• Cutting ropes
  • Easy to service
  • Switch placement
  • Drainage system in cover box
  • Anchor installation
  • Fitting covers around high-end features
  • Accommodating planters
  • Covers on wood decks

While installing an automatic cover, when should you cut the ropes, and how much length should you leave?

Rick Clark:

After the ropes, fabric and leading edge have been installed, retract the cover so the leading edge is about six inches from the start of the track, or about half-way across the lowered beam wall. Mark each rope at four feet from its reel pulley, melt the ropes at each mark, and cut through the melted area. Attach the ropes to the mechanism and turn the reels to take up the excess rope.

Dave Dalton:

Cut the ropes after you have pulled them through the tracks and pullies, when they are positioned at the rope reel. The leading edge bar, cover guides and sliders should be installed and the cover ready to retract over the pool. At this point, the ropes should be pulled taut, with the same amount of pressure on each. It’s helpful to have 4-to-5 feet of extra rope because it can be used to make minor adjustments later. Mark each rope and use a torch to melt the outer portion of the rope, then cut. This prevents the rope from pulling apart on the ends. Never cut the ropes when the cover is over the pool.

Tom Dankel:

The cover must be rolled up on the drum to ensure that the ropes are in both sides of the track. Then run the ropes through the pulley network, and pull both ropes together toward the opposite end of the pool, with at least 5 feet each. You can then cut them together, at the same point.

How can you make covers easy to service down the road?

Rick Clark: Make sure you’ve been trained on how to install track and cover systems, and follow instructions for installing the tracks and the system properly. Ensure proper chemical balance is maintained and that any standing water is pumped off the cover before operating.

Dave Dalton: Choose a product that is designed with service in mind. This could include brackets that are easily removed, quick disconnects on electrical components and slider assemblies.

Tom Dankel: Picking a system with modular design characteristics makes it easier to service from the beginning.

How should the switch be placed?

Rick Clark: The switch should be permanently mounted in a location at least five feet from the water’s edge within full view of the pool. The switch should be accessed by a code or have a key that can be removed and stored in a secure location.

Dave Dalton: It should be placed so the user has a complete view of the pool when operating the pool cover. Five feet above ground level or the position the person is standing while operating the cover is recommended. For safety reasons, a momentary coded touch pad, which has to be depressed to operate the cover, is ideal. The touch pad has to have a user code in order to activate the cover, eliminating the problem of a key left in the switch. People often leave their keys in the switch, making it easy for a small child to open the cover without supervision.

Tom Dankel: The switch can be anywhere as long as the operator has a full, unobstructed view of the pool.

How should I set up a drainage system for the cover box?

Rick Clark: The bottom of the box should slope to a 3-inch drain to prevent any water accumulation from rain, pool splash or retracting the cover.

Dave Dalton: There are options here. If there is good drainage, pea gravel can be placed in the bottom of the box, and that becomes the drain. A French drain can be installed with pipes carrying the water into it. The last option is draining into the public sewer system. In the last two cases, the drains should be located at the ends of the mechanism where they can be reached for cleaning. They should also be slightly lower than the middle of the cover vault.

Tom Dankel: The cover recess must have a drain to prevent stagnation of standing water. This can be achieved a number of ways. You can have a hard drain line tied into the perimeter drain system, or if there is no slope, a rock pit, sometimes referred to as a French drain, can be used.

How should anchors be placed around the pool to ensure the best fit of the cover?

Tim Genthner: Having the actual cover on-site is key to any installation. Then, the straps can be used to determine the exact location of the anchors. The “clock theory” of installation is highly suggested, meaning the center length straps are installed first and the center width straps second (much like a clock’s hands at 12 and 6 and then 3 and 9). Once those straps are taken care of, the straps just outside are then installed, leaving the corners and center quadrants last. Make sure to tighten from the center of the cover outward for a wrinkle-free installation. Anchors are typically about 20 inches from the cover’s perimeter, based on decking widths.

Dick Rayner: The anchors should be placed at the end of the strap. In order to get a straight pull on the webbing, the anchor must be in the exact line of the strap. If you allow the anchor to stray off to either side, a wrinkle will appear on the edge of your cover.

Fred Boehmcke: Anchors should be placed on the deck so the cover is taut. On most rectangular pools, the overlap of the cover is approximately 12 inches, and the anchors should be placed 18 inches from the cover. On free-form pools, cover overlap will vary depending on the manufacturer. If you don’t receive a layout of the cover with your cover delivery, check with its maker. For this, the anchors are also installed 18 inches back from the cover. In general, always double-check the size of the cover you are about to install against what you ordered. It just might save you a lot of wasted time and effort.

Frank Patel: Start from the center and work your way out from there. This technique works on a freeform or a rectangle. Then you can pull the corners tight for a taut fit.

When fitting a cover around boulders, islands and other high-end features, what precautions must be taken?

Tim Genthner: High-end features such as raised walls must be anchored in first with cables, as they do not have overlaps to play with. Once they are securely fastened, you can pull them out and tighten them during the rest of the installation.

Dick Rayner: Again, a straight pull on the strap is necessary to prevent wrinkling of the cover, and that attachment must be made first to ensure a close-up fit to rocks, boulders, etc. The opposite-side attachment comes after the cutouts are in place.

Fred Boehmcke: With special features like boulders and rocks placed at the water’s edge, the cover should be placed around them before any anchors are installed. Then make sure you have proper alignment and overlap of the entire cover before drilling. If you are drilling into any of these special features, make sure the wall or feature is strong enough to support the wall anchor and cover.

Frank Patel: When compiling measurements, include details and pictures. If you are installing the cover, center it on the obstruction, making it equal on each side.

When a planter sits directly adjacent to the pool, how should the straps and anchors be used to accommodate it?

Tim Genthner: Planters next to the pool can be addressed in a couple of ways. You can install the straps with springs to a stake or to a paver tube, which can be additionally supported by up to 5/8-inch rebar within the tube. Or you can use extension straps to go over the planter and attach to the decking beyond.

Dick Rayner: You’ll need a cable kit wrapped around or attached to the planter to ensure a snug fit of the cover.

Fred Boehmcke: Planter beds require a pipe, which is usually supplied by the manufacturer. The anchor is placed inside the pipe and then installed in the planter bed to keep the cover taut. If the backfill or soil in the planter is soft and won’t hold the pipe in place, a footing might have to be placed to compensate. Also check for any sprinkler or plumbing lines in the planter.

Frank Patel: If there is a planter adjacent to the pool, provide precise measurements and the location of the obstruction. Depending on the size, engineers first try to avoid placing a strap in that location, or they will provide a Y-strap. If that is not possible, a cutout can be made to fit the object. Again, pictures make it easier to get a recommendation for the most appropriate treatment.

What are special concerns when installing a cover on a pool that has wooden decking?

Tim Genthner: First, determine if the deck itself is solid enough to hold anchors. Old, rotten decking is less than ideal. If the decking is new and solid, you can use a wood deck anchor, which can be recessed down into the decking. If the deck is thick enough, a standard concrete anchor can still be used. Hollow Trex-type decking presents its own can of worms. Scabbing extra material under the deck and out of sight might be needed to beef up the mounting area.

Dick Rayner: Wooden decks must have a width of at least 3 feet around the entire circumference of the pool. The wider the better.

Fred Boehmcke: This requires a wood deck anchor supplied by the manufacturer. Check to make sure the wood has proper thickness and is in good shape before installing your anchors.

Frank Patel: When fitting a wood-deck anchor cover, be sure to use the proper tool for drilling and counter-boring the anchor. This will ensure a clean cut and a good fit.