Rob Cox August 19, 2015
If you have a safety pool cover, congratulations - you have the best thing going. They look great, last long and don't give a bit of trouble. Well, there is one persistent problem with safety pool covers. Just about every cover I've ever had the pleasure of installing or removing has had at least a few problem anchors - stickers and spinners.
STICKERS are those pool cover anchors that won't turn up, and/or won't turn down. The cause can be pressure around the top few threads, when an anchor is pounded into a hole that is just millimeters too small. This can happen when using a worn drill bit, but can be overcome during installation, be using the drill to "round-out" the top edge of the hole. Using the sides of the drill bit, flare the top edge of the hole just slightly.
Another cause of stickers (stuck anchors) is tiny bits of sand or concrete particles in the threads. This can be avoided by regularly flushing out and using a light oil (like WD-40 ®) on the anchors; but who has time for that?
A third cause of sticky and stuck anchors is stripped hex holes. The edges of the hexagonal hole in the center of the anchor become rounded over time (Brass is a soft metal), and can get to a point where the hex key just spins. For stripped hex holes in the anchor head, you can tap in a flathead screwdriver of the right size, getting it to bite on both sides, corner to corner, and often this will allow you to turn the head. If that fails, you can use Vice-Grips ® to clamp down on the top of the head (if you can get it raised up slightly).
SPINNERS are safety cover anchors that spin in the hole, while you are trying to turn the head up or down. The entire body of the anchor spins in the hole. This can be most simply fixed by re-tamping the anchor into the deck. It may slip a few millimeters below deck level, but that's no problem usually.
To re-tamp a cover anchor into the ground, see if you can find your original tamping tool; remove the head from the body, insert the tamping tool into the body and whack it a few times with a heavy hammer. If you don't have a tamping tool, or want a faster method, drop a nickel or dime over the head of the anchor (with the anchor tightened all the way down), and give it a few whacks with a heavy hammer. Avoid hitting the head of the anchor directly with a hammer, which can warp the shape of the hex hole and the top edge, causing more problems!
If you have a Stuck-Spinner, one that is both stuck (up or down) and spins in the hole, here's what to do. Once the anchor is removed from the deck, spray it with a light lubricant, and while holding it firm with pliers in one hand, use your other hand to work the hex hole, trying to turn it. Be careful not to clamp down too tightly on the anchor body, or you may dent or crimp the body just slightly out of round, dealing a fatal blow to your beleaguered cover anchor..
For anchors that are stuck (up or down), you will want to replace with new anchors. Anchors that are not firmly tamped into the deck could pull out during winter (not usually, but I've seen it happen). For the best cover performance, be sure that 98% of your anchors are useable.
Or, how to replace stuck anchors, because once the bad anchor is removed, you'll likely chuck it in the woods, and tamp in a shiny new brass anchor. Removing a stuck anchor from a concrete pool deck can sometimes be difficult, and there are several ways to proceed.
1. Chip and Pry: If you don't obsess about chips in your pool deck (Hi, Joe), then you can use a sharp flathead screwdriver, or small chisel, to chip away the concrete around the hole. Oftentimes, you only need to remove 1-2 mm of concrete on one side, and then you can use the same screwdriver as a mini pry bar, and wedge the flathead under the lip at the top edge of the anchor body. Work it at different spots, attempting to pry up the anchor.
2. Tap and Tug: With this method, you will use a 1/4 inch tap, to cut threads into the hex hole. Thread a sturdy bolt into the hole, one with a large hex head, and a large flat washer. Now tap the bolt head with a hammer a few times, and then tug at the anchor, by attaching large pliers or Vice-Grips to the bolt head and pulling. If that fails, find a wood board or steel pipe (cover tool) that will fit perfectly under the washer and bolt head, and use it as a lever to Pry the anchor out of the deck. A Slide Hammer can also be used. Tap out the hex hole to the thread size of your slide hammer, then thread in the hammer and have at it!
3. Tap and Turn: This method is a bit more complicated than just tapping threads and using a bolt or a slide hammer. You can create your own Wing Master® tool (which is a great tool for anchor removal, but a bit on the pricey side, and not intended for homeowners who need it only rarely). After tapping the hole, thread-in a short threaded rod into the threads that you cut into the hex hole. Over the threaded steel rod, place a short steel pipe, short enough so that the rod sticks out of the top. Place a large washer or piece of angle iron over the rod, until it comes down to rest on the top of the pipe. Now thread a steel nut onto the rod. (Note: Tap, Rod and Nut must be all the same size). Turn the nut clockwise with wrench or socket, and this will pull the anchor out of the ground quite easily. This works in the same way as a motor bearing puller.
One or two missing anchors (or sticker/spinners) won't affect your overall pool protection, but having unequal tension on the cover could affect the durability of the cover, and allow for leaves to blow under and get into the pool. If you need more pool anchors or any safety pool cover parts and accessories - be sure to visit! Thanks for Your Support!