A vinyl pool liner typically lasts eight to 12 years with proper maintenance and care, and many pool liners don’t show any signs of wear for much of this time. Over time, however, the weather and pool chemicals cause the liner to deteriorate, and this can lead to problems. Pool liners are expensive to replace, so it’s wise to know the signs that indicate a pool liner should be replaced.
Cracks and Deterioration
Vinyl liners deteriorate over time due to harsh ultraviolet rays and pool chemicals. Inspect your pool for signs of damage, such as cracking. If you see cracking or tears in several places, your pool is likely leaking water as well. These leaks may be through tiny holes in the cracks that can’t even be seen by the naked eye. Monitor the water level for at least a week. If the water line drops more than an inch, you probably have at least one leak somewhere in the liner. If the liner is cracked in numerous places, odds are your leaks are occurring in these areas, which are too numerous to patch.
Fading or Stains
While a pool liner will fade from exposure to chemicals and sunlight, significant algae or rust stains cannot be removed. Significant or severe fading is also a sign of deterioration. While most modern vinyl pool liners resist fading and deterioration, they are not impervious to it. As the vinyl fades, the plasticizers deteriorate as well, which causes the liner to become brittle. Once it becomes brittle, tears and cracks will follow.
Wrinkles, Slippage and Stretching
If you have several areas where the liner bead, or the top edge of the liner, is slipping out of the track, and you can’t slip it back into place, the liner may be stretching. Over time, vinyl liners loose some of their elasticity. When this happens, it becomes difficult to keep the liner bead in its track. Without the support of the track, your liner may sag, which causes water to drain from the pool and leads to wrinkles in the vinyl. Loose fittings around the skimmer and the pump are also signs of deterioration. As the vinyl ages, the fittings can become loose, which causes distortions. Stretched liners cannot be repaired, so they should be replaced.
While modern vinyl pool liners resist tears and punctures, it can happen, particularly as the liner loses its resiliency with age. If you can find the leak, you may be able to patch it with a wet patch kit. If you can’t find the leak and don’t replace the liner, however, your pool will continue to leak water, which can wash out the supporting backfill behind the walls. Leaking water can also lead to corrosion of the pool walls and wash away sand beneath the pool, which creates sink holes.
Replacement Vs. Repair
Sometimes damage to a pool liner can be repaired, but the decision depends on a couple of factors. If your pool liner is less than three years old, it may be worth trying to repair the damage instead of replacing the liner, but first consider where the pool liner is damaged because some areas have better odds of successful repair than others. For example, if you have leaks or damage near cutouts, such as around a skimmer or return jet, these are not usually repairable. Damage close to the liner's bead or any plastic fittings are also difficult to repair. If the damage is in these areas, it’s usually better to replace the liner because a lasting repair is unlikely.