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Traditional Winter Cover vs Safety/Solid Spring Cover for In Ground Pools

Image courtesy of CoverStar, the provider of all solid/mesh covers from Prestige Pools and Spas.


Pool covers have evolved a bit over the years from the standard “tarp” covers to the ever-popular Safety/Solid Spring covers that most new in ground pool construction installs today.  If you are considering getting a new winter cover you may want to first decide what the best is for you in your situation.  Here is a quick summary of the two most common types of winter covers in today’s marketplace and how they’re installed.


Traditional Tarp Cover

The old reliable is dubbed that for a reason.  They’re relatively cheap and fairly straight forward.  Most, if not all, pool companies- in ground or above ground pool stores- carry winter covers for pools.  Here in the St. Louis area we offer two grades of covers (usually SILVER or HUNTER GREEN/NAVY BLUE/BLACK) that denote quality.  The silver cover tends to be the better quality cover, with thicker, denser-woven material vs its counterpart.  It also will have a longer warranty.  The lessor cover is made of a thinner material overall (of which you can note when picking up the box of each cover for your pool size) and has a lessor life expectancy.

Regardless of which tarp cover you pick, the in ground pool cover will run larger than the pool size, leaving 4’-5’ total of extra material.  When selecting a cover based on size, be sure to account for steps, swim-outs, etc if your pool has them.  Once you’ve successfully added your winter chemicals and winterized your pool’s plumbing and components you may begin the final steps of the closing process.


Covering Your Pool

Before the cover is placed across the pool, some pool owners may float at least one water pillow to help reduce the available surface area for rain water/snow to accumulate.  Though a standard procedure for above ground pool owners it is not required on an in ground pool.  If you decide to use a water pillow secure the pillow(s) with rope/twine/bungee cords, etc at the hooks for the safety rope floats.

The cover lays across the pool leaving a gentle amount of slack so that the cover rests on the pool water’s surface.  As these covers are not strong enough to hold water over protracted periods of time, the pool water will act as reinforcement for the pool cover.

Finally, the cover is secured by the water tubes.  Typically dual-chambered 1’x8’, the water tube’s dead weight is enough to keep you cover secure during the even a blustery winter.  The winter cover should have loops every few feet that the tubes slide thru, ensuring the securest possible attachment.

A generic tarp-covered in ground pool. This is possibly the most-used image of a tarp cover found on the internet.

Tarp Cover Pros and Cons

With everything in life, you have upsides and downsides.  When deciding on anything with your pool, it is good to get advice and ask around.  However, nobody has your pool and has your exact situation.  So as with all things pool-related, make sure you are doing what is best for you.



Tarp covers are cost-effective.  That’s code for its cheap!  Running $100-$300 for a cover is a fraction of the cost of a Safety/Solid Spring cover.

Least amount of hassle.  They can be clean, folded up and stored with the least amount of space and effort of all of the winter cover options.

Easiest to put on.  Yes- the water tubes can be a pain but in all this way gives you the least amount of fuss.



Tarp covers are cost-effective.  That’s code for cheap!  That means they wear out faster and require replacing more frequently.

They can be ugly.  Now we are not one to judge on aesthetics as it’s not our pool.  But some people just hate the way they look.

They don’t hold water well.  You are required to empty the cover of any excess water over a half inch if you want your cover to last past a year or so.

The quality hasn’t gotten better in a long time.  If we could find a better product, we’d offer it. But if you’ve bought one you’ve bought them all.

They can be patched, but not really.  Actually- No, they can’t be patched.


Safety/Solid Spring Covers

The newer type of winter covers on the market are spring-anchored covers comprised of a canvas-type material that are bolted down to your concrete deck.  These covers are referred to as “safety” covers or “solid spring” covers.

Not all spring-anchored covers are classified as “safety” covers.  Solid covers, as opposed to the mesh covers, do not allow for water to pass through and could potentially be a drowning hazard.  To counter this, some solid covers will have a mesh square sewn in to help with pooling water.

Both covers will be anchored down so that the cover is taught.  This presents a cleaner and generally safer pool area in the winter time.  And both covers will have a much longer life span than the traditional tarp covers.  But both covers will also require more effort to apply during closing time as the covers have dozens of straps that must be anchored with a special tool and brass screws.

Another image courtesy of CoverStar.


Covering Your Pool

As with a traditional cover, the pool with a spring-loaded cover must have the proper winterization techniques applied first before taking the final step and covering your pool for the winter.  Once you’ve managed to have your pool properly winterized its time to cover it.

Start with the steps area when beginning the covering process, as it will be easier to match the cover’s correct positioning.  From there lay the cover across the pool to help with the alignment of the springs.  Begin to bolt down the springs to the anchors and follow each spring on one side of the pool around to the other side.  The solid cover will float longer which offsets its overall weight.  The mesh may submerse but is generally a lighter cover overall and will be easily manipulated once you begin to feel the resistance on the final few springs when you finish bolting them down.

Let’s dive into some of the pros and cons of the safety/mesh covers and the solid spring covers…


Solid Spring Cover Pros

Will not allow water to pass through.  This increases the odds of a cleaner, algae-free opening.  This is the major selling point of a solid cover, as opening a clear pool can save you hundreds of dollars by not having to clear up a green pool.

It can be patched.  The canvas square can be removed and a new one can be sewn back in.

The cover wont collect as many leaves.  While it still may collect some leaves, its less than what a tarp cover will collect.

They look nicer.  No water tubes, and clean precision is just better looking.


Solid Spring Cover Cons

Water can pool in the same area of the cover.  This will cause distension and may cause the cover to need to be re-patched.

There is more material.  This makes it heavier and more difficult to put on, take off, clean and store.

There is more cost.  Because there is more material needed to make this cover.

It wears faster.  As it has more material and will hold water, the material can wear faster and need replacing more often.

It rubs on your coping.  This will remove the paint from your coping and will create the need to touch up your coping from time to time.

You’ll need a cover pump.  The build-up of excess precipitation will require a cover pump to remove any water that may cause issues with distension on any individual canvas squares.


Mesh/Safety Cover Pros

It lasts longer.  You’ll enjoy a longer life than a tarp cover or solid cover.

Its lighter.  So not only does it last longer it also is easier to put on/take off, clean and store.

Its cheaper.  Both initially to purchase and to replace vs a solid cover.  Hey- saving money is always a plus.

It can be patched.  The canvas square can be removed and a new one can be sewn back in.

The cover wont collect as many leaves.  While it still may collect some leaves, its less than what a tarp cover will collect.

They look nicer.  No water tubes, and clean precision is just better looking.


Mesh/Safety Cover Cons

It allows water to pass through.  That can potentially increase the headache of a pool opening in terms of money and sweat-equity.  Owners of these covers will open with a green pool more often and have more particulate matter situated on the pool floor.

It rubs on your coping.  This will remove the paint from your coping and will create the need to touch up your coping from time to time.

It will need a submersible pump.  As the mesh cover will allow water into the pool you may need to have that extra precipitation removed if the water level gets too high.


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