will come with the appropriate amount of overlap if you order by pool size. Mesh pool covers could be pulled in to the pool just as easily as solid pool covers if children or pets were to wander out on to them so it is important to take proper safety precautions.
Mesh covers are only slightly more expensive than most solid covers, so price isn’t usually the determining factor between the two, it’s really about whether you’d prefer to pump water off of a solid cover or allow it to drain through the mesh.
Safety Pool Covers
Safety pool covers are a very different type of cover that are generally only available for in ground pools or for above ground/on ground pools that are completely surrounded by a pool deck. Safety pool covers require that brass anchors be drilled approximately every 24-36 inches around the perimeter of the pool. Most safety cover straps have a break strength of about 4,000 pounds so they eliminate the safety concerns that can be created by the mesh or solid pool covers that are simply held down by water tubes. Safety pool covers are a much more expensive option, but are truly an investment in your pool. They will last much longer than traditional solid or mesh covers, up to 15 years. They are available in a tight mesh fabric or a reinforced solid material, with no difference in their strength, it just depends on whether you would like rain water to drain through the cover or if you would rather pump the water off. Solid safety pool covers will keep out sunlight and contaminants, and will usually open up in the spring looking with high water quality.
Safety covers are available in what is called a stock cover, ready to ship in 24 hours. Stock safety covers match the most common sizes of in ground pools, and can be purchased for under $500. Although stock safety covers will allow for some variance in pool size, (up to 6 inches), you should be careful not to install a stock cover on a pool that does not match up. Uneven wear will shorten the life of a stock cover placed on a non-stock pool shape or size, and this will also void the manufacturer’s warranty. Stock covers also will not be suitable for pools with varying deck levels or those with obstructions within 12-18″ of the pool’s edge.
If your pool does not meet the stated pool size for a given cover or does not fulfill all of these requirements you will want to purchase a custom cover. In The Swim offers a Custom Safety Cover Quick Estimator online. Just fill in some basic details about your pool, and a quick estimate is returned. If you are ready to purchase a cover you will need to provide very detailed A-B measurements to ensure the cover will fit properly. In my last blog post a few weeks back, I talked in detail about A-B measurements and how to do them yourself.
I hope this information has helped you to make a decision about which type of swimming pool cover is right for you, or, at the very least, has helped you determine what questions you have and what you need to research further. You will find lots of additional information online, including at our website intheswim.com. If you have any questions please give us a call, we want to help you find the best pool cover to suit your needs!
InTheSwim Staff Blogger