Best Above-Ground Pools Liners
Above-ground pool liner reviews and more. While I do rate pool liners and tell you where to buy a good cheap one, I also explain how to compare one pool liner to another. After reading this article, you will be able to buy a good pool liner from any manufacturer. I also share my experience and offer industry insights so you can learn for yourself which above ground pool liner is best for your pool.
I included this short video clip below to help you understand the process of making a liner. Manufacturers buy vinyl stock, cut the material into sections, and weld the seams together. These manufacturers purchase vinyl materials based on the thickness (mil) and quality of the vinyl stock.
I recorded this short video at Vyn-All, a local pool liner manufacturer in Newmarket NH. I was there picking up some liners. This company has since been bought by Latham but is still operating as Vyn-All.
Vinyl Liner Manufacturer Stock
All manufacturers buy stock from suppliers, some from the same suppliers. Some vinyl is cheap and includes recycled plastics with little plasticizers. Some prints will not hold up well to chlorine and UV rays, some will. Some liner prints/patterns come in more than one thickness. Same print/different vinyl quality!
The best above ground liners are thick (17/20 mil), made with a unique blend of 100 percent new vinyl, and mixed thoroughly with plasticizers. The better liner material also has UV protection in the ink that is used to print the pool liner patterns.
Here is the problem: No “above-ground pool” liner manufacturer includes the mil measurement. They do not list it on the box, the order sheets, literature; they do not display it anywhere. Whereas, inground pool liner manufacturers only speak of pool liner thickness in mils.
A thousandth of an inch is a derived unit of length in an inch-based system of units. Equal to 0.001 inches, it is normally referred to as a thou /ˈθaʊ/, athousandth, or (particularly in the United States) a mil. -Wikipedia
Know this. As of the year 2018, there is no thicker “above-ground pool liner” than 20 mils. Also, that each year there are only a handful of liner patterns made of 20 mil stock. And as noted above only the floor is 20 mil, the wall is still just 17 mil, and this is the best liner I know of (Brighton Prism HG), made by the best manufacturer, Latham.
I go to pool conventions; Read all the trade magazines, and earnestly look for the best above-ground pool liners every year. I am a bit of a pool liner connoisseur if you will. All this, and I can only find a few patterns to choose from each year.
I am listing them for sale on my new online store (link to shop). The best above-ground pool liner I have is called the Brighton Prism HG, Boulder Swirl, Outlook Swirl, Mystri Gold Swirl, Beachview and new for 2018 Portofino Mosaic. Keep in mind the last few pool liners I mentioned get made in 5 different thicknesses. I only buy the better quality.
My pool liners are made custom to fit the exact dimensions of the above-ground pools I sell, and in true-radius standard sizes that fit pool sizes of other manufacturers. I mainly sell the Brighton Prism HG as it is the thickest and best quality
True Radius means that a 24 round pool has an exact diameter of 24 feet, not 23 feet 10 inches, not 24 feet 1 inch. Hence the radius is a true 12 feet (Diameter = Radius x 2)
Above Ground Pool Liner SECRET… Shhh!
Many above ground pool liners for sale are not going to fit your pool. Not the way they should at least. You are buying off the rack so to speak. Manufacturers are allowed to advertise a pool as a 24 round, as long as it’s actual measurement is within 10% of 24 feet. This rule goes for any pool size, pool liner thickness, etc.
So if you buy a pool liner off the rack for a 24 round, and your pools actual diameter is 23 feet 9 inches, the pool liner is going to be too big. With an oversized pool-liner, you end up with wrinkles. Whats worse is when you get a pool-liner that is too small. A lot of pool liners are thin enough to-begin-with without over-stretching them also.
One reason Buster Crabbe Pools / MGK Pools last longer than others is they have all their liners made to fit their pools. Other pool companies just buy them off the rack to make packages, because they cost less that way.
Maybe your pool store did this too! Before you order a new pool liner for your above-ground swimming pool, put a tape measure on it and make sure it measures the size you bought.
Consider spending a bit more, and get a pool liner that fits the way it is supposed to.
Pool Liner Thickness – How-to Buy the Best
No matter your choice of design, how do you compare apples to apples, when they each describe thickness in different terms? Whatever the term used by the manufacturer, to buy the best Pool Liner, Buy the Highest Number.
Gauge, Perma, & mil – Thickness Terms
Gauge is used as a real measurement in other industries, but should not be used interchangeably with mil. Using anything other than mil is to misrepresent the thickness of the product, to dupe unsuspecting, uninformed consumers into paying more for what is often, a weaker, thinner, or inferior product.
Another game that liner manufactures play is called embossing. Embossed pool liners seem thicker, and measure thicker, but they are not. Embossing is like corrugating; it makes it look thicker through manipulation, not by adding more material. They squeeze the vinyl liner stock, so it is thicker in 50% of the area, but it also makes it thinner than the original thickness in the other 50%.
With above-ground pool liners, nobody is going to tell you the mil, or they will bullshit you to sound like they know something. Your best bet when not buying from me is to find out the name of the liner manufacturer, call them up or find out what they call their thickest liner. Then only buy pool-liners made with the higher number.
Latham is the company that makes my above-ground liner, the Brighton Prism HG. They use the term HG to signify their best above-ground liner material. If you call Latham up in Latham NY and wait on hold, when the lovely lady gets on the phone, ask her what her the thickness of her best above-ground liner. She will tell you 17/20. That is a 17 mil wall, and 20 mil floor.
False Claims Galore
Lies, lies, and more lies.Everywhere I look on the internet; I see false claims of thickness. There are above-ground pool packages marketed with “30 mils” pool liners. First of all, the thickest vinyl they make is 27 mil (often sold as 30), but this material is only for inground pools.
Perma 20 | Perma 25 | Perma 30
Swimline has taken to using these terms to describe thickness. I don’t know how they could be vaguer. I understand the need for branding, but please, this is just super cheesy!
These new terms are more brand names than anything else. Maybe they mean something to the companies that use these words, but, in my pool liner reviews opinion, Perma is just more deceptive marketing talk.
I sell a few patterns made by this company, as my pool manufacturer has them custom made to fit their oval pools. We only buy liners made of the better vinyl. If you run into this, buy the highest number, and you should end with a good pool liner.
To Deceive or Not To Deceive?
I also know this to be true: when manufacturers of vinyl pool liners buy material from their suppliers, vinyl that is later cut into wall and floor sections and then assembled into pool liners. They do not say to their suppliers: send me a roll of 20 gauge, or send me some Perma 20, they say, I’ll take two 17 mil, 20 mil, or 10 mil. Or they may ask, Do you have any new patterns in a 20 mil? Or, I’ll take ten rolls of prism pattern in a 20 mil and a 15 mil.
The term gauge has become pretty standard. Even good manufacturers use the term now for above-ground pool liners. I know for a fact that one of the pool liners I buy and sell, is 20 mil, but all it says on the box is HG (heavy gauge). Luckily you have me, and I have these liners in my hands every year as I install them. I am always on the lookout for a new thick above-ground pool liner
Why do different companies have the same pool liner patterns with different names?
Some pool liner manufacturers design their patterns and have their suppliers print them. Creating a print gives them an advantage, as they hold the patent for the design. Suppliers can’t just take a picture of another’s liner and sell it as their own.
Vinyl suppliers that provide the material to manufacturers also have in-house designers; their prints often get sold to many liner manufacturers.
Liner manufacturers can name the patterns designed by suppliers anything they want (branding). This branding/naming is why you see the same liner pattern sold by different companies, with different names. They are buying vinyl from the same suppliers. Remember, just because the design is the same, it does not mean the thickness is also the same.
What is “Virgin Vinyl?
Though I explained this a little above, I figured this term deserved a paragraph or two because you will see it everywhere.
I wish all vinyl were created equal, but then you would not be looking for pool liner reviews, and would not be reading this article to find the best above-ground pool liner. So, know this, while thickness matters, you only want to buy pool liners made of “Virgin Vinyl” (without recycled plastics).
Virgin Vinyl is a term used in the industry to describe vinyl that is 100 percent new vinyl or pure if you like. There is no added plastics or recycled vinyl in “virgin vinyl.” Liners made with added plastic or recycled vinyl, do not expand and contract evenly, and thus, do not fit as well, or stand up to extreme weather conditions. Ultimately, all this means is pool liners made with recycled vinyl or plastic, do not last as long and should cost less.
Pool Liner Wall and Floor Thickness Shenanigans
Another trick pulled by liner manufacturers is this. They sell a 17 or 20 mil pool liner, but what they don’t tell you is the floor and pool-wall are different thicknesses. The wall may be 20 mils, but the pool-floor is only 15 or 12 mils thick. Nobody is discussing this, and it happens all the time.
The inground pool liner industry has always discussed the difference from wall to floor, as in 28/20, or 20/20, or 30/30. Each is describing a different preference, describing wall to floor thicknesses.
The area that should be the thickest in my opinion on an above-ground pool liner (the floor) is often thinner than you know. Thicker vinyl cost more, and so to cut corners or compete on cost, they use lighter materials on the bottom.
Pool Liner Warranty
The two most important things you should know about pool liner warranties:
- There is no such thing as a warranty!
- Read number one.
I should end it there, but I will explain. All warranties are for manufacturer defects. The only flaw that I have seen covered is a leak at the seam (seam separation). The area where the wall and floor pieces got welded together.
Believe me when I tell you, after the first year, whatever happens, is your fault, not manufacturers defect. Anyone trying to sell an extended warranty is a thief!
Don’t Buy Old Stock
You see people dumping old stock online all the time. You don’t want a pool liner older than five years. This problem has lessened over the last few years, but again, buyer beware. If you see prices to good to be true, they probably are.
Swimline and GLI Manufacturer Above-Ground Pool Liner Reviews
Combined, these two probably sell more above-ground pool liners than anyone else on the planet. At the present moment, I sell their higher-end offerings.
I tried to talk with the Swimline reps at the booth at the 2014 Atlantic City Pool and Spa show, and their attitude was dismissive and arrogant. I asked them point blank, what is the mil of your liners, and which pool liner is your best? One of the guys with beady blue eyes turned his nose up and said: “we don’t speak regarding mils.”
I asked him why not, seeing everyone else in the industry does, to which he replied, “we are the largest suppliers of above-ground pool liners.” In my opinion, he was quite full of himself.
Despite their arrogance, their higher end liners are excellent. Just stay away from their low-end options (smaller numbers).
If most people knew what you now know, I don’t think they would be the most significant supplier for long. People don’t want to buy headaches. For a few bucks more you could buy quality and value.
The best liner manufacturer I know is Lathem. I copied their header on this page. Photo credit for this page’s header https://lathampool.com/products/above-ground-pool-liners.html.
Latham has to compete with the Swimline’s, and the GLI’s of the world. They also make liners from thinner vinyl, but they are upfront about it, and charge accordingly. They are innovators in the pool industry and manufacture premium liners. When buying Latham liners, always buy HG products to get better quality.
Places I know Sell The Best Pool Liners
I have always done business with local companies I know. Their vinyl is excellent and comes from good suppliers. It is also important to me that I support American companies.
Expensive pool liners are not in demand, so there are few print options. Perhaps people have not spent the extra 1-3 hundred because they can not differentiate. Last year, the best above-ground pool liner on the planet was called “Brighton Prism HG” (seen on the right), and Lathem makes it. Beware: The same pattern gets sold on thinner vinyl.
Pool Liner Bead Type Explained
Overlap liners are the least expensive as they do require the time and materials to add a bead, they are beadless. They get stretched over the wall, then get locked in place with plastic combing. With overlap pool liners you can see liner material hanging a foot or so down on the outside of the pool wall. Overlap is my least favorite liner and is often the thinnest.
Beaded liners hang on a “bead channel” that attaches to the top of the pool wall. Beads come in different sizes depending on your pool manufacturer. Standard bead size fits most above-ground pool bead channels. Esther Williams pools and Wilkes / Gibraltar pools are not standard and require a different bead size. Beaded swimming pool liners are mostly available in full print designs and are simpler to install than overlap.
NOTE* It is simple to covert swimming pools with an overlap liner to a thicker beaded-liner.
V-Bead or J-Hook
J-hook and v-bead pool liners are called beaded though they don’t fit in a bead channel. The difference is that these pool liners hook onto the top of the pool wall, and do not require a bead channel.
EZ-Bead starts out as a V-Bead, U-Bead, or J-Bead for easy installation, but will also fit into standard bead channel for pools with an existing standard bead channel. Lathems Brighton Prism HG liner is an EZ-bead. These are now the most popular of all the bead types I sell.
Universal bead often called uni-bead start out like a J bead, but it can convert to a standard-bead. Getting very popular as it will fit most swimming pools.
Above-Ground Pool Liner Installation Cost
Prices vary based on the quality and thickness of the vinyl, size of the pool, print/design, and bead type. In this industry, more than any other, you always get what you pay for, pay a little and you get less. With the installation cost of an above-ground pool liner being $300.00 to $600.00, you may only want to replace yours once in 10 years. Unless you are installing it yourself, and water is free, I urge you to buy a good one when its time.
Best Pool Liners Fit Properly
Custom made above-ground swimming pool liners cost more because they are custom (1 off’s). Because custom pool liners fit correctly, they last longer. If you ever saw the movie “Tommy Boy” you know… you don’t want a “fat man in a little coat.”
Summary & Conclusion – Best Above-Ground Pool Liner Reviews
Above-ground swimming pool liners are not all created equal. Don’t buy a pool liner if you can’t tell how thick it is. If you are purchasing a pool liner from Company A, find out how Company A describes the quality and thickness of their products, and then buy the best they offer. It’s just not that much more money.
You should also try to find out if the floor is thinner than the wall. Ask your sales professional to show you patterns available in their thickest vinyl, specific to your bead type with the same wall and floor thickness. Unfortunately, many will not know the real measurements.
We would like to sell you a quality liner. Moreover, we want to install it for you if you are in our service area. Pool Liner Shop
I hope I have given you enough information to go out and buy a pool liner with your eyes wide open.
Please give us a call or fill out our contact form for a free estimate (978) 710-8667. Please include your pool size and bead type, when using our contact form. We can order a custom-made pool liner for any pool type, size, bead, or brand.
We hope you found this article informative and helpful. For more product reviews, please check out the following posts.