After 18 years of living in the city, I bought a house in the suburbs, and one of the big selling points was that the house had an inground pool. Like most new pool owners, the visions of pool parties and a backyard resort lifestyle completely eclipsed the reality of what it actually takes to maintain it. I’ve enjoyed four seasons as a pool owner and have experienced almost every repair, chemical imbalance, closing and opening obstacle imaginable.
Every fall there is one thing that I dread the most – the one-on-one, several hour battle between myself and a big, green mesh safety cover. After a gritty, exhausting bout with it last season, I laid the groundwork to make it easier this year.
I’ve learned many lessons as a pool owner; today I share my hard-knock wisdom about safety pool covers, with hopes that you’ll Learn from my Mistakes.
Safety Cover Lesson #1: Color Coded Corner Straps
The most annoying and time consuming mistake I made last year was completing my lap around the pool attaching the straps to the anchors one-by-one completely oblivious that I was actually off by one anchor. After cursing myself out, I had to undo every strap and slide the safety cover over one anchor several dozen times. To compound the problem, this made most of the strap adjustments I had made totally irrelevant.
Determined to prevent this mistake again, I marked three corner straps in one corner with yellow pipe cleaner as well as the adjacent, catty-corner straps with blue pipe cleaner. With an amoeba/kidney-shaped pool it can be confusing which side is which – especially when the safety cover is folded or rolled up. You can also use zip-ties to mark the deep end of your cover, or one corner of the cover. Taken a step further, you can use fingernail polish to paint the head of the matching brass anchor.
Safety Cover Lesson #2: Store Your Safety Cover Safely
As I pulled the cover from its storage bag I slowly realized that mice had chewed through several layers of the meticulously folded mesh. I was painfully reminded of folding craft paper in elementary school to cut snowflake patterns. The previous season I had stored the safety cover bag in my relatively rodent-proof garage. This year, as I patted myself on the pack for folding it perfectly to fit inside the bag, I decided to drag it to my tool shed just a few short feet from where I stood as opposed to dragging it the 100 feet or so to reach my garage. Store your safety cover indoors, or suspend it off the ground by hanging it high in the garage rafters, where it won’t make a lovely summer home for a mice family. If that’s not possible, I hear that using moth balls or sachets of mint leaves can discourage nesting rodents.
Safety Cover Lesson #3: Patching A Safety Cover
Luckily, the mouse must have been very small because the 4 or 5 holes in the cover were not very large. I was able to patch both sides of the safety cover with the Safety Cover Patch Kit (shown next to my spray adhesive and rubbing alcohol). The kit has 3 adhesive patches made of the same green material as my safety cover.
- Make sure the area with the hole is on a hard, flat surface to avoid wrinkles.
- Wipe down the radius surrounding the hole with rubbing alcohol and let dry.
- Use a short blast of spray adhesive to help reinforce the patch.
- Flip the cover over and repeat steps 1-3. Place a heavy object over the patch.
- Let the patch dry for several hours. The longer undisturbed, the better.
Safety Cover Lesson #4: Use a Safety Cover Anchor Key or a Power Drill
In my first season with the safety cover I used a regular, Allen wrench (probably leftover from an Ikea bookshelf) to raise the safety cover anchors. This not only was stressful on my back and knees as I worked my way around the perimeter of my concrete pool deck unscrewing the 40+ anchors, it was brutal on my knuckles which inevitably scraped against the concrete with every other turn of the wrench.
With a long, 12″ Hex Key made for Pool Covers, you get much more leverage, and can spin the anchor open or closed much more easily than with a short Allen wrench. Another way I heard of here around the office, is cutting the 12″ long Hex Key at the elbow, and putting the long straight piece into a power drill.
Safety Cover Lesson #5: Choose the Best Starting Location
You want to unfold the cover in the same spot where the cover was folded, in most cases. For my odd-shaped pool, I use one of two straight sides, because that’s where I have the most room to fold the cover. Doing this gives me two solid anchor points, and even though much of the cover was in the pool, the tension from either corner made is much easier to start at one end and attach the straps down one side in one fell swoop, and then do the same to the curved side of the pool.
Safety Cover Lesson #6: Use the Safety Cover’s Black Seams As Guides
Even with a kidney-shaped pool, the safety cover’s black seams are laid out like a grid or graph. The lines from one side to the opposite should line-up straight across from each other. As simple as it sounds, it can help with second guessing whether or not the safety cover straps are aligned properly to the opposite side of the pool. This is a particularly useful way to measure your alignment with the first few anchors as you begin.
Safety Cover Lesson #7: Give your Springs and Straps Some Slack
In previous years, the biggest physical struggle was pulling the cover springs over the deck anchors with the cover tool. The installers had made sure that my cover was safe for children, but it took super human strength to install or remove the cover straps. After several painful pinches from the springs, a sore back, and serious disdain for the whole process I decided to loosen the straps. Safety cover springs only need to be about 1/3 compressed, there’s no need for it to be so tight, plus the spring needs some slack to compress during a heavy snow load.
Safety Cover Lesson #8: Put on your Safety Cover Quickly
This may seem obvious, to keep the pool clean. This season I closed my pool without incident after several hours of cleaning the pool, removing leaves. I went through all the steps to close an inground pool properly. (For more tips on closing your pool look here or here). Then I pulled the safety cover out of the bag and discovered the rodent holes. By the time I was able to purchase the Patch Kit and get the patches on, I had to go through the whole cleaning process again. I highly recommend beginning you pool closing process by checking your pool cover. That was my biggest lesson learned this year.
When it came time to installing my safety cover this year I was able to finish the job in about an hour vs the two or three hours it took the previous seasons. It was actually easy!
With the help of a few added steps initiated at the season’s opening, some simple tools, and a few careful observations the process of installing a safety cover by myself has become easier. Hopefully, you found these safety cover tips in time, before making the same mistakes I made.
If you have some additional tips, comments, or questions please feel free to email us – we would love to hear from you to pool our knowledge in a pool community we can all learn from!
InTheSwim Staff Blogger