Vinyl Liner Pools 101

Vinyl liner pools are an excellent budget-friendly option for adding a pool to your property without the expense or lengthy installation of a concrete or fiberglass pool. A vinyl liner pool is also a viable DIY project for an ambitious homeowner, but finding a reputable pool builder can significantly expedite the process and ensure a high-quality finish.

What are Vinyl Liner Pools?

A vinyl liner pool gets constructed with a thick sheet of vinyl between the ground and the pool structure. The structure features panels and bracing made from either plastic or metal material, and the vinyl liner rests over that with a layer of sand or cement for the floor. The sheet of vinyl is custom-made to fit the size and shape of the pool desired, and there’s a top edge that locks the liner in place.

This top edge is called the bead, and this locks into an existing track that is at the deck level. Your decking material can vary, but you’ll need to replace the liner after several years, which doesn’t usually require deck removal as part of the process. Given this feature, it’s not uncommon to see concrete decking or other similar material used.

Vinyl liner pools are a manageable DIY project for some homeowners, but the process often moves faster when a seasoned professional completes the work. Most vinyl liner pools have walls that are three to eight feet tall and feature thermoplastic or galvanized steel. Supports for these walls rest behind the panels, so the inside of your pool is smooth, and the walls won’t bow under the pressure of the water.

Benefits of Vinyl Liner Pools vs. Concrete and Fiberglass

There are a number of benefits to consider when looking at a vinyl liner pool, but concrete and fiberglass are worth considering as well. We’ll look at the various benefits of each option, and how long you can expect them to last. For a full comparison, read my guide on concrete vs. vinyl vs. fiberglass pools.

Vinyl Liner Pools

Vinyl liner pools are less expensive than concrete or fiberglass options, but the maintenance and upkeep in the long term are different. Vinyl liner pools have a bit of flex to them that keeps them from cracking as a concrete pool would, and you’ll never have to resurface them like you would for a fiberglass pool.

A vinyl liner provides a uniformly smooth surface that won’t scrape or bruise your body as you swim around. There are also reasonably unlimited design options when it comes to the size and shape that you want, thanks to the modular walls that get easily rearranged to fit into your space. In general, a Vinyl liner pool can cost considerably less than a concrete or fiberglass pool, depending on your location.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly pool option with low maintenance, a vinyl liner is the cheaper option that is also the quickest to install. It used to be that a vinyl liner pool had a limited number of color options available, but now you can get other colors and patterns that add a finished and sophisticated touch to your pool area. In the future, you can also replace the vinyl liner to change the look of your pool, or refresh it, so it looks new again.

Maintaining this type of pool is also relatively easy and only requires basic cleaning and pool chemicals common with outdoor pools. Other features you can add to an inground vinyl liner pool include items like a spa, multiple jets, waterfalls, heaters, and various lighting effects.

A vinyl pool doesn’t have to look cheap, and many above-ground options that you buy in a box have a sophisticated appearance. Modern inground vinyl liner pools can have a comparable look to concrete or fiberglass, but for a fraction of the cost. You’ll need to replace the liner every 6 to 10 years, and vinyl liner pool warranties are often as long as 25 to 30 years.

Concrete and Fiberglass

Concrete pools take the longest to install, but they are available in a number of different custom design options with many restrictions. The larger your concrete pool, the more it will cost, but they have a comparable life to the vinyl liner pool of around ten years.

An added benefit to fiberglass is that it will last about 25 years, but there are some restrictions on size and shape since it is manufactured in a single piece in a factory and shipped to the installation site.

Fiberglass pools have a short installation time, much like vinyl liner pools, and they increase the resale value of your home. A fiberglass pool also has lower maintenance requirements and uses less water treatment chemicals and electricity. A fiberglass pool is more resistant to algae and features a very smooth interior that won’t scrape your skin on contact.

Cons of Vinyl Liner Pools and Common Problems

A vinyl liner pool should be relatively quick to install, but some situations will take longer than a concrete or fiberglass installation. How long the installation takes will depend on your installer’s skill if you are using one and the conditions of the excavation site.

If you are planning a DIY install for your vinyl liner pool, the process is relatively straightforward, but will likely require heavy equipment and other specialized tools. Some vinyl liners come with an embossed surface, and this makes it easier for algae to grow and can often make cleaning take slightly longer.

Water and pool chemicals will also find their way through the vinyl liner eventually, although the amount is rather small. Heat also finds it’s way out of the pool faster than with a fiberglass pool and this will have an impact on your utility bills over time. Vinyl pool liners have come along way in recent years and now are much less porous, so water and chemicals largely remain in the pool.

You’ll also need to replace the liner every 6 to 10 years, and the price of this will vary based on the size and shape of your pool. Replacement vinyl liners run from $2,000 to $5,000 and come in a variety of colors. You’ll also find that your electricity usage is higher with a vinyl liner pool, but no resurfacing of the liner is needed.

The Biggest Issue: Liners Fade Over Time

The most common problem with a vinyl liner pool is that the liner will fade over time, and it is susceptible to punctures. While new liners are very thick and durable, their life expectancy is still around ten years, and you’ll start to notice them age well before that.

Getting the Most Out of Your Liner

It is possible to patch vinyl pool liners, and you can extend the life of your vinyl liner by keeping the water at the proper pH and limiting UV exposure. Patching the vinyl liner needs to happen as soon as possible to prevent more tearing and damage, and most of the time, you won’t need to drain the pool.

Make sure you are using the correct cleaning products for your vinyl liner as these will avoid unnecessary wear on the material. Avoid using harsh brushes and chemicals not intended for vinyl pool cleaning, and consider gentler methods such as suction vacuums and skimming tools.

You may also notice some discoloration where the waterline falls on your vinyl liner, and this is the area where deterioration happens. Pool borders can help avoid this issue while also adding a protective barrier.

Wrinkles and Older Liners

Another issue is wrinkles forming when groundwater around the pool puts pressure on the pool’s vinyl liner. De-watering systems exist to prevent wrinkles from forming, and they direct the groundwater away from your pool so that it can’t get worse. If the liner in your pool is three or more years old, you’ll want to work quickly to fix the wrinkles and refill the pool, or other damage can occur.

Fixing wrinkles involves resetting the liner, which is usually best accomplished by a professional to avoid tearing the liner or causing more damage. Some homeowners feel comfortable completing this project themselves, but you’ll need to work quickly if your liner is older, so it doesn’t dry out and shrink.

Vinyl Liner Pools Cost

When we talk about the costs associated with a vinyl liner pool, it’s important to note that where you live can significantly impact the total cost and what additional elements need addressing. Many individuals will purchase all of the necessary materials to perform the installation themselves, while others will have an assisted install or hire out the entire process to a professional.

When looking at the costs of vinyl liner pools, you can expect:

  • Inground vinyl pool liners to cost anywhere from $700 to $6,000
  • Above-ground pool liners range from $100 to $600
  • Replacement liners to vary widely between inground and above ground and range from $100 to $5,000

Several factors will impact this cost, including:

  • Excavation (for an inground pool)
  • Hauling away excess dirt
  • Cost of pool materials
  • Bringing in finished grade soil for the perimeter for planting grass or sod
  • Labor
  • Filling the pool

Not all of these factors will apply if you opt for an above ground pool that you can set up yourself, which is a popular option for many homeowners on a budget. The more unique your pool’s shape is or, the larger it is, the more the liner and materials will cost. When you get quotes for this installation, be sure to request specific amounts for the labor and materials so you can ask more detailed questions.

For a full breakdown on cost, read my vinyl liner pools cost analysis.

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Maintaining Your Vinyl Liner Pool – Is it Different Than Other Pools?

Keeping your vinyl pool liner in tip-top condition is relatively easy when you keep up with regular maintenance and cleaning that is fairly common with all pool types.

Water Chemistry

Keeping the chemistry of your water at the proper levels ensures that the vinyl liner doesn’t get damaged by acidic water or chemicals that are too strong. The water should get tested twice each day regardless of pool type to ensure the pH level is maintained, and you’ll need to add chlorine or other chemicals to kill off germs and prevent bacteria growth.

Maintaining the Water Level

You should never drain the pool and leave it dry because the liner will dry out, change shape, and shrink, which can cause wrinkles.

Avoiding Sun Damage

A good pool cover can prevent unnecessary weathering caused by UV damage in any pool. Covers also keep debris out and prevent excess water from evaporating, which can change the water line and discolor your liner in multiple areas.

Keep it Clean

Vacuuming your pool will remove debris that could cause build up on your liner, and specialized cleaners exist that gently cleanse without causing damage. Other cleaners designed for concrete or other materials may damage your liner.

Avoid Sharp Objects

Keep sharp objects away from your pool as these can cause punctures and tears that will need immediate repair. Objects that have damaged pool liners include water toys with pointed or rough edges, garden tools, plastic beach toys, and even lawn chairs. If any of these issues have happened to your pool and you need to replace the liner, read my article on replacing your inground pool liner.

Available Design Choices

The sky’s the limit when it comes to your vinyl liner pool, and you can choose from a variety of shapes and sizes to suit any environment and decor. Additional items can get added to customize your pool like spas, jets, lighting, and border tiles to make the pool reflect your style.

Vinyl liner pools often come as a kit for above ground installations, and these are easily put together by homeowners. An above-ground pool you buy in a box is not as customizable as an inground version, but you can add finishing touches like tile borders, lighting, and ladders.

How Vinyl Liner Pools Are Made

Vinyl pool liners feature large pieces of thick PVC material that is then cut into smaller sections to fit the size of the pool in question. These liners are heat fused together to create a durable seam, and a bead is then welded onto the top edge so that it is held firmly in place once installed.

The frame part of the pool features thermoplastic or metal pieces that fit together and form bracing that holds wall panels in place. The braces prevent the thin wall panels from bowing from the water pressure and flex somewhat as the ground around them shifts.

Questions?

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