Best Above Ground Pool Covers: A Review & Buying Guide

The still water in your swimming pool is a beacon for birds, bugs and other critters, and no matter how often you’re running your pool vacuum or filter, the dirt simply collects.

No one wants to jump into a pool filled with dead bugs, leaves, and other dirt, and if you let it build up, you may even need to drain and refill the water. Not to mention the importance of properly winterizing your pool.

But there is a simple alternative. Using a cover on your swimming pool, you can create a barrier, stopping all of these contaminants from getting into your water. Read on to discover the best options for your above ground pool.

Top Picks for Above Ground Pool Covers

We hand-picked the following above ground pool covers based on their popularity, price-points and differentiating features.

A more complete review of each can be found later in this article.

What is an Above Ground Pool Cover?

In its purest form, an above ground pool cover is exactly what it sounds like. A protective cover you can use to protect your water from the elements and other debris.

Not only this, but some covers also act as a shield, helping you effectively “lock down” your pool over winter, and also keep your pets and kids out when you’re not home.

The key benefit to using a pool cover is the convenience. Whenever you feel like a swim, or you plan to reopen the pool after a long hiatus, you can always trust the water underneath is debris free.

What Types of Above Ground Pool Covers Can You Buy?

1. Solid Pool Covers

Solid pool covers are the most durable option, not only used for temporary closures but also  a common choice for pool owners who want to close their above ground pool for winter (without draining and disassembling it all).

Typically constructed from a heavy-duty polyethylene (or vinyl), it looks and feels like a tarp, but instead of being a large rectangular shape like a traditional tarp, solid pool covers have been specially constructed to fit snugly over your pool.

Usually, you’ll also get a cable and winch to tighten and secure the cover, which creates a barrier for all dirt, debris, and even sunlight getting through. Used in combination with a leaf net this is a highly effective option for keeping contaminants out of your pool.

These covers are normally entirely waterproof, which means water and snow will accumulate on the surface, so you’ll also need a pool cover pump to remove this.

2. Mesh Pool Covers

Mesh pool covers are an alternative, and perhaps even a more practical choice for pool owners looking to close their pool for winter in areas of heavy snow.

Because the woven polyethylene the cover is created from is porous, any water or snow that accumulates on the surface will just drain into your pool. This eliminates the need for a pool cover pump, and also means you don’t need a leaf net. The mesh of the pool cover is your net, trapping the leaves and other debris from entering your water.

These covers are also typically secured with a cable and winch; however, they are a little easier to install and remove because they’re lighter. Some brands even offer hybrid options, that are part-solid, and part-mesh.

3. Solar Pool Covers

Solar pool covers are a little different to the first two, as they’re not designed to be used as a protective shield to close your pool over winter.

Instead, the most popular type of solar cover is a bubble cover, which reflects and magnifies the rays from the sun into your water, heating the water in your pool. It also dramatically reduces evaporation, as the plastic sheeting creates a barrier to prevent this occurring.

Floating on the surface of the water (it’s not secured down like mesh or solid covers), this particular type of cover is straightforward to use, it just needs to be trimmed to size and thrown in the pool. You won’t even need a pool cover pump either.

Solid Vs Mesh Vs Solar Pool Covers

The “best” type of pool cover here will depend on what you’re primarily trying to achieve, whether it be temporary or long-term use, full or partial protection, or perhaps a way to heat up your water.

Solid pool covers are great at keeping all contaminants from your water, and can even hinder the growth of algae, ideal during an extended winter shutdown of your pool. You will, however, need to keep an eye on what’s collecting on the surface of the cover, and perhaps even pump off the excess water to avoid damaging the cover.

Mesh pool covers will keep larger debris out, and their ability for water to pass through means you have less day-to-day maintenance, especially in areas with massive snowfalls. The downside is that very fine particles (like dust, pollen, and small bacteria) will pass through the mesh, which could potentially contaminate your pool.

Solar pool covers aren’t suitable for closing off a pool over winter, but they are very simple to install and use, and will also passively heat your pool while acting as a barrier to evaporation and any other debris headed to your pool.

What to Consider When Buying a Pool Cover

Knowing which type to look for will narrow down your options, but it doesn’t help you measure the nuances that make or break a product.

Let’s go over some of the main criteria you should apply to your decision making process when looking for the perfect cover for your above ground swimming pool.

Is It The Right Size & Shape?

Probably the most important consideration whether it “fits” the particular pool you’re trying to cover. There’s no point buying a round cover for a square pool, or one that’s just a fraction too short and leaves a gap.

Ensure your pool cover is large enough to reach every edge of your above ground pool, with enough overlap, so you’re able to fasten it down and secure it effectively. Of course, you can check the box or website listing for the exact measurements of your pool.

How Long Does It Take to Put On & Take Off?

If it’s not easy to use your pool cover, it won’t be long before it’s boxed back up and stuffed on a shelf in the back of your garage.

Most above ground pool covers will only take a few minutes to put on and take off and are lightweight enough to be done by one person. (The same can’t always be said for inground pool covers by the way.)

Is It Sturdy Enough To Stay On?

You want your pool cover to stay put, which is especially important if you’re buying a solid or mesh cover as a means to shut your pool down over winter.

The cover needs to be strong enough to withstand the winds, storms, and snowfall without tearing or giving out. The last thing you want is a ripped cover, which will quickly deposit everything collected on the top straight into your pool.

Does It Include The Necessary Extras?

There’s more to a good pool cover than it being a big sheet of polyethylene or vinyl.

You need to ensure you’ve got all the fittings, cables, and the winch you to secure the cover in place, locking it down, so your pool is safe, no matter what Mother Nature has in mind.

If you’re looking for a solid winter cover, I’d recommend paying particular attention to the eyelets, making sure these are tough enough to avoid ripping in a storm, and perhaps also consider buying a pool pillow to help keep the cover from resting on the surface of the water.

How Long Will It Last?

There’s a tradeoff when it comes to longevity in a pool cover. Thick, dense covers are usually higher quality, especially if they come with UV protection. But they are also more expensive and can be heavier and more cumbersome to use.

Generally, you can expect the cheaper pool covers to last a season or so, while the more premium covers may last up to several seasons, so long as you’re careful as you put it on and take it off your pool.

Reviewing the 7 Best Above Ground Pool Covers

So far we’ve covered what a what an above ground pool cover is, why you need one, and what features are important to focus on.

In this section, we’ll be looking at specific covers, each of which were hand-picked for review based on the same criteria I’ve outlined in this guide.

Let’s get right into it.

#1. Pool Mate 5724-4 Sandstone Winter Pool Cover for Round Above Ground Swimming Pools, 24-ft. Round Pool

Designed by Pool Mate, this is a solid pool cover available in a variety of sizes to cater to pools from 12 to 33 feet in diameter.

Featuring heat-sealed seams for added durability, along the edges there is a grommet every 4 feet to thread the cable through so you can winch it tight and secure it in place. The four-foot overlap ensures there is plenty of room to tuck the edges under.

What I like best is the cover blocks UV rays to prevent algae growth, and the brand offers a 12-year warranty. The biggest downsides are the clamp being a common failure point, and many users have experienced it giving out at the end of one season.

Pros:

  • The appealing color that will match your pool walls
  • UV block stops sunlight to prevent algae growth over winter

Cons:

  • Rather thin material can rip/tear after one season
  • Clamp to hold the cable can fail

#2. Blue Wave Bronze 8-Year 24-ft Round Above Ground Pool Winter Cover

Designed by Blue Wave, this is a solid pool cover you can buy to fit your above ground swimming pool, in sizes from 12 to 30 feet.

Featuring a heavy-duty cable and winch to lock the cover in place, the rip-proof grommets ensure your pool stays protected under this cover. The UV protection ensures the cover will stand up to the harsh rays of the sun, and the black underside prevents algae growth.

What I like best is how this cover is designed to reduce the stress on your pool walls by resting on the surface of your pool, it also comes with an 8-year warranty (1-year fully rated). The only downside is many users have experienced this cover giving out after just one season, and the rain and snow will collect and pool on the surface.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and easy to install even by yourself
  • Blacked out underside prevents algae growth

Cons:

  • Will typically only last a single season
  • Somewhat thin, and prone to rip if not handled with care

#3. Intex Deluxe 18-Foot Round Pool Cover

Designed by Intex, this is a solid pool cover made especially for the Intex 10, 15 and 18-foot above-ground pools.

Featuring a series of straps to help you lock this cover down onto each individual pool pole, this cover actually has a series of small holes to help prevent water accumulating on the top.

I like how snug this cover fits onto a pool, though this is also an area you need to be careful with. Over-tightening the cover puts too much stress on the fabric, and the bungee hoop connectors can create tears and rips.

Pros:

  • Drainage holes stop excessive water build up
  • Straps align perfectly to your pool poles for easy installation

Cons:

  • Better reinforcing needed to avoid tears as you pull it tight

#4. Blue Wave 24-ft Round Rugged Mesh Above Ground Pool Winter Cover

Designed by Blue Wave, this is a mesh pool cover available in a variety of sizes to fit pools from 12 to 30 feet in diameter.

The tightly woven mesh is constructed from a tough, UV protected woven polyethylene, that allows the water to filter through while collecting the debris on the top.

What I like best is that I don’t need to pump off the water on the surface before removing this cover, because there is none. Though the mesh does allow fine dirt and debris to seep through, so you will need your vacuum to clean this up every now and then.

Pros:

  • You’ll never need to pump water from the top of the cover
  • Double-stitched hems are triple-reinforced for added strength

Cons:

  • Fine dirt and other contaminants can pass through the mesh

#5. Pool Mate 4128-4 Extreme-Mesh Green Mesh Winter Pool Cover for Round Above Ground Swimming Pools, 28-ft. Round Pool

Designed by Pool Mate, this is a mesh pool cover ideal for winterizing swimming pools from 15 to 33 feet in diameter.

Featuring a reinforced binging and a 15-year warranty, the mesh design allows snow and water to drain through, ensuring you have less maintenance headaches for your pool.

What I like best is how easy it is to install this cover, it’s light, and with the cable and winch, I can completely lock down my pool in just minutes. The only downside is that by very design, fine dirt and other contaminants can pass through the mesh, and some users experienced a significant delay in the delivery of their covers.

Pros:

  • Easy and lightweight cover is quick to put on and remove
  • 15-year warranty is one of the longest in this product category

Cons:

  • Some customers experienced significant delivery delays
  • Fine dirt and other contaminants can pass through the mesh

#6. Sun2Solar Blue 20-Foot-by-40-Foot Rectangle Solar Cover | 1200 Series | Heating Blanket for In-Ground and Above-Ground Swimming Pools

Designed by Sun2Solar this is a solar pool cover that floats on the surface of your pool and comes in a wide variety of different sizes so you can find the perfect fit.

Featuring two different thicknesses (the 800 and 1200 series), you’ve also got two different colors to select to ensure you’re buying the perfect pool cover for you.

What I like best about this solar cover is they usually produce oversize products so you can trim it exactly how you need it. The downside is the longevity, these covers typically only last one season, and the warranty only covers seam separation and delamination.

Pros:

  • Oversized cuts give you buffer to fit your pool size
  • Plenty of options to choose the color, thickness, and size you need
  • Heavy and won’t blow away on even windy days

Cons:

  • Limited warranty only covers seam separation and delamination

#7. In The Swim 16′ x 32′ ft. Rectangle Swimming Pool Solar Blanket Cover, 12 Mil

Designed by In The Swim, this is a solar pool cover and is also one of the thickest available on the market for this particular type of cover.

Constructed from UV-stabilized resin, this cover is available in sizes up to a 30 x 60 ft rectangle, ensuring you can find the perfect size for your swimming pool.

What I like best is the quality, it’s a thick and heavy product that is designed to last, though this also makes it a little heavy to install. You may need the help of your partner or your kids to spread it out effectively in your pool.

Pros:

  • The advertised sizes are exact, allowing you to buy the right product
  • Very thick, it will stay put on even windy days
  • Comes with a full 2-year warranty

Cons:

  • Only available in blue (the clear lets more of the sun’s heat through)
  • Because of the weight, you may struggle to lay this cover out alone

Our Winners

If you’re looking for a reliable and durable solid pool cover to keep all of the contaminants out over winter, you can’t go wrong with the Sandstone Cover from Pool Mate.

Plenty of overlap helps you secure it in place, and the UV protection is an added layer of security against any algae build up as you close your pool down for winter.

The Runner Up

Coming in a close second is the Rugged Mesh Cover from Blue Wave. The best feature is you can almost “set and forget” this cover as you close your pool for winter, as the porous nature of the mesh means the rainwater and collected snow will drain without needing to be pumped clear.

Just be aware that fine dirt will pass through the mesh, and will need to be vacuumed out at some point.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a pool cover. You’ll stop all of the dirt, leaves and other debris from getting into your pool in the first place, making it far easier to keep clean.

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