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Tips and tricks for installing automatic pool guides on fiberglass pools

By Mike Shadoan

Fibreglass pools can present some unique challenges when installing automatic covers.
Fibreglass pools can present some unique challenges when installing automatic covers.

As fibreglass pools continue to gain market share in the industry, builders and automatic cover installers are learning to adapt their construction methods to adjust to the unique properties of fibreglass pools.

These pools became even more popular this summer because of their speed of installation as some builders struggled to keep up with consumer demand.

The same can be said in regard to the demand for automatic pool covers as they provide more flexibility for homeowners when opening and closing their pools. That said, fibreglass pools present some unique challenges when installing these types of covers. Therefore, being prepared for these challenges can help installers avoid frustrating mistakes in the field.

Sizing challenge

Busy pool builders work around the clock trying to co-ordinate the timing of the pool and automatic cover installation. In many cases, some builders are forced to call in the order of an automatic cover from their truck while travelling between jobs. In doing so, one might ask for a cover for a 4.87- x 9.7-m (16- x 32-ft) fibreglass pool without considering the actual dimensions of the pool.

It is important to understand when ordering an automatic pool cover, the builder or installer needs to provide the inside dimensions of the pool to the manufacturer. In most cases, the inside dimensions of a fibreglass pool are narrower than the marketed ‘size’ of the pool. It is not uncommon for the interior of the pool to be just 4.57 m (15 ft) wide for a fibreglass pool that is marketed as being 4.87 m (16 ft) wide. So, if the builder orders the cover at 4.87 m (16 ft) wide, it is going to be too big.  The width of an automatic pool cover is key for the cover to fit and function properly.

To avoid this mistake, pool builders and automatic cover installers should either wait until the fibreglass pool is installed and take measurements, or contact the pool manufacturer and ask them for their inside pool measurements before ordering the cover. Automatic cover manufacturers use the inside dimensions of the pool for all of the under track cover applications. These are the most common type of automatic cover installation, where the track is hidden. By understanding these are essentially custom products, it will help those ordering them to remember the importance of providing precise measurements.

Pool width challenge

Fibreglass pool builders understand keeping the width of the pool consistent down its entire length is challenging.

“Naturally, fibreglass pools want to flex and bow along the length of the pool because of the pressure on the walls from the backfill or the water,” says Allan Horwood, owner of Pool Patrol in British Columbia.

That said, builders need to fill the pool with water while simultaneously backfilling the fibreglass pool to avoid having the backfill bow the walls in or the water pressure push the walls out. If this is not done correctly, the pool will not maintain a consistent width along its length.

“The pool might be 4.57 m (15 ft) wide in the shallow end and the deep end, but only 4.52 m (14.83 ft) in the middle,” says Horwood. “Automatic cover systems can accommodate for up to a
25.4 mm (1 in.) difference, but not much more.”

According to Horwood, this variation in width along the length of the pool is what makes installing the track for the automatic cover challenging. Placing the track in such a way that the cover functions properly, but is also esthetically pleasing, are both important to a successful installation.

Installation tip

As the corners of most fibreglass pools have a radius, one trick some installers use is notching out the lip in the coping that was originally designed for a vinyl liner bead receiver.
As the corners of most fibreglass pools have a radius, one trick some installers use is notching out the lip in the coping that was originally designed for a vinyl liner bead receiver.

To help with this challenge, it is recommended builders keep the track components installed symmetrically down the length of the pool on both sides. Manufacturers provide enough track for the entire pool, but installers still need to cut it on-site during the installation. To help ensure a better installation, even if there is a variation in the width of the pool, it is important to install the track the same on both sides.

“We always lay out the track around the pool perimeter first before cutting any pieces to make sure the length is the same on both the right and left sides,” says Horwood.

For example, a builder might use three tracks, each 3.65 m (12 ft) in length, on a 10.97 m (36 ft) long pool. It is important this is done on both sides in a mirror fashion rather than using two tracks that are 3.65 m (12 ft) long and two tracks that are each 1.82 m (6 ft). A builder should always start with corners as he/she lays out the track then fill in the remainder symmetrically. Fortunately, these aluminum extrusion tracks have some give and will move a little, which allows installers to make adjustments for both functionality and beauty.

Alerting the manufacturer to the fact the automatic cover is being installed on a fibreglass pool should prompt them to ask additional questions. This will not only help to ensure the correct sizing and components are provided so the cover fits and functions properly, but also so the installation goes as fast and easy as possible.

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