Pool Cover Buying Guide


Have you ever visited a residential or community swimming pool in the winter months and noticed that it was closed for the winter with a pool cover? There is a reason the swimming pool is covered by a pool cover during these months, and it is more than just a way to remind people to keep out. Covering a pool with a swimming pool cover offers a variety of both long-term and short-term benefits.

What Is a Swimming Pool Cover?

A swimming pool cover is a large cover that is laid over the top of a swimming pool during the winter months. Swimming pool covers come in a variety of materials and types and can be used for both in-ground and above-ground pools.

Depending on the climate in which you live may determine the type of swimming pool cover you need. Some swimming pool covers may be more affordable than others, so it is important to know the types of swimming pool covers that are available to compare features.

Types of Swimming Pool Covers

There are many types of swimming pool covers you can choose from. Swimming pool covers are available for both above-ground and in-ground pools. Knowing the type of swimming pool covers available will help you determine which swimming pool cover will be the most beneficial.

  • Standard Tarp Cover – these swimming pool covers are the most affordable and most common. Made of waterproof material, similar to a tarp, this pool cover is effective, yet has a short lifespan. Standard pool covers typically do not withstand the elements after two or three years, so they require frequent replacement.
  • Solid Safety Cover – this swimming pool cover is durable to withstand years of use in cold winter months. Heavy snowfall and debris can accumulate on this cover without fear of falling through and entering your pool.
  • Mesh Safety Cover – a mesh safety cover will keep most debris out of your pool, such as leaves and limbs. Mesh safety covers are extremely durable, which make them a great option for covering your swimming pool.
  • Automatic Cover – the most convenient method of covering your pool is to install an automatic cover. Automatic covers are also the most expensive. This retractable cover can cover your entire pool at the touch of a button. Made out of fabric, these covers keep out debris, animals, and sunlight. Using an automatic cover means very little time, effort, and energy is spent securing a pool cover in place. While automatic covers are the most expensive cover option, the convenience and ease of covering your pool for the winter is invaluable. Automatic covers offer safe, effective, and secure pool coverage for the winter months.

Pool covers are a great way to save time and money. A swimming pool cover keeps your pool clean, reduces evaporation and saves on chemicals.

Maybe you’re thinking of getting a new one, or maybe you’ve just never really thought about it before. Either way, here is a breakdown of the most common types of pool covers and what they have to offer.

Types of Pool Covers

While pool covers come in many different shapes and sizes, they fall into one of six categories: winter, leaf net, mesh, solid, hybrid and automatic.

The following is a list of some of the most popular types of swimming pool covers:

Winter Pool Covers

Pool covers begin as plastic pellets that are extruded into sheets of polyethylene or polypropylene, two common plastics. These plastic sheets are cut into thin ribbons and woven into a sturdy interlocking fabric.

Winter pool covers protect your pool from dirt, leaves and other debris that could get in the water during the winter. They can also prevent algae from growing or chemicals from evaporating out of the water.

They are typically held down with water bags or other weights.

Leaf Net Covers

These are typically used as a precursor to winterizing a pool at the end of its season. Thinner than winter covers and made from a woven mesh material, leaf nets let rainwater filter through while keeping out leaves and other debris that might otherwise sink to the bottom of your pool during winter months.

Safety Pool Covers

There are two main types of safety pool covers: mesh and solid.

Solid Safety Pool Covers

These are the most common types of pool covers. They are made from a heavy polyethylene material that is also used for truck tarps. The polyethylene material is sealed together by a high frequency welding process which creates a completely watertight seal.

Solid covers keep debris out of the pool and reduce evaporation, while mesh covers allow rain and melting snow to pass through but prevent larger debris from getting in

Mesh Safety Pool Covers

Mesh pool covers offer many benefits over other types of pool covers. They’re light and easy to install, but most importantly, they allow water through while keeping leaves and other debris out. Mesh pool covers come in two varieties: micron mesh or diamond mesh.

Hybrid Pool Covers

A hybrid above-ground pool cover is more flexible than a solid safety cover because it’s made from mesh material that allows some sunlight and water to go through. While it isn’t as safe as a solid safety cover, it’s still safe enough to prevent children and pets from falling in. It also has the added benefit of allowing some sunlight into the water so that algae doesn’t grow.

Solar Pool Covers

Solar pool covers do a great job of heating your pool. They are also cheap to buy and install.

Solar covers work by using a layer of tiny air bubbles to trap heat in the water during the day and prevent it from escaping at night. They’re an easy way to maintain warmer temperatures without having to run your heater as much.

These covers are rolled up on a reel when not in use, and can be cut to fit almost any size or shape of inground or above ground swimming pools.

Automatic Pool Covers

Automatic pool covers are by far the most expensive pool covers, but for good reason. They can be operated using hydraulic mechanisms, or electricity powered motors that automatically pull the cover across the pool.

What Type of Pool Cover is Best?

When deciding on a pool cover, it’s important to consider what kind of pool you have, how you use it, and whether or not you have any children or pets.

Take your time when you’re buying a pool cover and make sure you get one that will meet all of your needs. There are so many types of covers made by so many manufacturers.

The table below offers information about each type of swimming pool cover, so you can consider what you want in a pool cover. Consider which factors are most important to you—heat retention, safety, or cost.

Pool Cover Type Advantage Heat Retention Safety Cost
Winter Cover Pool protection Good No Average
Safety Cover (mesh/solid ) Safety & protection Good Excellent Expensive
Solar Cover Heat Retention Excellent No Inexpensive
Automatic Pool Cover Luxury Protection Good Excellent Expensive

Final Thoughts

Swimming pool covers play a big role in helping to protect your pool and reduce the need for you to continually be maintaining it. They protect the water from contaminants while preventing evaporation, lowering heating costs.

In the end, the type of inground pool cover you purchase cans make your life a lot easier. It’s an investment that can make big savings when it comes to money, time, and wear and tear on your pool.

What Is a Solar Blanket?

A solar blanket is a cover for your pool that absorbs the heat from the sun to heat the water beneath. This means you can cover your pool for the winter with a solar blanket and help heat the water below through the amount of sunlight exposure the blanket receives. Solar blankets are a great way to keep debris out of your pool while helping heat the water below.

What are Solar Rings?

While solar rings do not provide entire pool coverage, they can assist your pool in remaining warm during both the warm and cold months. Solar rings can be placed on top of the pool surface to absorb light from the sun to heat the water below. Solar rings are great to have all year long.

Now that you know the different types of swimming pool covers, let’s talk about why you should have one.

What Does a Swimming Pool Cover Do?

Now that you know the different types of swimming pool covers, you need to know what purpose the covers actually serve. You have seen a swimming pool covered during the winter, but do you know why it is covered? You may think it is covered simply because it is not being used. While that is true, there are other reasons why the swimming pool is covered, and some of these reasons yield big payoffs!

A Pool Cover will Keep Out Debris

First, let’s talk about how a swimming pool cover is used to keep various types of debris out of the pool. By the time autumn arrives, the air is cooling, and the leaves have begun to fall. As the autumn months are typically not the most desirable months to swim, you should make a plan to cover your pool. Covering your pool at this time will keep the endless amount of leaves from filling your pool.

In addition to leaves and limbs, a swimming pool cover will also keep certain bugs and animals from entering your pool as well. Whether it is leaves, limbs, bugs, or animals you want to keep out of your pool, a swimming pool cover will make sure to do just that.

Keeping these leaves, bugs, and other debris out of your pool means you will not have to spend an abundant amount of time and money to clean stains that the debris would have caused without a cover.

A Pool Cover will Keep Out Sunlight

In addition to keeping debris out of your pool through the use of a swimming pool cover, you can also purchase a swimming pool cover that keeps sunlight from entering your pool. Sunlight exposure on your pool will cause algae to grow. During the winter months when you are not frequently cleaning your swimming pool, algae can quickly grow. This can cause you to have to do a lot of vigorous cleaning when you are preparing to open your pool for the season.

Installing a swimming pool cover with solid protection from the sun will keep you from having to clean excessive amounts of algae when opening your pool for the season.

A Pool Cover will Keep In Water

So, we have discussed all of the things we want to keep out of the water while it is covered, but what about the water we want to keep in?

A pool cover will reduce the natural evaporation that occurs when water is exposed to sunlight. Keeping in the water that is already within your pool will prevent you from refilling the water that was lost during evaporation. A pool that is not closed during the winter months can lose half of its volume during this time!

If a swimming pool loses up to half its water volume during the winter months, then it can also lose half its chemical consumption. This means more money will have to be spent on chemicals, as well as refilling the amount of water that was lost during the winter months.

A Pool Cover will Help Protect Pool Equipment

A pool that is not covered during the fall and winter months can accumulate a never-ending amount of leaves and debris all throughout the pool. These leaves can block the flow of water circulation which can wear on your pump and filter; pieces of equipment that can be costly to replace.

A Pool Cover will Help Protect Your Family

While a pool cover offers protection for your pool cleanliness and equipment, it also offers protection for your family as well. A pool that is covered in the winter can protect your family from those blink-of-an-eye situations. A safety pool cover can offer peace of mind that the pool cannot be accessed by unsupervised family or pets.

Swimming Pool Covers and Accessories

As beneficial as the swimming pool cover is itself, there are also accessories that you can pair with the cover to provide optimal pool coverage.

Cover Catch

Swimming pool covers will keep the leaves and debris from entering the pool while it is covered, but what happens to the debris when you roll the cover back?

A cover catch is a perfect accessory to add to your pool cover equipment supply. When you are opening your pool for the season, you simply roll the cover of your pool back until there is approximately 3 feet left. Then, you add this cover catch to the corner of the pool. Once the cover catch is placed in the pool, sweep or hose the leaves and debris from the cover into the catch and dispose of them!

Protecting Your Swimming Pool Cover

While your swimming pool cover will not last forever, you should get several years of use out of it. A standard pool cover will only last about five years, but they are more affordable. Heavy-duty solid or mesh covers should hold up in the elements for 10 years or more.

To get the most life out of your swimming pool cover, you should properly protect your cover.

  • Clean the Cover. To remove the buildup of stains, molds, or algae, use a mild soap and pool brush to clean. This cleaning will also remove any chemicals that have accumulated on the cover.
  • Remove Debris Immediately. If your pool cover accumulates a large number of leaves each season, you should plan to remove these leaves, sticks, and limbs immediately. Allowing this debris to sit on the cover can cause the cover to weaken over time, potentially causing holes or tears within the cover. If debris has stained your cover, wash the cover with mild soap and a pool brush to clean.
  • Patch Holes or Tears Immediately. The moment you see a tear or a hole, immediately patch the hole using a patch kit. Ignoring these vulnerabilities, as little as they may seem, can cause big problems.
  • Store in a Safe Place. Keeping your swimming pool cover stored in a safe place when not in use will help lengthen the lifespan of your cover. Storing your cover in a shaded area or pool house is most recommended.

Cover Your Pool Checklist

Before you cover your pool for the winter, you should complete a few important steps. These steps will help you open a clean pool in the spring. Opening a clean pool for the season means less time, energy, and money spent on recovering the cleanliness and chemical balance within your pool.

  • Clean your pool thoroughly one last time before covering the pool. Covering a clean pool and keeping all of the elements out means you will be opening a clean pool in the spring — purchase necessary equipment needed to clean your pool, such as a new algae brush or vacuum.
  • Check your cover to make sure there are no rips, tears, or holes. If you find any damage to your cover, patch accordingly, if possible. If the damage is too severe, purchase a new cover. Do not use a damaged cover.
  • Make sure you have all clips, water bags, or other necessary equipment required to secure your cover. Do not cover a pool without appropriately securing the cover. A cover that is not secure can become damaged from wind or debris. Additionally, an unsecured pool cover can inadequately protect your pool for the winter season.
  • Test your water before you cover your pool. Adjust chemicals accordingly before closing so that your water remains balanced throughout the winter season.
  • Perform a pool shock to ensure your chlorine levels can endure the winter.

Following these steps before you cover your pool will help reduce the amount of work required when you open your pool next year.

Opening a pool that has a large buildup of algae, dirty water, and multiple stains will cause you to spend more time cleaning your pool and less time enjoying it.

The Bottom Line of Covering a Pool

If you are still unsure if you need to cover your pool, here is a quick look at the benefits of a pool cover.

A pool cover will…

  • Keep debris out of the pool. This lowers the amount of time, energy, and money spent on cleaning the pool when you open for the season.
  • Protect your family and pets from unexpected accidents during fall and winter months.
  • Reduce the amount of algae growth by keeping out abundant sunshine. Abundant sunshine is required to grow algae. A pool with uncirculated water paired with sunshine can quickly grow algae. A cover to reduce algae growth means less time, money, and energy spent cleaning.
  • Keep water in which means less time, money, and energy spent refilling the amount of water that was lost during evaporation. Keeping this water in also means less amount of money and time spent on purchasing chemicals to achieve optimal balanced levels.
  • Protect your other swimming pool equipment by keeping debris from entering the pool and blocking the water flow. A pool cover protects these important costly pieces of equipment, such as the filter and pump, by keeping this debris out.


If you have an above-ground or in-ground pool, you should plan to cover it for the winter months. Purchase a quality cover that will provide you with the protection you seek.

If you need a basic, standard pool cover, there are many options available that will keep the debris out and the water in during the winter months. If you don’t mind spending a little more money, you can opt for the solid safety cover that will keep all of the elements out of the pool (not just the debris), or an automatic cover.

An automatic cover will cover your pool at the push of a button. If heating your pool during the winter months is a requirement, purchase a solar blanket to cover your pool.

No matter which one you choose, covering your swimming pool in the winter is a dependable way to make sure your pool is protected during the winter and ready for opening in the summer.

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Staff Writer

SPP is committed to simplifying pool care with expert advice and valuable tips for stress-free pool maintenance and ownership.