Installing an inground pool liner is much easier than you would think - it is a simple step by step process that nearly anyone can do. The fact that you can save thousands of dollars doing this yourself (and I do mean thousands) should be a good incentive for this DIY project. Depending on the size and shape of the pool, a new inground liner from a local pool company can cost between $3,000 to $5,000. On the flip side, you can purchase an inground liner with accessories (face plates, gaskets, wall foam), for prices starting around $1,000.00. A new liner is easily done as a weekend project, with huge savings. Believe me - unless money is no object, a DIY liner replacement is the way to go.
Liner Installation Accessories? Some of the items you want to think about changing at the same time you are putting in a new liner are: return inlet gaskets and face plates, skimmer gaskets and face plates, main drain gaskets and face plates and also an updated VGB main drain cover to meet the anti-entrapment code. Step gaskets, step strap and cover strip are optional, but sometimes necessary. Underwater pool light gaskets and face plates can also be a good idea. If your pool has wall foam on the walls and it is in good shape that’s fine, if not you can purchase a new roll of wall foam, and spray adhesive.
Let’s Start This Project. Start pumping the water out of your pool. Direct the water far away from the pool so it does not come back underneath the pool. Once the pool is empty start cutting out the liner. With a razor knife, cut the old liner into pieces small enough that you can easily get them out of the pool. After the liner is out take a broom and and sweep down everything, the walls and the pool floor.
Now its time to inspect everywhere inside the pool, to see what types of wall and floor prep is needed. Rust on the walls, cracks in the floor bottom, depressions, washed out areas, for example. If you have rust on the walls, sand it smooth and spray it with a Rustoleum primer. Cracks or depressions in the floor can be patched with hydraulic cement, which is a pre-mixed product for small holes. Larger areas in the pool floor can be patched with 4 parts sand and 1 part Portland cement mix, or a vermiculite and cement mix. After making any needed floor repairs, it's time to sweep down everything again.
Wall foam is your next step. Use Gladon spray adhesive made for use with wall foam and spray a line a few inches under the coping, then a line a few inches from the bottom of the wall and make a large X on the panel. Only do a few panels at a time so the adhesive won't dry before you roll the foam onto the panel. After the foam is installed, trim out around all openings like the skimmer, returns, lights. Cut it out at least 1” larger all around the fitting so the foam will not be behind your face plate.
Some faceplates will have two gaskets, one goes between the liner and the wall, and a second one is used between the liner and the faceplate. For the internal gasket, you can use little strips of duct tape to hold the gaskets in place.
Install the Liner! Place the liner box in the center of the shallow end of the pool with the arrows on the box facing the deep end. Unfold the liner to each side, now you are ready to walk it down towards the deep end of the pool, this is easier done from outside the pool. Once you have your deep end corners lined up, pop it into the liner track, just under the coping - it just pushes right in place with no special tools necessary. Now about every 5 ft., push the liner bead into the track, working your way towards the shallow end corners. Install the liner into the shallow corners, and now you can go back and put the rest of the liner in the track. Spend some time to make sure that the liner is centered in the corners, and is laying flat down the walls, with no bunched-up areas.
Set the Liner! Now you can set-up your liner vac or shop vac and place the suction hose behind the liner, in the middle of the long side of the pool. Run the hose down until it almost reaches the floor, about 3” up from the bottom. Large pools may need two vacuums to fully set the liner. Use lots of duct tape, to seal up the area where the hose goes behind the liner. If you have a vinyl pool step, you need to cover the step so you will be able to get good suction behind the liner. A sheet of plywood or a piece of the old liner over the top of the step will usually do the trick. Turn on the vac and within 10 minutes or so your liner will be sucked into place. You may need to shift the liner at this point if you see it doesn't look like its fitting properly, sometimes your corner might not be exactly where it should be and needs to be moved one way or the other. Sometimes the liner needs to be pulled up toward the shallow end, or small wrinkles need to be pushed toward the walls.
Fill the Pool! Once the liner is in place with no wrinkles it's time to start filling the pool. Put about 6” of water in the pool, then carefully walk down to the main drain in the deep end - you should see it indented from the weight of the water. You should already have a gasket under the liner on the main drain and now you need to place the second gasket on top of the liner, and then the face plate over top of that, lined up to the indented screw holes. Use a large #3 Phillips screwdriver to crank tightly all the screws and then trim out the inside vinyl with a razor knife. Now put on your VGB approved main drain cover.
Keep your vac running until you have 6” of water in the shallow end. This is important, or the liner will relax and wrinkles will likely appear. Once the water is right below the bottom step strip you can start installing your step strips and gaskets. Start with the side strips, installing the screws from top to bottom. Do both sides and then install the bottom strip. After the 3 strips are screwed in place, you can trim out the inside of the step and pop on the cover strips that hide the screws.
Now carefully pull out the suction vac hose and pop the liner in place and you are ready to finish filling your pool up with water. Nothing else gets cut out until the water level is a few inches from it, so that the liner is fully stretched before you install the other faceplates. Light, skimmer, returns - are all done the same way as the drain, but wait until the water level reaches them.
The Last Step is the start-up and balancing of your pool water. Prime up the pump and start circulating and filtering the water. Next you'll want to test the water, you will need to add stabilizer, and may need to adjust the alkalinity, pH and calcium hardness levels in the water. Finally, get some chlorine circulating in the water. If the fill water looks dull and uninviting, a shock treatment may be in order.
I told you that was going to be easy! You have completed your DIY pool liner installation for about a third of what you would have paid your local pool guy. That's huge savings, and the pool looks great.
SPP Pool Expert