Auto Cover – Things to look for

automatic pool cover

Today I am going to use this opportunity to give you the pool owner a heads up when it comes to automatic covers.  There are several different manufacturers of automatic covers and they all have something in common.  Each company is striving to better your swimming pool experience.  They make all of the components that go into an automatic pool cover.  Some even make coping that goes around the pool.  The interesting thing about the coping around the pool is that not all types of coping will work well with all types of automatic covers.

Brief Auto Cover Explanation:

Top Track

When it comes to automatic covers there are a couple different styles you can choose from.  They are what is known as under track, and top track.  The difference is the way that the tracks of the cover are mounted.  Let me clarify what I mean by “track”.  An automatic cover consists of several different components that work together to make the cover work.  Basically you have the cover, ropes, pulleys, track, motor, and drum.  There are several other parts and pieces that go into them but for my purposes today what I have listed will suffice.  The tracks will stretch the entire length of the pool and houses the ropes for the cover.  The ropes are attached to the cover and run through the tracks to from one end to the other, around a pulley and then back again.  From there they are attached to the motor.  When you turn the key, flip the switch or enter the code, (depending on the model) the motor winds up the ropes causing the cover to pull out over the pool.  Then when you open the pool again the motor turns the other way causing the drum to rotate which winds the cover itself up onto the drum.  Now depending on the style of cover you have you will either have the tracks installed underneath the coping of the pool in a special opening specifically made for the track, or you will have the tracks exposed on the top of the deck.

The Problem:

Both types of covers work well but there is one main thing that you will want to watch for.  You must understand that a top track cover will rub on the coping of the pool.  This is normal, that is just the way that they are designed.  To ensure that nothing gets damaged as far as the cover itself or the coping, the manufacturers also make a specialized coping specifically for top track covers.  This type of coping is made to prevent any damage from occurring.  Now you may be wondering what type of damage I am referring to.  Typically you might find that due to the constant rubbing of the cover on the coping your cover itself may wear out prematurely, or depending on the type of coping used you may see the paint on the coping rubbing off.  Some builders will pour the deck so that the coping itself is concrete because they know that the cover will rub.  This type of situation is unfortunate but is also not all that uncommon.  Some builders are either unaware of this issue or they just don’t care.

The bad part is that unless something is done to prevent this rubbing from occurring, the problem will continue to happen.  There have been instances where people have repainted their coping only to have it rub off shortly thereafter.  There have been instances where they have repainted the coping multiple times using multiple types of paint only to have the issue persist.

How did this happen?

Let me advise you that unless something is done to prevent the cover from rubbing the coping the problem will always be there.  You can repaint the coping as many times as you want using a thousand different paints but I assure you that the paint will inevitably wear off.

So if this happens you will want to know who is at fault.  You might think that the manufacturer of the coping is using the wrong type of paint and you might try to contact them to make the repair.  This is not the case.  If the coping on the pool is a painted aluminum coping then you have the wrong type of coping on the pool to accommodate a top track auto cover.  That type of coping is not made to have something constantly dragging across it.  Think of it this way.  If you take your brand new car to an automated carwash only to find that the bristles or something have cause scratches on the roof of the car, you wouldn’t go home and contact the manufacturer of the car and tell them that they didn’t put the paint on well enough.  It’s the same type of situation.  So now you might think that you need to contact the auto cover manufacturer and let them know that their cover is damaging the coping.  That is a good idea, unfortunately they are going to ask what type of coping is on the pool.  When they find out that it is a painted aluminum they are going to tell you that they never recommend using that type of coping.  They might also tell you that they manufacture a type of coping specifically for a top track cover so that this does not happen.  At this point you are probably getting irritated so you call the builder.  Ah yes the builder, the one who went against the cover manufacturers recommendations and put that type of painted aluminum coping on the pool with a top track auto cover.  Now you finally have the one responsible.  Now you have to think back to when you met with the builder way back when you first started planning your pool.  Did you decide on that type of coping?  Did the builder inform you of the problem associated with that type of coping and a top track cover?  Did they themselves recommend that coping?  How are they going to fix it?  How much will the repair cost?  Who will pay for it?

The solution:

These are all very good questions, but regardless of the answers you still have this coping that has paint issues.  I know that this is a stressful situation and I am sure that you will want it taken care of as soon as possible.  So of course you will want the coping repainted.  That will look good for a little while but eventually its going to need more paint, and then more paint.  Are they going to repaint it every couple weeks?  Not likely.  You will need to have something in place to keep the cover from rubbing on the coping.  Unfortunately most auto cover manufacturers do not make any type of wear strip.  You might be told to try using a blower under the cover.  This might work a little but I fear that from time to time you would get some rubbing on the coping.  Another option is to bust up the concrete remove the coping and replace it with the proper type, however this would be expensive.  You really need some type of barrier between the coping and the cover.  My recommendation is to have the builder get in touch with their pool manufacturer.  There are plastic strips that pool manufacturers use on their fiberglass steps that secure the liner around the step.  This plastic is available in a few different colors and could be used as a wear strip.  It is thick enough to protect the coping from the cover and it comes with a beauty piece that would be installed to hide the screws.  All you would see is the plastic strip itself and no screws.  The other benefit of this material is that it is manufactured for use in swimming pools so it would not look out of place acting as a wear strip.  Once you have that in place on the top of the coping you could touch up whatever areas need it and you will find that the cover would no longer rub on the coping wearing the paint down.  This is an unfortunate occurrence and sadly is not uncommon.

Think Ahead:

I am posting this simply to help you the homeowner from having to deal with the stress of having this issue on a brand new pool.  If you are thinking about getting a swimming pool with an automatic pool cover, be sure to talk to your builder about this type of situation.  Be aware of what is going on with your pool during the build process and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  After all this is your pool, your property, and your hard earned dollars going into it.  If you see something that looks questionable say something about it.  At the very least you will understand what is going on, and it could be something that the builder has over looked and potentially save you from a huge headache later and a lot of money to repair.  If you catch it during the build process it is likely that is can be changed or fixed with no additional cost.

I have many other blog posts related to a lot of different swimming pool issues and concerns.  Please take the time to check them out.  There is a lot of good information and you have the ability to ask me anything pertaining to them.  Please feel free to ask questions, make comments, or give me your thought on various topics.

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