How To Store A Pool Cover
The most common cause for early pool cover failure is due to rodents (and insects) making a home in the cover during the swimming season when the cover is off the pool. All too often pool owners become preoccupied with getting the pool open and running for the year and neglect to properly store the cover during this time. Unfortunately a rolled up and poorly stored pool cover makes for a perfect nesting area for rodents. Also unfortunate is that the type of damage that rodents do is such that the cover is not repairable. They do not chew a singe hole, or even multiple holes, in the cover. Rodents tend to want to nest in the center of the cover. What this means is that they will chew their way from the outside to the inside. When you open the cover in the fall to close the pool for the year you will discover that your pool cover now has dozens of holes from these critters chewing through the folded up layers.
Most covers can be patched if they have a hole in them, especially safety covers which are very expensive to replace. Unfortunately if you have holes in every second panel of your safety cover the cost of replacing each of these panels will not be worth the money. At that point it is just as cheap to get an entirely new cover made. The only real solution to this problem is to simply prevent it from happening in the first place. If you have a tarp cover with a few dozen holes in it then using duct tape to "fix" the problem will not work. While you might reduce the problem with the holes, the entire point of a tarp cover is to isolate the pool water from any water or debris on top. If mice get to your pool tarp it is essentially garbage.
Lock In Covers - There are two different kinds of lock in covers. One type is made from vinyl and the other is a lightweight tarp material that has a vinyl bead sewn onto the edge. Both of these styles of cover are designed to clip into a second coping track just above the coping track that retains the liner. The vinyl lock in covers must be stored wet every year to avoid shrinking problems that can happen when they are left to dry out. A vinyl lock in cover should be cleaned on the pool with brushes before being removed, folded and rolled up like a sleeping bag. These covers should then be stored in a sealed container filled with water and algicide. The algicide is to prevent the water inside the cover container from turning rancid over the summer months when it is sitting in storage. Ideally the water should be drained out half way through the summer and replaced with fresh water with another dose of algicide. This will prevent the cover from smelling bad, but also will prevent staining that can develop on the cover from too much bacteria or algae. The lightweight poly lock in covers do not need to be stored wet like the vinyl covers do, but hey should still be stored in a sealed container for the summer.
Tarp Covers - Tarp covers, similar to the lightweight lock in covers do not need to be stored wet or in any chemicals during the swimming season. Simply clean the cover before fan-folding and rolling up like a sleeping bag. Tarp covers used to be very heavy material and made to last a decade or more. Modern day tarp covers are about as thick as a plastic garbage bag and will get holes in them if you simply look at it the wrong way. Be sure to never drag a tarp cover (like to your driveway to clean it) or you most likely will end up with one or more tears in the cover. Tarp covers are quite inexpensive these days compared to 20 years ago so the cost of replacement is not nearly as hard to absorb as with a safety cover or lock in cover. Still, if you want to get the maximum lifetime out of your tarp cover then it should be stored in a sealed storage container.
Safety Covers - Safety covers cost on average $1000 to $3000 or more and so it is very important that you try to get the maximum service life possible from it. When well cared for a safety cover can last well in excess of 20 years. The safety cover on my pool was installed in September 1997 and is still in perfect usable condition today (other than one panel being replaced from when a wind storm blew a tree over and it landed on the cover). For some reason both rodents and insects seem to be attracted to safety covers. When I was involved with a company that closed over 1000 pools per season we would see more safety cover damage from pests than with any other cover type. The correct storage procedure for a safety cover is to fold and roll like a sleeping bag, and then store the cover in the mesh bag that it came in. You are then supposed to hang the cover bag off of the floor for the summer. This apparently makes it much less likely for rodents to access the cover but does little overall to protect from insects. For this reason, and similar to other covers, the best option is to store the cover in a sealed container to completely eliminate any change for damage from pests.
A 44 gallon storage bin is one of the best pool cover storage solutions for the cheapest price. Pool stores carry similar products for quite a bit more money but for most pool covers this bin will be perfect. If you have anything smaller than a 20x40' pool then your cover should fit easily into one of these bins. Just be sure to buy the matching lid as you need to purchase this separately. Since the cover is heavy it can make moving such a large bin difficult. To make transportation easier you might also want to pick up a bin dolly.
This large storage bin with wheels is not perfectly shaped for holding pool covers however the massive 50 gallon capacity makes this bin one of the only ones capable of holding large 20x40 and bigger covers. The lid system with this storage bin is not as secure as the garbage can style of the 44 gallon bin. It would be a good idea to secure the lid of this bin with bungee straps or weight down the lid to be sure that critters can't get inside. This shape of bin also works better for people who are not good at neatly rolling up the cover which makes them hard to fit in the shorter 44 gallon bins.
If possible you can also contact safety cover manufacturers to buy a replacement safety cover bag for storing your safety cover during the swimming season if you no longer have one. This bag is oversized and suitable for all sizes of pool covers. It is also strong enough to hang your cover off of the ground as per most safety cover manufacturers recommendations. This bag would also be ideal for storing tarp covers and lightweight lock in covers if you want to suspend them off the ground.
In some cases simply having the cover inside of a bag will not be enough to keep the rodents away. If you are very concerned about rodent damage to your cover, and you do not want to use a storage bin with a locking lid to store your cover, then putting some moth balls into your storage bag along with the cover is the next best option. You should still hang your pool cover even with the mothballs inside the bag as opposed to leaving it sit on the ground where it is more likely to be turned into a mouse hotel.
If you can avoid storing your cover in a mouse-infested storage shed that nobody ever goes in during the summer then this would be a good idea. Safety covers are far too expensive to replace them or have them repaired every few years due to damage. You are better off to store your cover inside your heated basement, or hanging inside your garage rather than in the back shed. Even worse is some people store their cover behind their pool shed, which is just inviting pests to move in and destroy your investment.
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