by Myles McMorrow, July 14, 2009
Every 10 years or so, it becomes necessary to replace a liner that is faded, cracking and leaking. With a little planning it can be a painless Saturday of work. No problem.
Old liner removal
On most pools, the first step is to remove the top rails of the pool. These are the flat covers at the top of the pool wall. Once you remove them, you are all set to remove the old liner. Oh, did I mention that you need to drain the pool first? Use a sump pump or cover pump and pump far away from the pool area. If the pool is very green, this can be good food for your lawn. After draining, cut the liner with a razor knife, into sections for easy disposal (They can be recycled in most areas) - cut the liner around the skimmer, returns and main drain (we will get to them later). A few gallons of remaining water in the bottom can be drained directly into the ground. Just cut the liner in the center.
Once you have the liner out of the pool, you will want to inspect the pool shell and the floor of the pool for rust, rocks, roots, broken brackets etc. A sand bed of 1-2" of clean sand (no pebbles) is a common floor material. If the existing sand has dark discolorations, you should replace it or use a liner pad. Algae growth in the sand could stain or discolor your new liner after a while. Be careful not to raise the floor too much if you have a beaded liner, or you may a liner that has sidewalls longer than your pool walls.
Once done you may want to consider the many new options for liners. They will help prolong the life of your new liner.
Floor Padding: This will soften the floor of the pool for your feet and help protect the liner from rocks, roots, ants, animals etc. Liner floor pad also helps prevent "heel divits" from jumping in to the pool. Many pads like Liner Guard and Gorilla Pad are only 1/8" thick, and resemble felt. These are known as a "Geo-Textile" and are extremely durable. For a softer floor, use a product known as Happy Pad.
Wall Foam: This will pad the walls of the pool and protect the liner from rust on older pool walls. Use a spray on adhesive to affix the wall foam to your pool wall. If your pool walls are made of galvanized steel, or if you notice rust on the walls, using wall foam can be a good idea.
Pool Cove: this is a nifty invention. It is a triangle wedge that goes where the floor meets the wall. It turns the 90 degree angle into a 45. This will make it easier to brush, vacuum, and helps some auto cleaners climb the walls. Pool Cove also helps protect the liner from rust and sharp metal at the base of the wall, making a nice transition from floor to wall. It also helps younger (shorter) swimmers get a bit of a rise up near the edge of the pool.
By now you should have picked out your liner pattern and any options you may have opted for your pool style and size. Hopefully you have planned ahead and have the liner all set to go. In colder weather, keep the liner indoors until just before ready to install. A cold liner is a bit more difficult to work with, as it is a bit stiff and rigid.
Installing a pool liner:
Now it is time to remove all the screws from the skimmer face plate and remove it. Next do the same with the returns and mains drain if you have one. You may want to get replacement gaskets for them if they look bad. After doing your wall prep and floor prep, open the new pool liner and with several helpers, draped it across the pool, taking care not to touch the floor, or you may either mess up the flatly troweled sand or bunch up your floor pad, or both.
Next you will need a shop vac or vacuum with a hose. Get some duct tape and tape it on the outside of the pool return. This will help to remove air from behind the liner and help to remove more wrinkles as you position the liner. A liner can be installed without the shop vac, however it can help you to see that the liner is going to fit properly. By the way, make sure you check the box label before opening, to make sure you ordered and were sent, the correct size!
Put the liner in the pool and start to attach it to the top of the wall. It helps to have two people and start at one spot and move in opposite directions, pushing the bead of the liner into the track. If you have an Overlap Liner, Pull the liner over the wall and secure it with coping strips. Continue to fuss with the liner, making sure it hangs properly, straight down, not twisted, just a bit above the floor. Adjust an overlap liner so that the overlap is even all the way around, and the liner is just barely above the floor. On beaded liners, if there is excess material near the wall base, you may need to excavate some floor material, to allow for the full length of the liner sidewall.
Once you have fussed enough with the liner, turn on the vacuum or shop vac. While the vac is sucking out all the air from under the liner, remove any wrinkles that may remain. Using a soft bristled push broom or pool brush helps to push out the wrinkles.
Once you have it as smooth as you can get it, with vacuum on, it is now time to add your pool water. Fill the pool all the way full, and keep an eye on it while filling. You may need to push out more wrinkles as it fills. The water will help to stretch the walls of the vinyl and ensure the cuts for the returns, main drain and skimmer will not shift out of place. If an overlap liner, make sure the liner clips or coping strips don't allow the liner to slip down the wall, creating wrinkles or sagging.
After completely full, It is now time to cut the holes for the skimmer and return. First screw on the face plates, right through the vinyl. Use new gaskets if the existing gaskets are cracked or dry rotted. Make sure you really screw them on very tightly. Use a properly sized phillips head so the screw heads don't strip. Crank them down so tight, up until you hear the plastic begin to strain and crack. After the face plates are on, and with the filter pump hoses connected, use a razor knife to cut out the material inside of the faceplate. Save this vinyl for use as a patch material someday.
Reassemble the top rails for the pool and you are done! We may have forgotten a step or two here, so consult other instructions as well (!) Start filtering and sanitizing right away, you're ready to enjoy your pool!