Over the last 40 years in North America tarp and water bag pool covers have been by far the most common choice. It used to be that instead of water bags it was sand bags which were used however water bags grew in popularity due to the damage that sand bags can cause if dropped into the pool. Removing a large amount of sand from the bottom of the pool is a difficult process that is best to avoid. Water bags do have their limitations though in that they are very prone to puncture from small animals claws walking across them. This means that it is uncommon to get colorful chair covers more than a few seasons of each water bag before needing to replace them. Fortunately they are not too expensive in that they are usually between $5-$10 each. When using a tarp to cover the swimming pool you want the tarp to have excess material inside of the pool to prevent the cover from dragging the water bags into the pool once the cover fills with snow and precipitation. A new cover costs anywhere from $80-$200 depending on the thickness of the cover and the size of your pool. Be sure to over size your cover for example a 20 x 40′ swimming pool would use eight 30 x 50′ cover. The main disadvantage of this type of cover is that you will have standing water and leaves rotting in the backyard all winter. When the spring comes and all of the ice melts it will not take long before you will be able to smell this stagnant water throughout your property. You will also be attracting mosquitoes to the standing water and there is growing concern over this due to the spread of West Nile virus. While a tarp and water bag system for winterizing your swimming pool is an economical choice it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the cosmetic value of your backyard.
A lock in style swimming pool winter cover is designed to fit exactly the swimming pool it was made for, and attach directly into the coping track in the same way that the liner for the pool fits into the coping track. The main advantage of this style of pool cover is that it does not use extra deck area around the swimming pool like a tarp and water bag or mesh safety cover does. The disadvantage of this type of cover is that it is very difficult to put on and take off of the swimming pool. Even professionals who may deal with up to 10 a day during busy seasons can have difficulty with this style of cover. The cost of a vinyl lock in cover will range anywhere from $6-$700 all the way up to a few thousand depending on the size and complexity of your pool shape. This style of cover needs to be stored in liquid during the pool season to keep it malleable. This can result in excessive bacteria formation and often leaves this style of cover smelling very bad. This is one of the biggest detractions from vinyl lock in pool winter covers. Another option for lock in covers are poly weave lock in covers. These lighter lock in covers do not require to be stored in liquid making them a better option for snow and also much easier to install as it does not have the tendency to sink like a vinyl walk in cover will.
Mesh safety covers, or spring safety covers as they are sometimes called, are the fastest-growing segment of pool winter covers. These safety covers have become famous from pictures showing them supporting vehicles and elephants over top of the pool area. Though this is not their every day design it is true that when installed these covers prevent virtually any possibility of something falling into the pool. Brass grommets are installed into the deck around the entire perimeter of the swimming pool. Using a special bar tool that comes with your safety cover you install the cover under spring tension onto the deck of the pool. It creates somewhat of a trampoline looking effect though using it in this capacity is not recommended. Mesh safety covers need to be custom measured for each swimming pool and cost anywhere from $1300-$3000 or more depending on the size and shape of your pool. They can be installed onto wood decks, concrete decks, natural stone, tile and even gardens or grass. Something unique about these pool covers is that they allow the pool to fill with water during the winter season and spring melt reducing the amount of water you need to add to the pool to start it up in the spring. This can represent a huge savings for people who need to pay to have water brought in.
The most expensive form of winter pool cover is an automatic safety cover. An automatic safety cover is just as it sounds. You turn a key and a cover mechanically rolls out over the entire swimming pool. This allows you to have the pool covered at all times when not in use and this is something that no other cover can do. These extravagant winter covers are commonly added to the pool design during the construction phase and this allows for a seamless incorporation into the pool area. Retrofitting an automatic pool safety cover requires surface mounting of some equipment which can be a visual distraction in some circumstances. That being said there is no safer option for covering your pool than with an automatic pool safety cover because you can use it year round not only in the winter. An automatic pool safety cover can cost anywhere between $8000 up to $15,000 or more so this is one of the larger options you can add to a swimming pool. It is worth noting that the increased safety of the pool area does have a positive reflection on the associated real estate value of your home.
Steve Goodale is a pool and spa expert and owner of http://www.GreenPools.ca located in Burlington, Ontario. You can read more about winter covers and view his pool safety cover gallery