Winter came early to the Northeast part of the United States and brought some freezing temperatures with it. I will be swamped this year repairing and replacing above-ground pools, due to all the winter damage caused by all the ice and snow. Good above-ground pools that got winterized correctly will not be an issue, while others will have to get replaced as their walls have buckled, and torn, or the area around the skimmer was damaged. Even the ones that can get repaired will need a new pool liner.
At a minimum, I will be replacing a lot of above-ground pool liners. I won’t get into my usual rant about weak or thin above-ground liners sold with most packages, just know, if you are replacing a pool liner or even your entire pool due to this past winter, and you do not want to do it again, buy the best pool liner you can. RELATED ARTICLE
Above-Ground Pool Damage That Cannot Be Repaired
Many above ground pools will have buckled under the weight of the ice and snow. Once the pool wall buckles, even on just one side, there is no repairing it. You either have to replace the pool wall or the whole pool.
Even if you are handy enough to replace the wall, it is going to cost you between $800 and $1200 for the wall delivered, plus another $400-$700 for a liner. Then there are the gaskets and other accessories. If you weight the cost of all the parts against a new above-ground pool kit, the difference is usually only a few hundred dollars.
Plus what you don’t know, is that when your pool wall rolled up at the bottom it locked itself into the bottom wall track, and you are not getting the track off without damaging it, so now that you have discovered this, you have to order wall track and wait another two weeks.
The reason you cannot repair it is that when the wall buckled it lost height. If you look under the top-rails and there is a gap over 1 inch between the pool wall and the top, you need a new pool wall or pool.
The wall is the pool; it is the most expensive part of the swimming pool. When I wrote my Above Ground Pool Reviews Article, I based the top ten best swimming pools on the strength of their wall.
Winter Damaged Above-Ground Pools That Can Get Repaired
If you’re looking at a gaping hole where your skimmer used to be and are wondering if it can be repaired, the answer is yes! I have done these repairs myself.
I had a couple of customers back in 2015 that did not winterize their swimming pools correctly, and the skimmer got wasted along with the pool wall in that area. One of them was a close personal friend who bought a high-end pool from me and had me install it.
They make a repair panel that can be installed. It is a stainless steel wall section about five feet wide and 52 inches tall. It comes with hardware and wall bars. You will also need a new liner, skimmer and a bunch of drill bits, but you can do it.
Here are a couple of pictures of my friend’s pool where the skimmer got torn down the wall. One picture inside and one picture outside.
You can see the pool wall ripped like a piece of paper. Also, you can see a portion of the skimmer still bolted to the wall which is now folded and twisted with the pool liner pulled down too.
You would think this pool wall could not be repaired. You can see in the next two pictures the replacement wall panel I installed before installing the new pool liner and skimmer.
I should have cut away material around the return jet hole as I did with the skimmer portion. It made tightening the through-wall nut more difficult with the old wall in the way.
Winter Damage – What Caused it?
In my friend’s case, when he winterized his pool he did not put on the skimmer cover. I gave him one which he forgot to use. So when the Ice formed over the winter, it also froze in the skimmer opening. When the warmer temperatures came, and the ice began to melt, the ice that had formed across the entire top of the pool and in his skimmer started to drop. When it fell, it tore that pool wall as smooth as a hot knife would pass through butter.
What Caused the Pool Wall to Buckle? A Leak!
Most people that had their pool wall buckle or roll-up at the bottom had a leak in the pool liner. The Ice formed on top of the pool like it always does getting married to the winter pool cover and the rainwater on top of the cover. Then, water leaked out from under the ice, and all the incredible weight of the ice was left hanging on the top rails.
We tell you not to let the children walk on the top of the pool wall, partially because older and more substantial kids can buckle the pool wall, so imagine a 1-ton (2000 lb) kid walking across the top of your pool framing. You get bent or cracked top plates, bent wall posts, buckled pool walls, and more winter damage than you can imagine.
PRO TIP*** If you ever suspect a leak – remove the pool cover!
What Caused My Pool Liner To Shatter Into A Million Pieces, OR Get Cuts?
Pool Liner cuts or total obliteration happen to many pools with buckled pool walls. The cause is the same, a leak!
The pool walls are made of metal and conduct the cold to the pool water. Sheets of ice first form along the whole length of the pool wall and then ties into the giant ice-cake that forms on the top of the pool. I have seen them about 18-inches thick on top. Then when the water leaks out from under the ice, the ice caves-in. The giant blocks of ice pummel the cold non-pliable vinyl liner and break it to bits
Customers told me they heard it happen, but did not know what it was until later. They report hearing a thunderous crash!
Sometimes you get what I call guillotine cuts in your pool liner all around the edges of the pool wall. It looks like some came in with a razor knife and put cuts in your pool liner. These cuts are from the sheets of ice that formed along the pool walls. The weight of the ice on top pushed the wall ice right through your pool liner, like dropping a guillotine blade.
If these pool owners had repaired their leaks before winterizing and closing the pool, or they winterized the pool correctly, none of this damage would have occurred. If your pool did not leak, and you winterized it correctly, you could pile snow and ice on it up to the clouds and suffer no winter damage at all.