Pool Liner Problems – Repair or Replace?

pool-liners-repair-or-replace-?With the pool finally open, some of you are wondering if the ol’ vinyl liner can make it another season.

Inground liners may last longer than aboveground liners, but at some point – all vinyl liner pool owners will face a decision to repair the liner or to replace it.

Faded Pool Liners

Over time, the sun will fade some of the bright or darker colors of your pool liner, especially on the top steps and at the waterline.

Chlorine can also bleach a liner, in localized areas from undissolved pool shock, or all over, if chlorine levels have been very high for extended periods of time.

For bleached or faded liners, we have no dye that you can just throw in the pool, and there is no such thing as pool liner paint, sorry to say. borderlines-for-liner pools

For waterline fading, and small tears or rips at the waterline, one solid repair could be to install BorderLines, an adhesive strip, similar to a wall paper border, that you affix to the top 6 inches of the liner. It can really brighten up faded pool liners!

Leaking Pool Liners

Sometimes you can have a leak in a vinyl pool, which continues to leak after plugging the lines, so you know it’s in the vinyl – but where?

Finding a hole in a vinyl liner can be a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. If the water stabilizes at one particular level, look for a small patch of debris stuck onto the vinyl, which has been sucked into the hole.

The best method to find a pool leak may be (If the water is warm enough), to use a diver’s mask and snorkel to search the entire pool closely. You can use colored dye in a small bottle to dye test suspect areas, which should include the cutout areas around the steps, returns, skimmers and lights.

Most leaking pool liners are fixed, without need to replace. In cases where there are dozens of leaks, from ice or animal damage, or from kids using the pool pole to pole vault into the pool – you may need to buy a new pool liner.

Ripped or Torn Vinyl Liners

Small tears, 1-2 inches in length can be easily patched with a vinyl liner patch kit.

Large tears, those of several inches to several feet, can also be patched using larger pieces of vinyl, but the long term success of the patch may be doubtful. Many people would also rather not have a patchwork quilt for a pool liner, and may prefer to replace, when budget allows. pool-liner-patch-kit

Patches tend to have the best success when they are small, and not in a corner, or too close to the bead, or any of the “cuts” to the vinyl – steps, returns, skimmers, lights. Vinyl repairs on the wall are usually successful, if the vinyl is not overly stretched and stressed in that area. If it’s high on the wall, patch it dry, low wall or floor patches are usually patched wet, or underwater.

If the vinyl liner is very old, rips and tears will occur, seemingly on their own. Vinyl liners of a certain age, they become hard and brittle, and can easily ‘snap’, or tear horizontally, near the waterline, as shown in the top image.

There is likely no real need to replace the liner for just a small tear, or even a large one – but if the overall condition of the liner is leading to tears and rips, there will soon be many more, and at some point, it’s time to plan for a pool liner replacement.

Wrinkles in a Vinyl Liner

Don’t feel bad if you have a wrinkle or two, many vinyl pools have wrinkles. Wrinkles can be part of a mis-calculated liner installation, or they can be a result of erosion under the liner, or the vinyl can pucker in certain corrosive water conditions.

Wrinkles not only look bad, but they also form a weak spot in the liner, and a spot vulnerable to being snagged by pool cleaning tools or automatic pool cleaners. Numerous wrinkles will also trap dirt against the folds, which can help bacteria and algae grow.

Once wrinkles have been under the weight of water for any length of time, they become hard, if not impossible to fully remove. Maybe not a reason to replace a pool liner, but there is usually little one can do to repair a wrinkled liner.

Stained Pool Liners

It’s not uncommon for spring to bring some odd colors to pool liners and steps. If balancing and shocking the pool doesn’t remove liner stains, you can renew the hue of your liner with our stain removal chemicals for vinyl liners. pool-liner-stains

In the old days, stains on a pool liner were not easy to remove, but with so many specialized stain removers, there is usually no need to replace a pool liner because of staining.

If this year is the year for a new pool liner, check out our selection of inground liners and aboveground liners, and with vinyl liner installation accessories.

If you have any questions about pool liner problems of your own, see our related posts below, or give our vinyl liner techs a call at 800-288-7946.

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor

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Pool Liner Problems – Repair or Replace? — 14 Comments

  1. Bought a house in AL with a 20k gallon inground vinyl and seller paid for a new 28mil liner to be installed (saline). The installer keeps pushing the date out until we get a week of no rain, which now I understand why. so i let the pool maintenance lapse( new to a pool) and now has had algae for a week. Turned off the pump. Should i remedy the algae now, before the liner replacement or let the installer deal with it? Will i pay more to remedy later?

    • You could let it go, since he is going to drain it anyway. But it’s hot now, so maybe not so good to let it sit off. I would continue to filter the water, or at least circulate it, with the multiport valve set on recirculate (if you have one), and keep the pH low, and add a little shock – if it gets too bad, it may cause stains on the step section, plus attract mosquitos and be a safety hazard, because you can’t see the bottom of the pool…

  2. If I have a small rip in my In ground liner for my pool at the bottom and I am losing a small amount of water, can I patch it without emptying the pool

    • Hi Ric, yes you can – patch it using underwater patch cement, and a piece of your liner, if you happen to have the cutouts saved from the liner installation. First be sure the area to be patched is very clean by scrubbing it with a cloth, and also lightly sanding with sand paper. Cut the patch 25% larger than the hole, and use rounded edges, no corners. Spread the glue on the patch liberally, then fold in half softly. Take it under water and quickly unfold it and stick it. Then recheck it every 5 minutes for at least 30 minutes, pressing lightly around the edges to restick any parts that are trying to peel up. Or you can use the liquid patches like EZ Patch 28 or Anderson Flexible Sealer, which are like toothpaste tubes, just squeeze it out over the area, and smooth with your finger tips. If the tear is deep underwater, you should get in the pool, with goggles or a mask, so you can see it clearly.

  3. could I use remnants of original liner to patch itself @ waterline or should I use the clear vinyl from the kit

    • Hi gary, sure, using remnants from the old liner, or the cutouts from the skimmer, drain, return, steps, light… makes a perfect patch, and it matches! Cut out a rounded patch so you have no square corners, and cover it in glue, fold it in half and quickly push it under water and unfold it and stick it flat. Then work it gently for about a minute, and stick with it for another 10 minutes, gently pressing down any edges that try to curl. If doing it dry, you don’t have to fold it, and you can also apply glue to the vinyl on the pool, and the patch. The clear stuff that comes with the kit? Just throw it away, it makes ugly patches that yellow over time.

  4. I emptied my inground pool completely last year and when I refilled it the liner seams lifted all around with water underneath plus 1 or 2 wrinkles. The pool is 13 years old. How can I fix this?

    • Hi Christian, the wrinkles may be set pretty good by now, and for older liners, they are not as pliable and especially if it set empty for awhile, the vinyl may have shrunk slightly, this could cause holes or tears to occur, when one attempts to stretch it back into shape…. but you could try to drain it and reset it using a Cyclone vacuum, or 2 powerful shopvacs to suck out all the air behind the liner, before filling. We call this “setting the liner with a vacuum“, discussed on our blog in a few places. For the water under the liner, assuming that you have a concrete floor (?), you can loosen the screws around the main drain, and allow water to flow into the drain pot, which you pump out with a small submersible pump (run the discharge hose up the shallow floor and out of the pool). Be careful of the edge of the vinyl and the screw holes around the drain, to prevent tears, and clean out the screw holes afterwards, to remove any grit or dirt. Replace drain ring with new gaskets, tightly. Then set the liner with a vacuum, and start to fill the pool. Keep the vac running until the entire shallow floor is at least 3” deep, then remove the vac hose from behind the liner.

  5. Had a Pool Company put in a new liner last year and it ripped right at the bottom of the coping, in the shape of a V right above the water level. Pool Company changed it, all good until I opened it up this year and the tear is back again with the new liner, in the exact same spot. I’m assuming there is a sharp edge on top of the wall that the pool company didn’t notice or what would cause that problem? And there are quite a few wrinkles in it as well, not sure if that’s part of the problem?

    • When a liner rips like that, I would suspect that the pool may be deeper in that spot, by 1-2″, than other areas of the pool, causing the liner to stretch and pull in that area. Another possible cause is something on the wall, that is sharp, although you should see it easily I would think. Quite a few wrinkles may also indicate something, either an incorrect pool measurement, or a sand floor that was not retroweled to spec (the size of the liner), or the floor (sand) is shifting around due to a high water table.

  6. Davy,
    We are thinking of replacing our in-ground standard 20×40 liner ourselves. Is it worth the savings, or should we spend the money to have it professionally installed? Are the liners that InTheSwim sell manufactured by Latham? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Amy, a 20×40 is not a small pool, but if you have the will and able bodied helpers, it can be done by any handy homeowner. On average, DIY inground liner installs could save you $3000 or more, when you buy the liner and supplies yourself, and do all the work yourself. If your pool has a hard bottom, it’s much easier than a sand bottom, which requires retroweling to exact specs (the specs of the new liner). If you plan to do it yourself, read up as much as you can to fully understand the process, and assemble tools, equipment or supplies needed. I don’t think we sell Latham liners, but I could be mistaken.

  7. I was installing a new liner in my above ground pool. Unfortunately I rushed the cut for the return and skimmer. As the water level rose and stretched the liner it tore below the return. The skimmer appears to be ok, but I won’t know until I put enough water in to get there.

    Assuming it’s just the return (4-6″ below the planned water level). Can I remove the return, install a vinyl patch large enough to cover the patch and around where the hole will be (maybe 6-8″ round patch witch will way more than cover the tear and leave me with a 2-3″ perimeter around the return?

    • Yep! That is the trick! Just need to glue on a large patch over the area, and then re-screw in the return face plate with new holes. Cut the patch to be rounded (no corners), and cover the hole(s) by 1-2″ overlap. Use lots of glue, and stick with the patch for about 20 minutes, smoothing down any areas that try to curl-up on you… Should be fine – I’ve done it myself before, don’t feel bad…

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