As the summers pass, it’s inevitable your pool liner will fail, as a puncture or tear sends all of your pool water rushing into your yard, or it’s merely deteriorated after years in the sun.
But that doesn’t mean the entire pool needs to be replaced, you just need to swap out the liner, and it’ll be perfect for your next swim in no time.
Keep reading to discover the different options you have when buying a pool liner, to help you make the best decision on a product that will last season after season.
We hand-picked the following above ground pool liners based on their popularity, price-points and differentiating features.
A more complete review of each can be found later in this article.
If you’ve got a hard-sided above ground pool, you need a liner to keep your water within the walls so it doesn’t leak out through the cracks and seams.
Of course, if you’ve got an Intex (or similar) soft-sided above ground pool, the liner and walls are the same material, so you’ll need a different product if you’re looking to replace it. The particular pool liners we review in this article will not work.
A pool liner is essentially a second-level of support for your pool walls, formed from several layers of thick, vinyl sheets that have been welded together into a single piece of material.
This creates a water-tight barrier which helps to prevent algae growth, and keeps your pool water exactly where it needs to be; in your pool. Plus, they come in a wide variety of different patterns and styles which you can use to update the “look” of your pool.
Overlap pool liners are the most common option and aren’t all that difficult to install. They’re also the most economical if you’re looking for an affordable replacement liner.
Placed in the center of your pool, you stretch the edges out to the top of the pool walls, then clip it into place with coping strips.
The liner will overlap and hang down on the outside of the pool walls, hence the name. You can clean this up by trimming the edges, but it’s also okay to just leave it be.
Beaded pool liners don’t overhang. Instead, they have a “bump” running along the top edge of the liner. You might have heard these called snap bead or standard bead liners.
This beaded edge tucks into a particular track that sits along the side of your pool walls. All you need to do is snap the liner into place, making these liners very easy to install. You don’t need coping strips for these, the beaded edge of the liner just clicks into the channel.
You do have the option of fitting a conversion kit to turn your above-ground pool into one that accepts a beaded pool liner, and there are a few particular varieties.
- J-Hook or V-Bead liners feature a hook on the top of the liner that allows it to connect to the top of the pool wall, without needing the track and channel system.
- EZ-Bead has a similar hooking system to get it into position but can connect into a standard bead channel for an added level of security.
- Universal bead has an edge like the J-Hook, with a beaded section just below. The benefit here is you can use either the j-hook or cut off this top strip so that it connects to your standard bead track instead.
Overlap pool liners are a good economical choice, but they can be a little fiddly to install, especially if it’s your first time replacing a pool liner. The trouble is in the sizing, as you need to make sure the liner will fit with enough overhang to lock it in place.
Beaded liners simplify the installation because they snap into place far easier. Again, you will need to ensure you buy the right size for the liner to work in your pool, and installing the track initially can be a cumbersome task if your pool doesn’t have the bead channel.
Overall, I’d recommend a beaded liner. Once the tracks are installed it’s by far the simplest to install, saving you time and headaches when you need to swap out your liner next time.
Knowing which type to look for will narrow down your options, but it doesn’t help you measure the nuances that make or break a product.
Let’s go over some of the main criteria you should apply to your decision making process when looking for the perfect above ground swimming pool liner.
Probably the most obvious mistake you can make when buying a pool liner is to get the incorrect size. Take care when you’re measuring, and do this at a few separate points in case there are any slight differences in the numbers.
You want to run your measuring tape from the inside to the inside wall, and the height to the top. Most above-ground pools will be 48, 52 or 54 inches high.
Undersized liners will struggle to fit, and if they’re too “short” once you add the water, it can cause your walls to buckle. Oversized liners will result in wrinkles and folds that trap and collect dirt and other debris. You need to ensure you’re buying the perfect size and shape.
Your pool liner will typically come in two different thickness levels. 20 gauge is what’s known as standard, while 25 gauge is considered heavy duty.
Obviously, the thicker your vinyl liner is, the more durable it will be against tears and other damage. If you’ve got kids who play rough or just want to invest in a product that will last season after season, a thicker liner may be the best choice.
You just need to consider the cost. Thicker liners are more expensive, and the additional weight can make them more cumbersome to install on your own.
These days pool liners come in a variety of different styles and colors. While the aesthetics need to be considered, there are a few functional things you need to know before choosing a particular pattern for your pool.
Plain blue liners are the most simplistic, but they make wrinkles as well as any dirt and debris clearly evident in the water, especially once they start to fade and get lighter in color.
Patterned liners can help to hide folds and debris, and while you have many different patterns, ensure the one you choose won’t make you dizzy once your pool is filled.
Photographic or printed pictures are especially fun for kids, because who doesn’t want to go swimming in a pool with fish, sharks and other marine life on the sides?
Darker liners are the best at retaining heat from the sun, so if you’re anywhere unusually cold, opting for a very dark liner will help to heat your pool naturally.
In most cases, installing a pool liner isn’t all that difficult, though an overlap-style liner is slightly more difficult. If not correctly placed and stretched as you install the coping, or your pool doesn’t match the liner size, it can be a challenge to fit correctly.
Beaded pool liners are much easier, as they just snap into place in the track. My only advice here would be to lay your liner out for an hour or two in the sun first, to warm it up before trying to install it, as this will soften the vinyl and give it a little more “flex” to get it in place.
If you’re careful with your pool liner, these will typically last about 10 years, though some of the thinner 20-gauge products may only make it through a few seasons.
And while an extended warranty is initially comforting, remember that these will mostly only cover seam separation and other manufacturing defects, not a damaged liner.
I’d recommend using a pool pad as a second level of protection for the base, and ensure that any liner you buy has been made from “virgin” vinyl, which means there are no recycled materials inside that may deteriorate faster, or give out first.
So far we’ve covered what a why you might need a pool liner and what features are important to focus on.
In this section, we’ll be looking at specific liners, each of which were hand-picked for review based on the same criteria I’ve outlined in this guide.
Designed by In The Swim, this is an overlap-style pool liner constructed from virgin vinyl, available in sizes from 12′ to 24′ round.
Featuring UV protection to boost the longevity of this product, it also comes with a 15-year warranty despite only being a thinner, 20-gauge liner.
What I like best is the beautiful dark pattern that will help warm your pool. Just be careful to take exact measurements before selecting a size, and treat it carefully. Some users found this liner punctured easily after only a couple of seasons.
- Light and easy to install as a replacement in your pool
- Dark coloring will give your pool a whole new look
- Sizing needs to be exact, not a lot of extra “buffer” in the overhang
- Some users experienced leaks after 1-2 seasons
Designed by Harris, this is another overlap-style pool liner available in sizes from 15′ to 30′ round, made out of 100% virgin vinyl.
The thick 25-gauge material ensures maximum durability along with a 25-year warranty, while the dark blue patterning is a nice sophisticated touch.
What I like best is the quality, you can feel the thickness in your hands, and you just know this product is going to last. The biggest downside is that dirt shows up quickly on the dark colors so you will need to take extra care when cleaning your pool.
- Superior cold-crack resistance ideal for colder climates
- Double-welded seams to promote extra strength and durability
- Dark coloring means dirt and other debris is easily seen
Designed by Quality Pool Products, this particular liner is an overlap style, capable of fitting round 24-foot pools, with 48, 52, or 54-inch walls.
Using lap seam construction to ensure maximum durability in the seams, the liner also has UV protection to minimize the impact of the sun’s rays on its long-term use.
What I like is the uniform pattern, because it goes right to the edge of the liner you don’t need to make it an exact fit. The biggest downside is the quality, some users received miscut liners the wrong shape, while others saw the colors fade extremely fast.
- Very easy to install thanks to the uniform print
- Warranty is completely voided once you put water in your pool
- Fades quickly in direct sunlight
- Some customers received odd-shaped liners that had to be replaced
Designed by Smartline, this is a round 24-foot pool liner, that uses the unibead system.
You can choose to use the J-hooks to hang the liner or follow the score to remove these and use the standard beads to snap into your tracks.
Available in both 20 and 25 gauge, the acrylic top coat adds durability to the UV-resistant print layer, which are both supported by a 100% virgin vinyl base.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the tiled and beaded pattern, it’s an excellent way to give your pool a fresh new look before summer starts. Though a few users have remarked the fit isn’t particularly tight, and the bottom panels have different shades of blue.
- One of the simplest pool liners to install
- Heavy duty and will last for several seasons
- The fit isn’t perfect, there will be small wrinkles as it’s not tight enough
- Bottom panels aren’t the same blue
Another unibead pool liner from Smartline, you can buy this particular product in sizes from 12 x 24′ to 33-foot round, giving you the choice of using the smartbead tracks, or the j-hooks to hang this liner in your above-ground pool.
Featuring a marbled tile look that’s a nice vintage touch, you can rest assured the colors will not fade as the printing is under a layer of acrylic top coat on 100% virgin vinyl.
What I like best is the quality of this liner, and that it comes with a universal gasket set to help you connect in the skimmer and prevent corrosion. Though you need to be careful, the gasket can leak if not installed correctly.
- Very simply pool liner to install in your above-ground pool
- Premium design doesn’t look like a typical vinyl liner
- Gasket connection may leak after a period of time
Overall, I’m the biggest fan of the Aspen Creek liner from Smartline.
Not only is it straightforward to install, (you should probably get a conversion kit to add the bead track if you haven’t already), it’s a tough and rugged liner that will last season after season. And of all the different liners on the market, it’s by far my favorite pattern.
In second place is the overlap-style pool liner from Harris, as it’s a simple, no fuss liner that will last you for years to come. There’s just something about buying a thick, 25-gauge liner that makes sense, you know it’s not going to tear through in a few months. Plus, the dark coloring is a nice touch, capturing the warmth from the sun to naturally heat your pool.
Replacing your pool liner isn’t an arduous task, but you need to put a little thought into it to ensure you’re choosing the right product that will keep your water in. Take the time to find the correct liner, so you can get back to enjoying your pool.