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Choosing an Inground Safety Cover or Winter Tarp Cover

Pool maintenance is year-round and how you protect your pool in the Winter is just as important as how you treat it in the Summer. This guide considers both short and long-term factors to help you determine what type of pool cover you should invest your time, money, and care in to.

Comparing the Options

You have two main options for covering your pool: tarps and safety covers. Tarps are exactly what they sound like: a large swathe of waterproof material that stretches over your pool. The tarp is held in place by water bags along the edge of the pool and on top of the tarp (see here for a visual).

Pros of a Pool Tarp

  • Low initial cost
  • Simple installation
  • Catches debris (like Autumn leaves)
  • Blocks sunlight (which makes it less likely you’ll see algae in the Spring)

Cons of a Pool Tarp

  • Poor durability – they typically last only one to three seasons before they need to be replaced
  • Not very strong, which can be dangerous if animals or small children wander on to the tarp
  • Requires Winter maintenance; excess water and debris must be removed
  • Requires a pump to remove water
  • Difficult to repair if torn or damaged

Safety Covers are made from either mesh or solid material that is kept taut by Spring loaded straps that anchor the cover to the concrete surrounding your pool.

Pros of a Safety Cover

  • Long lasting (mesh lasts 10 to 15 years while solid covers last six to 10 years)
  • Strong enough to walk across (makes them the safest choice for homes with animals and children)
  • The strength of a safety cover means it can carry heavy snow loads, making it ideal for Canadian Winters
  • Easy to repair if damaged
  • Once installed a safety cover is very easy to use and dismantle at the beginning and end of each season

Cons of a Safety Cover

  • More complicated installation (but definitely a DIY project requiring common tools that most homeowners already own)
  • Higher initial cost

Mesh covers allow water through, which means little to no maintenance in Winter. But that means murkier water (and a more difficult opening) when the cover comes off in Spring.

Solid covers block sunlight, which means no algae. But they require a pump to remove excess water (and the pump will need replacing about every two to four years).

Consider Damage and Repairs

Tarps cannot be repaired. Though they can be patched using duct tape as a temporary fix (its important to do this to prevent further damage). Ensure you replace damaged tarps sooner rather than later.

Safety covers, on the other hand, can be repaired. Pool Supplies Canada even offers quick deliveries for replacement parts and the hardware needed for installation.

Extend the Life of Your Pool Cover

Taking a few extra steps can help you extend the life of your pool cover, whether it’s a tarp, or safety cover.

Trim the trees surrounding your pool

Pool owners know that trees are the culprits for most of the debris that falls into pools. Falling limbs, however, can prove a major hazard to your pool cover. Large, dead, branches can tear through even durable covers, particularly if you live in a region prone to high winds.

Install a fence

Not only is this a useful safety measure for families with children and pets, it also prevents wildlife from falling in to the pool. In some locations you must legally have a fence around your pool.

Keep water off your cover

Maintaining a 1/2 inch of water or less on a tarp cover can help prevent freezing and further protect the tarp from high winds that threaten to carry it away.


Based on these pros and cons, safety covers are the better option in the long term. However, you may have seen the seven-year warranty that many pool tarps offer. Those offers make tarps seem like a viable long-term option, but its important to examine the terms of that warranty.

Most often those seven-year warranties are offered as pro rata (prorated) warranties. A prorated warranty only gives you partial coverage based on the age of your tarp, meaning you will be on the hook for much of the replacement cost.

Even though tarps have a lower initial cost, the need to replace them every couple of years make them the more expensive option in the long run.

While tarps are a good short-term solution, in the long-run safety covers are the more cost-effective option for pool owners. Your choice extends beyond the financial, however, and where you live and who uses your pool will determine how you maintain your pool during the Winter as well as how you open it in the Summer.

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