Lightweight to carry. Easy to install. Protects against harsh winters involving snow, ice, rain, and heavy wind gusts.
A fairly expensive pool cover, but it should last longer than cheaper models.
Available in 9 different dimensions to suit most rectangular above-ground pools. Blue color complements most landscaping.
Cable and winch are not as durable as the cover itself, and may need replacement in time.
Multiple seams to prevent excessive wear and tear. Simple to install and easy to remove.
Needs more overlap to ensure a proper fit on your pool.
Can be placed on top of a winter cover for extra protection from debris and to help keep the main cover clean. Durable mesh holds up for several years of use.
Basically just a net, so if you need more protection this should be used as the top layer to a solid cover.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
A backyard pool can be lots of summertime fun, but refilling it at the start of each season is time-consuming and expensive. That’s why many pool owners prefer to leave their pool filled all winter long and have it almost ready to go when the next summer rolls around. But that requires having a high-quality pool cover to protect the water and pool surface from harsh winter weather, or any time it’s not in use.
With a cover, your pool is shielded from falling dirt and debris that might contaminate the water and sunlight that might fade its surface material. But a pool cover doesn’t just protect your pool during the winter -- it can also serve an important safety purpose by keeping children and pets from falling in. Some can even help heat your water (solar covers).
It’s important to choose the right cover for your pool, though. That means you have to select a suitable option for your pool type, decide whether a solid or mesh style is best for your needs, determine the proper size, and figure out what other features can best protect your pool. This shopping guide has all the tips you need to choose the ideal pool cover, so read on.
In-ground vs. above-ground
When you’re shopping for a cover, it’s important to make sure that you choose an option for the type of pool that you have. While in-ground and above-ground covers serve the same purpose, they are designed differently and aren’t interchangeable.
In-ground pool covers are slightly larger because they’re secured in place with water tubes or blocks that weigh the cover down along the edges of the pool. Above-ground covers don’t need to be as large because they’re usually attached using a cable and winch construction or water bags.
Solid vs. mesh
Pool covers are available with both a solid and a mesh construction. While both can keep leaves and other debris out of your pool, they have their own advantages and disadvantages.
With a solid pool cover, sunlight and water aren’t able to pass through, so the pool is less likely to develop algae. The pool water won’t get as dirty either, which means you’ll need to do less brushing, vacuuming, and chemical balancing when you open the pool.
Solid covers are usually more expensive, though, so they’re not ideal for pool owners on tight a budget. They also don’t last as long, require more maintenance, and are heavier, so it usually takes two or more people to install and remove them.
A mesh pool cover is usually more affordable than a solid style, and it can last for up to 15 years. The mesh permits water to pass through, so you don’t need a submersible pump to remove water from rain and snow from the top of the cover throughout the winter. The lightweight design usually allows a single person to install and remove the cover, too.
But the fact that water can fall through a mesh cover can leave the water inside the pool dirty, so you’ll need to perform more cleaning and maintenance chores. Sunlight can also pass through the mesh and create warmth that allows algae to grow, which can require even more cleaning.
The proper cover size depends on the dimensions of your pool, so it’s important to measure it carefully before you start shopping. For a circular above-ground pool, you’ll need to know the diameter. For an oval above-ground pool, you should measure the length and width.
For in-ground pools, the measuring process is a little trickier. You should measure the length and width but along the pool’s inside walls. If your pool has an irregular shape, use the longest length and widest width to size the cover.
Wind is less likely to dislodge a pool cover with greater overlap (when properly secured) because it’s more difficult for gusts to get under the cover.
All pool covers are designed with a certain amount of overlap along the edges that make it easier to center and install the cover. Some budget-friendly covers only offer two feet or less of overlap, while higher-end options provide as much as five feet of overlap.
The more overlap that a cover has, the faster you’ll be able to place it on your pool for the winter. A greater amount of overlap also makes it easier to avoid ripping and tearing the cover.
While it may seem like a good idea to choose a thicker pool cover, you’ll likely have a more difficult time unfolding and placing it over the pool. That’s why it’s actually cheaper pool covers that are made of thick, heavy materials. Higher-end covers are usually made of a lightweight material that’s easy to handle and still extremely durable. You will want a thin material if you plan to take it off and put it back on by yourself.
A pool cover must have some way to anchor it over your pool or it can fall into the water over time. Some above-ground covers feature grommets along the edge to mount the cover in place. Some in-ground styles also have grommets for securing the cover to an external structure like a fence. Opt for a cover with rust-resistant grommets and extra stitching around them for the most durability.
In-ground pool covers usually use water tubes or bricks for mounting. The best covers offer straps that hold the tubes in place, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking over the course of the winter. Above-ground covers can also be mounted using water bags. Go with an option that has straps to hold them in place.
There are some above-ground covers that use a winch and cable system to hold the cover in place. Not all covers include the cable, but you may prefer an option that provides a heavy-duty cable so you don’t have to buy it separately.
Some pool covers include a leaf net, which is designed to be placed on top of the cover when you close your pool and then removed before the first snowfall. The net catches all the leaves so they won’t be stuck in the melted snow and require removal before you take off the cover.
This feature can save you plenty of time in the spring so it may be worth paying a little more for a cover that includes a net. You may also use this net as a standalone “cover” if your weather is mild and you simply want to keep debris like leaves out of your water and thus saving your filter from becoming clogged should you not empty it often.
Pool covers are available in a variety of colors so you can find an option that suits your personal preferences, although most come in black, blue, or green. If you’re concerned about algae, it helps to choose a cover with an underside in a dark color that can limit the amount of light that penetrates through it. If you’re extremely worried, you can also find covers with a special coating on the underside that helps prevent algae growth.
A pool cover can shrink over the course of its lifetime, so it’s important to make sure that you choose one that fits your pool’s dimensions precisely and replace it if necessary.
Cover clips can help keep an above-ground pool cover in place by securing it to the underside of the pool railing.
Pool cover prices vary based on the type of pool and the type of cover, but the size of the pool is usually the most important factor affecting the price tag. Larger covers obviously cost more than smaller covers because more material is used.
Mesh covers for above-ground pools typically range from $20 to $250. Solid covers for above-ground pools usually cost between $40 and $350.
A mesh cover for an in-ground pool can range from $40 to $850. A solid cover for an above-ground pool usually runs from $70 to $1,000.
Always use water bags or blocks to hold an in-ground pool cover in place. Using bricks, boards, or other hard items is a bad idea because they may topple into the pool and rip the cover or even the pool’s liner. Plus, a heavy object can be difficult to remove, especially from deep water.
If ice builds up on your pool cover, don’t try to remove it while it’s still frozen. It can have sharp edges that may tear the cover. Instead, allow the ice to melt and then use a submersible pump to remove most of the water.
It can actually help to keep approximately one-half inch of water on the top of your pool cover. The added weight helps protect it from coming loose with a strong gust of wind.
It’s a good idea to have the trees above your pool trimmed of any overhanging branches. That way, you don’t have to worry about a limb falling during a storm and damaging your cover.
There are certainly plenty of pool covers on the market, with most options geared toward in-ground pools. If you prefer a solid cover, we love the Pool Mate Sandstone Winter Pool Cover for its ability to prevent algae growth and generous 5-foot overlap that makes installation as easy as possible. It’s also available in a variety of pool sizes and includes a 12-year warranty for added peace of mind. The Yard Guard Green Mesh Rectangular Inground Safety Pool Cover is an ideal option if you want a mesh style cover. Its tight mesh helps prevent dirt and debris from getting into the pool and also resists rot, mildew, and UV damage so it can last for years.
Q. Can I just use a tarp as a pool cover?
A. While you may be able to find a tarp at your local hardware store that fits your pool, chances are that it’s not strong or durable enough to hold up all winter long. Tarps usually don’t have straps or grommets to allow for easy mounting around the pool either, which can make them more difficult to secure, and can easily blow off in windy conditions.
Q. Can I install a pool cover by myself?
A. It depends on the type and size of your pool, as well as what type of cover you choose. Many above-ground covers and mesh-style in-ground covers can be installed easily, but solid in-ground covers usually require at least two people to set in place, or lot of back and forth adjustments from one side to the other. If you’re not sure you want to take on the project yourself, a pool maintenance company can close your pool for the winter and install the cover.
Q. Do pool covers usually come with a warranty?
A. Most pool covers do offer warranty protection, though it varies from cover to cover. Some only provide three to five years of warranty protection, while others include a warranty of up to 25 years. In general, higher-end pool covers usually have the longest, most comprehensive warranties.
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