The month of May marks the start of pool season for many homeowners across the country. It also marks National Water Safety Month, a joint effort by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), the American Red Cross, the National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA) and the World Waterpark Association (WWA) to educate the public on safe water practices in all types of swimming environments.
In honor of National Water Safety Month, we spoke with LeeAnn Donaton-Pesta, President and CEO of Loop-Loc, Ltd., to learn what to look for in a safety pool cover to ensure ultimate protection.
PoolSpaOutdoor.com: How long have you been working in the pool industry and how did you get started?
LeeAnn Donaton-Pesta, Loop-Loc, Ltd.: I’ve been working in the swimming pool industry for 20 years. My father, Bill Donaton, was the co-inventor of the safety swimming pool cover and started Loop-Loc in 1978 with five employees. He was instrumental in bringing safety to the forefront for consumers and dedicated his entire career to making the highest quality safety cover on the market. In 1993 my father asked me to join the Loop-Loc team, and I have been proudly serving as President and C.E.O. since 2001.
PSO: What makes a pool cover a safety cover?
LDP: There is a big difference between a standard pool cover and a safety pool cover. A typical solid vinyl pool cover is little more than a tarp to put over your pool—it does not prevent children or pets from gaining access to the pool. For a pool cover to be a safety cover, it must conform to the Standard Performance Specification [F1346 – 91] set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). According to the ASTM, a safety cover must be able to support 485 pounds, not permit gaps that a child or pet could squeeze through, and remove standing water.
PSO: What types of safety covers are available?
LDP: Safety covers are available in mesh material and in solid material. It is important to note that different manufacturers use different grades and types of mesh and solid material in their manufacturing. LOOP-LOC utilizes a superior super dense mesh fabric which allows water to drain through while blocking virtually all sunlight. Our mesh fabric also has 87 percent black yarns for better U.V. stability. Our exclusive solid material is proprietary to Loop-Loc and is made of 100 percent polypropylene solid material; this fabric allows for ease of use, is recyclable, and ultra-sturdy. Other types of solid covers available in the market are manufactured using a vinyl type fabric which tends to stretch out and become brittle over time.
See photos and learn more about Loop-Loc safety swimming pool covers >>
PSO: What should pool owners consider when deciding between a mesh cover and a solid cover?
LDP: Mesh covers do have one safety advantage: they do not permit water to collect. In order to meet safety cover performance standards, solid covers must provide for the elimination of standing water.
Solid safety covers are usually available in two versions: one with mesh panels that allow water to drain through, and an all-solid version that should always be sold with an automatic cover pump. The pump must be used at all times in order to maintain the safety of the cover and meet the ASTM standards. Ultimately, though, the choice between a mesh or solid safety cover is up to the preference of the user.
PSO: There are a variety of pool safety covers on the market. How can a homeowner be sure they’re buying a quality safety cover?
LDP: The safety of the cover entirely depends on the quality of its manufacturing and materials, which include the threading on the cover as well as the straps and springs. At Loop-Loc, we live by and are motivated by the banners my dad hung in the building the day Loop-Loc opened, which read, “The quality of the cover you make today can save a life tomorrow.”
We pride ourselves on using some of the highest quality materials available to ensure safe, long-lasting covers. We use double perimeter webbing and double-thick straps, along with extremely high-strength 302/304 stainless steel springs.
Loop-Loc also uses a multi-passed white bonded polyester sewing thread that is 30 percent stronger than what is typically used throughout the industry. This thread produces a higher margin of safety in all seams and ensures durability. As we hand inspect ever pool cover, the contrasting white thread also allows our inspectors to instantly see if a single stitch was missed in the manufacturing process.
It’s also important that safety cover manufacturers not only meet the ASTM standard F1346-91 for manual safety covers, but also follow up with the outside testing agencies that perform all of the actual tests listed in the ASTM guideline, such as Underwriters Laboratories (known as U.L.).
At Loop-Loc, we are so proud of the safe, high-quality cover that we manufacture that we went the extra step to confirm that we not only meet, but also exceed the guidelines set forth for safety swimming pool covers, earning Loop-Loc the U.L. seal of approval.
PSO: What are the installation requirements for safety pool covers?
LDP: Safety covers must be measured to exact specifications in order to ensure proper fit. Rectangular pools are usually measured by overall width and length, while formfit [freeform] pools and pools with raised wall areas and special treatments need to be AB measured, which is a form of triangulation.
Swimming pool professionals are trained to take exact measurements of your swimming pool to ensure that the cover you receive meets all of the ASTM safety standards. For example, you would never put a rectangle safety cover over a formfit type swimming pool. This scenario would create too much material lying directly on the deck around the swimming pool which can cause excess and extreme wear over a matter of months. A rectangle cover over a formfit pool will also not get the proper tensioning required to maintain safety standards.
Once the pool is measured properly, the second most important requirement for safety covers is the actual installation of the cover. Swimming pool professionals are trained as to how far back and between the anchors must be placed in order to ensure proper tensioning.
PSO: How can a pool owner tell if their safety cover is properly installed?
LDP: When a cover is installed properly it should lie flat across the swimming pool, like a trampoline. It is important for the safety cover to have proper overlap, which is the distance the cover extends past the swimming pool coping and onto the deck. The general rule for overlap is 12 inches to 15 inches, but that can vary on larger or commercial type swimming pools. Too little overlap will not give the cover the proper stability, and excessive overlap can cause premature wear. Also, when a cover is reinstalled after the summer it is important to remember to re-adjust all springs so that there is proper tensioning during the winter months.
PSO: Are there any steps or precautions homeowners should take to ensure the quality and longevity of their safety cover?
LDP: It’s important to do a lot of research. Not all safety covers are the same, and the safety of the cover entirely depends on the quality of its materials and manufacturing.
It is also important to remember that proper tensioning of the cover, along with keeping your water levels at the manufacturer’s recommended level at all times will ensure a longer lasting cover.
When storing the cover in the summer, be sure to use the storage bag provided and to hang it high up and off of the ground, in a shed or other storage area. (Leaving the cover on the ground can allow for small rodents to crawl inside the cover and start eating away at the material of the cover.)
PSO: How long should a safety pool cover last?
LDP: In general, a safety cover will last an average of 10 to 15 years.
View more photos and watch videos of Loop-Loc safety covers >>
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Photos courtesy of Loop-Loc, Ltd.
About the Expert: LeeAnn Donaton-Pesta has held management positions at LOOP-LOC, Ltd., since 1993 and has proudly served as president/CEO since 2001. Over this time, she has continued her company’s leadership in pool safety, overseeing major product line expansions, including Loop-Loc Luxury in-ground liners, and the introduction of new, patented technology. Under her leadership, LOOP-LOC has sold safety pool covers on every continent except Antarctica.Today Loop-Loc has close to 300 employees who are dedicated to manufacturing the highest quality safety swimming pool covers and in-ground luxury liners. All of Loop-Loc's products are made in the U.S.A. at the company's headquarters in Hauppauge, New York.