A well cared-for pool liner will give you 8 to 15 years of summertime fun before it needs to be replaced. The life of your pool liner will be shortened if you don’t keep your pool’s chemistry balanced, aren’t careful to keep liner-piercing debris out of the pool, let your dog scratch the liner, don’t close your pool carefully at the end of the season, or have a lower-quality or poorly installed liner.
Signs you need to replace your pool liner include fading above the water line, wrinkles, looseness, cracks and tears. If your liner slips out of its track, that’s a sign it’s stretched and will need to be replaced. If your water level drops faster than normal, you probably have a leak. Patch it immediately and get ready to buy a new liner. Learn how to do three simple leak detection tests.
If you’re noticing wrinkles in your vinyl pool liner, they could be caused by excessive chlorine levels or consistently low pH water. Groundwater that seeps under the liner will cause it to stretch and wrinkles may be left once the water recedes. If your liner was improperly sized or installed, you can get wrinkles. If you completely drain a pool with an aging liner, no matter how carefully you refill it, you’ll likely end up with wrinkles (or worse—it’ll shrink and crack and need to be replaced right away). Wrinkles can also be caused by heat build-up, which stretches the liner and leaves wrinkles behind when the water cools.
Blue is the most popular colour. Dark blue liners make the pool look deeper and will hide stains and imperfections more effectively than a lighter coloured liner, although dark blue is more susceptible to fading. Mid-blue liners give the water that traditional backyard pool look—bright and eye-catching. Light-blue liners make the pool water sparkle and will allow you to see the pool floor (keep the vacuum and scrub brush handy). A sandstone-coloured liner gives a tropical aqua colour—a look that is becoming more popular and is beautiful when paired with grey or terracotta-coloured coping and decking.
Water can end up behind your pool liner in one of two ways: either it has leaked out of your pool through a rip or hole in your liner or infiltrated your pool from the surrounding ground. Water behind the liner is often called a “floating liner” and it can cause the vinyl to stretch and lead to wrinkles. The wrinkles aren’t themselves much of a concern beyond looks, but it’s a good idea to identify the cause of the wrinkles (see question 3). If the cause is excessive groundwater, the concrete deck around your pool could sink or crack. If the cause is a pool leak, your water bill will go up and the chlorinated water that has leaked behind the liner could cause the steel structure of the pool to corrode over time.
Excess chlorine can cause your pool liner to absorb water and wrinkle— we’ve seen liners wrinkle in less than a year because the pool was highly acidic. Too much chlorine can also fade and weaken the liner. We recommend keeping a pool’s pH from 7.4 to 7.8 and checking water chemistry often—even twice a day during periods of heavy use. Here are some other tips to prevent liner damage from chlorine. Be careful not to shock your pool too often. Leave your pool uncovered for 24 hours after adding chemicals. Make sure your pool’s circulation system is working properly so you don’t end up with areas of concentrated chemicals. Don’t use a floating chlorinator. And keep your saltwater system below 3 ppm free chlorine.
Use a soft cloth and pool water to clean your vinyl pool liner once a week. To remove more stubborn dirt, algae and stains, use a brush to gently scrub the liner above and below the waterline. Don’t use harsh, acidic chemicals or abrasive materials such as steel wool. You can also add a vinyl liner cleaning solution to the pool water to prevent staining from sunscreen, body oils and other contaminants that collect at the waterline.
The right thickness of pool liner is a balance of strength and flexibility. If your liner is too thin it won’t stand up to regular wear and tear and if it’s too thick it won’t fit properly in tight corners or over complex shapes. A thick liner is also darn heavy, making it more difficult to install. Pool liner thickness is measured in “gauge” or “mil,” and they aren’t equivalent. A 30-mil vinyl liner is thicker than a 30-gauge liner so make sure you’re comparing apples to apples (or mil to mil!). We recommend a 27-mil (often referred to as a 30-gauge) liner for most applications.
The price of a new pool liner depends on the quality of the liner, the type of print and the quality of the installation. A high-quality, professionally installed, full-print replacement pool liner in Ontario in 2021 costs about $600 for a small pool and upwards of $6,000 for a large pool (let’s say 24’ x 48’). Try our pool liner cost estimator to ballpark the cost of a new liner for your pool.
If you suspect your pool liner is leaking and the location of the leak isn’t obvious, use your hands or feet to explore your liner for soft or squishy spots that could indicate water is beneath the liner. You can also keep your eye out for faded or wrinkled areas, which can have small rips or tears. Add a few drops of non-toxic food colouring near any suspicious spots as well as around vulnerable locations like lights, returns, skimmers and steps. The food colouring will form telltale currents or ripples in areas where water is escaping. But not every leak is from a liner. There are three simple pool leak tests you can perform yourself to identify the source of your leak. You can also use our quick online leak assessment tool to find out whether it’s your liner or something else.
If you have a pool liner leak you have two choices: repair or replace. If you don’t do one or the other, you’ll have a hefty water bill in the short term and over the long term you can damage your pool’s structure and the surrounding landscape.
A small rip or hole in an otherwise healthy liner can often be patched successfully, particularly if the rip is in the pool wall and not in a corner or somewhere the liner has been cut, such as stairs or returns. Larger tears are harder to repair and the patch is not likely to hold. If your liner is in pretty poor shape overall, chances are you’ll spring another leak soon so it may not be worth the effort and expense to repair your pool liner.
First, identify the cause of the wrinkles so you can take preventive action. To remove the wrinkles, you may want to warm the pool water by a few degrees to make the wrinkles easier to manipulate. Then, if the wrinkles are on the pool floor, try smoothing them towards the edge of the pool with your feet while wearing soft-soled shoes. You can also carefully pull the wrinkles towards an edge using a plunger or a brush. Sometimes people will drain most or all of the water from their pool to smooth out the wrinkles, but we advise strongly against doing this. A liner can shrink if you lower the water below the halfway mark and an older liner is likely to rip or crack if you remove too much water.
Find out how Buds replaces a pool liner
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