How to Use a Tarp as an Above Ground Pool Cover

Removing leaves, sticks, bugs and other debris from an outdoor above-ground swimming pool can seem like an endless chore. An obvious solution is to cover the pool when it's not in use to keep out foreign material, but custom-made swimming pool covers can be quite expensive. An alternative option, much less expensive, is to use a large plastic or vinyl tarp, secured at the corners with tent stakes and bungee cords.

Kids playing in a soft-side above-ground swimming pool.
credit: Bradley West Flickr Creative Commons
An above-ground pool will remain clean for use if you cover it with a tarp when it's not being used.

Step 1 Determine Tarp Size

Measure the diameter of the above-ground swimming pool to calculate how large a tarp you'll need to cover the pool. Allow an extra 2 feet on all sides (4 feet more than the pool diameter) to ensure that the cover is large enough to drape over the pool sides.

Step 2 Buy the Materials

Buy the tarp, bungee cords, and tent stakes online or from a hardware or camping store. Choose a heavy-duty woven polyethylene or polyvinyl tarp, because this will give the pool cover extra weight and keep it in place. Do not use old-fashioned canvas tarpaulins, as they do not hold up well over time.

Step 3 Cover the Pool

  1. Stretch the tarp across the pool, stretching it enough to prevent sagging in the middle. This will be much easier if you have one or more helpers to assist you with the job.
  2. Drive tent stakes into the ground, close to where the four corners of the tarp drape off the pool. Driving the stakes into the ground at an angle will keep them from pulling out.
  3. Attach the bungee cords to the corners of the tarp. Most tarps come with metal grommets (eyelets) designed for this.
  4. Hook the bungee cords to the tent stakes to hold the tarp pool cover in place.
  5. If your tarp is large enough to have interim grommets along the edges of the tarp, drive additional stakes and secure the tarp using additional bungee cords.