If you have a backyard pool, you need a pool cover—whether you want to protect your pool from winter weather, keep it clean during the swimming season, or keep inanimate or animate objects from falling into it. “Are you looking for safety, heat retention, keeping debris out, or weatherizing your pool in winter?” asks Mark Landry, Certified Pool Operator and owner of The Pool Loop, a pool maintenance company in Des Moines, Iowa. "The key is to have a definite idea of what you want to accomplish."
We researched various types of pool covers, based on features including installation, effectiveness, and durability.
Here are our picks for the best pool covers for in-ground and above-ground pools.
Happybuy Pool Safety Cover
Oversized to avoid the need to stretch
Comes with needed hardware
Easy to remove
Three available sizes
Can slow water evaporation
For rectangular pools only
This rectangular, double-strapped, triple-stitched polypropylene cover is designed to keep people and animals out of your pool in the off-season, as well as falling leaves, snow, and debris. The manufacturer says this product also repels sunlight, thus retarding algae growth. And the material is permeable, so rainwater passes through it instead of collecting on the cover’s surface.
The product comes in three sizes—20 x 40 feet, 18 x 36 feet, and 16 x 32 feet. Every size is designed to overlap 2 feet past your pool’s perimeter, ensuring a taut cover without over tightening, which could cause tearing.
The cover installs into concrete with brass ground bolts and stainless steel tension springs, and the kit includes all the hardware you need. You will also need a power drill and a quality concrete drill bit, which are not included. Installation is far from a one-person job, since the cover weighs a daunting near-70 pounds.
Price at time of publish: $410
Type: Cover | Size: 20x40 feet | Material: Polypropylene; stainless steel & brass hardware | Warranty: Not listed
Best for Avoiding Accidents
Blue Wave Rectangular Blue In-Ground Safety Pool Cover
Permeable mesh lets water through
Includes storage bag
For rectangular pools only
This pool cover is designed to hold a 30-pound toddler, 60-pound pup, or 150-pound teenager who runs onto the pool on a dare. The cover comes in either a 16-by-32-foot or 20-by-40-foot size, which should cover most standard-size in-ground rectangular pools. Each cover extends an additional 2 feet past the pool’s perimeter. The manufacturer does not produce configurations for kidney-shaped or other irregularly shaped pools.
As with most other in-ground pool covers, the Blue Wave installs through a drill-and-tamp-style anchoring system. The kit includes all the necessary hardware such as brass anchors, which recess flush with your pool deck; stainless steel springs; and buckles. A quality concrete bit and a power drill (not included) are needed as well. There’s also a storage bag to stow the cover until it’s time to reinstall it at the close of pool season.
Price at time of publish: $808
Type: Winter safety cover | Size: 16x32 feet | Material: Polyethylene two-ply mesh | Warranty: Not listed
Sun2Solar Blue 16-Foot-by-32-Foot Rectangle Solar Cover
Costs less than some other models
Minimizes water chemistry changes
Easy to roll
Trims to fit odd sizes
Not a safety cover
Not meant for offseason
Covering your pool when it’s not being used can keep water from evaporating. A solar pool cover also can keep your pool water at a pleasing temperature, encouraging you to use it more.
This versatile solar cover uses the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to warm your pool and lock in heat, with the added benefit of limiting debris and minimizing water evaporation. The cover’s tiny bubbles, which face the water, are designed to collect and retain heat at night and during the day. The appealing blue color doubles as an aide to increase the sun’s heating effectiveness.
We like that this cover can be trimmed with sharp scissors, making it versatile for pools that are not circular or rectangular. (The manufacturer says that trimming the fabric doesn’t affect the warranty.) It is easy to install and remove, getting you into the habit of using it constantly. Since you’ll be taking your solar pool cover on and off your pool daily, you may want to consider a solar cover blanket reel roller to make the process easier.
Price at time of publish: $195
Type: Solar cover | Size: 15x30 feet, trim to fit | Material: Plastic | Warranty: Not listed
Best Leaf Net
Doheny's Professional Grade Leaf Nets for In-Ground Swimming Pools
Repels big leaves and sticks
Doesn't halt thin leaves, pine needles
Only one-year limited warranty
In summer and fall, this lightweight leaf net can keep most leaves out of your pool, reducing time spent cleaning it. When you close your pool, simply remove and store the net. You also can put this leaf net over your winter cover to keep debris from collecting on the main cover.
We like that this cover comes in 12 sizes, which should fit most standard-size in-ground pools. Each size extends 4 feet past your pool’s perimeter to ensure a better fit. We have noted that the first time the product is unpackaged, the net may seem overly small, but it does roll out to full size, given a little elbow grease.
The manufacturer produces two models: deluxe and economy. We prefer the deluxe alternative, which is designed with increased reinforcement in the binding, as well as an ultraviolet (UV) inhibitor, and comes with a two-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $34
Type: Leaf net | Size: 16x32 feet | Material: Netting | Warranty: 2 years (1 year full replacement)
Best for Above-Ground Pool
Robelle 3524-4 Winter Round Above-Ground Pool Cover
Protects against snow and ice
Thick material seems durable
Cables and winch included
Seems to last only one season
Grommets can tear out of material
Since no two above-ground pools are alike, Robelle makes this heavy-duty polyethylene cover in eight sizes and 17 colors. Whichever size you purchase, the product is designed to overlap your pool’s perimeter by 4 feet around while at the same time floating loosely on the water. The manufacturer says the cover is designed to inhibit any water from passing through the material. The kit includes a winch and cable to help secure the cover, which is accomplished by grommets placed 4 feet apart, allowing you to lash the pool cover to the sides of your above-ground pool.
We have noted reports of grommets tearing loose from the material, but we suspect that this may have occurred because the cover was too small for the pool. In fact, the manufacturer recommends that you go up a size if your pool’s top rails are large or extend a considerable distance above the pool surface. We also note that this product may not last more than one off-season, depending on your region’s winter weather severity.
Price at time of publish: $90
Type: Cover | Size: 28 x 28 x 1 inchest | Material: Polyethylene
The best in-ground pool cover really depends on your needs. Our top pick is the Happybuy Pool Safety Cover (view at Amazon), which is designed to keep unwelcome visitors out of your pool. A close second for in-ground pools is the Blue Wave Rectangular In-Ground Pool Safety Cover, which comes with an 18-year-warranty. For above-ground pools, we like Robelle’s 3524-4 Winter Round Above-Ground Pool Cover.
What to Look for in a Pool Cover
Pool covers can serve a variety of needs, such as keeping small people and animals, as well as debris, out of your pool; weatherizing your pool in winter; and using the sun’s rays to heat your pool. “Some pool covers make your pool safer,” acknowledges Mark Landry, Certified Pool Operator and owner of The Pool Loop, a pool maintenance company in Des Moines, Iowa. “But some covers can actually make it more dangerous. If you have a pool cover that isn’t meant for safety, and someone falls in the pool, they can get tangled in the cover and drown. And even the best safety cover needs to be installed correctly. Talk to a professional to make sure you’re getting the right cover and installing and maintaining it safely and correctly.”
Safety pool covers, which are designed to prevent small animals and people from accidentally falling into your pool, are intended to be installed when you close it down for the season. Made of polypropylene, polyethylene, or vinyl, some allow sunlight to permeate the fabric, as well as rainwater, which avoids having to clear out water collecting on the cover. Others are solid covers that don’t allow water or snow to permeate, so heavy snows need to be cleared off, and any accumulated water needs to be pumped off throughout the winter.
Both types are installed permanently into your pool’s concrete deck with special bolts and cables, which are often included in the package. Since they require power drills and quality concrete drill bits, the task may be more suited for a professional than a DIY homeowner.
Covers designed for above-ground pools are designed with the same purpose in mind but install with a series of cables, anchors, and grommets. They are generally easier to install, although the job may take more than one person at a time.
Mesh pool covers are intended for in-ground pools, as well. Intended mostly for seasonal use, they are designed to keep leaves and other debris from falling into pools. This is why they are produced in lightweight fabrics that are easy to throw over a pool surface and take off. They also allow rain and sun to penetrate the pool water, they are not designed for post-season use and cannot be relied upon to keep small animals and small people out of the water. However, they can be laid across a safety pool cover in the off-season to make removal of nature's detritus easier.
Pool covers generally are made of several types of plastic, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and vinyl. The three are virtually identical, although we've noted that polyethylene seems to be more durable of the trio. You can choose a solid winter pool cover or a mesh cover. Solid covers don’t allow water or snow to permeate, so heavy snows need to be cleared off the cover, and any accumulated water needs to be pumped off throughout the winter.
Some pool covers are meant to be the same size as your pool. Others, such as safety covers, are meant to be wider on each side than your pool to accommodate the anchor system holding the cover in place. Be sure to order the cover size recommended by the manufacturer for your pool size. To prevent undue stretching and possible fabric tearing, you may wish to order a size one step larger than your pool’s actual size.
Do you need a safety cover?
If you have kids or pets, or live in an area teeming with small animals such as chipmunks, raccoons, and possums, you should have a high-quality safety cover. Consider working with an expert to make sure you choose a good safety cover and install and maintain it properly.
Is installing a pool cover for DIYers?
Lightweight in-season covers, like solar covers and leaf nets, are meant to be easily put on and taken off your pool and maneuvered yourself. Winter safety covers require drilling several anchors into your concrete pool decking. You should call a pool professional if that project seems too difficult or if you just want to be sure it’s done correctly.
Why Trust the Spruce?
Missy Keenan is a freelance writer with more than two decades’ experience as a journalist and communications professional, with a special interest in all things home, garden, safety, and sustainability. She has written hundreds of articles for publications, including Do It Yourself magazine, Glamour magazine, USA Today, The Des Moines Register, DSM magazine, and Iowa Gardening. For this article, Keenan consulted with Mark Landry, Certified Pool Operator and owner of The Pool Loop, a pool maintenance company in Des Moines, Iowa, and spent hours researching products and dreaming of pool season. (Keenan doesn’t want the work of maintaining a backyard pool, but she’s always looking for more friends with pools!)