We’ve all been there: you go to the pool supplies shop, they try to upsell you on some crazy tarp or cover, and then the price tag kicks you right in the gut.
Pool covers are expensive, which is why manufacturers go to all that extra trouble to make them in the first place. They’re making a fortune.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make pool cover makeshifts, this is the guide for you. From a simple tarp, we’re going to break it down and cover your pool, while keeping a lid on your wallet.
Can You Make a Pool Cover from a Tarp?
Yes, you absolutely can. It’s going to take a bit of work from measurements to coating, hardware installation in more, but if you fancy yourself a DIY warrior, it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
If you can use a sewing machine, a hole punch, and drive some tent stakes into the ground, then you’re good to go. It’s not going to look as fancy as a premade pool cover, but we’re all about function over flair, so let’s get to it and show you what you need to know.
How Much Money Can You Save This Way?
On average, about 75% of the cost of a standard pool cover.
From some online research and studying the trends of pool cover costs over the last ten years, we can determine that the average pool cover fits a 10’ x 20’ inground pool, and costs between $400 and $900. The latter is obviously on the high end of the spectrum.
So why are they so expensive?
They’re made slightly differently from how I’m going to show you how to make one in this guide, and there’s a lot of machines at work. There are a lot of people working from the time it’s just a sheet of vinyl, to when it’s a usable pool cover with all the bells and whistles.
And that’s what it really comes down to. You can find a premade pool cover for about $400, but it mostly just comes with the cover and straps.
If you spend more, you can get the hardware with it as well. I also want to make one clear distinction: these lower-end tarps are usually made out of mesh.
I like mesh. They make good tarps, but they’re not as good for pool covers as vinyl is. Vinyl doesn’t allow algae and mildew to grow, because it’s a single-ply material, not a woven fabric.
This means that even if you had immense amounts of sunlight coming down, it’s not going to penetrate vinyl the way it does with mesh. Now when you look at quality premade vinyl covers, you see that they’re a bit higher up the totem pole when it comes to pricing.
Bottom line: you can spend less than $100 from the tarp to the hardware and chemical cover, and do it yourself.
The curing time is going to be a little egregious, but if you don’t mind waiting for it, it’s worthwhile. You can get away with paying 25% the cost of a low-end tarp, and perhaps less than 12% the cost of a high-end tarp.
What Kind of Tarp Should You Buy?
Well, there are a lot of options available. We have tons of sizes available in most tarp materials, from an 8’ x 10’ up to 100’ x 100’ (yes, for real).
Once you know the measurements for your pool opening, it’s just a matter of finding a tarp material in the right size that you can turn into a pool cover.
Most commercial pool covers are made out of either vinyl, polypropylene, or polyethylene (stabilized). The costs vary depending on what material you choose, and depending on current supply and demand, one material might be cheaper than the other. It all depends.
If you go to buy a premade pool cover, you can almost bet you’re going to vinyl above everything else. Vinyl is built tough, because it’s essentially the same thing as PVC – one of the most durable, inexpensive building materials on the planet.
On this site, you’re going to see me mention PVC to make canopy frames left and right in all of our guides. It’s a good material.
Because vinyl is cheap and easy to manipulate with a sewing machine, it’s the material I would recommend for creating your DIY pool cover. However, there’s one more that we didn’t cover, and that’s mesh.
Mesh is coated to be completely waterproof, but breathable enough at the same time.
Debris doesn’t go in, the rain doesn’t go in, but there’s no crazy pressure being built up inside of your pool, either. It’s breathable and lightweight, although it might actually be more expensive than vinyl in such a large quantity.
How Long Does a Tarp Pool Cover Last?
If done properly, you can enjoy your pool cover for the next ten years, or even longer. It all depends on how well you do when you create it in the first place, and how you maintain it over the years.
Just because your pool cover is designed to deal with a lot of stress and abrasions doesn’t mean you should toss it around, otherwise you’ll degrade it faster.
The number one trick that you can do to prolong the life of your pool cover is to actually recoat it once every two to three years is to re-coat it. When you look at the cost of a traditional pool cover, you’re looking at 4900 or more.
When you do it yourself with a tarp, you spend less than a quarter of that. You trade in the convenience, but you wouldn’t be here right now if you were all about convenience, now would you?
Use a new coating on it every three or so years, and by the time a decade rolls around, you might have spent about 30% of the cost of a new pool cover between the initial build, and the chemicals to continue its maintenance.
For this, you’re going to need the following tools and supplies:
- Hole punch
- Vinyl tarp
- Tent stakes
- Rust-resistant grommets
- Bungee cables
- Sewing machine
- Seam sealer
- Scissors or utility knife
1. Measure It Out
If you don’t know the measurements of your pool opening, now is the time to find out.
Most inground pools are ten feet by twenty feet, and if that’s the case, you want some extra slack on either side for your cover. Make sure you’re measuring the entire opening; we’re trying to prevent rain from slipping in here.
2. Purchase a Slightly Oversized Tarp
If your pool is ten by twenty, try to find a twelve by twenty-two, or something along those lines. You want a couple of extra feet to work with.
When you’re looking at your tarp, you have two options. You can find the perfect tarp (sometimes by custom ordering it), and it will expedite a lot of the process, while potentially costing you more money.
Either that, or you could go with the rest of this guide, assuming that we need to sew the seams, seal them, and place the grommets ourselves.
3. Cut Tarp to Size
With the idea that you’ll have about 8” extra on each side, cut the tarp down to the exact size. Sometimes inground pools are given custom dimensions depending on the project, so if you can’t get a tarp that already fits the space, you have to cut it down.
4. Sew the Seams
Once you have the tarp with 8” on each side, you’re going to sew a 2” seam along all four sides as well. At the end, you should have six inches on all sides, which we’re going to use for the next step.
5. Secure Your Grommets
Use a hole punch to create spaces in the edge of the tarp. You can do this just inside of that 2” seam you put into place, or go over one side of the sewn-in seam if you’d like. It’s up to you. We just need some material on the outside of it to prevent tearing.
You can get rust-resistant grommets and just snap them into place, and then test them to make sure they’re holding. Each grommet should be 36” apart.
6. Lay The Cover
The hardest part of doing this is laying the cover down without it just falling into the pool.
You’re going to start from one side, secure it there, and then go one by one along the edges. Start by laying your cover the long way, against the side of your pool, and move onto the next step to start securing things into place.
7. Securing the First Half
Now it comes time to start actually securing this in place. Using tent stakes and bungee cables, secure the first half of the pool cover to the ground. Ideally, you will have about six or seven stakes on either side.
These will go into the ground just outside of your cement pool frame, and the bungee cables will make up the remaining gap. Be sure that your tarp can be stretched to within 6” of the actual pool dimensions.
8. Around We Go
Go around the pool, attaching each stake to the ground one by one as you secure the cover.
We want to avoid the tarp falling in, so if you fold the tarp up, you shouldn’t run into this. Once everything is secure, you can just remove the bungee cables when you want to put the tarp away, but leave the stakes in the ground.
Time to Fit the Pool
Pool covers are pricey, but by DIYing it, you can save a ridiculous percentage instead of buying an overpriced pool cover.
The best part is, the quality is completely in your control; go with whatever material you want, whatever stakes you want, and make it as premium (or inexpensive) as your heart desires.
To find the best tarp that you can transform into a pool cover today, take a look at our poly and vinyl tarps, which are perfect for the job.
Most of our selection will already be fitted to work for your pool with the grommets included, saving you time and effort without costing you more. It’s time to fit the pool for a new cover, are you ready for it?