Complete Guide for Installing Your Above Ground Pool Liner
Congratulations on your new above ground pool liner. You’re one step closer to enjoying your swimming pool — now all you have to do is install it! There are a number of ways and techniques to install a swimming pool liner and many experts will tell you different things. However, the liner you purchased from LinerWorld has been designed to be installed one way, and one way only. We like to be very clear about that upfront to avoid any confusion or disappointments with the installation.
Please note: If you use any other technique to install your vinyl pool liner except the one described below, you assume the risk of liner failure & all warranties will be considered void.
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Before Installing Your New Pool Liner:
Have your liner and ready to get started? Read below and follow along with Part 1 of our liner installation video series.
Measure your above ground pool one more time.
Due to sagging, bowed walls, and a number of other reasons, your pools may not measure exactly the size you think you have. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so don’t rely on previous receipts or documents, what the pool store listed as the pool dimensions, or even the size of your pool cover.
Accurate measurements are crucial for a proper liner fit and installation. The correct fit will help increase the longevity of your liner and save you time and money in the long run. To accurately measure your above ground pool, measure from inside to inside of the pool wall with a tape measure. If you think of your pool as a clock face, measure from 12 to 6 and 9 to 3.
Once you’ve double-checked the measurements, you can make sure you have the right box with the right size pool liner and avoid any trouble or hiccups down the road.
Keep safety in mind.
Before installing your liner, make sure the area around your pool is safe and secure. That may mean mowing the grass, picking up toys in the yard, trimming bushes and tree branches, sanitizing your patio area, and making sure children and pets are indoors. Starting with a clear and clean area will help assure no harm comes to you or your new liner.
Also, as you’ll see below, pool liner installations need to be done when it’s hot and sunny. That means you’re at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses, sunburn, and more. Stay hydrated and use plenty of sunscreen throughout the process, just like you should when lounging around the pool. Check out our complete swimming pool safety guide for more insights about sun protection.
Check the weather.
Once you’ve re-measured and cleared your yard, you’re ready to install your pool liner. However, you have to check the weather before proceeding. The pool liner that you purchased from LinerWorld is made to be installed and filled when the temperature is 80 degrees or warmer. If it is not 80 degrees and sunny, wait for a hotter day. It’s easy to get overly excited or anxious to use your pool, but we can’t stress this one enough. The vinyl is much easier to work with when it’s warm and you may risk damage or decreasing the total life of the product Again, do not install your liner or fill your pool with water unless it is 80 degrees or more and sunny. All warranties are considered void otherwise.
Once you’ve found the perfect day, you’re finally ready to start your installation.
Installing Your Above Ground Swimming Pool Liner
Drain all water and take out the old liner.
Start by making sure ALL the water is drained out of your swimming pool. As you’re pumping out the water, make sure you’re pumping it as far away as possible to avoid making a mess underneath your pool.
We recommend using a simmer pump, which is an electrical pump that plugs right into an outlet. While it takes a while, it’s convenient because it’s relatively cheap at your local hardware or pool supply store and easy to use. The simmer pump lays at the bottom of the pool and gets the water level down to almost nothing. As an added bonus, it’s a great tool for pumping water off your winter pool cover as well.
When you get down to the last little bit of water, it’s time to take your Shop-Vac and get the last few gallons out manually before actually taking the old liner out.
Note: We often get asked whether it’s OK to just cut the bottom of the old liner and let the water drain out into the ground. The answer is no because the excess water can actually cause damage to the base below your swimming pool. As noted above, you want to get the water far away from your pool.
Once the water is removed, you can go ahead and remove your old liner. It’s easy enough. Take a razor blade and cut all along the perimeter of the pool and let the old liner fall into the empty pool. Then you can proceed to cut the liner up into manageable pieces and throw them away.
After the old liner has been removed, you’ll want to inspect the sand underneath. Groom the area, look for low spots and compression and add sand as necessary. Landscape rakes come in handy for this and make the process simpler. Once things are level and filled in, use a push broom to give it a final once over and make it smooth.
Note: When adding sand, use pool sand or play sand, NOT torpedo sand. Torpedo sand is used in the cement industry and isn’t right for this application.
If you don’t have one already, you may want to consider adding a pool liner pad under the liner at this point to help protect the bottom from rocks and debris.
Open and unfold the liner
It’s finally time to get your new pool liner out and ready. When opening, use caution to avoid slicing the liner. We recommend using scissors rather than a razor blade to open the box. Inspect the liner for any defects or damage at this time as well. Take off your shoes to avoid potential damage and work barefoot.
As you’re unfolding the liner in the pool, look for the bottom seam of the liner. The bottom seam should be centered with respect to the perimeter of the pool. Keep in mind that these pool liners are designed to be short of the actual size of the pool and meant to be stretched into place, so it’s not uncommon for the seam to be away from the wall a little bit.
Once the liner is unfolded and centered, it’s time to move onto the more technical steps. Follow along with Part 2 of our liner installation videos and keep in mind the 80 degree and sunny rule we mentioned above before proceeding any further.
Take the top rails off and install the liner
At this point, the old liner is out and you have the new liner laid out and centered in the new pool. Now we’re going to remove the top rails and use a north, south, east, west technique to actually install the pool liner. You may be a DIY kind of person, but you’ll want to have a few people helping you out moving forward. Once the top rails are removed, the pool wall can be flimsy, so it helps to have some additional hands holding it. If you only have a couple set of hands, it may be best to alternate or only remove a few of the top rails at a time.
When you start to take the liner and attach it, you want to start at the north-most point of the pool. You take the liner and secure it with the coping, top metal, and the top rail in that spot. Then move to the south, then east, then west and repeat the process. A good amount of overlap on overlap pool liners on the outside of the pool is 8 to 12 inches, give or take. For beaded liners, the process stays the same throughout, but you simply attach it to the track rather than having any overlap.
At this point, you’ll have your above ground pool liner installed at four different points, which is distributing the stretch of the liner. You can expect the liner to come up near the corner, rather than being flush. That’s OK and that gap is something you want to see.
Many people start by picking a point and going all the way around the pool. The problem with that method is that once you hit a certain point, the liner is so tight that it’s hard to get it up and over the wall. By using this method, everything stretches a little more evenly, preserving the liner and making installation smoother and easier.
Once the pool liner is secured in those four places, you can continue the process. Next, you install four more points — northeast, southwest, northwest, southeast — as shown below. Again, you secure it with the coping, top metal, and top rail. You may also have to do a little more stretching to get it up and over this time. As noted before, you should expect to see that gap in the corners, rather than having the liner flush against the pool wall.
Once those eight points are attached, you can continue attaching the liner around the rest of the pool. You should go clockwise and attach the liner in between each of the eight points. At this point, the liner should be about where you want it and evenly distributed. If there are wrinkles in your pool liner or something seems off-center or cockeyed, now is the time to fix it. Don’t be afraid to start over if you need — it’s better to fix it now than when water is in the pool.
Put Shop-Vac into the “empty” skimmer hole in the wall and turn on.
Once the liner is where you want it, the fun really begins. Follow along with Part 3 of our video series.
Everyone has a skimmer box for the pool. That’s where the water goes from the pool to the skimmer box. The skimmer box has to be uninstalled during the installation process, so there should be an empty hole at this point.
Widemouth Deluxe Skimmer Box & Return Kit
Square Deluxe Skimmer Box & Return Kit
You want to take your Shop-Vac and put the hose through the empty skimmer box hole. Then use duct tape to cover up the rest of the hole surrounding the skimmer box to create an airtight pocket. You’ll also want to cover up the return jet hole with duct tape as well. Once that’s done, you’ll flip the switch and let the magic begin. The vacuum will suck the air out and the liner will start sucking up to the pool walls. Wrinkles will also start to flatten out. Looking good!
Start adding water
Once that’s done, you’re going to insert your hose into the center of the pool. As you add water, it’ll start to puddle up in the center and get bigger and bigger around the edge of your pool.
During that time, you’ll want to be standing in the pool and pushing and stretching the material using your feet and hands. This will remove any additional wrinkles and help the pool liner stretch properly for the perfect fit. You’ll want to keep standing in the pool and pushing out the wrinkles until the water completely covers the bottom. There should be about an inch or so of water. Keep in mind the vacuum is running this entire time as well.
Once there’s about an inch of water, you don’t have to stretch the liner anymore. However, you have to keep a close eye on your swimming pool until it’s filled about a foot. It’s best if you can stand by your pool, but that’s not always feasible since it takes a while to fill that much water. So, if you do have to walk away, stay close and check in on it every 5 minutes or so. That way you can catch it if something goes wrong, like a bead coming off of the track or the overlap slipping. If that happens, you can easily stop the water and adjust the liner, rather than risking damage, having to start over, or other major installation problems.
After there’s about a foot of water in the pool, it’s no longer necessary for you to stand there and keep watch. Keep both the hose and the vacuum running.
When the pool is half full, eliminate the Shop-Vac and install skimmer box.
When the pool is halfway full, you can turn off the vacuum and pull the house out. Then it’s time to add in your skimmer box and return jets. Then, simply let the pool continue to fill.
Once the pool is full, you want to check your water levels and you’re all set. It’s finally time to enjoy your pool!
Pool Liner Installation Troubleshooting Tips & Tricks:
Do it the way we describe above and while it’s hot and sunny, and there should be minimal hiccups during the installation process. However, if something goes wrong during installation, don’t worry. It happens to the best of us! Let’s go through and troubleshoot some of the common issues people face during the process. Follow along with our handy video.
If the liner feels super tight…
This is pretty common and not unexpected. When the liner feels tight and is difficult to pull up and over the wall, try taking the pool liner and leaning into it with your chest and use your body weight to stretch it out and pull it over. Then pull on it from the outside. They're meant to stretch.
If the liner pulls inwards toward the pool while filling…
As mentioned above, you want to make sure you’re close by and watching while the pool fills to avoid this issue. That way, if it does happen, you’ll catch it quickly and be able to stop, turn things off, and adjust while it’s filling. If you did walk away or someone else installed your liner using a different method, you may have to drain the water and start over.
Stay calm and focused.
It’s best not to do a pool liner installation when there’s a lot going on. Many people attempt to do an installation when they have other weekend plans, work obligations, or company is coming over. A hectic schedule only adds to the stress and causes panic and chaos if something goes wrong. Plan your pool liner installation for when you’re free and won’t feel rushed, anxious, or distracted.
Pay attention to rules, codes, and safety issues.
Double-check with any and all necessary parties before installing your pool liner. Check guides and manuals that came with liners and equipment, check any city codes and regulations, and keep safety top of mind if working near power lines, digging, or using any tools along the way.
Hire someone to do your installation instead.
While this installation can be done on your own, it takes a lot of experience to really become an expert at this process. Consider hiring a professional to tackle the job, saving you time and energy.