Pool Liner Coming Out Of Track
One of the most common causes for concern for vinyl pool owners is noticing that the liner is coming out of the track. Fortunately the liner slipping out of the coping track is usually not a cause for concern. It is worth noting however that there are a few different reasons why this would be happening to your liner, and this article will help you to determine exactly what kind of problem you are having with your liner and coping track, and how you can go about resolving the issue.
In general there are two main reasons why a pool liner will slip out of the track. The first is that pool liners shrink and lose elasticity as they age. If there is a section of liner that barely stays in the coping track now, then chances are this problem will become more common and more difficult to resolve as the liner continues to age. The other reason why a pool liner would slip out of the coping track is because the coping is starting to stretch (open) such that the bead on the liner is no loner able to grab as well as it once did. Of course, all of this assumes that there is not any actual physical damage to the liner or the coping. If the coping is cracked or broken, or the liner bead is tearing off the liner, you will require replacement of the failed components in order to resolve the issue. No amount of liner lock is going to hold the liner in place if the coping is cracked and broken!
How To Put liner Back In The Track - If you have a vinyl liner that has come out of the coping track, the very first thing you should do to try to fix this is to boil a large kettle of water. Pour the boiling water directly on and around the area of liner that has come out of the coping track. The liner will be very hot, but within a second or two you should be able to grab it without burning yourself. With the liner super-heated from the boiling water you should now have dramatically more stretch available to help you pull the liner back into place, and replace the bead into the coping track. The liner only stays warm for a few seconds so you need to work quickly. Reapply boiling water as many times as needed to get the liner back into the track.
Old Pool Liner Coming Out Of Coping Track
One of the main causes for pool liners to come out of the track is simply that the liner is getting old, and is not past its service life. As listed at number five on the list of 7 good pool maintenance habits you should adopt, it is very important to replace components of your pool once they have reached the end of their service life. Attempting to get one or two more seasons out of your pool components can often lead to much more expensive repairs than if you were to do them as required.
As your pool liner gets older it loses the plasticizers that were added to the vinyl to make it malleable. Where once the liner would move, bend or stretch easily, especially in heat and direct sunlight, older pool liners become stiff, rigid, and stretched tight like a drum. Where once the liner fit nicely you might find that it has now come out of the coping track and you are unable to put it back in. This is a very common situation with vinyl liner pools. If you have a liner that is seven or more years old, and the corners will not stay in the track, then this very likely means that it is time to replace your liner.
You might be able to tell that you need a new liner simply by knowing the age. Assuming you don't know how old the liner is, then try the boiling water trick to see if this will help you to get the liner back in the coping. Newer liners will respond very well to boiling water, and will become much easier to manipulate into position. The older the liner is, the less stretch and elasticity it will have, even when pouring boiling water on it. Now, it take strong hands to fix liner pulls in older liners, so do not expect the liner to "put itself" back into place. It is hard work - but if you have gorilla-strength hands and have tried boiling water over the liner and you still have no stretch to get it back into the track, then you might need a new liner.
Pool Coping Stretched Out Or Failing
Sometimes it is the fault of the coping, and not the liner, as to why the liner keeps coming out of the track. To answer why this happens we first need to consider that some coping tracks are made from aluminum and some are made from PVC. These two types of coping will fail in different ways, and you should also approach repairing these coping styles differently.
Aluminum Coping - Aluminum coping is surely superior to PVC coping products simply due to the durability and longevity of aluminum versus PVC. Of course the aluminum coping will be more expensive to buy than PVC, however pool coping is not all that expensive to begin with, and so upgrading to aluminum would be worth considering. The main advantage from aluminum coping is that you can bend the track back into place as needed should it ever slip out of the track.
PVC Coping - PVC coping is priced lower than similar aluminum styles. It is easy and fast to work with, and has a reasonable service life of between ten to twenty years. PVC is simply not as durable as aluminum, and if your PVC coping starts to stretch then there will be very little recourse available to you to stop your liner from slipping out of the track again and again. Coping is the style of product that is only as good as the weakest link. If any part of the coping fails then you will need to replace all of it, which will also require replacing the liner as well (even if it is not old yet).
Any time you change a pool liner you should be taking a very hard look at the coping to make sure it will perform well and last at least as long as the new liner. Many vinyl pool owners have gone with the "cheap quote" for a new liner only to discover they had deficiencies with the coping which were not noted or attended to before the new liner went in. You can find yourself in a situation where the liner is only a few years old, but the coping track is simply too old or worn out to retain the liner properly. Or, such as in the case with PVC coping, that the PVC has weakened and started to crack or break shortly after the new liner was installed.
How To Stop Liner From Coming Out Of The Coping
Back when I started in the pool industry over 25 years ago it was very common to see pennies stuffed into the coping track to try to help the liner to stay in place anywhere it was inclined to pop out. Also common was to see popsicle sticks used for the same reason. The reason why these items were used for this purpose is that they were just about the right thickness for the job, and both wood and copper will not rust around the pool. Sure the pennies would oxidize a little bit, but for the most part this was not a problem.
Pool Liner Lock is sometimes called T-bead and usually sold in 120' lengths which would be enough for up to a 20x40' pool. Some pools use small pieces of liner lock as needed to make the liner stay in place, where other pools use liner lock on the entire coping for a uniform look.
Today it is much more common to see a manufactured liner lock product than it would be to see popsicle sticks of pennies. Liner lock is very inexpensive, and much easier to work with - not to mention that it looks a lot better on your pool than the pennies do! Now, as you can see in the very top picture on this page, liner lock is not a guarantee against the pool liner coming out of the track. In this picture we can see that this pool had liner lock (which is now hanging), however it did not stop this liner from coming out of the track anyway.
Liner lock will certainly help to retain your liner bead in the coping track if your coping it slightly too loose to hold the liner bead. In the case of the picture shown at the top of this page, this liner is old, and at the end of its service life, and no amount of liner lock would stop the corner from popping out. Sharp (tight) radius corners, as found with some rectangle pools, are the most inclined areas of any vinyl pool to have the liner come out of the track. Sharp corners are tough to install even when the liner is brand new and extra supple - once the liner ages it will become difficult, and eventually impossible to get the liner in the track.
Concerns About Using Liner Lock - If liner lock helps the coping to stay in the track...then why not use it on every swimming pool? The main answer to this is simply that most pools do not need liner lock. Most pool coping is perfectly capable of keeping a liner bead in the track. I do not endorse using liner lock unless it is needed by the pool. For example if you have a small area of liner that is coming out of the track because the track is stretched out in that area, it would make sense to add liner lock in this area. Choosing to add liner lock to the rest of the pool as a "precaution" might actually serve to worsen the problem. If you have a coping which is older, and potentially weakening, then adding liner lock ahead of when it is needed will only serve to stretch out the coping more. Now, when the liner falls out despite the liner lock, you have no recourse. Where as if you had waited until the liner popped out before using the liner lock, you may have been able to get it to hold in place for another season or two.
Floating Liner Coming Out Of Coping Track
We have covered how old liners will shrink and lose elasticity, and we have also looked at how coping can stretch out over time. While these two situations account for the vast majority of causes for a pool liner to slip out of the coping track, there is another reason that you can encounter. The way a vinyl liner bead attaches to a coping makes the liner have a lot of strength against downward force, but almost none against horizontal force. Fro example if you wanted to remove a liner from the coping track, you would do this with a lift and pull motion. For the most part, once you lift the liner and remove the downwards pressure, it essentially falls right out of the coping track with no effort at all.
If you ever encounter a floating liner problem like the one detailed in this video: how to fix floating pool liner this can also be a cause for your liner to slip out of the coping. When water gets underneath a vinyl liner, and causes the liner to become neutrally buoyant in the water, the amount of downwards force on the liner bead in the coping is vastly diminished. So much so that it is very common for pools with a floating liner to experience large sections of the liner coming out of the track. Essentially, without downwards pressure on the liner bead in the track, the liner just falls out of the coping.
If you have a problem like the one shown in this picture, then no amount of liner lock is going to fix this for you. In this instance, the pool had a leak where the water level in the pool dropped quite a bit. Without the weight of the water on the liner pulling down, the liner floated up and more or less fell out of the coping track. Some pools can develop this problem even if they do not have a leak. For example, if you have your water level lowered to winterize your pool system every year, then the low pool water level can leave the door open to problems like this. A vinyl pool should be able to handle having the water level lowered like this, however the construction of each pool is unique, and the drainage system around your pool as well as how much ground water you have in your area will be unique to your installation. Some vinyl pools you simply can not drain without this floating liner problem developing due to high water tables or improperly built drainage systems. If you have a pool that floats like this then consider leaving your pool more full, and only draining as low as the skimmer mouth, instead of draining to the return height for winterizing.
Tips For Putting Liner Back In The Coping Track
Putting a pool liner back into the coping track on an older pool can be a challenge. The single hardest place to get a liner back in the track would be a sharp 90 degree corner on an older liner. As discussed above, there comes a point where you simply will not be able to get the liner back in place, and at this point you need a new liner - NOT a roll of duct tape!
However it is worth noting that it takes a skilled and, and experience, to put a liner back in the track...not just brute strength, though it does help to have unnaturally strong hands for this - Inhuman strength was number one on the list of traits that pool workers must have. Here are a few tips that liner installers might use to get a stubborn liner back into a tight radius corner on an aging liner:
1) Lower The Water Level Of The Pool - Pouring boiling water on the liner will help you to stretch it back into place. However if there is only a few inches of liner exposed above the waterline of the pool, then you will not get much stretch out of it. Many installers will lower the water level in the pool a foot or more in order to expose more vinyl above the waterline. This will give you much more stretch when you pour boiling water over the exposed area.
2) Use Wedges To Hold The Liner In Place - Putting a liner pull back into the track is a lot like putting a garbage bag into a garbage can that is slightly too big for the bag. Just as you are about to get one section in, another section will pop out. For this reason, it can be helpful to have a lot of helping hands to hold the liner in the track as you work on other areas. Most pool technicians do not have five helpers with them at all times, and so we use wooden clothes pegs to help wedge the liner into the coping track temporarily. Remove the spring from these clothes pegs and you have a tapered wooden wedge that you can stuff into the coping track to assist you while you get the liner back in the track. If the peg falls into the pool it will not hurt anything and will be easy to remove. Once you have the liner entirely back into the track it will be much more inclined to stay in place, but any spot left out of the track will result in the liner pulling slowly back out again.
3) Gather More Material - Especially when you are dealing with a corner that has popped out it can be helpful to try to pull more liner material horizontally towards the corner. If you have two helpers, each would grab and pull the liner towards the popped out corner. If each helper is about 16" away from the corner they may be able to take just enough stress off the liner to allow you to slip it back into the coping. Again, once you get all of the liner back in place, it will usually stay put.
4) Start In The Middle - Use the mechanics of stretching the liner to your advantage. If there was a large section of liner that is out of the track, you should start in the middle and try to pull it all the way back into the track, before wedging it temporarily in place with a clothes peg. This will allow for maximum stretch as well as even tension on the liner. If you attempt to put the liner back in from one size to the other, you can end up using all of your stretch in the beginning, and be unable to get all of the liner back into the track. Always start in the middle and try to "half" the section you area working on over and over until the entire liner is back in the track.
When manipulating the liner back into position it is very common to encounter "binding" of the liner bead. Essentially this means that the liner bead rolled over in the track and has become pinched where the apex of the twist is. A skilled liner installer will deal with this situation by using a specifically dull and blunt standard (flat head) screwdriver to force the liner past the bind. This is a tricky maneuver simply because you should never use a sharp metal tool on a vinyl liner lest you rip, tear or puncture it. Still, this is how a liner technician will resolve a binding liner bead in most cases. If you are attempting this on your own then you had better be careful or you will find yourself patching your liner in addition to trying to get it back into the coping track!
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