Launch Slideshow

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Cover Stories

Cover Stories

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John Lochren

Owner/president

Solar Pool Enclosures of New York

Holbrook, N.Y.

I’ve had my share of customers who are particularly abusive to their safety covers. One client called me to complain that the safety cover we installed was fraying. I went to inspect it and saw that, indeed, the stitching out of the side of the cover was pulling apart. After questioning the client about how he was using the cover, he confessed that he had been doing back flips and dives from the second-story window onto it, basically using the cover like a trampoline. No wonder the stitches were pulling apart. How could he not figure that out?

Another client called because the leading edge on his automatic cover was bowing. It’s designed to keep the cover upright, but if there’s too much weight on it, it will pop out of the track or start to bow when you try to move it. Even an inch of rainwater can cause that to happen.

Well, this one was definitely bowing, though the clients insisted they didn’t run it with any water on it. I was puzzled as to what would cause the bowing, so I inspected the rest of the cover and found mysterious purple stains dappling its surface. After questioning the rest of the family, we learned that these purple blots were wine stains. The clients’ teenaged kids were having parties on the cover, using it as a waterbed and laying out on it when the parents weren’t home. The bowing resulted from the teens riding the cover — after a few drinks, they thought it would be fun to retract the cover back and forth like an amusement park ride. Their parents definitely were not amused.

Richard Reish

Owner 

Quality Pool Service

Chestertown, Md.

Last year I had a well-to-do client who leased a huge farm on the eastern shore of Maryland. The place had a 20-by-40-foot pool with a sand filter, and our customer hired us to service it.

Our first day on the job, we found a pool that hadn’t been opened, much less serviced, in four years. There was a safety cover on the water, but it was playing host to a jungle that had eventually grown through the mesh.

My first thought was, “How the hell do we get this thing off?” The plant growth was so thick, we basically had to machete everything off the top. Once that was done, we were able to drag the cover off the pool and flip it upside down. There were aquatic plants growing under that cover with entire root systems in place. And that’s saying nothing of all the frogs and insects getting a free ride in this pool-turned-aquatic preserve.

After disentangling all those roots, we needed to find a place big enough to lay out the cover so it could dry. That thing stayed out in the yard for a month — it took that long to dry. But after all that, believe it or not, the safety cover was still in good shape!

The pool itself wasn’t an easy job either, but we were able to clean out the disgusting sludge after going through about 100 pounds of shock. Everything on the property is perfectly fine now, but it took a good eight weeks to get it back in service. 

Bob Huss

President

Pool Care Specialists

Chadds Ford, Pa.

The most challenging cover I’ve ever installed was a 100-percent cable cover with no straps. We’ve done a grand total of two of those, and we’ll never do another! Our clients had come up with the crazy idea of such a cover for their pool because they wanted something unique, and didn’t want to see any straps over the top.

To make matters worse, there was no deck around the pool. We had to drill everything into the tile. The toughest part was tightening everything up — it had to be tight enough so no one could get even a hand’s width between the deck and that crazy cover. I’m not sure why we even agreed to the second such job when it came up.

Another time we installed a temporary cover for a drinking-water reservoir in Ohio. One of the large water storage towers had to be fitted with a new foundation, so they emptied the tower into a temporary reservoir. Because it was an open reservoir, it needed a cover — and boy, what a cover! It was the largest one I’d ever encountered: about 100 feet wide by 300 feet long. Now that would be a big pool. It was a huge job that took seven men three days to complete using old-fashioned straps. At least it wasn’t 100-percent cable!

Kris Windmueller

President

Pool Cover Specialists of the Southeast

Charleston, S.C.

I was in North Carolina servicing a remotely located pool — one of those wilderness retreat-type places. Part of the service we include is cleaning the pool cover storage area, since these spots get a lot of debris. 

This particular pit was about 16 inches deep, and I started the job by using a 5-gallon bag of shock to clear it out. Halfway through sucking up all the leaves, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a big yellow something under the pool cover mechanism. At first I thought, “Oh, it’s just a turtle.” But when I stooped lower to take a closer look, I saw scales on the creature’s skin and heard the telltale warning sound: It was a huge rattlesnake! It was coiled around itself into a mound the size of a volleyball. I must have jumped back a mile!

Jake, as I later named him, was about 4 feet long with a 2-inch rattle. His massive body was too thick for me to get my hand around — not that I tried! We’re not used to seeing rattlesnakes in this part of the country, and had I been bitten, I’d be dead. This pool was accessible only by a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and there was no one there to rescue me, much less a hospital within hours of my location.

For the next half hour I scratched my head, trying to figure out a way to deal with my unexpected companion. As I tried to come up with a solution, the snake began to slither up and over the cover mechanism, then thought again and wrapped himself around the rope wheel. The cover was only open about 6 inches, and I quickly seized the opportunity to close the rest of it. My thinking was that he would be severed in half — that cover would apply about 1,500 pounds of pressure on his body. Surely that would be enough to kill him.

As the tension slowly spun the rope wheel back, I expected to see two parts of a dead snake. Instead, I saw his head — and the fact that he was still very much on the move. Not touching or going anywhere near the snake, I rolled the cover back to set him loose, and spent yet another 20 minutes trying to figure out a plan B. I finally grabbed a stick and a fireplace poker, using them like a pair of giant chopsticks to pull him out, and deposited him into a clear plastic bag. He still wasn’t dead, but at least I could get on with the job at hand.

Later, I tossed him into my trunk and kept him there until he died.

Now I’m having him stuffed, and plan on displaying him in the office as a cautionary tale for my employees. Thanks to Jake’s warning, I’m buying poles with mirrors on the bottom — the kind police use to sweep suspect cars — for all of my guys. You can never be too careful.