Weather Or Not

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As pool designs become more and more complex — with vanishing edges, waterfalls and raised spas — so too does the homeowners' ability to cover them completely during the winter months in an effective and attractive way. Thanks to a host of innovative winter pool cover products, however, not only can homeowners open their pools in the spring with little difficulty, but their backyards can look great all year round.

"When it comes to customization, pools are not cookie cutters anymore," says Michael Taylor, owner of Clean & Clear Pool Service, in Littleton, Mass. "You have raised steps and raised spas and have to design cuts in the cover." Winter pool covers that were traditionally nothing more than drab tarps that also let in debris and algae-generating UV rays, have now been replaced by the chic, the showy, the strong and the seemingly solid — even in mesh.

"Whether a consumer spends $500,000 or $50,000 [on a pool], they want the best application for their backyard," says Fred Boehmcke, national sales manager for LOOPLOC, Ltd. "It makes their entire backyard better."

According to Boehmcke, when it comes to winter covers, consumers are concerned about three things: easy maintenance, aesthetics and safety. AQUA talked to manufacturers and retailers to find out how the industry is putting consumers at ease in these three areas, and helping make pool ownership even more attractive to homeowners.

"Most people build a swimming pool and it's their own little oasis," Taylor says. "I know my pool is. It's my place to hang. I want it to be right."

In The Mesh

While the variety of design options, colors and details continues to expand, two basic categories of covers account for most of the product available: solid and mesh. The fact that nearly all manufacturers make both types is evidence that each type has its positive selling points.

Mesh covers, as you would expect, are made of a mesh fabric, which admits water that might otherwise pool on the surface of the cover.

"It allows water to drain through the cover and keeps leaves and debris from collecting in the water," says Brad Harding, manager of Swim Things, in Blue Springs, Mo. "It helps in the winterizing and opening process in terms of the time it takes to clean the cover."

Early on, the trade-off was that mesh covers didn't keep sunlight from the pool, and that could result in a green pool when the spring opening rolled around. But advances in materials and weaving techniques have all but eliminated that concern, according to manufacturers.

"It's like putting a filter over your pool," says Jim Zell, vice president of sales and marketing for Merlin Industries. "It keeps the sunlight out and keeps the debris from going in." The textile is a twisted polypropylene mesh material that provides nearly 100 percent shade, virtually eliminating algae growth in the winter months, according to Zell. At the same time, the water going through the cover is filtered as it enters the pool.

Anchor Industries, Coverlon, Covertech, Pacific, Meyco, Cantar /Polyair, Vyn-All, Plastimayd — the list is long of manufacturers who see the value in offering each kind of cover (see supplier list below). Some companies offer a product that floats on the surface of the pool under a standard mesh cover, thereby cutting UV rays. Another twist is a solid cover with mesh panels or hatches to eliminate the water that collects on the solid cover's surface.

While mesh may seem to be the hottest celebrity at the party, Boehmcke, whose company sells both types of covers, says solid covers still have their place in the market, because many consumers want them.

"Solids have grown in the last few years because consumers don't want any sunlight hitting their pool," Boehmcke says. "They want to open it with as little problem as possible."

For a retailer or builder, the smartest course is to know the products out there so you can provide the solution — whether mesh or solid or a combination of the two — that's just right for a given customer.

Color Covered

The value added to winter pool covers is not just in simpler maintenance. Heightened perceived value through color and custom cuts is also in high demand.

"That's the second most important reason people are putting a cover on their pool," Zell says. "No. 1 one is safety, No. 2 is aesthetic."

While green, blue, gray and black are the mainstays of color selection, several companies offer a broader range of hues so customers can color coordinate with their homes. Some will even do stripes of color or other patterns on a custom job. American flags or a favorite sports team's colors are common requests. Many homeowners who have enthusiastically embraced the outdoor living lifestyle will want a cover that coordinates with awnings and outdoor furniture.

John Migliaccio, owner of The Pool & Spa Place, a retailer in Cranbury, N.J., says green is still often the best way to go because it evokes thoughts of a lush lawn during the off-season.

"We try not to make it brilliant colors like purple because we're trying to put this thing to bed," Migliaccio says.

According to Phil Saltzman, director of sales for Meyco Products, Meyco's standard color is green, which works well with landscaping, but blue and gray mesh look "absolutely phenomenal" with certain decks, like blue stone and granite brick.

Fit And Finish

When it comes to aesthetics, the fit of the cover is just as important as the color. While each manufacturer does it its own way, all strive to create secure custom-cut covers, even with some of the more exotic-shaped pools being built.

"The custom cut for steps and rocks looks much more professional and completely fits the pool," says Taylor. "You want that cover as snug fit and tight as it can get."

Migliaccio compares this concept to caring for one's car: "You can cover your car with a bed sheet or buy a car cover made for your car, and which one looks better?"

Safety First

Ultimately, however, manufacturers and retailers alike agree that the most valuable characteristic of a winter pool cover is its safety component.

"You have peace of mind with these safety covers," says Jason Stanton, retail manager for Swim King Pools on Long Island. "They don't have to worry about kids in the backyard."

Features like secure locks and barriers to close the gaps where obstructions meet the cover's edge prevent children and animals from slipping through. And the precision of the custom-cut covers helps ensure that snug fit that not only looks tidy, but also enhances safety.

"Because the season is six months long and six months off and with some of those pools you've got so much money invested, a lot of it's aesthetics and a lot of it's safety," Migliaccio says. "They go hand in hand."

A product such as BABY-LOC Deluxe smoothly addresses yearround safety and aesthetics issues at one time. The removable fencing fits into the same in-deck anchors used for the LOOP-LOC winter cover, so the homeowner needs just one set of anchors installed in the deck.

Retailers say customers are very receptive to new products that make their winter pool covers more valuable. Swim Things sends out a postcard at the beginning of the fall to offer discounts on its winter pool covers, and follows this up with a display in the store throughout the fall to explain what the new winter pool covers can do. Mostly, however, Harding says customers will come in on referrals or will stop by the store to ask how they can rid themselves of their tarp-like covers.

Either way, the word is getting out. "A lot of customers know from word of mouth," says Stanton, who predicts that his profit margin is 30 percent higher with the safety covers he sells.

Clean & Clear Pool Service sells and installs about 75 covers a year to either new pool owners or pool owners who are sick of cleaning the tarp in their yard. Taylor says most of the customers actually come to the store with their concerns and that cover sales make up a significant portion of the company's business.

"If you do it properly, if you're good at what you do, you can make the profit margin anything you want it to be," he says.

Boehmcke says customers are knowledgeable enough about the covers now that they usually demand that they come with their pools. And because many of the covers come with warranties from 10-20 years, most customers realize they can't go wrong.

When it comes to custom-fit covers, the relationship between the retailer and the customer is as important as that between the manufacturer and the retailer, Saltzman says. This means providing constant technical support.

"Retailers want to have prompt delivery," Saltzman says. "If it is a custom-fit item, they want a high success rate of proper fit and if they have a problem, they want a manufacturer who will amicably work with them to fix it."

In the end, customers are looking to enhance the value — perceived or otherwise — of their winter pool covers so that their yards still look elegant during the winter months, their children are safe, and they don't have to work hard to maintain them. If manufacturers continue to seek innovative ways to satisfy these consumer needs, manufacturers, retailers and consumers will surely benefit.

"When it comes to the cover business, I take it very, very seriously," Taylor says. "Everyone else should, too."

Check this list for companies that manufacture pool covers of all kinds: safety, winter, above ground or automatic.

Anchor Industries



quamatic Cover Systems



Automatic Pool Covers



Blue Wave Products



Cantar/Polyair Corp.



The Cover Company












Dover Vinyl Products



Fort Wayne Pools



H.S.T. Synthetics Ltd.



Intex Recreation



Jersey Cover Corp.



Kafko Manufacturing Limited









Merlin Industries



Meyco Products



Midwest Canvas Corp.



Pacific Industries






Plastimayd Corp.



Pool Cover Specialists Nat'l,



Pool Covers



Poolsaver by Sun Systems



Precision Vinyl Corp.



Rayner Covering Systems



Sun Systems



Vinyl Fabrications


Vyn-All Products Corp.



Zamzow Mfg. Co.



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