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There are a lot of different pool manufacturers with many different models. But when it’s time for an above ground liner replacement, you will only need to know a few things to get an estimate or to order your new liner. Be sure to read about delivery delays ordering a custom liner below.
On this page, I am going to discuss the cost associated with an above ground liner replacement. I will also explain the different liner types and some upgrades that could extend the life of your pool liner. And lastly, I will detail the process of doing the job. For more above ground pool information, check out our free resource guide. (consider bookmarking it)
Before you can replace your liner, first you need to know the size of your pool.
Measuring Your Above-Ground Pool
- Ovals: W & L (width and length) & Wall Height
- Round Pools: Diameter & Wall Height
Measure twice – order once, as the saying goes. Once the liner comes out of the box, nobody is going to let you return it. Make sure to measure the wall height very carefully, as there is not a lot of difference between them. Your pool wall will typically be one of three heights: 48 inches, 52 inches, or 54 inches. Most pools nowadays being 52″, and many of the older pools are 48″. There are also some old pools that have a 46″wall.
Measure on the outside of your pool. You may have to dig down to reach the bottom of the wall track. Measure from the very bottom of the wall to the top of the pool wall (just under the top rail), if you have to dig be careful not to hit the pool wall with your shovel.
Then next you will need to know what type of liner you have. There are only three types, but they have a few different names.
Above-Ground Pool Liner Types
The first type is called an “overlap liner,” and it is the cheapest. You can identify this kind because it hangs down on the outside of the pool. If you see more than 2 inches of liner on the outside of your pool, it is an overlap. It’s the cheapest for a reason; it is usually thin. I would sooner line my swimming pool with a trash bag. Don’t worry if you have an overlap now; you can replace it with one of the other styles. There are some quality overlap liners; it is just that most are not so.
The next liner type is called “beaded liner.” Beaded liners snap into a channel on the inside of your pool just under the top rail. The bead channel hangs just under the top-rail. The only thing you will see on the outside of this pool wall is the white bead channel (hangs down about a 3/4 of an inch), and maybe a sliver of grey or silver above that. Most bead channel is plastic. If you have a metal bead channel, you have a good pool, and standard beaded liners will not fit in this metal bead type. See the description of Ester Williams, and Johnny Weissmuller beads below.
Beaded liners are decent, the only knock on them is that the plastic style bead receivers required to attach them to the pool stretch out over time, or that the liner pops out. I would never install an overlap or beaded liner in a pool I owned. Not unless I had a metal bead channel like in an: Esther Williams, Johnny Weissmuller, or Buster Crabbe/Aquasports Pools LLC.
The last type is called “V-bead” or “J-hook liners.” I install more of this than any other kind now. You can use it on almost any above-ground pool. If you picture the J upside down, you will get the idea of how this type of liner attaches to the top of the pool wall. These J-hook liners just hang on the top of the pool wall and are pinched into place when you put on the upper wall track. If you are replacing an overlap liner, or your new pool came with white or black combing strips, through them out.
You will hear another above-ground liner name: “uni-bead,” or “U-bead,” also called “easy-bead” or EZ-Bead, These are all universal bead types and will fit any pool other than a Johnny Weissmuller, Esther Williams Pools. Install universal-bead liners as beaded using a bead-track, or attached via the j-hook method.
Because of their ease of use, all we sell now with our pool packages are EZ Bead/universal liners or the occasional overlap.
Above Ground Pool Liner Gauge / Mil and Material
Pool Liner Thickness
Pool liners also range in durability, with thicker pool liners usually being best. Pool liner thickness traditionally described by the terms mil or gauge. The problem with just going by the term gauge is that what one company says is a 25 gauge liner is often only a 16 mil or worse, a 14 mil. The liner industry is not regulated, and to offer lower and lower prices online, some stores and manufacturers have deceptive marketing practices. What you want for your above ground swimming pool, is something close to 20 mils. Mil is a real measurement. You don’t even want a thicker liner. Any higher, and it will buckle your pool wall. 20 mil is as thick as you want to attempt to install.
Embossing is a way of artificially beefing up the width of your liner. When you emboss a 15 mil pool liner, it will read as a 17 mil. You want to buy a non-embossed pool liner.
Vinyl Pool Liner Materials
One more thing you have to consider is what materials go into making a pool liner. Sure there is vinyl, but some liner companies use recycled plastics in manufacturing theirs, while other companies use the term “Virgin Vinyl,” meaning made using 100% new vinyl. Some liner manufacturers skimp on plasticizers or use poor quality plasticizers.
Here in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, or anywhere it freezes for that matter, it is essential to get a pool liner made of virgin vinyl, and quality plasticizers, as it has a better “cold crack point” (industry term), meaning it handles the cold a lot better and is less fragile. All the liners we sell and install are made of the best vinyl and blended with a premium plasticizer. (Wiki plasticizer)
Who is manufacturing your Pool Liner?
In very recent years, China has been flooding our market with cheap knock-off liners. They copy the pattern from quality vinyl suppliers and then make crappy knock-offs of our designs. Many times they’re irregular, that is they are metric liners that don’t quite fit into standard American size swimming pools. So you have to stretch them too much when installing. Some pulling is proper to avoid having wrinkles, but if you overextend a liner it becomes weak!
That’s why we buy liners from local companies and manufacturers we know and trust. We buy most of our above ground pool liners locally, and from trusted manufacturers.
There are some differences in the cost of doing the actual installation. The base cost is usually between $300.00 and $600.00. Please do not call us to install a liner you already purchased online, unless you bought it from us.
These are some of the elements that drive up the cost of installation
- Bottom work can add to the cost if we need to add sand and do extensive reworking of the pool bottom
- Adding a Foam wall or floor liner guard
- Decks and fencing that interfere with the job
- Converting away from an overlap to a beaded or J-hook
- Pool Size: larger pools take longer to do and increase working hours.
- Wall Repairs – Patching rust-holes, repairing return holes, and skimmer openings
Installation estimates are free, just call with your measurements and liner type, and I will give you a rough idea of the cost right over the phone.
Above Ground Liner Replacement Upgrades
The first upgrade is called a Liner-Guard. It is a super dense blanket that prevents cut-grass or roots from growing up through your liner. It is also an extra barrier between ant and termite saliva and your pool lining. Ant saliva will cause tiny pin holes. It also helps in the case of small sink wholes and when rodents or worms dig under the pool. These range in price from $150.00 to $400.00. I would also recommend it when installing your pool over stone-dust. All and all nothing is better than a pool base of washed mason sand on the floor, except for maybe vermiculite, but vermiculite pool bottoms are considered a too expensive for above ground pools.
The next upgrade is called wall foam. We apply some spray glue and roll out foam padding before installing the pool liner. It can help to extend the life of your pool liner and is a barrier, separating rusty walls with pinholes, from your pool liner. We charge $150.00 to $300.00 for parts and installation. It can also help when an aluminum wall has begun to develop tiny oxidation holes (usually found low on the pool wall). I recommend Wall Foam for the second and following new pool liners, not for the initial set up.
Above Ground Liner Replacement Designer Patterns
By far the most popular designer liner pattern has been and continues to be the Brighton Prism HG, seen here just below. It can be ordered to fit Johnny Weissmuller (JW), and Esther Williams (EW), pools. It comes standard as EZ-Bead (universal). Latham manufactures the Brighton Prism HG liner, a company known for quality pool liners. I would put this in my above ground pool if I had to choose.
There are not a lot of quality above ground pool liners available. And your pool liner is such an essential part of your package. I am called out all the time to replace or patch these mass-marketed thin pool liners.
We order and stock 300 of these a year. We only buy the 52″ wall right now. If you have a 48″, or 54″ wall, see ordering a custom liner below.
So if you have a 52″ wall, you’re in luck, we probably have your liner in stock with fast, free shipping on our Mightypools.com website.
The only way we can keep the cost down is by ordering large volumes of the same wall size, with the same printed pattern. Be warned; this pattern design is also available on thin vinyl. The good stuff says heavy gauge (HG) on the box.
Ordering A Custom Above Ground Pool Liner
There is only one pool company I know of that makes and sells liners specific to the pools they manufacture (Buster Crabbe). Most pool manufacturers just sell the pools. They leave it to pool resellers, and stores, to package the pool with liners off the shelf. But here’s the thing, a 24 round pool may measure 23′ 10″ from one pool manufacturer or 23’9″ from another. So your liner will be too big, and you will end up with wrinkles.
All pool manufactures make a 24 round, and all the other sizes in demand, but the pool may not measure the precise diameter of what the manufacturers promote. Example: If its close to a 24, it’s a 24. A practice that is especially true of metric pools made in China, and Canada.
Off The Rack, Vs. Tailored Fit Above Ground Pool Liners
If you measure the diameter of a round pool, and it is within an inch, you are okay with a liner off the shelf. Anything more, and you will have wrinkles, or worse, it will be over-stretched, making the vinyl thin in areas. Thin over-stretched pool liners are less able to expand and contract with temperature changes.
New Custom Liners
We were not going to take custom liner orders for above ground pools in 2017, but we will accept the request with the understanding that: It may take as much as 40 days to get your custom liner made, and delivered to you.
In reality, it should only take 15 business days. But for people on the west coast, be prepared to wait, especially If you want a quality liner with an EW, or JW bead, or a pool liner with a 48″ or 54″ wall. You can check out on our poolsupplies.poolservicema.com website. All others will have to contact us to place the order.
How To Install An Above-Ground Pool Liner
- Drain and clean the pool, get all the debris and water out of the pool. When you get close to empty, you can use a shop-vac to get the last of it. You don’t want to have to clean and pick-through leaves and dirt that is mixed in with the sand under the liner.
- Next, you want to remove the skimmer and the water return jet.
- Remove all your top rail caps.
- Now remove all your top rails.
- Don’t remove the grey or silver coping on top of the pool wall just yet.
- Cut and remove the pool liner. Cut it into manageable size sections.
- Remember, your pool walls are extremely vulnerable with the water out of the pool. Do not attempt this work on a very windy day.
- Having removed the liner, smooth the pool sand bottom, removing any sharp rocks, stones, roots, leaves, and debris.
- Build a 4″ sand cove around the perimeter of the pool. Some sand is not compactable, so be sure to use mason sand.
- Lay the liner out in the sun to remove packing wrinkles.
- Begin removing the metal coping on the top of the pool, three sections at first. Then hang the new pool-liner in that area, Once you have it attached in that area, put coping back on before moving on. Now work your way around, doing three or four section at a time hanging the liner as you go.
- Use a broom to tap liner close to the bottom of the pool wall.
- Tape off the skimmer opening on the outside of the pool. Now run a shop vacuum in the return jet hole. Seal around the vacuum hose. To set the liner, tap and kick it towards the cove while running the suction. Do this until all the wrinkles are gone.
- Once all the wrinkles are out, you can start adding water, keep running vacuum until fill water is on the wall all the way around. You may have to begin running the fill water with a couple of wrinkles still visible, once the water is over them, your adjustments will hold. Keep going around and kicking while the swimming pool fills up. Once you have two inches of pool water in, you will lose the ability to stretch the floor further.
- Begin installing the top rails.
- Once the vacuum is shut off, continue filling the pool until the water is 4 inches below the return jet.
- Remove the tape from the skimmer and install the skimmer with new gaskets.
- Install return jet with new gaskets, and then hook up the filter equipment, and finish filling the pool.
This installation guide is meant to give you a rough outline or to aid in converting regular beaded liner and overlap liners into hung / V-bead type only.
PRO Tip* – When installing a premium pool liner, only do it on warm sunny days. 70-82 degrees is optimum. Do not rush at the end of the day to get it done. Do not fill your pool overnight if it the temp drops below 60; you need to wait to begin filling until its warm, and the sun is back out.
Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below. We will answer them when we have time. Thank you!