How to Patch a Pool Liner and Just Keep Swimming

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated February 2, 2023
A house with a large garden and a swimming pool
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Get back to your summer swims with this guide to repairing tears in your vinyl pool liner

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If your afternoon floats seem extra low on water, you could be dealing with a torn pool liner, but learning how to patch a pool liner can help you temporarily take care of small rips and tears. Pools naturally lose about 1/2 inch of water per day to evaporation; however, if you notice the water looks significantly lower than it did during yesterday’s swim session, you may have a rip or tear. Follow this guide to repair a vinyl pool liner until a pro can take a look.

Why Knowing How to Patch Your Pool Liner Is Worth It 

When you notice a tear in your pool liner, it’s important to patch it up quickly. The longer you wait, the more money you lose as water, chemicals, and heat leak from the torn liner. While you’ll need to eventually replace the liner after it tears, patching provides a temporary solution that will save you money and prevent water damage until you can remove and replace the entire pool liner.

Inground Pool Liner Repair

A torn liner can lead to extensive and costly damage to inground pools. The pool water can cause steel pool frames to rust or concrete pools to erode, meaning you could ultimately spend more to fix or replace the entire pool. Keep in mind that inground pools cost about $55,000 to install. Torn inground pool liners can also cause water to leak and build up in the soil or around nearby decks, causing soil erosion and potentially collapsing the deck.

Above Ground Pool Liner Repair 

Tears near the middle or bottom of an above ground pool liner can lead to serious problems for your yard or even neighboring properties. If the liner goes without repair, the water can leak out or cause the above ground pool to collapse and spill hundreds or thousands of gallons of water into your yard or your neighbors’ yards.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Pool Liner?  

Although patching a liner is only a temporary solution, it is a less expensive alternative to replacing the liner. You can patch a pool liner for about $20 with a DIY kit, and then you’ll want to start budgeting to replace the pool liner. Replacing a pool liner costs about $2,500, although costs can range from $350 to $5,200, depending on the pool type and size.

Prep Work to Patch a Pool Liner

Before you buy a pool liner patching kit or hop in the pool with your goggles and tools ready, you’ll need to find where the leak is—if there’s a leak at all. Pools naturally lose water to evaporation, so you’ll need to confirm whether there is a leak and where to apply a patch.

Confirm There’s a Leak

You can use the bucket test method to differentiate between pool water loss from a leak and natural evaporation. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with water, and place the bucket on the pool steps, ensuring the outside of the bucket is partially in the pool water. Use tape or a marker to mark the pool water level on the bucket. Turn off the pool pump for 24 hours, and then check the pool water level compared to the water level in the bucket.

If the pool water level is now lower than the line from the day prior and lower than the water in the bucket, you have a leak. If the pool water level and the water level inside the bucket are similar after one day, the water loss is just evaporation.

Find the Leak 

It can be hard to see the leak in a pool liner, so the “ink test” can help you locate the problem. Hop into your swimsuit and start walking along the perimeter of the pool, looking and feeling for bubbles in the liner. 

Squeeze some food coloring out near these bubbles, and watch where the colored water goes. If there is a tear, the food coloring will flow toward and through the leak.

Once you’ve found the leak, you’ll want to clean the area so the patch and adhesive stick to the liner. Use a cleaning cloth to carefully wipe down the area. Don’t scrub harshly, or you could make the tear worse.

How to Patch a Pool Liner 

There are many patch options available for pool liners: vinyl patch kits, waterproof tape, or peel-and-stick patches will work. Waterproof tape tends to be the least expensive, but the edges may peel up and this patch won’t last as long as patch kits or peel-and-stick patches.

There’s no need to drain the pool when it’s time to apply the patch with adhesive. In fact, draining the pool can make the liner vulnerable to more tears and damage. Instead, grab your swimming goggles and head for the leak.

Waterproof Tape

For waterproof tape, cut the material to fit at least 2 inches over the edges of the tear. After cutting the tape, quickly apply it over the tear. You may want to layer a few pieces of waterproof tape for better coverage. Waterproof tape can better withstand UV rays than duct tape, but it can start peeling at the corners over time.

Vinyl Patch Kit 

Again, cut the material to fit at least 2 inches over the edges of the tear. Apply adhesive to the back of the patch. Now, it’s time to move quickly. Stick the patch onto the tear swiftly, and be sure to smooth out the surface with your hands to remove any air pockets.

Hold the patch firmly in place for a few minutes, giving the adhesive time to cure. For best results, add a heavy item, like a cinder block or brick wrapped in plastic wrap, to sit atop the patch for about 24 hours. This works great for tears at the bottom of the pool, but you may be able to use clamps to attach a weighted item over a patch on the wall of the pool.


Peel-and-stick patches are pre-cut, so you’ll need to select a size that works best for the size of the tear. Choose a patch slightly bigger than the size of the tear, peel it from the paper backing, and stick it directly over the tear. To minimize the chances of the edges curling up, opt for round peel-and-stick patches over rectangular patches.

Consider a Pool Liner Replacement If Necessary

A worker patching the pool liner
Photo: DRasa / Adobe Stock

Keep in mind that patching works best for smaller tears or newer pool liners. Pool liners last about 10 to 15 years, so even a small tear in an older liner may be beyond repair. If you have a large tear or an older liner, the cost to replace a vinyl pool liner is around $1,000 to $5,000.

When it’s time to replace your pool liner, hire a pool liner installation professional near you. The pros will expertly install the new liner, so it can last several years before needing a patch or a replacement. 

Tips for Repairing a Vinyl Pool Liner 

Repairing small tears in a vinyl pool liner is a fairly easy job, but only if you keep a few tips in mind to make the project seamless. With this kind of pool repair, you’ll want to work quickly and gather your supplies ahead of time—you won’t want to hop in and out of the pool several times to return for supplies.

Avoid Draining the Water

While it might seem easier to patch a pool liner without water in the pool, it’s best to keep the pool filled. If you drain the water, the pool liner is more exposed to UV rays and harsh temperatures, which can cause more tears. For above ground pools, draining the water can also make the frame more vulnerable to collapse.

Keep Tools and Materials Nearby

Patching a pool liner requires working fast, so you’ll want to gather all your tools and materials, including goggles, near the area where you’ll be working. You should be able to reach up from the pool and grab anything you need as you patch the pool liner.

Work Quickly

With your tools and materials in place, it’s time to put on your goggles and get ready to patch the tear. You’ll need to move fast for the adhesive on the patch to stick firmly to the pool liner. It’s important to minimize the time the adhesive side of the patch or tape is exposed to air, sun, or water to give it the best chance of a strong hold to the liner.

DIY Pool Patching vs. Hiring a Pro

Patching a pool liner is an easy task, and it costs less than $50 for the supplies and only a few minutes of your time. But when it’s time to replace the pool liner or you think it’s best to start budgeting for the cost of pool repairs, you’ll need to hire pool professionals near you.

Repairing a pool can be tricky, and mistakes can cause costly leaks or floods to your home—or your neighbors’ homes.

If your pool liner has multiple tears, large tears, or is nearing 10 years of age, you should also hire a pool service to come take a look. They can help decide what repairs are best or if it’s time to replace the liner entirely, so you can get back to floating along on your pool raft before the warm days of summer are gone.

Frequently Asked Questions

You don’t need to drain the whole pool to patch a pool liner, but be prepared to dive in with your swimsuit and goggles to patch a leak below the water level. By draining the pool, you can actually expose the liner to more harsh conditions, like wind and sunlight, that cause the tears to worsen. It’s best to use the ink test and waterproof patches or tape to identify the leak and patch it up.

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