Should a Pool Cover Touch the Water?

There are so many things about pool maintenance that leave you scratching your head. How do you balance the pH levels? Why do you need so much chlorine? How do you change the sand in a sand filter? The list goes on. When it comes to your pool cover, should it touch the water?

A pool cover should always touch the water in your pool. If the cover is too tight and excess water or debris pools on the top of the cover, this could cause the cover to strain and rip due to its inability to expand. Check the user manual to verify the max distance between the cover and the water. 

If you have a pool cover that is not currently touching the water, do not stress. This is a problem that can be easily resolved by simply purchasing a cover that is a bit bigger. Although it may be an extra expense, it will save you in the long run by its ability to protect your pool. Continue reading to understand why your pool cover should touch the water, what your water levels should be when the pool is covered, and ways to drain excess water on the cover. 

Why Your Pool Cover Should Touch the Water

Pools are tough to clean and keep clean. It takes a ton of work and plenty of afternoons spent in order to make sure that all debris keeps out and your water stays nice and clear. For this reason, pool covers were designed. They are there to help you out when you simply do not want to worry about things making their way into your water and when seasons do not permit the pool to be open. These bad boys are lifesavers, but they should fit properly to work effectively as intended.

Your pool cover should touch the water to maintain a slightly loose tether- loose enough to hold debris and excess water without the excess weight causing too much tension. A pool cover that slightly touches the water is an investment that will keep your pool clean and your associated cleaning costs lower. 

For your pool cover, this means that you want to ensure that you have one that is going to touch the very surface of your water. Many times, people think this means that the cover is too big and will somehow lead to more debris piling up in their pool, but oh, contraire! Even with the cover being relatively loose-looking, it is still completely capable of keeping all the gunk away from your pool without its composition being affected due to excess weight. 

Let’s talk about that – the effects of excess weight on your pool cover. When you are in the midst of a huge tropical storm, rain is unloading on your pool cover like the water barrel dump at your local water park. When your pool is covered for months at a time over the fall, winter, and spring, tons of water and debris also end up on the surface of your pool cover. What does this mean for the cover itself? Weight, and lots of it. This is bad news for a cover that is too tight. 

When excess weight accumulates on the surface of your pool cover, it is going to stretch that cover as much as it possibly can. If you have a cover that is tight and up against no water at all beneath it, this can end in a very bad way for you. The pressure will become too much for the cover to handle and it will either result in tearing of the pool cover or will completely rip the cover from the sides of the pool. This means the cover is in the water as well as all the debris. 

That is what we would describe as a complete fail. Your pool is no longer covered, the cover is totally submerged, and everything on top of the cover is now in the pool – awesome. Now you get to clean everything up and let me tell you, it will not be easy. To avoid this catastrophe, keep a cover on your pool that has plenty of give. This means that the cover should be touching the water pretty uniformly across the pool (although, obviously not completely submerged). 

There should be enough room for any water build-up or debris accumulation to not have to worry about the cover pulling off from the sides or tearing due to extreme pressure. By keeping the cover touching the water, you add a sort of “table” support for various types of debris and other particles that can accumulate on the surface. Thus, very little strain is put on your cover. 

This means clean water and no messy clean-ups for you and who wouldn’t be happy about that? To maintain a clean pool with the effective use of a pool cover, be sure to measure the dimensions of your pool and find an appropriately-sized pool cover to match. It should be slightly larger than the dimensions of the pool to ensure a slight “sag” that grazes the top of the pool water.

What Should Water Levels be at When Covering Your Pool? 

Many people make the mistake of draining their pool way more than it should be drained. For example: Let’s say ole Joe has decided to close his pool for the summer. He has decided to drain the pool and leave about 12 inches of water standing in the bottom. After all, he wants fresh new water next season, so there is no need to keep old water within it, right? Wrong. He put the cover on and none of it is even remotely touching the water. 

Well, winter comes and a big snowstorm blows through. It piles up on top of the pool’s cover and Joe notices that the cover is holding on for dear life, the strain is visible on it. Then, out of nowhere, the cover snaps off the edges of the pool and crumbles into a defeated pile in the middle of the pool. So much for fresh water, huh?  If only Joe wouldn’t have drained his pool, the cover would have been capable of sustaining the weight and all of this could have been avoided. 

Draining your pool a bit is totally fine and really encouraged when you plan to cover it for long amounts of time, but you want to be sure not to take too much water from the pool. Generally, your water line should never be below 18 inches from the very top of the pool.  If you really want to be on the safe side, 2 inches below your skimmer is a great level for your water.

This will help to keep the cover supported and keep from any type of disaster happening as it did to Joe. And, I do not know about you, but dealing with a busted pool cover in the middle of winter does not sound like my cup of tea.

Should You Remove Excess Water on Top of the Pool Cover? 

If you are covering your pool for an extended amount of time (like over the fall, winter, and spring months) it is likely that you are going to experience a few – if not many – snow and rainstorms. For your pool cover, this means that water is going to accumulate over time on the top of the cover, and sometimes, there will be so much that it does not evaporate. 

For those of you stuck with a puddle in the middle of your cover, do not leave it- it has to be drained off. You can use a subversive pump to remove the excess water from the top of the pool cover as long as the water is completely liquified. Do this when the water covers a considerable portion of the pool cover or begins to stand a few inches.

This may sound like an impossible feat, but hear me out, it is much easier than it sounds. No, you do not have to be the one to get into the pool and drag the cover from one side to the next hoping that you are strong enough to lift the excess water over the side without any spillage into the pool (I may have foolishly done this once). All you need is a subversive pump. If you have not ever heard of these, they are truly a gift to Earth when it comes to cover maintenance. 

All you need to do is grab the pump, make sure that temperatures are above freezing, and of course ensure that the water is liquid rather than ice. Operate your pump as the instructions advise, submerge it, and you should be on your way to a water-free pool cover. 

Making sure that the water does not contain ice seems obvious, but I have to cover all bases here, people. Then, the subversive pump does all the pumping for you, and you do not have to worry about extended pressure on the cover. 

If there is only a bit of water pooled on top of your cover, do not start to worry. The cover can handle small amounts and should have enough give to support at least some water throughout the entirety of your pool’s offseason. However, if things start to pile up and the edges of your cover are really starting to tug, go ahead and reach for the subversive pump. If there is enough water for the pump to be submerged in, it should be drained off. 

Jed Arnold

Jed spent every year from the ages of 15 - 22 as a Lifeguard (Red Cross) and ages of 17 - 22 as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Between working for over a dozen facilities and owning a pool, he carries over a decade of pool experience.

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