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How Long Do Pool Liners Last?

How Long Do Pool Liners Last?
How long do pool liners last? Sadly the answer is definitively less than they used to. A vinyl pool liner purchased and installed in 1975 might have made it 25 years before the pool owners elected to change it to update the color which had faded over the course of a quarter century. Nobody elects to change their liner anymore. These days pool owners change their liner because the have to change their liner...and this is usually quite a bit faster than they were expecting which leads them, you, to ask the question "how long should a pool liner last?"

There are a lot of factors that affect how long a liner might last, which I will go over later in this article, but to cut to the chase a new vinyl pool liner these days will last between 7 to 10 years. This is less than half of what previous generations of pool owners used to get from a (well cared for) vinyl liner. The change in liner service life has a lot to do with the vinyl manufacturing process, and specifically the chemicals used to make the vinyl sheeting. Most of the chemicals that will make the liner last the longest, as it turns out, were really unhealthy options to use. There are a host of banned chemicals no longer in use for making vinyl sheeting that is used to make pool liners. When these chemicals were not banned, pool liners lasted longer but at what price?

Pool liner thickness - Surprisingly the thickness of your pool liner is not specifically an indicator whether it will last a long time or not. When a liner is properly fitted, and made using equivalent quality vinyl sheeting from the manufacturer, a 20 mil liner and a 30 mil liner can both last for potentially the same length of service life. Each thicker and thinner liners have advantages and disadvantages, however the service life that you can expect is not tied to liner thickness in any sort of linear way. So what affects the life of your pool liner?

How well does your liner fit? - When you install a new vinyl liner the liner is measured and made to fit your pool precisely. In a perfect sense there would be no stretching of the vinyl at all in order to perfectly fit all three dimensions of your pool interior surface. In a real world setting attempting to have the liner be that exact of a fit very likely would result in at least one small area in the pool having just a tiny bit too much material. Liners can stretch a ton, especially with direct heat from the sun, the application of boiling water, or just from the massive weight of the water in the pool. If you stretch a liner too much when installing it, because it was measured a little on the small side to avoid the potential for wrinkles, then this can definitely reduce the service life of the liner. Not that this is a guaranteed failure, but the liner will lose elasticity every year and what once was a gentle stretch to fit is now tight-as-a-drum vinyl. This can cause the liner to fail but also can cause failure to the coping from all of this excess force pulling on it.

Quality of vinyl used to make your liner - There are definitely different qualities of vinyl liner on the market. The problem is that no manufacturer of vinyl liners will advertise that they use second rate vinyl. All manufacturers will go well out of their way to make their product sound like the best option on the market. You can twist words, stretch the truth, intentionally omit certain words...this is how it works. When you read 100% locally made liners, or liners proudly made in America, why not give them a call and ask where the vinyl is coming from. Do they import their vinyl from China and then seam it together "100% locally" because I bet the answer is yes. At this point I am under the impression that offshore vinyl makes up the majority of the selection currently available to pool owners in Canada and the USA. The chemicals used in vinyl sheet manufacturing are harsh and strictly regulated. Making vinyl sheeting in areas where chemical byproducts and industrial waste are closely monitored would be very expensive and so largely pool liner materials all come from areas where there are less regulations about what chemicals you can use, and what happens to those chemicals when you are done with them.

How well you balance your pool chemicals - Something that is almost universally undervalued by pool owners is how chemical imbalance can negatively affect the longevity of your pool liner. This is probably the number one reason why a pool owner would experience a failure of their liner, or need to replace their liner at a sooner point than their neighbor who takes better care of their water. If you maintain your chlorine at a steady two parts per million all of the time this is definitely better for your liner longevity than varying regularly between zero ppm up to 10 ppm or more. Also perfectly balanced pH at a steady 7.4 is going to be way more conducive to liner longevity than pool water so acidic you can cook shrimp in it, because you were tired when you were reading the acid dosing instructions and added too much, or maybe you don't really follow the rules about adjusting alkalinity before pH and so you ended up bombing your pH too low because you did not have enough alkalinity in the water to buffer the reaction. The bottom line is that water chemistry matters, a lot, and the better you are at it the longer your liner is going to last.

As part of writing this article I reached out to multiple liner manufacturers to ask them some questions about chemicals used in the manufacturing of vinyl liners as well as some (very direct) questions about what type of products their company offers. Between the lines this is actually impolite of me to do. Regular pool owners do not ask questions like this, and when I do it as a known industry expert, these companies know the answers will be seen by a lot of people so it puts a lot of pressure on them to answer carefully. I just want to be sure you readers understand that questions this direct would get ignored by most people. I sent identical information requests to Tara Manufacturing, Dover Pool Products, GLI Pool Products, Garrett Liners, Megna Pools, Kayden Manufacturing, Pegasus Products, Findlay Vinyl, Deys Fabricating, McEwen Industries, Loop-Loc, Merlin Industries and Latham with the following templated questions:

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June 8, 2020
Subject - Liner info request from Swimming Pool Steve

Hi there,

I am the author of www.SwimmingPoolSteve.com. My website and youtube channel get a few million views per year and I am currently writing an article about the quality of vinyl used for making pool liners. If you would like to be quoted in this article I am looking for information and company statements in regards to:

1) How long should an inground pool liner last (yes this depends, which is definitely covered in the article, just looking for modern day expectations versus liners of 30 years ago).

2) Do you use vinyl sheeting imported from China? Do you have any options using virgin vinyl solely manufactured in Canada or the USA?

3) What is your company stance on phthalates, and do you offer any phthalate free vinyl options?

4) Any other statements or policies on chemicals or safety of your pool liner materials?

Hard questions yes, I know. I am asking these same questions to your competitors as well. Some of you will answer and some will not, but if you want the chance for potential customers to hear your message this would be a good opportunity.

Thank you for your consideration. There is no time requirement. If you reply I will add it to the article.


Steve Goodale

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As a consumer it is not always clear what you are buying and even when you have the right intentions you might end up with the wrong product for your needs. In an effort to help pool owners make an informed decision about their health, and their pools, I have invited these big-name manufacturers, selected at random, to weigh in with information from the source. If you are a liner manufacturer and you want to be on this list, and you would like the opportunity to answer these questions as well please email me with your information and I would be happy to include this here as well. My professional experience with pool liners is that they do not last as long as they did, and in a way that is good because I want a healthier swimming experience and so should you. Three years to seven years would be the range I would give to expect for above ground pool liners, and inground pool liners I expect should last between five to 12 years with seven to 10 being the average expected life.

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