Last Updated: June 19, 2022

Vinyl Liner Pools: Overview, Costs & Lifespan

Written By: Pool Care Guide

When buying a swimming pool, you want one that gives you and your family a good time and one with longevity. Many homeowners can't decide whether to install vinyl, fiberglass, or concrete pools.

Although each type has its pros, inground vinyl liner pools have been the go-to solution thanks to their affordability, ease of installation, and customization options. However, they're not without problems. Here are some concerns I've experienced over the years when using an inground vinyl pool.

How Long Do Inground Vinyl Liner Pools Last?

The average lifespan of an inground vinyl liner pool is 10-12 years, depending on maintenance and the extent of UV exposure.

Swimming pools are exposed to UV rays year-round which shortens their life. As if that's not enough, they are exposed to various chemicals used to treat water. The process is known as chemical care, and it's used to maintain healthy pH and chlorine levels.

pH measures the water's acidity level, and if it's too low, it means the acidity is high and makes it difficult for chlorine to disinfect the water adequately. 

Conversely, a high pH damages the vinyl liner, pool equipment, and your skin, meaning there has to be a healthy balance when treating the pool for acidity and adding chlorine to protect the liner.

The type of vinyl liner used also determines longevity. Typically, there are two types of vinyl liners -- embossed and non-embossed. The latter is more expensive and lasts longer if well maintained and installed correctly. On the other hand, Embossed vinyl liners provide a cheaper solution, but it gets punctured easily due to their lightweight nature.

What if the Vinyl Liner Gets Punctured?

Vinyl liner pools are prone to tears and holes, albeit with their thick surfaces. Pools with concrete floors and walls can withstand the water pressure, but it's likely to leak if the bottom has sand.

You must repair leaks in vinyl pool liners immediately because the holes lead to a drop in the water level, which increases water usage and causes soil erosion. 

Pool patch kits make it easy to repair minor leaks even without draining the pool. And the good news is that the patches last long, too -- sometimes more than 15 years.

What Is the Cost of Replacing a Vinyl Pool Liner?

Typically, the cost of replacing vinyl pool liners is $3,000-$4,000 depending on its thickness, the pool's size, and if you're enlisting the help of a professional. This cost is exclusive of labor and materials, which vary between $1,400 and $4,800.  

Homeowners who regularly use their pools need the thicker 28 MIL pool liner, which costs $300-$400 more but withstands harsh weather. Standard 20 MIL pool liners are cheaper and last 10-12 years. 

Luckily, installing an inground vinyl pool liner is about a day's work depending on the condition of the walls and the subfloor. You need to factor in the cost of repairing specific pool parts.

For example, the holes on the subfloor may need to be patched and smoothed before installing the new vinyl liner. Professional repair costs may vary between $100 and $350, while extreme repairs cost as high as $1,700. Other factors that could add to the replacement cost include:

  • Pool liner thickness: Thick liners made from virgin vinyl last longer and don't tear easily. However, the installation process is more intensive.
  • Pool location: The pool's accessibility and location may add to the overall replacement cost. Sometimes the contractor needs special equipment to bring the material on site adding to the cost.
  • Liner pattern or design: Patterned liners add to the cost because they are more difficult to install. Dark-colored liners are also more expensive to repair.
  • Time of the year: This factor affects the cost of hiring a professional to replace the liner. The summer period is the busiest and if planning to replace it, be ready to pay a higher rate and be on the waitlist.

What About the Wrinkles Forming on the Vinyl Liner?

Liners often develop wrinkles due to different reasons. For example, there could be too much water in the soil surrounding the pool, which happens when the water table is too high, causing a lift in the pool floor.

When the water resumes its original level, the liner might not stretch back into position, immediately developing wrinkles. They make the liner look ugly and create an opportunity for dirt to collect on the creases.

They may also develop during installation when the contractor takes incorrect measurements. As a result, the liner gets skewed and doesn't line up with the floor angles or the corners. That's why it's essential to take your time when installing the liner to ensure it's centered over the pool.

Once centered correctly, the shallow floor is pulled up toward the shallow end wall, and the wrinkles are pushed to the corners as the installation progresses. Chemicals also cause wrinkles. 

Chlorine and other chemicals used to maintain a healthy pH level may suck the moisture out of the vinyl liner, causing it to shrivel up. The best way to avoid chemical wrinkles is to keep chlorine and pH levels in check.

Do Vinyl Liners Bleach or Fade?

Fading may result from prolonged exposure to UV rays, especially if living in the southern region. Even pools with UV inhibitors can fade. Fading might not be a huge issue for homeowners living in the freezing northern areas, especially if the pools are covered and winterized.

Another problem associated with vinyl liners is bleaching -- chemical fading due to continuous chlorine use. Vinyl liners are much more resistant to bleaching than they used to be – nonetheless, they lose color over time. 

Chlorine corrodes the surface, affecting its plasticity by pulling the resins away from the material. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize bleaching:

  • If using chlorine tablets, avoid putting them in the skimmer; instead, use a chlorine feeder
  • Dilute the pool shock solution in a bucket of water and mix before pouring it around the pool edges
  • Shock the pool when needed. If you're not experiencing water problems, shock it once a month
  • Avoid using chlorine floaters during extreme weather periods (summer or winter). The content may tip over and spill on the vinyl liner, causing it to fade.
  • Use a mineral sanitizer with the chlorine solution to reduce the daily chlorine requirement.

How Strong is the Wall Compared to Fiberglass and Concrete Pools?

Another issue I was a little skeptical about was the strength of the wall panels. However, I realized the wall strength depends on the material used to make them. 

Vinyl wall panels are either made from metal or polymer. Both materials guarantee longevity (25-30 years), but metal wall panels are more rigid and stronger than polymer panels.

In addition, they remain straight even when surrounding dirt pushes against them. On the other hand, polymer wall panels are curved and slightly bow at the joints. They are also prone to cracking as they are lighter than metal wall panels. Therefore, it's essential to check the type of metal used to make the wall panels as it affects longevity.

Typically, two types of metal are used -- steel and aluminum. Steel wall panels tend to last longer as they are more rust-resistant. The panels are dipped in liquid-like zinc, a galvanization process that makes them resistant to rust.

Do Vinyl Pools Have Different Designs or Shapes?

A while ago, this was a problem when vinyl pools had a limited selection of designs and shapes. They have since evolved significantly, providing infinite options. What's more, pool kits that you can easily access can help you customize the liners to any shape.

The limitless options also make poolscape updates easy. You can now use features such as underwater speakers, waterfalls, diving rocks, and so much more to create a customized look.

By comparison, concrete pool designs are somewhat flexible as they have a range of custom design options, except they have many restrictions. You can curate some designs using a vinyl pool kit. Fiberglass pools, on the other hand, have many design limitations.

Can You Tile or Use Stone Over Vinyl Pool Liner?

You can use tiles as the flooring and the pool walls, and since vinyl liners are easy to install, you can use a tile band built-in. 

You can also use brick, stone, or other natural material as the coping around a vinyl pool. It's easy to install real tile around the perimeter hanging over the top of the wall.

Should I Allow My Dog to Swim in a Vinyl Pool?

I was skeptical about allowing my dog to swim in the new vinyl pool. It turns out that it wasn't all that bad as long as I kept his toenails well-groomed. Vinyl pools develop scratches and tears easily. A panicking dog who repeatedly scratches against the stairs and the walls can cause scratches when reaching for the edge.

I learned to train my dog to minimize damage to the pool while keeping him comfortable when swimming. Installing stationary floats and stairs goes a long way in enhancing comfort and minimizing the risk of damage.

Final Thoughts

Note that vinyl pools are the best for constructing DIY pools. If this is your end goal, this guide should help you understand what to expect when installing and using them. You can also handle common issues associated with vinyl pools. 

Some homeowners avoid installing them due to these problems, but with the above solutions, you have nothing to fear.

Be sure to comment if you found this post helpful or have experienced other issues I haven't mentioned in the post.

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