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Tips for measuring and installing covers on challenging pools

Installation: It’s all about positioning

Before drilling any holes in the deck, it is important to lay the cover over the pool first to position it correctly. Some installers use sandbags to hold the cover in place, while others use cinder blocks. If using cinder blocks, place something on the cover to protect it from damage.

When placing the safety cover, start with the ‘critical’ parts (e.g. around obstacles such as slides, diving boards and stairs). Make sure all cut outs are lined up perfectly, then adjust around the perimeter of the pool.

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Tethering ropes across the entire width and length of the pool to set the cover on top is an easy way to ensure the cover is positioned properly.

Positioning is key to making sure the safety cover not only fits perfectly, but also has straight straps and no wrinkles, says Trevor Olson, construction supervisor and technician with Classic Leisure Lifestyles in Penticton, B.C.

“I always keep six 19-L (5-gal) buckets in my truck, which I fill with water and use as weights around the perimeter of the cover to ensure it is positioned correctly before I start drilling the anchors,” Olson explains. “Also, I always bring a co-worker with me; the buckets and the second set of hands are key to ensuring the cover fits properly and looks good. “If you don’t have the cover laid out properly, you will find yourself adjusting straps to remove wrinkles, resulting in crooked straps—and homeowners hate the look of a crooked strap.”

Knapp uses a ‘spiderweb’ technique to ensure proper placement.

“We tether ropes across the entire width and length of the pool and set the cover on top of our web to ensure we have the cover positioned correctly,” he says. “We anchor each of our spiderweb ropes with rebar stakes and position and adjust the cover around the hardest parts of the pool first. Once we are satisfied that the cover is positioned correctly we drill our first hole.

“However, rather than following the pool’s perimeter when drilling, we drill the anchor points counter to one another. This crisscrossing technique allows us to adjust as we go, ensuring an even smoother, better fit, without any puckers.”

When drilling anchor points, keep in mind they should not be placed into concrete joints, as chipping can occur, and not too close to the edge of the deck, as a hammer drill can break the deck.

In terms of man hours, it takes most installers approximately one to two hours to plot the measurements for most safety covers; however, it can take half a day to install the cover.

Establish the centre point

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It is critical to establish the centre points of the pool and safety cover before beginning to drill.

Not all manufacturers design their covers with a strap at the centre point. It is important to keep this in mind, especially when replacing an existing cover. It is critical to establish the centre points of the pool and safety cover to line them up during the initial placement of the cover before beginning to drill. Chalk lines are ideal for marking the deck and cover to determine the centreline.

Walls, reverse radius curves, raised spas and waterfalls

Design elements around the pool (e.g. raised spas and waterfall walls) often require the safety cover to be secured directly to the feature. To do this, installers need to drill directly into the feature’s wall and use a cable-fastening system, which can sometimes be a challenge.

A common mistake is not using enough eyebolts (cable anchors), especially around radiused features. For this anchoring method, cables are threaded through the eyebolts and pulled tight to secure the cover against the feature. If an improper number of fasteners are used, the cover will bunch up around the feature and cause ‘puckers’ and ‘gaps’ where debris can enter. In worst case scenarios, the safety of the cover may be compromised.

No professional wants to install more anchors into a feature then necessary, but there should be enough to ensure the cable pulls the cover up flush and tight.

Drilling into vertical wall features can be another installation challenge. In most cases, if it is a straight vertical wall there is no need to use a ‘cable’ anchoring system, as clips underneath the cover can be fastened directly into eyebolts on the wall.

“When the feature is only 457 to 610 mm (1.5 to 2 ft) tall, you can hang over the wall,” says Tripp. “However, if the feature is taller or harder to access, we find ourselves entering the pool in waders using battery drills to install anchor points. We have even found ourselves in small inflatable boats drilling around coves and grottos. For features like caves and grotto seats, I also sometimes use D-rings for anchor points.”

Olson also uses D-rings on installations involving narrow decks.

“As backyards are getting smaller and smaller, we are confronted with an increasing number of narrow decks that are only 3.6 to 4.5 m (12 to 15 ft) wide,” he says. “To compensate, we have D-rings installed on the cover straps on the deck’s narrow side; however, this makes placement even more critical, as the regular compression safety cover springs on the opposite side of the pool are forced to ensure a tight fit.”

Finally, make sure the cover manufacturer is aware of the features around the pool as they may recommend adding padding around certain obstacles, or on rough finish decks, pavers and flagstone, to avoid wear and tear on the cover.

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