Winter came early to the Northeast part of the United States and brought some freezing temperatures with it. I will be busy this year repairing and replacing many above-ground pools, and pool liners. Winter damage is done by the ice and snow but not the cause of it, the blame lay elsewhere.
Above-ground pools that were winterized correctly and weren’t leaking will not be an issue. Some swimming pools will have to get replaced due to buckled and torn pool walls. Even pools with sever skimmer damage 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 You Cannot Repair
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.
Above-Ground Pools Winter Damaged That You Can Repair
If you’re looking at a gaping hole where your skimmer used to be and are wondering if you can fix it, 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 you can install. 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 is still bolted to the wall, though it is now folded over on itself.
You would think this pool wall needed replacing. You can see in the next two pictures the replacement wall panel I installed before putting in 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, he did not put on the winter skimmer cover. I gave him one 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 his pool wall as like a hot knife going through butter.
What Caused the Pool Wall to Buckle? A Leak!
The number one cause of pool wall buckle or roll-up at the bottom is a leaking pool liner. The Ice formed on top of the pool like it always does. Then, the pool water that supports it leaked out from under the ice on top. The incredible weight of the ice hanging on the top rails transferred to the pool wall.
Swimming pool uprights and top-plates are not made to carry much weight.
We tell you not to let the children walk on or sit on the top of the pool wall. If you allow heavy people do this, it will damage the pool. Now, 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 metal, and the metal conducts the cold to the pool water. This conduction causes sheets of ice form along the whole length of the pool wall first. Then wall ice combines with the massive ice-cake that formed on the top of the pool. I have seen Ice cakes 18-inches thick on top. 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. As the water came down, it drove the wall ice right through your pool liner like dropping a guillotine blade.
To prevent this damage from happening to your pool, winterized it well, and make sure it isn’t leaking. You could pile snow and ice on it six feet high and suffer no winter damage at all.