Vinyl Liner swimming pools were introduced to the market as the bargain basement version pool. And later as a DIY, do it yourself, swimming pool that a homeowner with some construction skills can do a self-install and save some money on the front end. Vinyl Liner in ground pools started as an above ground swimming pool. Then with a little bit of digging and a lot of sweat a homeowner took the above ground pool and put it into the ground. Because they are the bargain basement of pools they possess some serious issues beginning with the install and then other issues as it ages.
In the beginning of Vinyl Liner swimming pools, a hole was dug into the ground. Then sand was spread across the hole in preparation for the liner to be laid across it. Then water was introduced and as the swimming pool filled up the liner was flattened and sand was applied to the dry side of the liner to smooth out the floor and walls. When the pool was filled up with water to the level desired then a concrete bond ring was poured creating a place for the top of the liner to fasten to the coping. This entire process has many ways in which issues would arise.
Then came the vinyl liner installation where the walls and floor of the pool was created using concrete. This is where all the issues concerning an install of a gunite and concrete swimming pool are introduced. Additionally, the concrete must be absolutely smooth otherwise a hole can be introduced in the liner either during the install or later as the pool activity can introduce a hole as well. If done absolutely perfect, then it is a good swimming pool. However now the price of the install is severely raised because of the gunite. The primary draw back in this type of install is the we have now introduced seams to the vinyl liner which is top location of failure for these type of swimming pools.
Seams in vinyl membranes are created using heat fusion. This is due to the heat fusion being more reliable than other forms of creating seams. However heat fusion seams fail in very short period of time in which a new membrane will need to be installed.
Not all vinyl liners for swimming pools are the same. Vinyl liners come in all sorts of price ranges. The price varies based on Mils of thickness, UV tolerance, Seams installed by the factory, and raw materials used in its manufacturing. Obviously the thicker the Mils of the membrane is the stronger it will be. However, the primary place of failure is in the membranes ultraviolet ray’s tolerance.
Vinyl by its nature is highly affected by ultraviolet radiation. UV rays causes vinyl to lose its plasticizers when it receives UV rays. As this occurs the vinyl membrane becomes hard and brittle. Most people believe that the water in the pool will filter out the UV rays but that is almost completely the wrong answer. Water does filter out a small amount of UV depending on how deep the water is. But there is a portion of the vinyl membrane that is actually above water which reaches up to the coping. And as the UV rays attack this part of the membrane the vinyl becomes hard and brittle but it also shrinks. The shrinkage causes the membrane to pull away from the coping and tears in the membrane occur.
Tears can occur in the vinyl liner for a swimming pool in other ways. Today the most common installation method for vinyl liner pools is by placement over concrete floors and walls. There are two absolutes about concrete one, if someone tries to steal it you will know it and two, It will eventually crack. These cracks can and will cause tears in the liner. Then you will patch the concrete and install a new liner.
Vinyl Liner swimming pools are not the maintenance problem that gunite, concrete, swimming pools are. However, their maintenance issues are still twice the amount of fiberglass swimming pools. Fiberglass pools surface is from a gel coat which is perfectly smooth and possess no cavities. But even though vinyl liners are smooth the do have areas where the water sanitizers are unable to reach. These are at the seams, if yours have one, at locations where penetrations exist such as the drains, skimmers, water returns, and underwater lights. These are areas that are breeding grounds for green algae and once they start there it does not take long for it to migrate across the entire pool. Green algae in a swimming pool is perfectly demonstrated in the pool above with the green water.
Obviously we can discuss an endless list of maintenance issues. The last issue occurs every five to seven years for vinyl liner pools. This issue is replacing the liner. As the liner ages the plasticizers in the vinyl migrate out from being exposed to UV light. This decay will be clearly evident in the vinyl that is six to ten inches above the water all the way to where it is fastened to the coping. As the vinyl ages it becomes hard and brittle and it will either tear away from the coping or develop cracks across it. This will be by far the most expensive maintenance issue you will face.
Most homeowners will leave it alone and just not use their pool for a couple of years until they purchase a new one or make a good decision and replace the pool with a fiberglass one that the only maintenance is they face is just the cost of chemicals.