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How To Tell When It’s Time To Replace A Pool Liner

Replacing a pool liner isn’t cheap. For this reason most pool owners are hesitant to replace them. This can cause problems however as leaky liners can cause more damage to the pool over time, leading to much more extensive and costly repairs.

Today, we will cover how to tell when it is time to replace your pool liner, and give you some tips for how you can extend the life of your new pool liner!

Cracks and Rips

One of the most obvious signs that a pool liner needs to be replaced is when it starts to crack and rip. Over time, vinyl pool liners deteriorate from a combination of the UV radiation of the Sun and the pool chemicals that help to keep the water safe to use. This can cause the vinyl to become brittle. When liners become brittle they will begin to crack and rip much more easily, causing the pool to leak water.

These types of cracks generally form at or very near to the surface of the water, as UV damage is most prevalent in that area. If you notice that your pool liner is beginning to crack or tear around the water line, chances are that you will need to replace your liner in the very near future.

Just because your pool liner has a small leak doesn’t mean that it is time to replace it though. The odd leak is fairly normal for older liners and can be easily fixed with a basic liner patch kit. If you notice several cracks forming in one place, or if rips keep appearing all over the pool, however, you should definitely replace the liner as soon as you can.

Water Loss

Not all cracks and rips are easy to spot, especially if they are below the surface of the water. That it is why it is a good idea to monitor how much water your pool loses, especially if your liner is more than 10 years old.

If you suspect that your pool might be losing water due to leaks, you can perform a simple test to find out for sure. Simply place a bucket on the entrance steps to your pool and fill it with water to the same level as the water in the pool. Water in the bucket will evaporate at the same rate as it does in the pool, giving you a way to see if the pool is losing water in ways other than evaporation.

After a few days check the water level in the bucket vs the water level in your pool. If the water level is lower in your pool than it is in the bucket, you have a leak; if not than the water you’re losing is purely due to evaporation.

Fading or Staining

Another sign of UV and chemical damage is fading. While most pool liners today will resist fading from UV, they’re not completely immune to it. Over time, the coloured finish of the liner will begin to fade, and with it the plasticizers that make the liner pliable.

It is the deterioration of these plasticizers that cause pool liners to become brittle, meaning that a faded liner is a good sign that the liner is becoming brittle and will start cracking and tearing soon. If you notice that you liner is badly faded, be sure to regularly check for cracks or rips in the liner and do the bucket test to check for potential leaks.

Stretching and Wrinkles

In some cases, especially in areas with groundwater issues, you pool liner may begin to stretch after it is installed. This causes wrinkles to form in the liner and can even pull it out of the track at the top of the pool.

If you notice the liner beginning to slip out of the top track of the pool, you can try to pop it back in. To do this first heat the liner with hot water to make it more pliable, then try to lift it and place it back in the track. If it won’t go back in, or if the problem keeps coming back, you should replace your pool liner as soon as possible. In these cases, the problem likely cannot be solved and will only get worse with time so replacement is the only option.

When Is The Best Time To Replace A Pool Liner?

Generally speaking, fall and spring are the best times to replace your pool liner. The process of replacing a pool liner generally takes at least 2-3 weeks. Replacing your liner in the fall or spring means that you can still enjoy a full, uninterrupted swim season. Pool retailers will also generally have better deals on during these months as they are not as busy as in peak pool season.

If you’re planning on replacing your pool liner in the spring, it is important to get the process started early. Most people that want their pool liner replaced in the spring start their buying process in March or April. By this time though, many pool retailers already have several liner replacements booked and aren’t able to install until the mid summer. To ensure that you get your liner replaced before the swimming season gets going, we recommend that you make a decision and put a deposit down as early as possible, no later than the end of January.

How Long Do Pool Liners Normally Last?

Most in-ground pool liners today have a lifespan of 10-15 years. There are several factors that can increase or decrease that lifespan however. These include:

  • Water Balance. Poorly balanced water can greatly reduce the life of a pool liner. Low pH or alkalinity can stretch the liner and cause wrinkles to form, while low calcium hardness can cause the liner to become hard and brittle.
  • Ground Water Problems. In areas with high groundwater levels, water can seep in under the liner, causing it to “float”. While the liner will eventually settle back down when the groundwater recedes, you run the risk of the liner stretching, wrinkling, or coming out of the coping.
  • The Fit Of The Liner. If a liner isn’t custom made to fit the exact dimensions of your pool it will not last as long. Improperly sized liners need to be stretched into place. This means that a liner that was once 30mil thick might be as thin as 15-20mil once installed, leading to weak points in the liner and a reduced lifespan.

How To Extend The Life Of Your Pool Liner

So how can you extend the life of your pool?

  • Balance Your Water. Keeping your water balanced within the recommended ranges slows down the natural deterioration of the surface of the pool liner. Proper water balance also keeps the liner soft and supple so that it won’t crack as easily as it ages.
  • Make Sure You Buy The Right Sized Liner. When buying a replacement liner, make sure that the company doing the replacement first removes the old liner and empties the pool before measuring for the new liner. This allows them to get more accurate measurements and greatly reduces the amount of stretching needed to get the new liner in place.
  • Patch Small Leaks Immediately. When liners leak, water gets in behind them, rusting the metal structure behind and, if left long enough, damaging concrete bottom of the pool. The longer you wait to repair a small leak, the more damage is done to the structure of the pool. You also run the risk of a small tear becoming a large tear, growing to the point where the liner is no longer repairable and will need to be replaced.
  • Get A Good Winter Cover. Covering your pool for the winter not only keeps debris out of the pool that could cause potential damage to the liner, it also protects the liner from the UV radiation of the Sun.

Wrapping Up

While replacing your pool liner may be expensive, not replacing it can be far worse. The potential for damage to the structure of the pool means that pool liner should be replaced before they begin to regularly leak. When possible, replace your pool liner in the early spring or fall to take advantage of sale pricing while still enjoying a full swimming season.

Keep in mind that most pool owners will want their pool liners replaced in the early spring. To ensure that you don’t have to wait until the summer to get your liner changed, be sure to start the buying process in the fall or early winter.


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