So you need a new pool liner for your aboveground swimming pool. You’re wondering if you can do this yourself and keep the piggy bank intact. Generally speaking, most homeowners can replace their own aboveground pool liner with very little effort or worry.
Most older pool liners are the overlap type. Overlap liners come up and over the wall and are held on by plastic strips called coping strips. You have an overlap liner if the liner can be seen hanging over the pool wall from the outside.
Let’s start on our pool liner replacement project. First, drain the water out of the pool if it hasn’t already drained out on it's own. Then, with a razor knife, cut the liner away from around the outside of your skimmer and wall return fittings. Remove the plastic face plates by unscrewing the screws for all skimmer and wall fittings. Don't lose these screws! Put them in a very safe place. Order new face plates and gaskets if they are cracked or dry rotted.
Next, use your razor knife and trim around the inside-top of the pool, about 3” under the top [horizontal] rails and let the pool liner fall to the floor of the pool. If you have it, be careful not to cut through the wall padding. Now, cut the pool liner into smaller sections that are easier to fold up and remove from the pool.
Your next step is to inspect the bottom of the pool, filling in any divots or footprints or anything else that’s developed over the years. If your floor is sand, you will want to remove any sand that has a dark green color to it. You can add some new sand to the floor, but if you raise the floor too much, beaded liners will have too much length and will wrinkle near the floor. Overlap liners don't have this problem, because you will just pull it over the wall to where it needs to be.
Troweling smooth a sand bottom is important, to remove divots and make sure the floor is level and smooth. Small rocks or twigs should be removed. Use a large plaster trowel, or large wooden trowel. A 2x4 can be used in a pinch. Small imperfections may not be noticed, but larger, divots, dips and waves will show through the new pool liner.
If you have a cementitious floor, of concrete or vermiculite, all that is needed is to clean the floor well, using a broom or a leaf blower. Any holes can be patched with an appropriate type of cement mixture for the depth.
If you use foam pool cove, the triangular piece of foam that joins the pool wall and the pool floor, give it an inspection to make sure that is in good shape. If your wall shows any type of wear at all, like rust or corroded areas - wall padding is advised at this point. It comes in one roll and it is held on the wall by using a spray adhesive. There are also floor padding options you can use that add a good protection under the liner. Some of the floor pads are used to protect the liner and some are just a padding to give the floor a softer feel. Choose the liner pad for your particular situation.
For all of our Vinyl Liner Installation Accessories, like wall foam, foam cove, floor pads, glues and tapes and coping strips, visit our pool liner supplies page.
Now let’s start taking off some of the top rails. Don't remove all of them at one time, or the wall may fall down. Remove every other top rail, or just do one section at a time. You may find that some of the screws are stripped or very hard to remove. It is a good idea to use WD40 or a similar lubricant and spray over the screws to help loosen them up for removal. After the top rails are off there are usually 4 screws on the top connector that you should spray and soak for a few minutes prior to removal.
A great tip for the screws once you get them all off is to use Coke to clean them up. Buy a bottle of your favorite Cola, and drink half of it. Ahhhh! Then put all the screws into the bottle with the acidic Cola, and let them sit for a few hours. You will see that when you dump out the bottle the screws will look like new and when you’re ready to put them back in you won’t have any problems. This is also a good way to keep track of so many screws. They're easy to lose!
After troweling your pool floor and before adding the liner, spray a water mist over the sand floor, to help hold it together as you move the liner into the pool and start unrolling it. Placing long boards across the liner will help to protect the sand floor as you move around the pool.
If the weather is cold, store the liner indoors prior to installing to keep the vinyl warm and pliable. When you are ready to "drop" the new liner, place the liner in the center of the pool and start unfolding it. Remove your shoes and walk on boards very gently, to avoid footprints in the sand. Having 2-4 people on hand at this point is useful to quickly unfold the liner with as little floor disturbance as possible.
There will be a bottom side wall seam all around the perimeter of the new liner, you want that sitting ½ way up the pool cove, or about 2-3" above the floor. In the area that you are working, remove 4 top rails and connectors and the plastic strips holding the small piece of your liner that’s still on the wall.
Pull the new liner up and over the wall again with the seam ½ way up the cove. Put back on your plastic coping strips and if they are cracked or brittle replace them. A good rule of thumb is to put every other top rail back on, just enough to hold the liner and wall intact, this is done because if you have any adjustments to make you won’t have to remove all the rails , connectors and top caps again.
Keep proceeding along, removing the next 4 top rails, hanging the liner and putting back on every other top rail all around the pool. After the liner is installed and looks good - it’s time to "Set" the liner. With a powerful Shop-Vac type vacuum, you will suction the liner tightly to the wall of the pool, working out any wrinkles. Insert the Shop-Vac suction hose through the skimmer and down the wall - between the wall and liner about 3-6” from the bottom of the pool wall. Use lots of duct tape to seal up around the skimmer and return wall fitting to get it as air tight as possible.
Turn on the Shop-Vac and in just a few minutes it will suction the liner all around the floor and wall and you can see how it looks. If you have any wrinkles now is the time to fix them. Shut off the Shop-Vac and gently step in (shoes off) and move the vinyl towards the wall, to work out any wrinkles. Once the liner looks fine, leave the Shop-Vac running. It's time to start filling up the pool.
Keep the shop vac running until the water is 3-6" above the pool floor, but before it starts to cover the Shop-Vac hose. Remove the duct tape and carefully remove the vac hose from the skimmer. Now you can go back and put all remaining top rails and top connectors on.
When the water is a few inches below the very top, you can re-install your wall fittings. Remember to replace the skimmer and return face plates if they are cracked, yellowed or show signs of aging. Gaskets for the skimmer and returns should be replaced at this time also to ensure a tight, leak-free seal.
Tighten by hand and after it is snug, take a pair of channel locks or vice grips and give the screwdriver another few turns. Very important to tighten the faceplate screws very tightly - until you hear the plastic creak and groan.
When you have all of the faceplates reinstalled tightly, use your razor knife to cut out the vinyl material, from inside of the faceplate. You can save this vinyl for future patching material.
You now can fill the pool up the rest of the way and start up the filter system, balance the water. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on replacing your own aboveground vinyl liner - and think of all the money you saved. :-)
SPP Pool Expert