When Do I Need to Replace My Pool Liner?

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated July 6, 2022
A man replacing a pool liner
Photo: DRasa / Adobe Stock

Keep your pool in top condition by replacing the liner when it's past its peak

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A well-maintained pool liner can last over 10 years, but various factors will impact its lifespan. Replacing a pool liner can be a costly job and not one you’ll want to do before you need to. However, using a damaged liner can cause even more troublesome and expensive repairs because of the long-term damage it can do to the pool's structural integrity.

Understanding the types of damage that can occur to pool liners will help you decide when to call in the pros to replace yours.

Signs Your Pool Liner Needs Replacing

Over time, all vinyl pool liners deteriorate—after all, they have regular exposure to strong UV rays and pool chemicals. There are various signs that your pool liner could be reaching the end of its usable lifespan.

1. Tears and Cracks

As your liner ages, it becomes more brittle, putting it at greater risk of developing cracks. If you see a crack or a tear appearing in your liner, even if water levels in the pool aren’t dropping, it isn’t something to ignore.  

Once a crack appears, it will only be a matter of time before it becomes larger. If the liner is relatively new, it may be possible to patch up a tear or crack. For older liners, the vinyl can be too brittle, and bonding the crack together is more of a challenge.

2. Liner Leaks

Cracks and tears in your liner can lead to leaks. Depending on how severe the leak is, it may be possible to patch it up to give you a few more years before replacing the liner altogether. However, if it’s a serious leak or one that’s difficult to locate, replacing the liner may be the best or only option. Seeping chlorinated water can damage pool walls and impact their structural integrity.

If a hole isn’t obvious, watch out for lowered pool water levels. Although pools naturally lose water due to evaporation and splashing, if levels drop by more than an inch a week and you can’t locate a leak, consider calling in a local pool maintenance specialist.

3. Stains and Discoloration

Staining and discoloration of your pool liner are inevitable over time because of its exposure to intense chemicals and UV rays. Rust stains and algae buildup also need to be kept in check, as they can be challenging to remove. Although these problems don’t affect the liner’s integrity most of the time, if there’s major fading or lots of stains, you may decide to replace the liner for a more pleasing aesthetic.

Fading can also signify that your liner is turning brittle, which leads to cracks and tears.

Most modern, high-quality liners contain UV inhibitors and have stain-resistant qualities. If you notice lots of fading or staining after just a few years, this could be a sign of inferior quality, and it may need replacing sooner than the average liner.

4. Loss of Shape

As your liner ages, it will lose some of its pliable elasticity. Beading, wrinkling, bumps, or slipping out of the coping track are a possibility at this stage because the liner is stretching.

When the liner pops out of the track, if you apply heated water, you may be able to put it back into place successfully. If the problem happens repeatedly, it can eventually damage the track—and deck integrated coping tracks, in particular, are expensive to replace.

Problems with the shape of your liner are typically a sign that a replacement is in the offing. If neglected, water can seep into the structure of the pool, causing more serious issues.

How to Extend Your Pool Liner’s Longevity

As well as ensuring you properly balance your water chemistry, there are other steps you can take to make sure you get the most out of your liner. These include the following steps:

  • Select a high-quality, correctly sized liner.

  • Establish a good pool cleaning routine.

  • Patch small cracks, tears, and leaks, where possible, as soon as they occur.

  • Cover your pool when not in use, particularly over the winter.

  • Avoid abrasive cleaning products.

  • If you allow dogs in your pool, make sure they have a proper entry and exit route and that they know how to use it. This will keep them safe and reduce the chances of their claws scratching the liner sides.

  • Remove debris from the pool.

  • Prevent groundwater buildup, as this can seep under the liner and cause it to lose shape.

  • Avoid draining your pool completely, as this can also result in a misshapen liner.

FAQs

How long do pool liners typically last?

With careful pool maintenance, modern, high-quality liners can last over 10 years. However, the average life expectancy is around six to 10 years. 

Poorly balanced water chemistry can reduce your pool liner’s longevity significantly. In these instances, you may only get one to three years from the liner before it becomes irreparably wrinkled and requires replacement.

How do you know if you need a new pool liner?

You’ll know when it’s time to replace your pool liner because there will be visible cracking, tearing, fading, and/or staining. You may also notice that your pool liner has lost some elasticity, and it may even start to leak. 

How to know if your pool is leaking?

One of the most obvious signs your pool is leaking is water loss—but a small leak can take a while to noticeably lower the water level. 

Keep an eye out for these telltale signs: 

  • Unexplained soft, mushy, or wet spots in the yard 

  • Cracks or falling tile

  • Higher-than-normal water bills

  • Dropping water levels

  • Algae growth or discoloration

  • Standing water at the pump or pipes

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