Automatic Cover Fabrics Don't Last – Replacement Myths Dispelled

Automatic Cover Fabrics Don't Last – Replacement Myths Dispelled

Via Phone call: 'How long will an auto cover last?' Asked a customer this week. 'I have read that they can fail in a few years. Is that true?'

automatic pool cover in motion
Cover in multiple positions.
These are very valid questions, and I want to address head on. Recently several blog articles have been published about why you shouldn't have an inground pool auto cover because they break and are expensive to fix. In terms of durability that has not been my experience on a properly installed pool cover. I HAVE seen covers that break that fast, but it's the result of a cheap cover system, improper installation, or inadvertent abuse.

We install A LOT of auto covers on our in-ground pool installations. Over the years we have also done quite a bit of service on behalf of the factories (Warranty) as well as general tune ups for other swimming pool companies that don't have cover techs on their team. During that time we have seen some poorly installed units. It's not a surprise when we get there to service them that they need service. Most often they are installed "out of square" causing high tension on the ropes and a TON of resistance on the motor and linkage (if equipped). That will destroy a cover in a couple to a few years easy. The other problem I have seen is the cover being opened (or attempted) with several inches of water on them. One inch of water on a 16 x 40 pool is 485 gallons of water. At 8.3 pounds per gallon that's 4,025 Pounds. Pool covers are not designed to move that kind of weight. I promise it will break or at the least cause some longer term damage. Solution? Using an automatic cover pump. We provide one with every system. Not a tough concept.

lady walking on automatic pool cover
Don't try this at home
Replacing fabric and its lifespan is another source of debate. Under normal to even abusive conditions the cover will last 5-7 years without any problem. Some fabrics even carry a prorated warranty for 84 months. That's 7 years!! A properly cared for cover has a life span of 10 years or more. The reason cover fabric fails is from poor chemistry. More specifically too high of chlorine. It damages the underside of the cover and weakens it considerably. Undetectable from the top side of the cover, the cover will suddenly tear and the client has it replaced never even knowing it was chlorine burn. We know because the bottom of the pool cover is white and the mesh in the material is exposed. In some cases literally HALF of the cover is gone and the remainder is significantly weakened. Is that really the covers fault?

On blogs I have read the cost of a replacement cover is also inflated. The fabric is going to run about $2,000-$2,500 installed. The fabric retails around $1500 and labor is about a day for two men ranging from $500 to $1000. That's a long way from $5,000.00 – $7,000.00 every 8-10 years. If a dealer quotes that it's a LIE, or they simply rip their customers off on fabric replacements. On the flip side that 5-7 year window is about the life expediency of a quality winter cover replacement at about $1,200-$1,500. That makes the additional cost for the auto cover replacement about $800-$1,500 each every 10 or so years MORE than the winter cover. You could almost save that amount in a year of ownership with the saved chemicals, heat, cleaning, water, and headaches with a retractable cover.

automatic pool cover vault lid
Top track vault lid and leading edge
Why would a pool builder try to talk you out of an auto cover? There are a lot of reasons. They can be difficult to install particularly if the company doesn't install a lot of them. We are a large enough outfit that we have cover techs on our team. Most companies do not. This make the installation of a cover a major challenge in terms of the skill set and know how. It's that infrequency that has likely led to SO MANY covers not being installed well / correctly and these rumors started. Another reason that a pool builder may try to talk you out of an auto cover is that it slows the installation process tremendously AND we don't make that much money. Soooooo what's the take home? The sticker price is high and can slow the sales process, they are technically challenging (to install correctly), they slow down production, the margin is small, and it opens a pool installer to additional variables on the installation and liability. WOW. Not a surprise that pool builders downplay them and avoid them.

Why do we install them? Because the market demands it. It is part of the inground pool and our company's success is a result of providing our clients a COMPLETE installation. If we never put another one in I would be fine with that. But that's simply not going to happen. Covers ARE VERY nice and drastically reduce if not eliminate cleaning and other swimming pool maintenance. There is a reason that most in-ground pools out West have them. They're worth it. It is unfortunate that the truth is so hard for the average consumer to find. My goal in writing this (or any other blog) is simply to educate customers on the FACTS as well as pros and cons, so they can make an educated decisions as to what is best for them and their family.


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