5-Step Inground Pool Liner Installation

showing inground pool liner being set with shop-vac while fillingInstalling your own inground pool liner is easy, when you take it step by step.

Replace your own inground pool liner, and save thousands of dollars over local installers!

Let’s assume that you’ve filled out the simple measuring forms for an inground vinyl liner, following the steps in a previous blog post written by Jackie on how to measure for an inground vinyl liner.

Let’s also assume that you already bought your new pool liner. None of the work below should be done before you have the liner and materials ready. Speaking of materials, let’s start this blog post with a materials list.

Supplies needed to replace your inground vinyl liner:

  • Custom vinyl inground pool liner
  • Wall Foam if desired or needed
  • Floor repair sand or vermiculite
  • Cyclone Blower or HD Shop-Vac
  • 2 – 1×12″ boards to stand on
  • Duct tape, Razor knife
  • Leaf blower or Garden hose
  • 2-4 people for step #3

Getting ready to replace your inground vinyl liner:

When you get ready to begin, the first steps are to safely drain the pool to the storm drain or far from the pool. Sanitizer level should be near zero, and the pH should be balanced, to protect your local watershed.

After draining completely (remove main drain cover and use a sponge and bucket to get every last drop of water), cut the liner with a razor knife at the base of the wall – all the way around the pool. Then cut  vertically, through the top bead in several spots around the pool. Remove these vinyl strips, and lay them aside. Leave the floor piece of vinyl in place for now, until we are ready to work on the floor.

gaskets for wall returnsCarefully remove, with a large #1 Philips screwdriver, the faceplates for the skimmer(s), wall return(s), main drains, pool lights, and pool step sections. Safely store your screws, so not even one gets lost. It’s recommended to replace the faceplates and gaskets, unless they are only a few years old.

Step 1: Wall Prep

Now that you can see the wall, inspect it closely for corrosion, rust or any odd stains. If there is anything that looks like rust or severe mold or mildew, you should scrape and paint these areas then follow-up by adding Wall Foam – to keep such things from staining or damaging your new pool liner.

If you have holes through your wall, that’s more than Wall Foam will handle, you will need to patch with sheet metal or heavy plastic, then follow-up with Wall Foam. Wall foam can also be added just to improve the feel of the wall, which feels rather hard and cold without it. Wall foam is easily installed using an adhesive spray.

While inspecting your walls, you may decide to duct tape up the wall joints, where the panels come together. You also should look at the liner bead track at the top of the wall to make sure that it’s not broken at any point.

If you have an inground pool light, with a cord that runs through the wall, the trick is to shut off power and disconnect the screws at the junction box. The J-box is usually off the deck, directly behind the light, or on older pools under the diving board. After removing the wire nuts, and loosening the clamps, duct tape a long piece of string to the wires. Pull the wire cord out into the pool, pulling until the string comes into the light niche. Cut the string with your razor knife and duct tape it to the inside of the niche.

Step 2: Floor Prep

When you have completed the wall prep and you have checked the weather to be certain that you can continue from this point to completion, we can begin to remove the liner from the pool floor. Cut it with your razor knife and remove in sections.

  • Concrete or Vermiculite Floors:
    Sweep the floor clean with a broom or leaf blower. Remove all of the little pebbles, and fill in any holes with a concrete sand mix, or vermiculite.
  • Sand Bottom Pools:
    Sand is much more work to prep, and you have to work and walk very carefully around the pool. You’ll need large plaster trowels; the stainless steel, rounded end type. Remove any spoiled or odd-colored sand and replace with new. Low areas can be filled in new sand, but be careful not to add too much sand, or you will raise the floor higher, this could make the new pool liner fit poorly.Trowel the floor smooth, starting in the deep end and working your way out the shallow end. Use the 1″x12″ boards to move around, these dig into the sand less than your shoes. Large 2×4’s can be used to roughly screed flat areas, finishing with the trowel. Lower raised areas by pounding them down or scraping off high spots, and fill in the low spots. It needn’t be absolutely perfect, as most patterned liners will hide minor floor imperfections, but try to get it as level and even as you can.

Pay particular attention to where the wall meets the floor. If this area is wavy, and not fairly level, it may look odd. Around the deep end of the pool, you may decide to trowel a safety ledge of 4-6″ where the wall meets the floor.

Step 3: Install new liner

Wall is prepped, floor is prepped, and we can now open the new pool liner box and follow the included instructions. Look for the tags that indicate “deep end” or shallow end, and orient the liner as you prepare to pull it carefully across the pool.

With at least 3 people, one to hold the shallow end wall, two others will grab opposite sides of the liner and pull it across the pool to the deep end wall. Bend down and lock the corners into the tracks. Pennies or Popsicle sticks can be useful as a shim to hold the liner in place as you move it around to line it up to the pool corners.

Once the corners or other markers are established, and the liner appears to be hanging correctly, proceed around the pool, away from each other and lock the liner into the track. Pull any slack along the wall with you, as you go, keeping a slight tension.

Once the liner bead has been snapped into or pushed into the track all the way around the pool, take a look at how it’s hangin’ – should look centered. There may be some floor wrinkles, so pull the liner floor material up towards the shallow end wall, and then do the same in the other areas, to pull loose vinyl material towards the walls.

If you have a step section, lay a 2×4 across the front of the steps and duct tape the liner to it, at the same height at the track. Small sandbags or water bags laid under the bottom step, on the liner, is helpful to simulate the weight of the water. When the liner is positioned properly, install the 3 strips around the front of the steps, bottom and both sides. Tighten down the screws very tightly against the rubber gasket. After all screws are tight, cut out the section of vinyl – and walk out of the pool!

Next step is to hook up your Cyclone Blower Vac to set the liner. These vac/blowers can also be used to blow out your plumbing lines for winterizing your own pool. You can, as shown in the picture at page top, use a large, heavy duty shop-vac of at least 5 hp to set the liner.

cyclone-blower-inground-pool-linerWhat I mean by “Set the Liner” is this; we place a hose behind the liner, in between the pool and the liner and suck out all of the air with a vacuum. This pulls the liner tight against the pool wall. We use duct tape to seal up where the hose goes behind the liner, and to seal up the skimmer lid or a pool light cord. In under a minute, the Cyclone will pull the liner tight.

If you have a main drain, you will need to install the faceplate ring and the lid at this point, after the liner is set. Carefully walk down to the deep end, using boards if you have a sand bottom. Locate the screw holes under the liner, and install the ring and new gasket. Screw down very tightly with a proper size screwdriver. Then install the main drain grate securely.

If you have a pool light, now is the time to install the ring and new gasket, and reinstall the light fixture into the niche. Reconnect the cord to the string securely, and pull the cord back through the conduit to the J-box. You may be able to reach it from above, hanging upside down, or standing in the deep end reaching up. If you need to stand on something, make sure it’s soft, or placed on a broad, flat surface, so that you don’t damage the new liner.

If there are wrinkles in the liner, turn the vac off and work the vinyl, trying to pull the wrinkles toward one wall or the other. Banging the lower wall with a push broom, or gently persuading wrinkles with the the wood edge of a push broom works well. Turn the vac back on and you should have most wrinkles removed. Small wrinkles up against the wall should flatten out as water fills the pool.

4: Fill pool

At this point, there are usually high-fives and the sound of beer cans opening. The vac must stay running until the water level is about 6″ above the floor, or just beginning to cover the hose. Continue to fill as you remove the vacuum hose and duct tape and pop this area into the liner bead track. Most average size pools will fill from the hose in 36-72 hours.

5: Cut-in returns and skimmers

We don’t install these until the pool is full, because the liner is still stretching into buy new faceplates for your vinyl liner poolplace. When the pool is full, install the faceplates and gaskets very tightly – with a proper size screwdriver. To prevent any leaks make sure the gaskets are solid and the screws are tight. When the plate is re-installed, cut out the vinyl inside the faceplate and flood the lines with water.

Now you can start the filter system, balance the water chemistry and enjoy your new inground pool liner. Installing an inground vinyl liner is not too difficult, especially if you’ve measured correctly. I hope I’ve answered all of your questions about how to install an inground pool liner, if you have other questions, give our liner experts a call at 800-288-7946!

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Editor


5-Step Inground Pool Liner Installation — 24 Comments

  1. I had a new liner installed by a pool company. Within one month the liner was coming out of the coping. They came and fixed it and then it came out again within another month and they came and fixed it. I then had to close the pool for the winter and it turned into a year and 10 months before I could open it again. I had a mess cover over it. When I opened it again, the liner had come down in 4 places and it was down about a foot in two places. They came and tried to pull it up but said it was my fault for not opening it and having the chemicals and PH at the right level. The liner wasn’t down everywhere in the pool only in the area where I had trouble within a month of them installing it. Is that normal if the liner was installed properly the first time?

    • Hi Vivien, when a liner pops out of the track, it’s because it’s a bit too small, or a bit too tall – for the actual pool depths. in the area of the trouble, the liner is probably not as deep as the pool actually is, or the shape of the floor, or actual depth changed after the liner was measured. So, my opinion is that the liner does not fit the pool, and that is the reason for the liner popping out of the track, and because it’s too small, (not as tall as the wall), it drops down very low, and at a foot below the track, it’s almost impossible to pull up again, without draining most of the water.

  2. I’m in the process of installing a new liner in an Inground pool, I need to remove a section of liner from the track to reposition it. Unfortunately I am unable to simply slide the liner along due to a seam in the track. I’ve tried pulling the liner out of the track but have had no luck, I’ve applied heat (carefully) but I am afraid of damaging the liner. What’s the best way to remove it?

    • Hi Joel, can you modify the uneven track area, with a file or rasp? This is where two sections of track join, right? If you can shave off the hooked edge, and then sliding should be easy.

      • Worked like a charm! Thank you! My next problem is getting the last section of liner stretched enough without other sections popping out. I’m pretty confident that the position of the liner is correct. It’s a kidney bean shape inground pool I’ve made several attempts each time starting at a different point and have had no luck, I’ve checked the perimeter measurement of the pool and verified the liner is correct any advice would be appreciated thanks again!

        • Kidney? Ahh, not easy to install. because there’s no corners to line up. Here’s what to do. Line up the floor seams, and apex of the curve on one side of the pool, then start to lock the bead into the track with two people, pulling opposite each other. every 5 feet or so, use pennies and popsicle sticks – to shim the liner, or you can also use duct tape, to hold the liner in the track, slightly stretched and TAUT in the track – before you move another five feet apart from each other and do the same thing. Keep moving opposite each other, 5 ft at a time, until you meet up again at the other side of the pool. Keep pulling against each other all the way around the pool, and you should end up with enough slack to meet at the end. You may need to adjust the liner laying on the floor as you get to the other side – I mean, you may have to pull the floor material evenly so that the floor material is laying flat, or is also pulled across the pool, and usually suspended over the deep end floor. A 3rd person is also helpful at this stage. Good Luck!

  3. We have an 18×36 inground pool that is 8ft deep. It is rectangle with steps centered on one of the sides. It will need a new liner soon due to two of the corners having wide tears above the water line. Is this a project that my wife and I could do ourselves?

    • Hi Justin, sure! We sell thousands of inground liners every year, to DIY homeowners. Most of the work can be done with 2 people. The moment of installing the new liner in the track is easier with 3 people or even 4. The entire thing can be done in one weekend, without special tools. A liner setting vacuum is best, (like the Cyclone), but you can also use 5 hp shop vac, to ‘set the liner’, or suck it against the wall just before filling (and until half-full of water). The steps are the trickiest part, you may need a few sand bags to help hold the liner up against the bottom of the step, and lots of duct tape or other means to seal-up the step, so it doesn’t leak air, when you set the liner with a vacuum. And it’s a lot of screws to install (after the water level reaches the bottom step), but if you have a cordless drill, it goes fast. Any other questions or concerns, reply back! You can do it! 🙂

  4. If I purchase a liner from intheswim, who can I find locally to install it for me? I have gotten quotes from 2 local groups and they will only install their own liner..

    • Hi Tim, great question. And yes I understand, most pool builders also want to sell the liner, and measure the liner etc. Some pool service companies will work with you, but many may not wish to – sometimes pool service technicians may do it as a ‘side job’ on a Sunday, if you ask them in the right way, I suppose. Or you can try calling a few Handyman services, they may take on such jobs. If saving $1500-$2500 appeals to you, you could do it yourself. We could even turn it into another inground vinyl liner installation blog post, with my help outlining the process in detail for you, in exchange for some photos of the process. But I’m glad to help either way.

  5. I just had a new liner installed in my inground pool. After the installers left and the pool was filling I noticed a small 2-3 inch lion lump in the bottom of the pool. After feeling the lump it was obvious they installed the cover over a frog! Do you foresee this causing a problem in the future? I’m worried the bones may puncture the liner.

    • OMG… and geez. Maybe he jumped in at the last minute? I assume that he is pretty flat now, and will get … flatter. Probably won’t cause a problem, but possibly could. Frog bones are not very hard or sharp (I think), unusual question, and of course I have no direct experience with such a problem. Fingers crossed! I think you’ll be OK…

  6. Hello, When the liner is replaced and the pool filled with water I thought you had to wait 3 days before adding chemicals and starting the filter pomp, is this correct?

    • Hi Cindy, in most cases, a liner vac is necessary, to prevent wrinkles in the floor of the liner. Larger pools may need two vacuums running to suction the liner tightly. However, there are those cases where in some small and shallow pools, with no deep end, if the liner is an exact fit, it could be done without a vacuum I suppose, but I’d like to see how it fits first, before I put water in

  7. Hello,
    we just had a liner installed after it was damaged in a storm. The installer cut the liner to fit the pool, there are cuts around the circular edge of the lower end of the pool, and the deep end it is cut 3 times. My previous liner was not cut, and watching videos I do not see anybody cutting the liner. Is this a normal practice, ever?

    • Hi Amy, no cutting of the liner to make it fit,just cutting out the drain, skimmer and returns, and lights, and steps, but never cutting the liner to make it fit the pool. Is he cutting and creating new heat welded seams on site? I’ve not heard of that before.

  8. So now I can’t get the liner back in at the point where the shop vac was sucking air during the full. How can I correct this???

    • Hi Holly, yes I know what you mean, especially if you use a large 3 or 4″ shop vac hose, it can stretch the liner in that area. It is important to snap the liner back soon after the hose is removed, to prevent it sagging or being pulled down. If it has already been pulled down lower than the track, you may be able to heat it up (carefully) with a hair drier briefly (plug into GFCI outlet), and then use your brute finger strength to pull it up into the track. This works well if it’s less than an inch below the track. If it is stretched more than that, you risk tearing the vinyl, and so the cure would be to remove the water down to a level where you can pull it up, which may be most of the water 🙁 If it has not pulled down much, but you just have a bump of vinyl, what you do is sort of stuff it into the liner, and push the slack down the wall, lifting adjacent parts of the liner, to slide the bead down the track a few inches, on each side. Might take a couple of adjustments, sometimes, to get it to lay flat in the track.

    • That’s right, the liner is draped across the pool and locked in at the top track and adjusted somewhat. Then the liner vac is turned on (larger pools may need two vacs running), and all the air is sucked out from behind the liner, and it fits tightly like a glove. Then you affix the main drain ring and cover, and start filling the pool, leaving the vac running until the shallow end floor is covered

    • That’s right, the liner is draped across the pool and locked in at the top track and adjusted somewhat. Then the liner vacs are turned on (larger pools need two vacs running), and all the air is sucked out from behind the liner, and it fits tightly like a glove. Then you affix the main drain ring and cover, and start filling the pool, leaving the vac running until the shallow end floor is covered

  9. Pingback: Pool Liner Problems - Repair or Replace? | InTheSwim Pool Blog

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