A pool cover or solar blanket is a great investment for your pool that provides a ton of benefits. It heats the water naturally, keeps out leaves and debris, reduces water evaporation, and protects your sanitizer from destruction by the sun’s strong rays.
Having a pool cover and using a pool cover are very different matters, however. Pool covers can be such a pain to remove and deploy that sometimes pool owners forgo them entirely. So if you’ve given up on your pool cover and it’s bunched up in the corner of your yard, we’re here to help.
If buying a manual or automatic pool cover reel just isn’t in your budget, the good news is that you can easily and inexpensively build your own to make caring for your swimming pool so much easier.
Step 1: Measure For PVC Pipe Length
Take your tarp or pool cover to a wide-open space and lay it out flat. Measure the width of the cover to determine how long of a PVC pipe you’ll need for your cover reel.
Step 2: Go Shopping!
Once you’ve determined the correct length of PVC pipe you’ll need, you can go shopping for the required items you’ll need. These are all very common and inexpensive materials that shouldn’t cost you more than a couple of bucks each.
We recommend using Schedule 40 PVC pipe with a 1-inch diameter for this project. Schedule 40 PVC pipe is sturdy, inexpensive, water-safe, and is easy to work with.
Materials You’ll Need
- PVC pipe and corresponding fittings
- Self-Drilling/Self-Tapping Screws
- PVC pipe endcaps
- PVC adapter sections
- 90-degree PVC elbow pieces
- PVC glue & spraypaint (optional)
If you’re a DIY guru or home improvement master, you’ll probably have most of these tools on-hand but if not, they can be found at most hardware stores.
Tools You’ll Need
- Hack saw
- Electric drill
Step 2.5: Glue PVC Sections Together (Optional)
If you have a large pool and therefore a large pool cover, maybe you opted to buy two segments of PVC pipe rather than one longer one for ease of transport. In this case, you can easily use some PVC primer and glue to attach the two sections together.
Step 3: Add an Endcap & Make Your Hand Crank
Grab one of your PVC pipe endcaps and install it on one end of the length of the pipe. Popping an endcap on one side of the pipe length is a good idea to protect your cover reel from filling up with water or becoming a lair for unwanted pests.
On the other end of the pipe, however, you’re going to add a slip coupling to screw a threaded cap later on. This is where your 90-degree PVC elbow pieces come in.
First, attach one elbow to the end of your long pipe, followed by a short piece of PVC pipe and an adapter. Next, add the second elbow piece, a second short piece, and another endcap to finish it off.
Look at that! You made a hand crank for your cover reel. This will make rolling up your cover an easy, one-person job.
Step 4: Make Clips to Attach the PCV Pipe to the Cover
Now it’s time to make some clips for securing your pipe to the cover itself. Without these, if you just screwed the tarp to the pipe, the screws would instantly rip the cover at any slight movement. We don’t want that to happen, so clips are the answer.
Use your hacksaw to cut 3 sections of the PVC pipe and then make a cut lengthwise down each. The goal is to get a section of the pipe that is ⅓ of its original circumference. The end of the pool cover is going to get pinned between the pipe and the clips to hold it securely in place.
Step 4.5: Paint the Clips and Pipe (Optional)
This is an optional step and only necessary if your pool is in extremely direct sunlight. The PVC pipe and clips will last a lot longer if they’re painted to protect them from harsh UV damage. Simple spraypaint will work just fine here to do the trick before you move on to the next step.
Step 5: Drill Screw Holes in the Clips and Pipe
This is the easy part. Use your drill to add screw holes to your clips and pipe. Two to three holes per clip should to the trick. If you don’t have an electric drill, you can do this part by hand with a bit more elbow grease and a screwdriver.
Step 6: Attach the Clips to the Pipe
Take the long PVC pipe and put the ends of your cover over it, exactly how you want it to end up beside the pool. Then place your clips along the pipe, aligning the holes you drilled on top of the cover at your desired intervals.
Take the screws you bough and your screwdriver to attach the clips (and cover) to the long section of pipe. Tighten the screws well to ensure that your cover will not slip. These clips will prevent any tearing of the cover during use.
Step 7: Roll It Up!
Now it’s time to try it out!
You may want to add some weight to your new cover reel before trying it out for the first time. Some bricks, cinder blocks, or even a large stone will do the trick. This will keep the reel from moving around when you’re rolling it up.
Use your clever little hand crank to wind up the pool cover into a nice, organized roll.
There you have it: an inexpensive and sturdy pool cover reel that you made in an afternoon. Now, you’re free to customize your homemade cover reel to your heart’s content. Maybe you want to add wheels for easy storage or perhaps you want to build a permanent base to show off your crafty skills.
Whatever you choose to do, you have now taken a great step towards protecting your pool and making your life a whole lot easier.