Mid-Winter Pool Cover Disaster


Spring pool opening goes more smoothly when you have a proper winter pool closing – the most important part being that the pool cover is tightly put onto your swimming pool.

A tightly put winter pool cover protects the water from debris and winter conditions, but you can defeat the purpose if the pool cover comes loose and nothing is done about it for many winter months. Allowing for debris build-up inside the pool, stains and algae are the result.

Avoid opening the pool in April or May to a sad surprise or shocking realization that you have a lot of clean-up to do. If the pool cover becomes loose or falls into the pool, put on some warm clothes and get it taken care of now.

Winter Pool Cover Issues

  • Strong winds can shred loose aboveground pool covers in minutes.
  • Leaks in the pool can damage a pool cover, or make it fall in the pool.
  • Heavy rain and snow can pull in a solid cover, or rip the seam.
  • Heavy snow and ice can rip old safety cover straps.
  • Ice sheets on a solid pool cover can be sharp on the edges.
  • Large sticks or branches can pierce pool covers.
  • Farm animals or wild animals can cause severe damage.

My Cover Fell in the Pool!

uh-oh! My pool cover fell in the pool!If your solid cover slipped into the pool, either from a pool leak, or too much water weight on the cover, or animals or tree branches that fell onto the pool cover – here’s how to deal.

With several strong hands, grab the edge of the cover and pull it back up over the pool deck – if possible. Weigh it down around the edge with water bags. Never use heavy planters or cinder blocks or bricks, which could be pulled into the pool.

Start pumping water, using submersible pumps, or a cover pump. A vacuum hose can be used to siphon additional water from the pool cover.

leaf-rakes-for-poolsBreak out the skimmer nets – Leaf Rakes are the easiest for any debris removal. Pull the debris gently towards you to make for better scooping. Place the debris into a container that has holes in it that will allow for draining of the water.

leaf-gulperScoop out as much as you can by using the leaf rake. A pool brush can also be used to gently pull debris to the edge. If the cover is really submerged deeply, a garden hose vacuum like the Leaf Gulper can be a big help.

After you have eliminated all of the accumulated debris and water from the cover, you can tighten up and reset the pool cover as the surface water recedes. Inspect the cover closely for any holes or tears.

If your pool cover is completely submerged in the pool, with more water on top of it than beneath it – after cleaning as much as you can, and removing the water bags, just pull it out of the water, folding it as you remove it.

Now you can check on the water. Note how much debris went into the pool. You may be lucky and only have smaller debris in the water, in which case means you could just simply vacuum it out in spring time. If there is more debris, use your leaf rake or leaf gulper to clean it as much as possible.

For pools that have been neglected for years, with the pool cover submerged in muck and yuck, a drain and clean of the pool will be necessary.

Large amounts of mucky water going into your pool from the pool cover will likely have phosphates, nitrates, bacteria and all sorts of other undesirables, so be sure to shock the pool and use PhosFree if your pool cover split or became submerged with a large volume of organic debris (muck and yuck).

In any case, once the pool cover and debris situations are stabilized, you should check and balance the water chemistry.

Winter Pool Cover Repairs

If there is a tear or hole in the cover, you can easily make a repair using pool cover winter patch kits. Cover patches allow for quick fixes on any winter swimming pool cover so you don’t necessarily have to buy a new replacement pool cover.

pool-cover-patchesSolid pool covers can be quickly patched with our Lightning Weld pool cover patch. Self adhesive and super sticky. Patch both sides of the pool cover for best results.

loop-loc-patch-kit-3MFor safety pool covers, use our Loop Loc Patch Kit, in 4 colors, for solid or mesh safety covers. Self adhesive 4″x8″ patches are made by 3M, and makes a permanent repair, to all brands of safety pool covers.

Small rips or tears of around 6 inches are a prime example of a problem that can be remedied with a pool cover repair patch. The weave of a winter pool cover usually causes pool covers to rip in a straight line, making home repairs simple.

A rip in the cover larger than 12 inches may not be possible to repair permanently, but you may be able to make it through the winter before having to replace the pool cover.

Pool Cover Problem Prevention

solid-swimming-pool-coversFor inground pool covers with water bags, keep your cover tight with a good supply of double water bags. Never use bricks to hold down the pool cover or heavy objects. Periodically check on the water tubes throughout the winter season, patching or replacing any that have leaked.

A well functioning pool cover pump is important to be able to pump the 1-2 feet of rain water and snow melt that you probably get through winter.

A/G pool cover in high windsAboveground pool covers can use Cover Clips, Wall Bags or Cover Seal to keep out high winds. Some A/G pool owners like to keep a small amount of water (less than an inch) on the pool cover, to help keep it down during windy days. Use a cover pump or siphon method to remove excess water that could weaken the cover seams or rip the cover along the edge.

solid-safety-pool-coverFor safety pool covers, if your pool cover straps aren’t tight enough, there can be water accumulation on the surface of the cover, or touching from the underside. Tighten straps so the springs are halfway compressed, and the cover deflects only slightly in the center. Keep your water level in the pool between 6″ – 18″ below a safety pool cover.

Safety cover manufacturers can sew on new straps, make sewn on patches, or replace entire panels for mesh or solid safety covers that have become damaged.

No matter what pool cover you own – whether it is a mesh cover, solid cover, safety cover or automatic pool cover, take care of winter pool cover maintenance and you can prevent a mid-winter pool cover disaster!

Alex Malamos
InTheSwim Staff Blogger



Mid-Winter Pool Cover Disaster — 25 Comments

  1. I have a new 15ft above ground swimming pool with a thick winterized pool cover filled with aleast 1ft of water or more on it. The pillow is pushed up against the side. Ive already taken tons of water off of it and believe its the pool water Ive been taking out all this time because half the water or more looks gone and the covers still filled. The water has pulled down the cover to where the cable is up under the plastic edges of the pool. The weather reports another 5dys of on and off rain and I just dont know what to do. Im afraid the pool covers gonna pull off the plastic edges or even worse that my pools gonna collapse. I thought maybe if I let the cable loose and let the cover fall in the pool that might save the structure, but then all that rain water will be in the pool. Pls Help I just dont know what to do.

    • Hi Audra, I call this a ‘sunken cover’ and it is quite common this year. When solid pool covers get large enough holes, pool water can come onto the cover, or be pumped out of the pool with a cover pump. It can be hard to deal with on large pools, and even small pools like yours. But here’s how this is usually tackled… Pull the cover off of the pool on one side, and have 2-3 people pull the cover to the other side, very slowly… pulling all of the cover water to one side, and trying to expose the hole. (You can add a garden hose at this time, to begin refilling the pool with fresh water). Inspect the cover closely as you pull, looking for a tear of 1″ to 6″ in size. Stop when you get to the hole, and place two 2×4’s across the pool, to keep the hole elevated above water level. If you do not find the hole, pull the cover back over the pool and repeat from the other side, until you find it (there may be more than one). Once the cover and all of the cover water are at one side, start pumping out the cover with your cover pump, or rent/borrow a larger submersible pump to do it faster. As pumping proceeds, continue to pull the cover into smaller areas, to concentrate the water, pulling out the slack and tightening the cover up every 50 gallons or so, until you and a helper can manage to hoist the cover and remaining water/sludge out of the pool, over the wall or top rail. That is how it is done, to avoid dumping the sludge into the pool, which is best. However, if that happens (and some sludge will be in the pool already) of if you just have to dump the cover (into the pool), it’s not the end of the world, but it does require some work. Use Leaf Rake style skim nets to scoop the gunk off the floor and surface as the pool refills and dilutes with fresh water. Unless it’s the dead of winter, I would continue to fill until full and start filtering the water, balancing the chemistry and shocking, followed by brushing and skimming and then vacuuming to waste, possibly twice. If the debris is not too bad, you could clean as much as possible, lower pH to 7.2 and shock the pool with chlorine, using 2-3 lbs per 10,000 gals. Then you could cover it again with a new pool cover, or just keep it clean and chlorinated until opening time, starting up the filter 2-4 weeks earlier than normal.

  2. I have a thick coating of ice on my above ground pool. It’s been so cold that it hasn’t melted in order to pump off the water. Will the pool collapse due to the weight? I have a pillow in there and a heavy duty cover

    • Glad to hear that you use an Air Pillow, this prevents the ice sheet from forming thickly across the entire pool, which puts outward pressure on the pool walls, as water expands about 9% when it freezes into ice. Larger AG pools need more than one Air Pillow. When the ice does start to melt on top of the cover however, be quick to pump it off before the refreeze. It’s ok to keep 1″ of water on the cover, but when you get a lot of water on the cover, this can rip the pool cover, or create holes, or stress the seams. If the pool loses water (under the cover) with all that weight on top of the cover, that is when you could have problems, as a solid sheet of ice loses the supporting water level beneath, the ice sheet can slip and fall at an angle, into the liner or pool wall. Rare, but happens.

  3. I have a safety cover for an in-ground liner pool & noticed the water level looked high due to snow and ice melt. It was only 10-11 inches from the very top of the top. Should I drain some water under the cover? Also, do I need to be concerned that the water level was too high & could have cracked any piping. We are currently in the middle of a thaw but it is going to below freezing again in a few days.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Jason, for safety covers, at winterization, pool water level is usually lowered about 12″ below the tile, or 18″ from the top, and then rain and snow melt fills the pool back up over the course of the winter. In late spring, you may see the water level begin to touch the cover, in the center, and is a good visual indication that the water needs to be lowered, to prevent debris from getting stuck in the water and leaching tannins into the water, and to reduce warming of the water on warm days. But in your case, at 10″ below the top, or 4″ below the tile, you’re in a good spot for a snow load. For heavy snow, the water level must be no more than a foot below the tile, or the cover can break (and warranty is void). The water level helps support the cover under a snow load. The best winter water level for safety covers is just a few inches below the skimmer opening, or the bottom of the tile, or 6-9″ from the top of the pool coping, or the distance from the cover to the water. As for your pipes, no need to worry if they were drained or blown out, and plugged to keep water out. If that was not the case, underground pipes can freeze and break, depending on how many freezing days in a row there are. I’m told that ground frost penetrates the earth at a rate of about 1″ per day, so it would usually take several weeks of below freezing temps, to get down to the level of pool pipes. In a case where the pool lines are not winterized, the water level in the pipes will match the water level in the pool, or they both will have equilibrium – so if you are 10″ from the top, the water level in the pipes is still 10″ below ground. Let me know if you have any other questions! Thanks for asking!

  4. We have an inground pool with the mesh cover. The cover is broken in 3 spots toward the middle of the pool and the cover is laying on the water where it has broke loose. The company that closed it said they never lowered the water level when closing. Does this mean my pool has a leak? 2.5 ft of pool wall is showing.

    • Hi Tammy, probably. Unless someone lowered the water too much, on purpose. Sudden winter leaks can be a leaking hydrostatic relief valve, in the main drain, sometimes blowing a main drain line will upset the o-ring, in an automatic, spring-loaded hydrostat. Winter leaks could also be a crack in an unwinterized main drain, or possibly in the light, unless your water level is much below the light conduit connection (in the upper part of the light niche). Finally, there could be a crack in the pool, probably not (don’t worry), but a very small chance, unless you have a vinyl liner pool, then a larger chance of a tear or hole in the vinyl. When things thaw out, pull out the cover and inspect the pool closely. Good Luck! Let me know if you have more questions.

  5. I just bought a pool last spring.(May 2017) I paid professionals to close my above ground pool. By November I noticed the pool pillow in the center was at one edge, and a few days later, it deflated. I figured I wouldn’t deal with it since the cover on the pool was good and tight. I went outside to check on it today and the water level is about 2ft. I have a 5ft deep pool. The liner must be leaking. Who is responsible to fix/replace it? I had no issues all summer long, so I’m assuming the company that closed my pool must have caused a small hole somewhere in the pool.

    • Hi Amanda, that’s unfortunate, I’m sorry to hear. The Air Pillow is important to keep an ice sheet from forming solid across the center. They do have problems drifting, and sometimes they can leak air, but not usually. It could leak from a small pinhole, or around the valve. It does need to stay at least 3/4 full of air, to do it’s job, and it does need to stay near the center of the pool, for best results. The reason the air pillow is so important is that no ice will form (in most cases) under the pillow, and because the ice sheet is not solid across the pool, much less pressure is pushing outwards, on the pool walls and liner. When ice forms, it expands 10%, and this outward pressure can harm older or weaker pool walls, especially if it locks into the skimmer, and then the pool leaks water, and then the ice sheet melts slightly, tips and falls… That’s a worse case scenario, but could have happened, in this very cold start to 2018 we have been having. Ice sheets can also be sharp on the edges, and can shift as the sheet starts to melt, and actually tear the liner.

      As for your situation, you are not alone, this winter put a lot of damage to pools – it could be that a winter plug was knocked out, and the water ran out of the pool return. Or it could be a leak in the liner. Another thing that happens is using a cover pump near an area of the cover that has small holes, and pumping water through the holes in the cover, with the cover pump, and lowering the pool water level by pumping it out yourself – If it is a leak in the liner, you may be able to determine the source. It may be ice, or you may determine otherwise. But if damaged at closing, it would have drained long before, normally. Let me know if you have more questions –

  6. I have a in ground pool with a mesh cover. Do I have to lower the water in the pool as it rises. It’s already up to the skimmer.

    • Hi John, yes – when the water level rises enough to touch the cover, (producing a wet spot in the center), it’s time to lower the water level, to prevent leaves from getting trapped and leaching tannins into the water. The best level is just a few inches below the tile, and up to 12″ below the tile (but no more than that if you have snow in your area). Most people lower the water level 12″ below the tile upon pool closing, and then depending on the amount of rain and snow melt, may have to lower the water once or twice in the spring. You can place a small pump on the top step or in the skimmer well, to avoid pumping out too much. If you don’t have a pump, but have a small hill aside the pool, you can set up a siphon to lower the level, with a garden hose or vacuum hose.

  7. Pingback: Best Chemicals for Winterized Pools | InTheSwim Pool Blog

  8. Pingback: 5 Above Ground Pool Winter Cover Tips | InTheSwim Pool Blog

  9. I have a question. I had a pool company close our above ground pool last fall. They used a brand new solid cover which has a cable fished through eyelids thats put around the perimeter. We have got some heavy rains this spring and I noticed the cover has fallen in and the cover is ripped in different spots. It has also damaged my pool. The plastic covers around the top etc are all damaged. Not sure what other damage yet as I haven’t fully inspected it. My question is. Who is responsible for the damage? I buy a cover from them and they install it. Should they have sold me a different cover? Or attached it differently. Seems ridiculous that I pay professionals good money to close and open my pool and I have to pay more to fix this. I closed my pool for first couple years with no issues. I’m new to pool world so not sure how this stuff works. Should I be compensated for anything? Thanks.

    • Hi Chris, sorry to hear about the trouble – very troubling… The pool owner is responsible to pump the rain off of the pool cover, which is what led to the problem, primarily. A small cover pump is used to remove rain water and snow melt. You maybe should have been informed of this responsibility, by the pool company, but not necessarily. If I was the business, I would help you out with a discount on a new cover, or on some other service – but they didn’t actually cause the problem. Sorry to say – hope the damage is not too severe… Be nice and sweet – it may help! 🙂

  10. Hi, I see a lot of water on top of my above ground pool, I drained some and noticed a lot of water loss in my pool. I am concerned I may have a rip in the cover as the pillow holding the cover up either burst or lost it’s air.

    • Hi, very possible – at some point pool covers rip, or otherwise fail, but always in the most inconvenient ways! Try not to stress too much, you’ll get thru it, there is light on the other side!

      The first thing to do is to try to locate the hole, then use poles or lumber, or a new Air Pillow, to elevate the hole out of the water, so the cover can be pumped off. Not so easy if the hole is located in the dead center. You can slowly push an air pillow under a ‘drowned’ cover, but in some cases won’t get too far. Running a long pole or board under the cover from pool edge to pool edge is another method to elevate the cover and locate the hole. While doing this, pull out any cover wrinkles, and while pumping off cover, pull out wrinkles, meaning pull the cover tight around the edges (as much as you can), retightening the cover cable, or adding weights to the cable (all around the edge). If nothing works to raise the cover and find the hole, then after much effort, you might just have to dump the cover (and contents) in the pool (first remove as much debris from cover as possible), and be prepared to vacuum to waste, or use a Leaf Gulper and Leaf Nets to remove the debris, then heavy filtering, good water balance, lots of pool shock… Small A/G pool filters may have trouble with severe clean-up, could take a few weeks – you may want to open the pool a few weeks earlier this year, or this weekend! As the weather continues to warm, all that pool cover gunk will create bad water conditions, when it mixes with the pool water.

  11. In my case I have an above ground pool 53 feet and diameter I’m concerned about the ice that’s laying in the cover will this war return back into the pool through the cover or is this outside water

    • Hi John, if you have a mesh pool cover, the water will seep back through the cover when it melts. It can look drastic when the safety cover is frozen to the pool, but it will all work out. For solid covers, used with a cover pump, once the ice melts, the cover pump will be used to remove the collected ice melt.

  12. I just purchased a home with a large kidney style salt water pool with a waterfall. The previous owner was very cheap and told me she winterized the pool. However, upon arrival the pool was only covered with a large tarp and water bags and cinder blocks. I had someone come look at it and said that for now it should be fine……

    Well this past weekend we had a bad storm, i went to check on the house (we are not living in it as we are renovating). Two sections of the tarp fell into the pool on the sides. I believe a cinder block fell in and the water bags were empty. I had planned on making everything more secure i just had not had the time. That now bit me in the backside and now im afraid of the consequences. I’ve never owned a pool before so i’m stressing out.

    I plan on buying some much more sturdier heavy pool safe pieces, the top of the tarp has a very large amount of rain water and crap on it. I plan on to get a pump to begin pumping it off. i do believe some of that water has gone into the pool and mixed.

    What should i do? Should i try to treat it now or leave be? (im in NY so i wouldnt take cover off until Late April or Early May). If i do treat now what do i use?

    • Hi

      It can happen, we say the ‘cover fell in the pool’, and a good lesson not to use cinder blocks, and certainly never on a vinyl pool. For now I would try to pull the pool cover up and out of the pool, and restabilize it. Some of the cover water will mix with the pool water, which is not good, but do what you can to avoid it. If the pool cover is too far submerged, and you just can’t seem to pull it back up (and then pump the water off of the top of the cover), then you may have to give up and dump the cover in the pool, and then re-cover the pool until warmer weather arrives.

      Add a bottle of good algaecide for now, either way, to help fight the algae, and plan to open the pool early, in April, to get a jump on things.

  13. we had a big storm in the NE this past weekend. Lots of snow and ice. my son and daughter decided to play on ice on pool cover. I have a super mesh design. I come to find out that the ice cracked under them towards pool center. I see plenty of frozen ice sheets. My concern is for the pool cover at this time. Do I assume that the ice has now damaged the cover? It is still frozen over so I can’t yet see the cover. Thanks, David

    • Hi Dagot, no worries. When the ice melts the cover will spring back up. Don’t try to break off the ice, or do anything at all. I know it LOOKS LIKE it’s going to break or rip the cover, but in most cases not. It is possible that some sharp edges of the ice damaged the mesh slightly, but I doubt it. Rest easy for now.

  14. Pingback: Floods, Fires and Twisters - Natural Pool Disasters | InTheSwim Swimming Pool Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *