In Melbourne, the summer sun is so hot that, even in a backyard pool, it is not possible to spend long periods of time in the sunshine in the middle of the day.
I wanted a cover for my pool so I could use it even when the sun was beating down as well as to keep leaves out of the water, but constructed in such a way that I could draw back the cover if I chose.
Here is my solution.
Step 1: Requirements (and Costs)
1. Old swing set - find one with a galvanised frame that is sturdy and rust free. The ends must lean inwards - see photo. Cost = $0 plus time and effort (and an icecream for my friend with the angle grinder).
2. At least one length of galvanised pipe approximately 25mm (1 inch) in diameter for the ridge. It needs to be longer than the pool but the ends will be set into the top rail of the swing set. My pool is 6m and the pipe is 7.4m in length so I was able to cover a small deck as well. A second length of pipe is useful to tie off the ropes on the side of the pool but this is optional. Cost = $0 (gift from my son).
3. Fencing tie-wire - this is to make the sliders for the cover. You will need about 500mm (2ft) per slider. (I positioned the sliders about 500mm apart.) The tie-wire should be easy to bend but thick enough to hold its shape under a moderate force. Cost = $0 (it was on hand)
4. Pulleys - you will need a small pulley for each slider. Cost = $10
5. 5mm (approx) thick cord long enough to reach from the top of the pool cover at its lowest position, up to the ridge and on to the tie off point beside the pool, for each slider. Choose UV Protected and rot and mildew resistant. Cost = $20 depending on size and choice.
6. Patient friend to assist with cutting pipe and holding things in place.
Step 2: Measuring the Finished Size
In order for the ridge to be self supporting, it is important that the frame is assembled with the pipe in a slightly curved position.
You will need to locate the support ends at the correct distance apart and secure the ends of the pipe to maintain this curve. (The pipe is to be inserted and secured into the cut off ends of the top bar of the swing set.)
To find the measurements you need:
1. Fix the ends of the pipe on the ground and lift the middle about 500mm (2ft) off the ground.
2. Measure the distance (now reduced) between the ends measured on the ground.
Note: You do not need to produce a large curve, but you will need to make sure you can fix the ends of the pipe into the curved position once the frame is assembled - there are a number of ways you can do this depending on your pool access and surroundings.
Step 3: Making the Sliders
1. You will need to experiment to find the length of wire needed to wrap loosely around the pipe a few times as well as provide for the loop - see photos. Once you have determined the length you need, cut sufficient lengths of the wires for the number of sliders you want.
2. Make a loop in the centre of the length of wire by winding it around a twig or piece of dowel. (This would be a good time to put the pulleys onto the sliders - I forgot.) Hold the loop with pliers while you wrap the wire in each direction around the pipe. Space out the coils evenly as you wrap the wire and don't worry if the slider doesn't slide at this point - see photo.
3. Now carefully squeeze the wrapped coils together taking care not to bend the coils out of place - see photo. This step will provide the clearance needed for the sliders to slide easily on the pipe. Adjust as necessary.
4. Turn in the ends of the wire for each slider but do not trim so they do not link together when they are bunched up.
5. Attach the pulleys to the sliders and thread the sliders onto the length of pipe you are using for the ridge.
Step 4: Reclaiming the Swing Set
1. Remove the swing equipment and cut the middle section of the top bar out of the swing set leaving at least 300 - 400mm (12-16 inches) of the top bar attached to each upright on the 'uphill' side which will be pointing over the pool.
Note: Do not remove the supports for the top bar.
2. Clean off any old paint - a knife or paint scraper worked well.
3. Decide whether you want to assemble the frame before you move it into place over the pool, or position the ends at the poolside before you fix the top bar in place, or something in between.
Note: When the ends are in their final position the supports should be vertical so that the section of the top bar from the swing set is angled upwards over the pool to support the curve in the pipe.
5. Secure the pipe into the top bar of the end support and secure the base of the end support into the correct position.
Step 5: Attach the Cover
1. Attach ropes to loops along the centreline of the pool cover at appropriate spacings, feed the ropes through the pulleys and adjust the sliders so the cover is in position.
2. Now, pull up the ropes so the cover is at the desired height - it may be best to lift the cover in two or more stages.
3. Tie off the ropes beside the pool. I fixed a second length of pipe to the fence for tying the ropes to as this gave me the flexibility to adjust the tie-off points at any time.
I have used a length of shade cloth as a pool cover, so that I can safely float around the pool in the heat of the day, but also enjoy the stars at night.
Shock cord fixed to the edges of the shade cloth is fixed to adjustable tent poles on the poolside.
Step 6: Total Cost?
Around $30 (but I will replace the shadecloth cover next summer).