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Winter Pool Covers vs. Safety Pool Covers

The days are growing shorter, the weather is getting colder, and the leaves are falling from the trees. This can only mean one thing — winter is coming, and it’s time to close the pool. If you already have a pool cover, you’re all set! If not, you’ll need to decide which type of cover to purchase — a winter pool cover or a safety pool cover. What’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look at winter covers vs. safety covers for winterized swimming pools.

Winter Pool Covers

winter pool cover with water bag weights

These tarp-like covers work well for both above ground and inground swimming pools. They’re the most affordable, and are sold in a variety of thicknesses and materials (mesh or solid). Winter pool covers most often come in round, oval, and rectangular shapes to fit most standard-sized pools.

Solid winter pool covers work well to keep out fine debris and sunlight, which makes for an easier spring opening. However, if you go with a solid winter cover, you’ll also need to purchase a pool cover pump to keep rainwater and snowmelt from accumulating and weighing down the cover. Mesh covers don’t need a cover pump, because excess water can pass through directly into the pool.

Installation is fairly simple. Inground pools use water bags or water blocks to weigh down the edges of the cover around the pool. Above ground pools use a cable and winch system (usually included with the cover) to secure the cover to the pool itself. Warranties for these covers can offer coverage up to 15 years, depending on the style, quality, and thickness of the cover.

BONUS TIP: If you own an inground pool, you may be wondering which is better: water bags or water blocks? Water bags are much less expensive, but are thin and usually only last a season or two. Water blocks cost quite a bit more, but are a more rigid, sturdy alternative that will last for many years. You can learn more about both in our blog post, Water Bags and Winter Cover Blocks.

The important thing to remember with winter covers is that they will only keep lightweight debris from entering your pool. If a pet or small child walks onto or falls into the pool, the cover will not support the weight, and there’s a risk of entrapment and drowning from getting wrapped up in the cover. The same concept applies when too much water collects on the cover — it can fall in the pool, taking all the accumulated debris and dirty water with it. This is often the biggest deciding factor when pool owners choose between a safety cover vs. a winter cover.

Safety Pool Covers

safety pool cover

Safety covers cost much more than a standard winter pool cover. That said, you really do get what you pay for with these. They’re most commonly used for inground pools, but can be used on an above ground pool if the pool has a wooden or other type of solid deck surrounding the entire perimeter. Safety pool covers are held in place by a system of straps and spring-loaded hooks, which are attached to anchors in the pool deck or surrounding area. This creates a sturdy barrier that’s often more aesthetically pleasing than a winter cover.

Much like with winter covers, safety pool covers are available in solid and mesh varieties. However, safety covers also come in hybrid models. Again, a solid cover requires a cover pump to remove accumulated rainwater and snowmelt. But solid covers ensure a faster spring opening than mesh pool covers, which allow fine debris, water, and sunlight to pass through into the pool. Hybrid covers are primarily made of solid material, but have a mesh drain panel (or panels) in the middle to allow for water drainage. This style of safety cover offers the best of both worlds in terms of winter maintenance and ease of opening.

If you have a standard rectangle pool or one with a 4'x8' left, right, or center step, chances are good that you’ll be able to find a pre-made safety cover that fits. But the great thing about safety covers is that they can be custom made to fit all pool shapes and sizes — even unique ones! 

When properly installed, safety covers can support a remarkable amount of weight, including heavy snow, fallen tree limbs, or even wandering animals and children. You may have even seen photos of elephants and cars on top of a safety cover. These photos clearly demonstrate the remarkable capabilities of these covers, but don’t try this at home! The less stress your cover has to endure, the longer your cover — and all its parts — will last.

Installation is a bit more intensive for a safety cover, requiring holes to be drilled into the pool deck for the anchors. Once this is done, you use a special tool to securely attach the cover straps to the anchors. When not in use, the anchors can be lowered flush with the pool deck.

BONUS TIP: If you have a lot of leafy trees in your backyard, consider investing in a leaf net. It’s installed over the top of your winter or safety cover, and makes it much easier to remove excess leaves from the surface of the pool. This handy accessory will not only make your life easier this winter, but it will also expedite the pool opening process come spring!

Which Pool Cover Do I Need?

Choosing a pool cover really boils down to personal preference and what will work best for your pool and budget. Let’s do a quick recap on the key differences between winter covers vs. safety covers:

Winter Pool Cover Safety Pool Cover
Pool Type Above Ground or Inground Primarily Inground, or Above Ground with Surrounding Deck
Materials Mesh, Solid Mesh, Solid, Hybrid
Shapes Round, Oval, Rectangle Rectangle, End Step, Custom
Sizes Fits Most Standard Pools Fits Most Standard Pools,
Custom Sizes Available
Price Lower Price Higher Price
Warranty 8–15 Years 12–30 Years
Installation Water Bags/Blocks (Inground),
Cable and Winch (Above Ground)
Mounted Anchors in Pool Deck
Safety Features None; Additional Safety Barriers Strongly Recommended Prevents People, Animals, and Large Debris from Entering
Required Accessories Air Pillows, Water Bags/Blocks (Inground),
Cable and Winch (Above Ground, Often Included),
Cover Pump (Solid Covers Only)
Cover Pump (Solid Covers Only), Anchor Tools, Cover Hardware (Included)

If you have any questions about choosing the right cover for your pool, or if you need help ordering a custom safety cover, Leslie’s can help! Call or stop by your local Leslie’s to check out all the pool cover options available.

Recommended Products

Winter Pool Covers

Winter Pool Covers

Submersible Pool Cover Pump

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Safety Pool Cover Sample

Safety Pool Covers

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Leslie’s makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and Leslie’s assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Leslie’s assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.