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

Related Posts:



Pool Liner Problems – Repair or Replace? — 42 Comments

  1. Last fall my husband closed our 20X40 inground pool without realizing it had a leak. I noticed in December that it had lost nearly all of its water except for about 2 feet in the deep end. It sat empty all winter. At the end of May, we had the liner replaced. While spending time in the pool over the summer we would notice, by feeling with our feet, sharp “stones” poking up through the floor of the liner. By the end of the summer we suspected the pool might be losing water, and that the “stones” had poked through the liner. We called the liner installer, and he sent out a diver to inspect. He found 14! holes in the deep end. We believe they were caused by the vacuum tool hitting the “stones” as my husband cleaned the pool. (We have been asked if we use an automatic pool cleaner, as they said they are rough on pools, we do not.) Fortunately, the pool store has agreed to replace it with a new liner, but he tells us that the same thing will most likely happen because as the vacuum is being used to stretch the new liner into shape, it will also pull chips, etc. from behind the wall coverings. Do you agree with this? If so, can anything be done to avoid this? One other question…the diagram of the pool and its measurements were left behind when they put the new liner in. It showed a measurement of 19 feet in width. We measured it ourselves, and it is actually 19 ft. 2 1/4 inches. I mention this because we also believe that the liner does not fit tight where the walls meet the floor and especially below the stairs (which are a plastic insert). I feel having this slight “air gap” could cause potential problems, i.e. easily tear in these areas. Another concern is that the liner is being stretched excessively to fit the pool, and could cause it to tear/wear more easily. What do you think? I really appreciate your input, as the pool guy is coming to discuss our concerns tomorrow!
    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Wendy, sorry to be late responding – I guess your pool guy already came yesterday? I think that the rocks are a result of the pool floor sand not being cleaned or replaced. There should not be pebbles underneath the liner. It’s not caused by the vacuuming, or automatic cleaners, not caused by the liner being a bit snug – it’s only caused by poor preparation. Basically, a few wheelbarrows of sand should be replaced, with masonry sand (containing no aggregate or pebbles), before installation of the liner. Liners should be very snug around the track at the top, but it could be a little too tight. anyway, they should be able to get this done right the second time – congrats on getting them to agree to replace the liner – nice guys.

  2. I covered my oval inground a couple weeks ago and we just got some rain the other day and now I can see the foam that was used on the wall has popped up away from the wall. I know this means my liner has also came loose but my question is should I uncover and try to repair now or just wait until I open it again next year? What would cause this? It’s a brand new winter cover no holes or anything.

  3. I noticed a patch beneath the stairs of our pool has started to lift. This patch is fairly bi 12″ x 4″ approx. Is there a way to glue it back down without draining below that point?

    The patch was on the pool when we bought the house (this is the first time I have noticed it) so I dont want to pull it off if I dont have to, as I dont know what the hole underneath looks like

    • Hi Dale, you can reglue a vinyl liner patch, with vinyl glue, but may be easier to use the thicker EZ Patch 28, which comes out of like a toothpaste tube, and is not runny like glue. It will take several minutes to apply and smooth, and clean up any excess around the edges. Get a mask, and a long snorkel, unless you can hold your breath for 30 seconds at a time, coming up for air in between. Before you glue, spend some time with a slightly soapy sponge, to clean the areas underneath, of any grease, oil or dirt, to help the adhesive bond better.

  4. I have a liner in south Florida over what I believe is over a fiberglass pool. I bought the house and the paperwork says it was made by Latham. The liner has a tear about an inch and a half long on the very bottom.

    My problem is I can’t get any patch to stick. All the ones I have used are a thin piece of vinyl with glue and after a few weeks it is loose again.

    Do I have to drain my pool? Is there another / better kit?

    • Carl, there is a better way ~ try Leakmaster flexible sealer by Anderson, or EZ Patch 28. It’s like a toothpaste tube, squeeze out the gel and smooth it over. First though, take a bar of soap and a textured dish sponge underwater and first scrub the area very clean. Then go down again with some light sandpaper to roughen the surface. Follow any other instructions on the package. Good luck!

  5. Hi Davy,

    My inground pool liner (kidney shape around 20×40 size w/ full deep end), needed to be replaced this summer. Unfortunately it was rainy where I live and the ground water level was high and would leak into the pool (we have a fox pool with a vermiculite floor and walls in lower half of deep end). It was complicated by the fact that we have an infloor cleaning system with pop up jets that had to be cut out. So after 3 months of waiting our pool guy, (who originally put pool in), punched a hole in the floor of the pool (about 16″x 16″), so he could put a pump lower to help get all the water out and buy him some time to get liner in. When it finally seemed that he might be able to get the liner in, he patched the hole just before he put the liner in with gravel and quick drying cement he said. Well within a day there was a significant impression in the bottom of the pool where the hole had been. After 2 days, the floor where the hole was had sunk down at least an inch and on one side the edge was rough while the bottom felt more like gravel than smooth vermiculite. I told my pool guy he would have to fix the hole, but he says that if he takes liner off it can’t be put back on, and it is junk. This liner and labor alone cost me $5500, plus a couple of loads of water. And it seems that beyond the aesthetic of there being what looks like a crater in my deep end, that the broken edge of the hole in the floor could over time make the liner more prone to tearing. Certainly the weight of all the water over the winter isn’t going to help. Is it true that for him to empty pool and peel back part of liner, that the liner would then be junk? Or is he just stringing me on avoiding his responsibility here to fix it properly? I would appreciate some facts and some of your perspective.
    Thanks so much!
    William Maloney

    • Hi Bill, rough story, sorry. You explained it very well, and I understand the issue. You are correct that the weight of the water could damage the liner over time, either stretch it out or the gravel poking through. Plus it looks bad. Your pool guy should do whatever it takes to rectify the situation, in my opinion. Being that the liner is so new, I would not have a fear of it not going back into shape. Resetting a liner (draining the pool, refilling and resetting) can sometimes be impossible with old liners, without getting wrinkles or even tears in the (brittle) vinyl. But with a new liner, I think it would be OK, to drain the pool, pull back the liner to expose the area, and fill the area with vermiculite or sand, replace the liner, reset it with two vacuums, and fill it again quickly. A warm day is best, so the liner is stretchy. And also dry ground, so he doesn’t have water table problems. Alternatively, you could press him for a good discount ($1500?), for his mistake that you have to live with (probably should have used steel rebar, and more gravel beneath the concrete, to keep it from slumping). It won’t junk the liner, but a small chance that it could wrinkle when it is reset, but with the vinyl being new and pliable, it should stretch into place without wrinkles. I’ve done it before (drained, refilled and reset liners) many times without problems.

  6. Hi,
    The entire bottom of our liner is bleached almost white, but the sides still look brand new. We had the liner for approximately 4 years. What would cause only the bottom to bleach? It started with a few spots and spread.
    Thank you!

    • Hi, usually it comes from adding shock chlorine, directly to the pool. If that didn’t happen, it may be some sort of white mold, which may be removed with … shock chlorine poured directly on the floor. But then maybe the floor bleaches out? 🙂 You say that it started in spots and then spread – makes me think it’s more of a white mold substance. Not sure…

  7. Hello, just bought a new house this year with a above ground pool, first time having a pool and we notice there are leaks due to around our pool the grass is very wet. It’s time to close the pool but should we patch it up first or wait to do it when we open the pool back up next year?

  8. Hello,
    I have a pool liner question. I added 2 pounds of chlorox pH protect alkalinity increaser and it bleached about 4 feet of my blue liner. The product was added as directed and dissolved. This bleaching occurred over about 7 hours (or that is when I discovered the problem).
    My question is this. I was going to try to cover up the bleached area with my extra liner I have from installation (there is no pattern to the liner that needs to be matched). The liner is not a year old. Im looking for a glue or adhesive that I can paint on the back of my liner patch that will stick to the bleached area for an underwater install. My local pool store sold me a tube of cement that was dry before I was able to get it in the pool. Any suggestions would be great

    • Hi Rod, we sell vinyl cement in a 4 oz can, that would be the stuff to use, however very large patches can be hard to stick perfectly, there may be some ripples around the edges, or bubbles in the middle, for example. But, it will work, just pour the whole can on the vinyl, spread it smooth (quickly), and within 1 minute have two people quickly push it to the floor and smooth it out. Some glue will float to surface, so be ready with a towel or old t-shirt to grab it quick. Use old towels to smooth out the patch, and keep smoothing it every 30 seconds (wear a mask), for the first 5 – 10 minutes. Brush the area and wipe the area very well first with towels, to clean. Light sanding with wet/dry sandpaper also helps improve the bond.

  9. HI I have a horizontal tear about 2-3 inches long up by the top of my pool. My pool is a 16×48 bestway round pool. Is there a way to fix this?

    • Hi Lynette, sure – vinyl can be patched and there are several ways to do it. For easyset style pools however, the vinyl is also the support structure, so the patch must be much more heavy duty, and done on both sides, for any chance of success. I would recommend using a similar vinyl patch material, reinforced vinyl even better, of a suitable thickness, non-fabric backed, similar vinyl to the material being patched (the pool). Cut two patches in an oblong shape, about 6 inches long by 2″ tall. Drain the pool completely, and pull the area over a low table or surface. Clean it well with degreaser, scrubbing clean, pat dry. Rub briefly with sandpaper and wipe clean with a few drops of rubbing alcohol. Prepare the patches in the same manner (clean, sand, clean). Then apply vinyl glue liberally to pool and patch, and stick it on, one side only. Smooth out with fingertips, push out any air bubbles, wipe off any excess. Place a brick over top for 10 minutes, then smooth again. Repeat. Wait 8-12 hours then flip it over and do the other side. Wait another 8 hours then refill and test it out. Good luck!

  10. I have a 15×30 oval above ground pool. My dog fell in a ripped the liner just about the water line with maybe half an inch below the water line. I patched it, but was wondering since a lot of water drained out is it safe to fill it back up? I’m assuming the water is in the sides?

  11. Ive bleached the bottom of my new pool. Will it still hold together or do i need to be concerned? and what can i do at this point? The spot is about 3 ft in diameter.

    • Hi Chuck, I think it will hold together. The vinyl is weaker – but not by too much. The pigments have been sucked out of the vinyl, but the material should still be solid, at least for the rest of the summer, if not longer.

  12. Hello. I have an Intex 15′ round metal frame pool. There are 4 – 3″ diameter holes in the center of the bottom that appeared over the winter while the liner was being stored. We live in Canada, so we get cold.

    I haven’t filled the pool yet. Can I patch the pool without filling it first, or do I need to fill it and then patch it?

    • Hi Kristine, it may not ever fill, with 4 3″ holes in the bottom (might be rodent damage). I would patch them first, on both sides (top and bottom). Use roundish patches, 1″ larger than the hole size, all the way around. Clean the vinyl first with a degreaser, dry and then lightly sand the vinyl, to roughen the surface, before patching.

  13. Hi Davy, I have an Intex 22′ round x 52″ vinyl above ground pool. We are in Florida and the pool is up year round. The liner is 1 year old (this month) and we just discovered a leak in the seam where the sidewall material meets the bottom material. The material overlaps here and the seam is in the middle of the overlap leaving about an inch flap of material sticking out all the way around. I think it will be hard to put a traditional patch over this flap to stop the leak. I am familiar with the underwater patches that come with the tube of cement, and I was wondering if perhaps I could take the cement tube down to the bottom and squeeze some under that flap at the leak area and seal the flap down and patch the leak that way? Basically, I am not sure if the underwater patch kit cement will work in this fashion – or if perhaps you have a better solution? Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!! Jeannie

    • Hi Jeanie, use either EZ Patch 28, or Anderson Leak Sealer, either one is a thick sealant (silicone based, I think), that squirts out of a toothpaste type of tube, then smooth it with your fingers. Either of these should be more successful than the traditional vinyl patch with glue. Clean the area first by scrubbing well with a textured sponge, followed by a light sanding with wet/dry sandpaper. Then squeeze the tube underwater, and smooth out and press-in, gently. Check on it with a mask/goggles a few minutes later to be sure it’s affixed well and covering the area, with a good overlap

  14. I have a 20×40 above ground pool. It ripped in the top right hand corner,in the white part of the pool. Maybe due to the steel bars at the top. How can I repair it?

  15. 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…

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *