MGK Pool Service

Above Ground Liner Replacement

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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 ordering a custom liner below.

In this post 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 explain the process of doing the job.

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 are 52″, and many of the older pools are 48″. There are some real old pools that have a 46″wall.

Measure on the outside of your pool. You may have to dig down to reach the bottom track the wall sits in. Measure from the very bottom of the wall, to the top of the pool wall (just under the top rail). If you need to dig, be careful not to hit the pool wall, or dig under the pool wall. Always fill holes back in and compact dirt.

The 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 “overlap”, and it is the cheapest. You can identify this type 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 pool with a trash bag. Don’t worry if you have an overlap now, you can replace it with one of the other styles.

The next type is called “beaded”. This type snaps into a channel on the inside of your pool. The channel hangs just under the top rail. The only thing you will see on the outside of this pool is the white bead channel (hangs down about an 3/4 of an inch), and maybe a sliver of grey or silver above that. Most bead channel is made of plastic. If you have a metal bead channel, you my friend have a good pool, and standard beaded liners will not fit in this type. See discription of Ester Williams, and Johnny Weissmuller beads below.

Beaded liners are good, the only knock on them, is that the plastic style bead receiver stretches out, and 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.

The last type is called “V-bead” or “J-hook”. This is the only type of liner I would install. This can be installed 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.

You will hear another above-ground liner name: “uni-bead”, or “U-bead”, also called “easy-bead” or EZ-Bead, and V or J bead. These are all universal bead types, and will fit any pool other than a Johnny Wiessmuller, or Esther williams Pool.

Because of there ease of use, all we sell now are EZ Bead liners, unless you have the previously mentioned pools

Above Ground Pool Liner Gauge / Mil and Material


Along with the different styles, all liners come in different thicknesses (thicker is better), often referred to by mil or gauge. The problem with just going by gauge is that what one company says is a 25 gauge liner is often only an 18 mil or worse, a 15. The liner industry is not regulated, and in an effort to offer lower and lower prices online, some stores and manufacturers have deceptive marketing practices. What you really want for your above ground swimming pool, is a 20 mil liner. Mil is a real measurement. You don’t even want a thicker liner. Any thicker, and it will buckle your pool wall. 20 mil is optimal.

What a liner is made of

An other consideration is what the liner is made of. Some liner companies use recycled plastics in their liners, while other companies use the term “Virgin Vinyl”, meaning made from 100% new vinyl. Here in Massachusetts and in New Hampshire for that matter, it is important to get a liner made of virgin vinyl, 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 plasticizer. (Wiki plasticizer)

Who is manufacturing your 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 cheap knock-offs. Many times they’re irregular, that is they’re metric liners that don’t quite fit in standard american size pools. So you have to over stretch them. Some stretching is normal, but if you stretch a liner to much it becomes very thin!

That’s why we buy liners from local companies and manufacturers we know and trust. We buy most of our liners from locally, and from trusted manufacturers.

Above ground Liner Replacement Installation Cost

Their 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 put you toward the higher range, or even higher.

  1. Bottom work can add to the cost, if we need to add sand, and do extensive reworking of the pool bottom
  2. Adding a Foam wall or floor liner guard
  3. Decks and fencing that interfere with the job
  4. Converting away from an overlap to a beaded or J-hook
  5. Pool Size: larger pools take longer to do and increase man hours.
  6. 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 basically 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 liner. 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. This is also recommended when your pool was installed over stone-dust. All and all nothing is better than a pool base of washed mason sand, with a good base, nothing else is required on the floor.

The next upgrade is called a foam wall. We apply some spray glue and roll out foam padding before installing the pool liner. This also helps to extend the life of your pool liner, and is a barrier, separating rusty walls with pin holes, from you pool liner. We charge $150.00 to $300.00 for parts and installation. This can also help when an aluminum wall has begun to develop tiny oxidation holes (usually found low on the pool wall).

Above Ground Liner Replacement Designer Patterns

By far the most popular designer liner pattern has been, and continues to be the Brighton Prism, seen here just below.  It can be ordered to fit Johnny Weissmuller (JW), and Esther Williams (EW), pools. It comes standard as EZ-Bead. This is being made for us by a company that has been known for quality in-ground pool liners. This is what I would put in my own pool if I had to choose.

Brighton Prisom 20 mil linerThere are not a lot of quality above ground pool liners available. And your pool liner is such an important 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, your in luck, we probably have your liner in stock for fast free shipping on our 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 is available on thin vinyl. The good stuff says heavy gauge on the box (I hate that the manufacturer uses gauge).

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 only 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 actually measure 23′ 10″ from one pool manufacturer, or 23’9″ from another. So your liner will be to big, and you will end up with wrinkles.

All pool manufactures make a 24 round, and all the other popular sizes, but the pool may not measure exactly what the manufacturer say. Example: If its close to a 24, its a 24. This 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 your round pool, and it measures within an inch, you are fine with a liner off the shelf. Anything more, and you will have wrinkles, or worse, it will be stretched, making the vinyl thin in spots.  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 2016, but we will except the order 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. If you want a 20 mil liner with an EW, or JW bead, or a liner with a 48″ or 54″ wall. you can check out on our website. All others will have to contact us to place the order.

How To Install An Above-Ground Pool Liner

  1. 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.
  2. Next you want to remove the skimmer and the water return jet.
  3. Remove all your top rail caps.
  4. Now remove all your top rails.
  5. Don’t remove the grey or silver coping on top of the pool wall just yet.
  6. Cut and remove the pool liner. Cut it into manageable size sections.
  7. Remember, your pool walls are extremely vulnerable with the the water out of the pool. This should not be attempted on a very windy day.
  8. Once the liner has been removed, smooth the pool sand bottom, removing any sharp rocks or stones.
  9. Build a 4″ sand cove around the perimeter of the pool. Some sand is not compactable, so be sure to use mason sand.
  10. Lay the liner out in the sun to remove packing wrinkles.
  11. Begin removing the metal coping on the top of the pool, three sections at first. then hang the liner in that area, Once you have the liner hung 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. Do not allow the liner to buckle or pull down the wall.
  12. Use a broom to tap liner close to the bottom of the pool wall.
  13. 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. Tap liner into place while running the vacuum until the liner is set, and all the wrinkles are removed.
  14. Once all the wrinkles are out, you can start adding water, keep running vacuum until water is on the wall, all the way around.
  15. Begin installing the top rails.
  16. Once the vacuum is shut off, continue filling the pool until the water is 4 inches below the return jet.
  17. Remove the tape on the skimmer and install the skimmer with new gaskets.
  18. 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 only. This was also meant to convert regular beaded liners, and overlap liners into hung / V-bead type.

Please feel free to to ask questions in the comments below. We will answer them when we have time. Thank you!