Pool Liner Replacement

Introduction
Installing a new vinyl liner for your pool is fast and easy and takes very little technical skill. Installing the liner is Pool selber bauen actually quite easy in terms of a DIY project especially considering how much money you can save over the course of one weekend. Being a commercial vinyl pool liner installer is a more difficult process since you will need to be required to have knowledge outside of what it takes to install the liner itself, and are held accountable for each liner installation to be cosmetically perfect.

Installing three liners per week without any wrinkles or problems requires years of experience in the trade. Installing a single liner, in your own pool, for the expressed benefit of saving thousands of dollars is easy by comparison. The most likely problem that you can encounter when installing your own liner is to have wrinkles on the floor and slopes. Even if the liner is sized well you can still easily have wrinkles in your liner if you do not have the ability to diagnose the problem and adjust the liner accordingly. A professional installer uses experience to orient the liner for the best fit possible where you will just wing it based upon what you see at the time. In a worst case scenario you are not able to lose all the wrinkles and have to live with the results. The real benefit here is that as long as you are satisfied with the results, then the project was successful since wrinkles are cosmetic and do not compromise the pools ability to hold water.

Tools You Will Need:
Utility knife with extra blades
Garden hose and nozzle
Wire brush
Paint scraper / flat metal edge
Kettle
5 Horsepower residential wet / dry vacuum
Stiff bristle shop broom
Soft bristle shop broom (optional)
Submersible pump
Phillips screwdriver, medium
Phillips screwdriver, large
Slot screwdriver
100′ flexible tape measurer (sometimes two of these)

These items are all so common that hopefully you will have them already or be able to borrow them from friends and family. If you do not have any of these tools and can not borrow them from anyone you know you, you can rent them from a hardware store for less than buying them will cost. On a personal note, if you can not pull together items like a screwdriver, broom, kettle and garden hose from everyone you know put together you should consider throwing a pool party when you finish your liner and attract some new and more diverse acquaintances.

Materials You Will Need:
30 mil vinyl liner with a dark print (border optional but recommended)
25 wooden clothes pegs separated, spring removed
2 full rolls standard duct tape
1 can of wd40 penetrating oil
1 can galvanized steel rust paint
1 can galvanized steel primer (optional)
New skimmer gasket & faceplate
New returns gasket & faceplate
Fine washed sand (depending on floor condition)
Vermiculite or zonolite (depending on floor condition)
Type 10 / type 1 portland cement (depending on floor condition

Measuring the Pool
The first step you will need to take is to measure your pool for a new liner which will be manufactured and shipped to you. This process can take a little as two weeks in the off season or as much as six weeks or more during the spring and summer season. Measuring the liner involves following a template supplied by the company that you order your liner from. The liner measurement template will be specific to the shape of your pool and will take into account length, width, orientation and corner radius.

The template is straight forward with the sole exception of determining the radius of the corners in your pool.

The radius of the corner ranges from ninety degrees, which is a sharp angle corner where two straight walls meet, to four foot radius corners which are long gradual sweeping corners. As part of your measurements you will be required to provide a perimeter measurement of the top edge of the pool and this measurement will act as a double check for the measurements that you supply to the liner manufacturer. Each shape of pool combined with each corner radius has a specific perimeter measurement associated with it. Still to be sure you should read all of the supporting documentation that the supplier make available to you to understand how to measure the pool according to their requirements. The measurements themselves are taken with 100′ flexible tape measurers of which you need one for rectangle pools and two for all other shapes to take A and B plot points.

The only tricky measurements are the pool depth and slopes when you are measuring a pool full of water. Attach a key ring with a few keys on it or something with weight to the zero end of the tape measurer. Have someone hold a pole over the middle of the pool by laying it on the deck and standing on it while a second person throws the tape measurer over the pole. The person with the pole would stand along the side of the deep end extending the pole over the water while a second person stands by the diving board and takes measurements. You will be able to situate the tape over the deepest part of the pool and slowly let the weight pull the tape to the bottom of the pool. Once resting on the bottom you can measure the height to the current water level and then in a separate measurement from the water level to the point where the liner hooks into the coping to give you your total depth in the deep end.

All measurements in the pool should be taken as precisely as possible and rounded down where applicable to avoid having too much liner.

Having too little liner (by a very small degree) will help to ensure that the liner fits well overall as it will stretch to fit. In this respect the only measurement in the pool that you should manually manipulate is the overall depth in the deep end of the pool. This one single measurement you will deduct 2″ from the total depth of the deep end only. This will ensure that your liner stretches nicely into place and avoids excessive liner material and wrinkles in the pool. This is a great trick that contractors use to ensure a good cosmetic fit.

Once you have completed all of your measurements it is critically important that you repeat this process and remeasure everything. If your measurements are off then you could find yourself unhappy come installation day. When you submit your measurements the liner manufacturer will confirm with you that they have been verified and the liner is in production.

Before you order your liner you will need to choose your liner pattern. Everyone has an opinion on this however there is only one simple rule that you need to know – dark liners can heat the water by as much as seven degrees Fahrenheit by absorbing sunlight alone over a light coloured pool. Since you are interested in saving money this is a fringe benefit that can not be overlooked. All new liners look good when they get installed – go for the one that will help to pay for itself for years to come by offsetting heating costs. Pool supply stores will have actual vinyl color samples for you – often the same colors and patterns that you can order online if you want to see the color in person instead of on your computer monitor.

Installation Timeline
The installation of your liner needs to happen over a short period of time. There is risk involved with having a swimming pool empty so you want to leave your pool empty for as short of a period as possible while installing your new liner.

Draining The Pool
Drain the pool with a submersible pump or gas powered pump. A garden hose submersible pump will take three days to a week to empty a pool where as a submersible 2″ pump will empty a pool in one to two days. A gas powered pump with a 3″ or 4″ discharge can empty your pool in as little as an hour but are difficult to get the bottom foot or two of water out. As you drain the pool use a garden hose to wash the walls and floor down. This small tip will make a huge difference in how dirty and disgusting you will get in the next step especially if your pool is green and gross. Please note that ANY electrical equipment used around a pool must be electrically GFI protected – no exceptions. Pools and electricity are not a good mix as the long slippery slopes are a recipe for disaster. Do not take any chances and be sure to understand electrical safety when working around water.

Removing The Old Liner
The liner will be cut out in pieces and rolled up to be disposed of. Start on the floor on the shallow end and cut into long strips around four feet wide. After you roll up a section of old liner you can stand it on end and lean it on the pool wall to drain any excess water out before transportation. Be extremely careful as the vinyl liner cut edge is very sharp and will give you paper cut like cuts that are certain to get a nasty infection. If you are removing sections of liner that are very old or dry the liner will have a tendency to break and shatter like glass. Liners in this condition will shatter and throw sharp shards and cause severe lacerations. Great care must be taken when removing old liners from the coping track as you do not want to damage or stretch the existing coping or you may find yourself needing to replace your coping as well. To get the liner out of the track you will use a lift and pull method which will allow the liner to slip out easily and smoothly. Do not force this step or risk breaking your coping – finesse is the key.

Remove Faceplates and Gaskets
When you are removing large section of the old liner simply cut around the liner gaskets and get to them after the whole liner has been removed. Inspect each fitting and determine the orientation that the gaskets have been installed before disassembling them. The gasket orientation changes from pool to pool and manufacturer to manufacturer so your best bet is to install the same configuration that previously existed for your pool. You can take pictures of the dismantling process which can help you later if you forget where the gaskets will go. Each fitting has three possible locations for gaskets being behind the liner, on top of the liner, or both behind and on top of your liner. You can also follow the instructions that come with your new faceplates and gaskets. Be absolutely certain that you keep track of all the screws and which faceplate they came from. If any screws are rusted or difficult to remove then mark on the wall with permanent marker which ones were suspect so you can deal with them later. It is critical that you do not snap off any screw heads so be wary of screws that do not seem to want to come out.

Inspect walls
With the water out and the liner taken away you can now for the first time really inspect and evaluate the condition of your pool. It should be rust and crack free on the walls and floor and be free of any foreign material or sharp areas which could damage the liner. You may notice areas on the pool walls where there are rust circles in various places. Each of these areas is a place where you had a small pinhole leak in your liner. All rust needs to be scraped off the walls with a trowel or paint scraper.

Inspect floor
The floor will be mortar cement, vermiculite cement or compressed sand. Sand will be the easiest to determine as you will leave footprints in it as you walk. It may appear to have a slight crust from the compression from water weight, but investigation will reveal that it is sand. If you have a sand bottom then you must be meticulous when you do your final cleaning and grooming before hanging the liner. Sand will easily hide sharp items . To reshape the sand then sprinkle with water and trowel smooth. If you have a vermiculite floor it will look like concrete and even feel like concrete. You will be able to determine vermiculite by its compressive strength.

Vermiculite concrete is much lighter and much weaker than traditional concrete. If you can indent the floor with your heel then you have vermiculite. If you have concrete it will be apparent in its hardness and resistance to puncture. A screwdriver can be pushed right through vermiculite but would not penetrate concrete. All cracks and inconsistencies in the floor of the pool need to be repaired before hanging your liner. You must repair floor cracks with the material that your floor is originally made from. Fix sand floors with sand, vermiculite with vermiculite and concrete with concrete. Mixing these materials can lead to separating of the two floor materials which can ultimately damage the liner in the future.

Brush & Wash Walls & Floor
When you begin the final stages of preparation before hanging the liner you will need to wash and broom down the entire pool from top to bottom including the walls. Be sure to sweep the deck area off as your first step to avoid additional debris being knocked into the pool after you have cleaned it. Sand bottom pools must be inspected and cleaned slowly and carefully adding new sand in areas which are rough. Vermiculite and concrete pools will be washed with a hose as well as brushing from top to bottom. You will then pump out the water that accumulates in the bottom of the deep end. Once you have finished washing and rinsing you will begin the process of taping up the seams

Tape All Seams & Perimeter Coping
When the liner goes into the pool you will be putting a vacuum behind the liner to suck it into place. In order to be able to do this you need to tape shut all the seems in the pool which would leak air and prevent this process. You will see evidence of this from the previous installation likely in masking or duct tape. The point is to seam all the wall sections together from top to bottom with a single band of duct tape. Masking tape can be used but results will be better with duct tape. In addition to the walls, you will also need to tape the perimeter of the pool where the coping meets with the top of the wall of the pool. The walls must be totally dry in order for the tape to stick.

Vacuum All Debris
You can not be too careful with this step as any debris left in the pool can cause damage. A stone the size of a pea would look like a baseball that was left under the liner one you are finished installing the new liner. Even though you have washed the pool down you must vacuum the entire pool from top to bottom. If you are finding a lot of small debris on the bottom of the pool then stop this process and wash and brush down the pool again.

Set Gaskets & Screws
You must now spray wd40 or penetrating oil into the screw holes for all the faceplates in the pool. Any screw hole that is rusty you will need to soak in oil and insert and remove the screw a few times to clear the threads. Vacuum all the screw holes to remove any sand or debris in the bottom of the hole. Do not skip this step especially with main drain or you may not be able to tighten the faceplates to the gaskets if a screw bottoms out too early. You will then reinstall all the screws into their holes as far as they can go with almost no force. Any screws that have ANY sharp edge to them needs to be smoothed or left out as they will slice the liner when you drag the liner over them. You could also place a dab of Vaseline on each of the screw heads to facilitate little friction when the liner passes over the screws. The point of leaving the screws in place is so that you can locate the correct location for the screw head when you are installing the faceplates over the liner. Take a digital picture of each of the screw and gasket orientation in the pool. This can help you if you are unsure of anything during the installation of the faceplates later.

Hanging The Liner
This is it. Be sure that it is a sunny and warm day, even hot, as this will help with the installation of the liner. Installation on cold and overcast days will make this process much more difficult if not impossible. You will soon see that hanging the liner itself is only a small part of the overall project. The vast majority of the time it takes to install a new liner in your pool is the preparation of the walls and floor surface. When the pool is absolutely, positively impeccably clean and there are no sharp items, tool boxes or anything that can blow into the pool on the pool deck it is time to bring the liner into the pool. Dolly the liner over to the edge of the shallow end and open the box without damaging it or the liner. Lift and slide the liner into the pool by pressing it up against the wall as it drops. Liners are surprisingly heavy and difficult to manipulate. Some strong hands for assistance will be a great help to have on this day.

Once the liner is out of the box you can no longer jump in and out of the pool without sitting down and inspecting your shoes for sharp debris. No tools should be in or around the pool or on your person when working with the liner. Many professional installers will only work in the pool barefoot when working with a liner. Open the liner and span it across the shallow end. You may or may not be able to locate the stickers which are placed on the liner to help you locate the shallow end and the deep end. You are going to take a section of the liner and pick it up and walk straight down into the deep end to begin opening up the liner. You will work to locate the two shallow end corners and bring them to their general location as you continue to open up the shallow end.

To hang the liner in the track you will bend the bead of the liner ninety degrees and push the bead straight into the coping. By supporting the weight of the liner with one hand you will be able to direct the bead into its resting place in the coping. While still holding the bead in place you will release the weight of the liner. The liner will pull straight down on the bead and the coping will use friction and leverage to hold the liner in place. You may find that the liner has a tendency to pop out in areas that you have already installed. The older and more worn your coping is, the easier the liner will pop out of its place. To assist with holding the liner in place you can use wooden clothes pegs that have previously had the springs removed. The pegs have a small taper to one direction and an aggressive taper in the other. Use the clothes pegs to wedge the liner gently in place while you continue to install sections of the liner.

You will start at the shallow end corners and work your way across the short wall of the shallow end. Really analyze the shallow end corners and short wall to get the best fit possible for the liner. Once you proceed down the long walls of the pool any adjustments that need to be made will require much more effort. Once you have reached the edge of the shallow end on both sides of the pool you will begin the process of hanging the liner in the deep end. This step requires two people, and four is even better. You will start at the edge of that shallow end and work to put in a section of liner every two or three feet along the long wall. It is best to have pick up the liner with your leading arm and hold the weight while using the other hand to put a section of the liner in place that is one or two feet long itself. Obviously safety is a real concern with this step as falling forwards into the pool could be fatal. If you perform this step with four people each one will be able to remain in three points of contact with the ground while progressing towards the deep end wall.

Once you feel that you have the deep end corners approximately in the right place you can return to the shallow end and install the liner in the track all the way around the pool. The more that you get in place, the easier it becomes to put the rest in. Note that when you install the liner in the deep end you can not do this from inside the pool. Once the liner is in place you will only go inside the shallow end to make adjustments before installing the vacuum.

Installing The Vacuum
You now will need to vacuum the air out from behind the liner. To do this you can use a $3000 vinyl liner installation vacuum, or you can simply use a $100 regular run of the mill wet/dry shop vacuum. A five horsepower model is required for suction strength and you will remove the paper filter from inside the vacuum for the duration of its use. The vacuum hose must be perfectly clean and free of any sharp burs which may damage the liner. You will wrap duct tape around the end that you will be inserting behind the liner to blunt any sharp edges. The liner will be forcefully pressed against the hose of the vacuum specifically the end of the hose so be sure that it will not be able to cut the liner. It can help to apply a small amount of Vaseline to the tip of the nozzle to facilitate easier removal later.

You will feed the hose down through the top of the skimmer in the deck. The hose will snake from the top and through the mouth before turning in downwards behind the liner. You want the end of the hose to be about two feet down from the top of the pool deck. Next you will need to cut a piece of cardboard that will have a hole in the center that the vacuum hose will fit through. The goal is to have the cardboard taped to the deck overtop of the skimmer with a hole in the center where the vacuum hose comes up. The vacuum hose should be taped on all sides to the cardboard as well to ensure as airtight of a seal as possible. If there is a second skimmer in the pool be sure to tape of that skimmer as well to ensure that no air is able to get through there. If all looks good you are ready to start to suck the air out from behind the liner.

When you suck air out from behind the liner with the vacuum you will immediately see the liner to start to pull back into place. If you do not have a good seal or are losing air some way the liner will not pull back. It should take between three to five minutes for most of the air to be sucked out from behind the liner. If you do not have most of the air visibly gone after five minutes you may be leaking air somewhere and you may need to revisit your preparation of the pool and find where the air is going.

Adjusting The Liner
As the air is being pulled out from behind the liner you will need to go into the shallow end and begin to manually manipulate the floor to get the wrinkles out. A plunger can be a good tool to help you grab the liner and work the wrinkles out. This is where skill and experience come into play. Without having completed multiple liner changes you will not be able to tell which wrinkles will work themselves out after the pool fills with water and which must be attended to now to avoid having unsightly wrinkles in the final product. If you have excessive wrinkles especially in places like both sides of the long slope of the pool then you may need to orient the liner again. A skilled eye can look at where a wrinkle is and judge how much the liner needs to shift in order to reduce or eliminate the wrinkle. As an amateur you will need to rely on some determination and trial and error to make sure you have the best fit possible for your liner. You can try turning off the vacuum and letting air behind the liner again and then having one or more people stand in strategic places on the liner to hold it in place until the vacuum takes over. The long slope from the shallow end will tend to pull towards the deep end from the weight of the hanging liner. This can cause wrinkles on both sides of the pool stating at the shallow end break heading down into the deep end. Try putting the liner in place and then standing at the edge of the shallow end to hold the liner in place. You should be able to get the major wrinkles out this way.

Start Filling The Pool
Be sure that you are happy with how the liner fits before turning on the water as removing water is a real pain at this point. If you are happy with where the liner is and you have removed 95% or more of the wrinkles in the pool you are now ready to start the water. The hose must be clean and free of any sharp edges that could cut the liner. Most hose ends are sharp from being crushed or dragged or held together with clamps. These types of fill hoses will not go anywhere near the pool. Buy a brand new hose if you have to. The hose will be dropped down into the deep end over the side of the deck and will rest in the bottom. You do not want falling water as this can fade the color in your liner at the point where the water impacts. Once filling the vacuum will continue to run until you have at least one foot of water in the shallow end before shutting it off. This will usually be overnight for one night. It is absolutely critical that the vacuum does not shut off for any reason after you have started the water. If the vacuum shuts off for any reason you will find that the shallow end will be pulled out of place by the deep end and you will need to drain the pool and start over.

Pull Vacuum
Once you have between 12″-16″ of water in the shallow end you will be able to shut off the vacuum and remove it from behind the liner. You will feel that there is a lot of pressure on the hose and you will need to gently wiggle it to remove it. Be patient with this step as it requires a fair bit of patience and skill – not strength. If you let the water level rise too high you will not be able to remove the hose without lowering the water level. If you ever want a lesson in how heavy water is then try to remove a hose when the water level has risen and covered even the tip of the nozzle. It is not that you can not finesse the hose out, it is more a matter that you can not budge it in any direction with any method or level of force that you try. Shutting off the vacuum too early would result in the liner displacing and pulling down into the deep end. Be sure to not damage or disrupt the skimmer gasket as you are removing the hose from the vacuum. Once you have removed the vacuum you let the pool fill until there is two feet of water or more in the shallow end.

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