How to Protect Your Pool Cover During Winter

Written by Michael Dean
May 22, 2023

pool cover during winter

Your swimming pool has brought your family another summer of fun and relaxation. But now, winter is coming, and you’re about to cover your pool for the cold months.

Winter pool covers can go through a lot of strain throughout the season, especially if you live in an area with especially cold temperatures. Let’s explore ways to mitigate the risk of your pool cover getting damaged.

Main Takeaways

  • Hybrid covers offer the best of both mesh and solid covers. You won’t have to pump off accumulated water, but it covers enough to prevent most algae growth and debris from contaminating the water.
  • Properly fastening your pool cover with straps or clips is essential to ensure the wind doesn’t damage or blow off your cover.
  • Air pillows are essential if you live in a region with temperatures that regularly drop below freezing. These prevent ice from forming and the cover from sagging.
  • Remove branches that hang over your pool in the winter, as these can fall and puncture your expensive winter cover.

Best Pool Coverings for a Harsh Winter

As a responsible pool owner, you keep your pool covered when not in use as a pool safety measure, but you might wonder which is the best winter pool cover.

When it comes to protection from the cold weather and elements, you have a few choices of different covers. A tarp cover is an easy way to cover your pool in mild weather, but if you live in parts of the country where winter is a little harsher, it might not be the most suitable choice.

Your best options for winter protection include mesh or solid covers for either an inground or above ground pool. Let’s start by taking a closer look at mesh pool covers.

Mesh Covers

Mesh covers cost several hundred dollars less than a solid cover, depending on the size and shape of your pool. Most mesh covers have a durable life of nearly 15 years. Additionally, they are a little more user-friendly, and many pool users can take them on and off without help.

A big downside to mesh covers is that dirt and other debris can pass through and go directly into the pool. Sunlight can also easily pass through the mesh cover, causing algae growth. While a little maintenance is a reality of being a pool owner, algae growth and excess debris are time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Solid Covers

It’s not uncommon to assume that a solid pool cover might last longer than a mesh cover, but the average lifespan is no more than 11 years. A non-mesh cover also costs between $200 and $600 more than a mesh one.

Due to their size and weight, solid covers typically are difficult to handle on your own and require more than one person to take on and off.

Water accumulates on top of a solid cover. Consequently, a submersible pool cover pump is needed to remove excess water and avoid damage to the cover and pool. Keeping this in mind, you’ll do more winter prep work using a solid pool cover.

Considering that a solid cover costs more, has a shorter lifespan, requires a pump, and requires more work overall, why would anyone buy a solid cover over a mesh cover? In short, solid covers typically do a better job of protecting your pool during the winter. You’ll also have less maintenance to do when warm weather returns.

Not only do solid covers prevent excess debris and dirt, but if installed correctly, you’re also less likely to have algae growth.

Hybrid Covers

Can’t decide if you want a solid or mesh cover? Consider a hybrid cover.

A hybrid cover is solid with a mesh opening, which means there’s no need for a pump, making it a more cost-effective option.

While hybrid covers don’t keep all debris and sunlight out like solid covers, you’re likely to notice less than if you use a mesh cover.

If you want to do some pre-purchase analysis, check out my pool cover research for great suggestions and thorough brand comparisons. My research shares leading contenders’ specs, pros, and cons so you can make an informed decision.

Don’t Let Wind Damage Your Pool Covering

While dirt and debris can cause issues while your pool is not in use, the wind is another unpleasant element of winter that can damage pool coverings.

The best way to ensure that the wind won’t damage your pool covering is to make sure it’s installed properly and inspected often.

Secure your cover with a cable and a winch to ensure it’s tight. Next, inspect the edges and consider securing them with some weights like sandbags.

Another great way to ensure that your pool covering will stay put is to use wraps or clips, which are explicitly made to fasten around the pool’s perimeter. Cover clips are cost-effective and readily available where most pool accessories are sold.

Avoid Pool Cover Damage from Ice Expansion

Another issue that some pool owners worry about during the winter months is ice expansion and damage to the pool cover. One way to prevent damage from ice is to invest in an air pillow. Air pillows float under the cover and help prevent thick layers of ice from forming and prevents the cover from sagging.

Air pillows work best when inflated at about 60% to allow for compression. Also, protect the pillow valve from deflating over the winter by placing duct tape over the air valve. Finally, when tying the pillow in place, don’t tie it too tight to avoid the strings breaking or tearing.

Air pillows are inexpensive and simple to install, and selecting the right size or quantity for your pool is important. Some pool owners have had success with other items like tire tubes, exercise balls, or innertubes.

Keeping Your Pool Cover Safe from Snow

If you live somewhere where it snows in the winter, it will be nearly impossible to keep snow from accumulating on your cover. Letting up to six inches of snow settle on your pool cover at a time can help your cover stay in place.

While some snow is relatively harmless, you want to keep a close eye on how much accumulates and remove it as necessary. Never use a shovel or a tool with sharp edges to remove snow, as it might damage the cover.

The best way to remove snow from a pool cover is to use a broom with a long handle or a vacuum pole with a brush attachment to gently push the snow off the cover. If it’s light snow, you could use your leaf blower to whisk the snow off the cover, similar to leaves off your lawn.

If you can’t get the snow or ice off the cover because it’s hard to reach, never walk on the cover to get to it. You could damage the cover itself and potentially cause damage to the pool walls. More importantly, this is a safety issue. If you walk on the cover and potentially fall through and into the pool, you could be seriously injured, so avoid walking unless absolutely necessary.

Protect Your Pool Cover from Falling Tree Limbs and Branches

Winter weather increases the risk of tree limbs, branches, and other debris damaging your cover. Falling limbs, branches, and debris can damage your cover or move it out of place.

The best way to avoid branches and limbs puncturing your pool cover is to remove overhanging tree branches around your pool. In the winter, overhanging branches are more likely to fall off the trees near your pool, which can lead to a minor tear to a major puncture in your cover, not to mention the debris that will fall into your pool water.

Before you start removing branches and limbs, examine the area around and above the pool for tree branches that need pruning or removal. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, hire a tree pruning company to trim or remove branches or trees that pose a threat to your pool or winter cover. This should be an annual process to ensure the area around your pool is free of danger and mitigates the risk of falling limbs and branches.

Next, consider installing a perimeter fence to keep blowing debris away from your cover and the pool itself. Fences may also prevent wildlife from entering the yard and getting onto the cover too. If you have a homeowners association (HOA), be sure to check to see what requirements or regulations exist over perimeter fences so you don’t have to redo your fence, as that can be a costly mistake.

Tips for Maintaining Your Pool Cover During the Winter

If you follow all of the tips on preventing ice, snow, and wind damage, your pool cover should stay in pretty good shape over the winter, but here are a few more maintenance tips to consider:

  • Inspect Frequently: Not only should you make sure that your pool cover hasn’t shifted during high winds, but it’s always a good idea to look for rips or other damage. While damage can happen at any time, keep in mind that an older cover is more at risk.
  • Double-Check Cover Tension: Even if your pool cover is installed properly, you still need to do a routine check and make sure that springs or straps are tight and have not loosened up. Even one loose corner can let in a lot of debris.
  • Make Your Cover Visible: Drifting snow can quickly change the landscape of your backyard. Whether you put up a snow fence around the perimeter of your pool or flag the area, make sure you know where the pool cover is located.
  • Clean The Cover: Even if you’re not going to remove the cover for a few months, it’s always a good idea to keep it clean. While it’s hard to do any cover maintenance on a subzero day, try to clean your cover with a mild detergent at least a few times throughout the “off-season.”

While maintaining your pool cover and protecting your pool during the winter is relatively easy, don’t hesitate to contact a pool specialist if you’re unsure about damage or other potential hazards.

Just as you care for your pool cover during the winter months, it’s equally important to make sure it’s clean and stored properly when not in use.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

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Wrapping Up

Your pool is a great investment and provides countless hours of fun and enjoyment for your family. The pool cover protects that investment in the harsh winter season. Unfortunately, just covering the pool with a tarp doesn’t work. Choose a mesh or solid cover as an initial step toward winterizing your pool.

The realities of winter, such as wind, ice, snow, and tree limbs, can wreak havoc on your pool cover. While you cannot control the weather, you can take preemptive steps to protect your pool cover from winter damage. Don’t worry, just use the tips we mentioned, and you’ll be on your way to keeping your cool about your pool cover despite the cold of winter!

For more tips on winter care, head over to my article on winter pool care.

Questions? Let me know; always happy to help.

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