Best Above-Ground Pools Liners
Above-ground pool liner reviews and more. 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 is the best above-ground pool liner for your swimming pool.
I included this short video clip below to help you understand the process of making a pool 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 above-ground pool 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!
Above-Ground Pool Liner Thickness
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, in-ground pool liner manufacturers only speak of pool liner thickness in mils.
Most above-ground liner manufacturers designate their best pool liners with an “HG”. I can tell you from my experience buying and installing above-ground liners; all the HG versions have been thick and good quality pool liners. The Swimline manufacturer uses the word Perma to display thickness. The higher the Perma value, the thicker the vinyl.
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
Gauge is used as a real measurement in other industries, but should not be used interchangeably with mil or used to describe a pool liner. Using anything other than a mil, HG, or Perma 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.
There is no pool liner manufactures describing thickness as 20, 25, or 30 gauge liners. These descriptions are being used by stores and salespeople.
Why Do Different Companies Have The Same Pool Liner Patterns With Different Names?
Some pool liner manufacturers design a pattern 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.
The 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. The same print is often used on five pieces of vinyl of various thickness and quality.
Above-Ground Pool Liner Thickness Conclusion
Know this, as of the year 2018; there is no thicker above-ground pool liner than 20 mil. Also, nobody makes a thicker wall than 17 mil. There is no vinyl for Above-ground pools thicker than this. None! Anyone claiming a higher mil is lying or misinformed. The best above-ground pool liner is 17/20 mil
You don’t even want a thicker piece of vinyl on the wall. Most above-ground pool walls couldn’t handle it. The pool wall buckles if you don’t wait to install a 17 mil wall liner on a sunny day with temperatures above 70 degrees.
I go to swimming 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.
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. They can lie legally within 10 percent.
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. What’s 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.
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.
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)
When its time for a liner replacement, if your above-ground pool does not have a true radius, consider spending a bit more to get a custom pool liner made that fits the way it is supposed to. Custom orders usually take 3-4 weeks and cost a couple hundred more than off the rack pool liners. The best above-ground pool liners fit like a custom tailored suit.
What is “Virgin Vinyl”?
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 that pool liners made with recycled vinyl or plastic, do not last as long and should cost less.
Pool Liner Shenanigans
Another trick pulled by liner manufacturers is this. They sell a 17 or 15 mil pool liner, but what they don’t tell you is the floor and pool-wall are different thicknesses. The wall may be 15 mils, but the pool-floor is only 12 or 10 mils. Nobody is discussing this, and it happens all the time.
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.
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%.
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!
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, as you now know, no supplier is even providing above-ground material thicker than 20 mil.
Manufacturer Above-Ground Pool Liner Reviews
Swimline Pool Liner Reviews
Swimline probably sells more above-ground pool liners than anyone else on the planet. They specialize in just above-ground pool liners.
Swimline has taken to using Perma to describe thickness. When buying one of their liners, make sure the pool store is describing the thickness the same way the manufacturer does. If someone is selling a “25 gauge” liner, are they selling the Perma 2000 or 2500?
I sell and install a few Perma 2500 pool liners made by this manufacturer, and I like them. My pool manufacturer has them custom made to our pools.
GLI Pool Liner Reviews
GLI sells both above-ground and In-ground pool liners. They like most use “HG” to describe their better offerings. I sell a pattern they make exclusively for Pool Corp/SCP called Beachview. Pool Corp is the largest pool supplies distributor (stock symbol POOL).
The Beachview HG is an attractive pool liner and good quality.
Latham Pool Liner Reviews
The best above-ground pool 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 are innovators in the pool industry and manufacture premium above-ground pool liners. When buying Latham liners, always buy HG products to get better quality.
They only have two HG liners, The Brighton Prism, and Blue Denali/Blue Mosaic HG
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. Non-HG
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 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. 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.
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. Unfortunately, many will not know the real measurements. So then buy HG versions or Perma 2500 liners. Never buy a pool liner based on the gauge, as in 20 gauge.
And remember the best above-ground pool liner you can buy is a 20/20 mil – meaning a 20 mil wall and 20 mil floor.
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