Pool Info: Vinyl Pool Liners
Vinyl liner pools have a custom made sheet of vinyl between the water and the pool structure. This is in contrast to a gunite or shotcrete pool which uses plaster as its waterproofing membrane. Vinyl liners typically lock their top edge, called a bead, into a track located on the bottom of the coping, which is at deck level. Underneath the liner is a sand or cementitious floor, that is troweled into place. The floors come up to meet the walls, which are commonly 42” x 8 ft panels made of galvanized steel or thermoplastic. These walls are supported from behind so that they won't bow out against the weight of the water. All of the wall panels are secured together to make up the perimeter shape of the pool. For this reason, there are some limitations to the possible shapes of vinyl liner pools.
Vinyl liner pool sales seem to be regional. Many areas of the country seem to have nothing but vinyl liner pools, whereas in other areas you'd be hard pressed to find even one. In many areas, there is a nice mix of vinyl and gunite pool builders to meet consumer demand for either product. In other areas, you will find builders who design/build primarily one or the other.
Generally speaking, the vinyl liner pool can be built more cheaply than the gunite (concrete) version. The same size pool, in vinyl, can be built in 1-2 weeks; for a price 30-50% less than a gunite/plaster pool, which can take 4-6 weeks to build.
If you already own a vinyl pool; here are some service tips from our vinyl pool liner help file:
Vinyl Pool Liner Repair
Pool Liner Coming out of the Track?
Liners are meant to fit tightly into the shape of the pool. If the liner was installed slightly off center, or if the liner is slightly too large or too small for the pool's shape, you may experience the bead popping out of the track.
With the use of a heat gun or blow dryer and a lot of elbow grease (eat your Wheaties), the liner can be stretched and locked back into the track. I was also informed by a pool tech recently that boiling hot water works well when you need to stretch a liner. If this is a continuing problem, the use of Liner Lock can help in keeping the bead in the track. Avoid over stretching or melting the liner (which I did once!). Use caution using electrical equipment (heat gun) around water (pool), and plug into a GFCI outlet.
It's usually a lot of pulling and pushing to get a liner back into the track. In some cases you'll need to lower the water level a foot or more if a long stretch of the liner has popped out. Also, if the water is very cold, lowering the level may be necessary to build up enough heat.
Use of a small hair dryer (blow dryer) can heat up the liner, making it more stretchable, and easier to get back into the track. Be careful, keep the dryer moving and not too close to the vinyl! When the liner is put back into the track (it can be exhausting work, I'm telling you) consider using Liner Lock, to help hold it in the track. You can use pennies or Popsicle sticks as a temporary measure. Just shim them in above the bead, to take up space between the bead and the top of the track.
Fading Vinyl Pool Liner?
The original color of your liner will fade with the use of sanitizing chemicals and the effects of ol' Mr. Sun. The chemical makeup of modern vinyl allows manufacturers to create liners that are now much more durable and resistant to chemical and solar degradation.
Heavy shocking and high levels of chlorine, or constant pH and Alkalinity on the low end of the scale should be avoided. This will remove the plasticizers which give liners their resiliency, leading to brittle vinyl, which leads to new liners. Clean the waterline only if needed, and use only a mild pool vinyl cleaner – don’t use automotive products.
Never add undiluted granular chemicals, specifically pH decreaser and Calcium Hypochlorite (shock) directly to the pool. These particles will settle to the bottom, "bleach" the vinyl, and compromise its strength and resiliency. Always dilute these granular chemicals, by pouring them into a full bucket of water, and stirring until dissolved, before adding them to the pool.
A vinyl liner waterline restoration product is now available. Self-adhesive BorderLines vinyl strips are 9” x 10’, and apply like wallpaper border – to cover up stained and faded vinyl liners at the waterline.
Vinyl Pool Liner Leaking?
Not an uncommon problem. Liners are typically manufactured in 20 mil thickness (28-30 mil option). Although resistant to punctures; it can happen, and will happen - especially as the liner ages, losing its resiliency. If the source of the leak isn't readily apparent, go to our info page on Leak Detection.
If you are adding more than one inch of water to your pool per week, discounting splashed-out and backwash waste water, you probably have a leak. Do not allow leaks to go unchecked. Leaks can washout supporting back fill behind the walls, corrode the walls, and may wash away sand on the floor, creating sinkholes, or uneven floor surfaces, which is hard to keep clean.
To make sure it’s a liner leak and not a pipe leak, shut off the pump and plug the lines for 12-24 hours, to see if the leak continues. If the leaking continues (discounting up to ¼” per hot day for evaporation), search for the leak in the liner. Common places to look are at the base of the walls, or in corners. Leaks around vinyl liner faceplates are also common. Shut off the pump and use dye or food coloring around all the faceplates for the skimmer, returns, light and steps – anywhere the liner was cut on purpose and a gasket exists. Use a dive mask or goggles so you can look closely underwater for the leak.
Draining a Vinyl Liner Pool?
It is not advised to drain your vinyl liner pool, or allow it to leak out below the level of the walls. The water in the pool holds the liner tightly against the walls and floor. If the water is removed, the liner should be reset with a vacuum to suck the liner into place while filling. Otherwise, large wrinkles may appear when filling a loose fitting liner. In addition, an empty liner pool may allow rain water to seep in under the walls, washing away and destroying the specifically contoured shape of a sand floor. There also exists the risk of a wall collapsing or caving in. Consult a professional for assistance in these areas. In most cases, you can safely drain it down to a level of 3-6” above the shallow end floor.
Resetting a Vinyl Liner
If the liner has been drained, or leaked out on its own, it will need to be "sucked back" into place with a vacuum device to remove the air between the liner and the pool shell (walls/floor). The vacuum is left in place, running until the water level is 6” above the shallow end floor. The vacuum is then removed, and the pool continues to fill. This is necessary to ensure proper fit, and reduce or eliminate wrinkles in the vinyl while refilling. In rare cases, liners may not reset properly, especially very old and brittle liners, or liners that have sat without water for an extended period of time. The stress of resetting a very old or weakened vinyl liner could cause the liner to rip or tear while resetting or refilling with water.
Water underneath the Liner
In areas of high water table, and especially in topographically depressed areas, water may build up under the pool liner. If you notice a “bubble” under the liner, there is a great deal of hydrostatic pressure under the pool. In most cases, as the water table recedes, the liner will set back into place without a problem, and in some cases it may wrinkle. Sand floors can erode or become uneven when water gets under the liner.
To fix the problem of water under a pool liner, you would need to assess the drainage of the entire property, and especially the flow of water around the pool. French drains can be installed or swales can be graded to allow for better run-off. In extreme conditions, a dewatering system can be installed under the pool, or main drain pots with automatic hydrostatic relief valves can be installed in the pool floor.
Eroding sand floor under the Liner
This normally does not occur when the pool is full. If the liner leaks out over winter however, the floor can become damaged. A sinkhole under the liner could also be indicative of a hole in the liner, above the sinkhole. If extreme hydrostatic pressures or high water tables exist under the pool, the sand can shift even when the pool is full. If this occurs, it would be best to install a concrete or vermiculite floor to replace the sand pool floor.
Stains on a Pool Liner
Pool liners are not as stain prone as pool plaster, but they can still be stained or discolored. Patterns in the vinyl liner are useful in hiding many stain types. To identify a pool stain, it can be classified into animal, vegetable or mineral source of the stain or discoloration.
Animal stains can be from dead animals, such as worms or small wood creatures, or algae can also leave behind trace discoloration, especially yellow or blue/green algae. Brushing and balancing will lighten, or you can use stain removal chemicals. Vegetable stains are organic stains from leaves, sticks or acorns, for example. Cleaning, brushing, balancing the chemistry and shocking the pool is often enough to remove these stains. Mineral stains are caused by metals and minerals dissolved in the water, and produce a rainbow of colors; blue/green=copper, red/brown=iron, white/gray=calcium. These can often be removed with stain removal chemicals or a good mineral sequestrant. Be sure to use only stain removal chemicals labeled for use with vinyl liners, or “safe for all pool surfaces”.
Patching Vinyl Pool Liners
If you are fortunate enough to see a small hole in the liner, simply patch it with a pool liner patch kit. There are 3 types of vinyl pool patch. The first type is a gel material, squeezed out of a tube, and smoothed over holes or tears in vinyl. A second type of pool liner patch is a traditional patch kit, with vinyl material to cut out rounded patches, and a container of wet/dry glue to adhere the patch. You can also use the material cut out of the drains/skimmer/returns when the liner was installed, if you have them. A third type of vinyl liner repair is the self-adhesive vinyl patch. Cut out a rounded patch that’s 20% larger than the hole, then just peel and stick.
Vinyl Pool Liner Replacement
In Ground Vinyl Liner Installation: The labor involved in replacing a vinyl liner begins with the measuring of your pool for the new liner. When the liner is delivered (allow 2-3 weeks), we make a full day of removing and replacing. The pool is drained; the old liner is cut up and removed to the recycling plant. We then work on the walls. Joints are taped; rust or irregularities are scraped and sanded. If the wall is rough, pitted or corroded, we will recommend using wall foam to prevent contact with the new liner, as well as provide a nice soft feel. All of the face plates for the skimmers, returns, drains, lights and steps are removed. The liner track is inspected, and if necessary, cracked sections may be repaired.
Floor work is the final step before "dropping" the new liner and setting it with a vacuum. If the floor is sand, we will remove contaminated sand, and replace with new sand. The floor is hand troweled to remove any irregularities and achieve design specs for which the liner was manufactured. Pebbles and sand balls are removed and the entire floor is smooth. If the floor is concrete or vermiculite, it is swept and cleaned. Irregularities such as cracks and divots are repaired with concrete or vermiculite.
The liner is kept warm; if necessary stored indoors until it is needed. When ready, we open the liner and unfold it; drape the liner across the pool and lock it into the track. Positioning one or two vacuums, we set the liner into place, working out any wrinkles. We then "cut-in" the main drain and steps if they exist, and add a hose to fill the pool. The vacuum(s) continue to operate until the water level is just below the vac hose, or at least 6” above the shallow end floor. We remove the vacuum hose and lock in the liner at these points. The pool continues to fill and when full, new wall face plates and gaskets can be installed.
Vinyl pool liner costs, with installation are usually $1200 - $1500, depending on size of the pool, and extent of wall and floor work. Complete inground pool liner replacement charges range from $2,500 - $3,500. Inground pool liner installation could be pool owner installed, but unless the pool owner is quite handy and equipped to handle the unexpected – he/she may be better off hiring a builder or service company to replace an inground pool liner.
Above Ground Vinyl Pool Liner Installation: The information above is primarily inground vinyl liner information. Installing an above ground vinyl pool liner is not as difficult as an inground liner, and is more suited for DIY installation.
First, make sure you order the proper size. Measure carefully the length, width and depth. Measure depth from the point the liner flips over the wall, or to the track. Measure to the flat floor, not to any cove (foam or sand) that may be built up around the base of the walls.
Pump the pool out using a small submersible pump. Pump a distance away from the pool, to an area that won’t be disturbed by the water flow. When empty, carefully climb in the pool and use a razor knife to cut the liner at the base of the wall, all the way around the pool.
Disassemble the top of the wall only to the extent necessary. Try not to remove any bolts or screws that are unnecessary to the removal of the liner. Beaded liners typically need no disassembly (only overlap liners), which is one of their many distinct advantages. Move slowly at first until you are sure of the steps involved with your particular pool. Remove any screws holding in wall fittings. Store all of your screws and parts safely in a zip-loc bag. Remove the coping strips or other means of clamping the liner in place as it turns over the top of the wall. When you can pull the liner all inside the pool, cut up the wall sections into strips, roll them up and toss them out of the pool.
Before you cut up and remove the floor vinyl, clean and inspect the walls. If the walls are rusted, scrape and paint. You should also put Wall Foam over this repair if the rust is severe enough that it may damage the new liner. Put duct tape over any rough areas or seams in the wall panels.
Smooth out the sand floor with trowels. Remove any pebbles or rocks. Replace any sand that is contaminated with algae. If there exists any vegetation, pull it up and treat the sand with bleach or herbicide to prevent any vegetative growth. In cases of nutgrass, Liner Shield or Liner Guard can be used. Floor Padding can be used to make a floor soft and smooth, and resist divots in the sand floor. Pool Cove, a foam wedge, can also be placed between wall and floor for a smooth transition.
When the wall and floor is prepped and ready, drape the new liner over pool leaving just a little slack so that it will stretch ever so slightly into place. Be careful not to disrupt the smooth sand floor by dragging the liner over it. Make sure the pool liner is not twisted. Replace coping strips to secure an overlap liner to top of wall. On a beaded liner, you can use a shop vacuum to set the liner (removing all of the air between the pool wall and the liner), but most people do not. Just make sure that there is enough slack so that the liner will stretch into place, just a little bit.
Begin to fill pool. Keep an eye on the liner while filling to make sure it doesn't slip. If wrinkles develop, you can likely work them to the side if you catch it soon enough. Just work the wrinkle from outside the pool, using a push broom or poo brush, or leaning over the edge and pulling up on the wall vinyl, to pull wrinkles to the edge. Any wrinkle under more than 12 inches of water will be difficult to move or remove.
After you have a foot of water in the pool you can turn off the shop vacuum, if you used one to set the liner. If you have wall fittings, wait until pool is full to cut them in. Be sure to reassemble the top rails completely (no leftover screws!)
Begin filtering and chlorinating the water immediately after installing a new liner and filling the pool, and test and balance the water and let summer begin!
Related Product Pages:
Related Blog Posts:
Aboveground Vinyl Pool Liner Replacements
How to Put a Beaded Liner Back in the Track
The Complete Guide to Inground Pool Liner Replacements
Stain Removal in a Vinyl Pool
Vinyl liner Pool Construction Phases
Wrinkles in a vinyl liner pool