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    Wrinkles in Pool Liners Cause, Prevention, Removal

    September 5, 2016
    Matt Spencer

    Vinyl Pool Liners are made to be just a little bit smaller than the pool they fit, so that they can stretch into shape. When things go wrong, either during installation or after the liner has aged for many years, pool liner wrinkles can appear. Today, as the title promises, we will discuss cause and prevention of vinyl liners, and how to remove pool liner wrinkles, if you already have them.

    What Causes Wrinkles in Pool Liners?

    1. Incorrect Liner Size: A pool liner that is too big, or too deep for the pool size and depth has excess material that folds over.
    2. Low pool water pH: Over many years' time, pH levels that are consistently below 7.0 may shrink the liner slightly, due to the acidic water.
    3. Pool Water Loss: If the water leaks out, or is pumped out of an old liner, the vinyl contracts, making it hard to reset the liner without wrinkles.
    4. Water Under the Liner: Rare, but high water tables can float a liner, bulging the vinyl liner. When waters recede, wrinkles are possible.
    5. Puckering:Usually caused by dropping undissolved granular pool chemicals onto the vinyl, or from chlorine tablets resting on a vinyl liner.
    6. Incorrect Installation: When installing a new liner, as described below, methods are used to prevent vinyl liner wrinkles during and after install.

    How to Prevent Wrinkles in Pool Liners?


    During Liner Installation: Preventing pool liner wrinkles during installation involves adjustments to how the liner is draping across the pool, adjustments to the corners, as well as waiting for the proper moment to 'cut-in' the drain, skimmers, steps and light. It also requires using a vac/blower to 'set' the liner, and while it sets, adjusting the liner in several areas, to push wrinkles to the sides and ends of the pool. For sand bottom pools, when troweling a sand pool floor, keep to original measured specs, and do not raise the floor level with too much new sand.

    1. Line Up the Corners: Some liners are marked, others you'll have to follow the seams to make sure the corners line up.
    2. Even the Drape: Often pool liners tend to slide into the deep end. Sand bags or water tubes are used to hold it to the shallow wall if needed.
    3. Set with a Vacuum: Average pools use one Liner Vac or Wet/Dry Vac; larger pools need two. The Vac 'sets the liner', or removes the air between the liner and walls/floor, to keep the liner wrinkle-free until the water level is about 6" above the floor, at which point it can be removed. Duct tape is used to seal up the hose going behind the liner and down the wall, the skimmer and the step section. Make sure the vac stays ON until pool water level is high enough to hold the vinyl in place, which is about 6" of water on the shallow end wall.
    4. Push & Pull the Vinyl: In the 60 seconds after you turn on the vacuum to set the liner, you may have to reach in (from outside the pool), and pull the vinyl towards the side in a few areas. You can also use a large brush on a pole, to help hold areas taut until the vac suction takes hold. It often takes many attempts before you are able to work out all the wrinkles, by pushing and pulling them towards the pool edges or just smoothing them out. If the vac suction sets the liner with wrinkles, shut off the vac, and make another attempt at working out the liner wrinkles, until you are able to get them all.
    5. Wait to Cut the Vinyl: The main drain ring and cover is placed first, with just 6" of water in the pool. But steps, lights, returns and skimmers all have to wait until the water level is up to the bottom of them. If you install the faceplate screws and trim before the vinyl has stretched fully, it can cause liner wrinkles, or can open up the screw holes into leaks.

    After Liner Installation: Wrinkles in pool liners can sometimes happen soon after installation, or years down the road. Be sure to maintain and add chemicals carefully, and find and fix any liner leaks as quickly as possible. If your liner installation was good and you have no wrinkles to start, you'll probably not have wrinkles later on, but here's some ways to prevent wrinkles in pool liners.

    1. Maintain pH 7.4-7.6: A low pH over time can cause some liners to shrink or contract just slightly. Trichlor tablets are low pH and tend to drive down pH levels, whereas liquid chlorine is high pH and tends to drive pH upwards. Be sure to test and adjust pH and Alkalinity regularly in a vinyl liner pool. It's not only prevents wrinkles, but helps your liner last years longer and keeps it looking good.
    2. Add Chemicals Carefully: Always pre-dissolve any granular pool chemical in a bucket of water before adding. Granular shock chlorine and pH Down in particular are very harsh on vinyl liners. Pool chlorine tablet floaters are also bad news for vinyl liners. If they tip over and spill the tablets, or if they come to rest on a step or get stuck on a ladder, they can cause puckering and discoloration of vinyl liners.
    3. Watch Water Level: If the water level gets too low (half-empty), the liner can relax and pull away from the walls. During winter cold weather, the unprotected liner rapidly shrinks and becomes impossible to set again, without wrinkles. Older liners can snap or rip during a reset, because they are so brittle. A pool liner that is fairly new can often be successfully reset during summer temperatures, however it's best to not drain the pool completely if you can avoid it, always keep at least 3-6" of water over the shallow end wall.

    How to Remove Wrinkles in Pool Liners?

    If your vinyl liner wrinkles are years or sometimes even just months old, they may be permanent. And for liners that are not so pliable anymore, draining and refilling completely is stressful on the liner. Vinyl develops a memory after some time, but if it hasn't been too long and you want to give it a go, here's some tips for vinyl liner wrinkle removal.

    1. Small Floor Wrinkles: Remove half the water, but leave a few inches of water in the shallow end.Use a pool brush or toilet plunger around the area, as well as 'scuffing' the liner with bare feet, to try to push the wrinkle towards the nearest wall.
    2. Large Floor Wrinkles: If the vinyl is folded over more than 1/4", and they run horizontally across the floor from side to side, you may want to drain the entire pool and reset with a vacuum, after pulling the liner back up into the shallow end.
    3. Wall Wrinkles: Often these occur when the liner is twisted slightly in the track, or the corners are not lined up properly. Try to push the wrinkles toward the space in between the wall and floor by working with a floor squeegee, or just your hands.

    It may be that your vinyl liner is just too big for the pool, usually a result of incorrect measurements. Rarely do manufacturers make mistakes, they just enter the measurements provided to them, and the CAD system cuts and seams the liner before they are inspected.

    If the wrinkles in the pool liner have been there awhile, you may need to live with it - add a pool fountain and you won't have to look at it! Large wrinkles are subject to leaks and develop holes more easily than other areas, so you may not have to live it for long! :-)

    Give us a call for any help you may need with inground vinyl liners!

    Matt Spencer
    SPP Pool Expert

    Blog Author
    Matt Spencer
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