If you’re planning on closing your pool soon as fall and winter inch nearer, you could be considering what the best choice is for you for a pool cover. Many pool owners have decided that safety covers are the right choice because they come in so many customizable sizes and are an affordable yet durable option. If you decide to go this route, follow these instructions for installing a pool safety cover in order to protect your pool (and loved ones) during the winter or other extended periods of non-use.
Before you begin, you’ll need to have an in-ground pool that has approximately 36” of concrete decking, wood, pavers, or other rock surfaces that can be drilled into.
Choosing a Pool Cover
First, you’ll need to decide what type of cover you’ll want. Safety pool covers come in either a mesh or solid version. There are pros and cons to both types.
Both kinds of cover prevent large debris from entering the water while keeping it closed and are meant to prevent accidental submersion of people, children, pets, and any meandering woodland creatures.
Mesh pool safety covers are a lighter and easier to install, meaning it’s less of a task to put on and take off. The mesh keeps out leaves and large debris while allowing rainwater and melting snow to pass through the cover which saves on resources and eliminates the need to pump water off the cover.
The solid safety covers prevent sunlight and fine particles from getting into the pool, keeping the pool water clean over the winter by preventing dirt and algae accumulation. Water can either drain through a panel in the cover or a cover pump can be used to get off excess water.
Measuring for a Pool Cover
Whether you have an abnormally shaped pool or a standard rectangle, you can figure out what safety pool cover is right for you. It’ll depend on the cover you choose, but some manufacturers say to measure your pool’s length and width and go with the EXACT safety cover size. Some companies have you order by pool size and give you the extra overlap to take out any confusing guesswork.
Others recommend that you order a pool cover that is at least a foot or two wider than the pool itself to make sure you have that valuable overlap. It really depends on the manufacturer, so do your research.
Once you’ve measured and decide what kind of cover will work best for you (mesh or solid), make your order. You’ll most likely be able to use a stock size that is pre-made and won’t have to get one custom.
If you have an irregularly shaped pool, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer and get one measured and sized properly.
What You’ll Need
If you’re taking on a pool safety cover installation as a DIY project, there are a few things you’ll need to get everything installed:
- The pool safety cover kit—this should include enough anchors, insert screws, strap adjustment buckles and springs for each of the protruding straps on the cover. It should also come with an installation rod
- A heavy-duty rotary hammer drill with a ¾” masonry bit—these can either be borrowed from a particularly handy friend (get him to help while you’re at it!) or rented at a hardware store
- An extension cord for the drill
- A hose to rinse off the drill dust
- A hammer to tamp in the deck anchors (or a small piece of wood if your kit doesn’t come with a tamping tool)
- Chalk line is often a helpful tool in installing a pool safety cover
- A few hours for the undertaking
- A few friends to help!
Assemble all your tools and get a buddy to help you. Remove everything from the pool, including ladders and any other removable obstructions.
Rectangular Cover Installation
Step 1: Measure your pool as well as your cover. You’ll want to subtract the size of the pool from the size of the cover and cut that number in a half so you know how many inches of cover should hang over the ends and sides. Pull the cover tightly to remove packing wrinkles so that it lies flat. If you have a chalk line, snap it at this mark so you have a reference point for where your cover should be hitting.
Step 2: Install the springs onto the straps, threading the strap through the buckle making sure all of them are adjusted equally and lying flat directly in line with the seams in the cover. Center over the pool, measuring to double check or using the chalk line as a reference point. Take your time on this part!
Step 3: Determine anchor points for the two anchors at each corner as you’ll configure and secure the corners first—they should form a 90 degree angle.
Step 4: Drill your holes for each corner anchor (should be approximately 4-6 inches behind where the strap is lying flat). Use the ¾” masonry bit to drill into the concrete 2/3”, hosing away dust after you’re done.
Step 5: Use the tamping tool and hammer to set the anchor into the drilled hole until the lip is flush with the surface. Insert the screw until it sticks out 3/8” above the deck surface. These can be screwed in flush with the deck surface when the cover isn’t in use.
Step 6: After all eight corner anchors are installed, attach the springs to the anchors by using the installation rod. You’ll stand behind the anchors, facing the pool, and use the rod to slip the spring onto the screw that is threaded into the anchor. At this point, check all your edges to make sure the cover is overlapping equally and adjust the strap length on one side if the cover needs to be shifted more towards the center of the pool. Your springs should only be 1/3-2/3 compressed and not strained.
Always keep an eye on the seams and make sure they’re centered and not skewed.
Step 7: Install the remaining anchors, adjusting the tension as needed to center or tighten the cover. Work from one end to the other, establishing anchors across from each other first to keep everything centered. In the end, the cover should be pulled up and off of the water.
Note: It is NOT recommended to install a rectangular cover on a non-rectangular pool. This will void the warranty on most pool safety covers.
Freeform Cover Installation
Installing a cover for your custom pool is a little bit trickier as there often aren’t established corners. Following this guide should be helpful.
Step 1: Raise the water level to the top of the tiles to help support the cover during installation. Remove ladders and other movable obstructions.
Step 2: Lay out your cover so that it has equal overlap on all sides. You will probably want to use something like a bucket of water or something heavy and not abrasive to anchor the cover around the edges in 4-8 areas. Another strategy is to stake several ropes across the pool and then lay the cover on top of the taut ropes. In either case, pull the cover tightly to remove packing wrinkles so that it will lie flat over the pool.
Step 3: Install your springs with equal adjustment and make sure they are sitting in line with the straps that go across the cover.
Step 4: Working at anchors directly across from one another, drill the first holes 4-6 inches behind the two centermost straps that run the length of the pool. Once four anchors are tamped into place, connect all four springs using the installation rod. Adjust the tension so that overlap and tension on the springs are even.
Step 5: Do the same thing with the sides of the cover, finding the centermost seams that run across the cover. Drill holes behind the springs and move to the opposite side and drill two anchors on the other side. Tamp in the anchors and attach all four springs, adjusting tension to equalize overlap and tension.
Step 6: From there, move to the straps that are adjacent to the holes you’ve already drilled, working from the innermost straps to the edges while simultaneously working across and checking to make sure the seams stay straight. Wait until you’ve drilled all 4 anchors on both sides of the pool before you connect springs to anchors.
Step 7: Work inside out until all anchors have been drilled. Adjust the cover straps after each set of straps are connected for equal overlap, tension, and straight seams. When you’re done, be sure there’s no water puddling in the center of a solid pool safety cover. Tighten the straps further so the water is running into the drainage panels.
If you mis-drill a hole (which is common with the freeform covers), work the anchor from the hole, fill with drilling dust, and drill a new hole.
When you’re doing a pool safety cover installation, it’s best to take your time and be precise so that it fits properly. Not only will it look nicer, it’ll fit better and keep out everything it promises.