Vinyl pool liners are a popular choice among pool owners for a lot of reasons.
For one, they’re less expensive than concrete or fiberglass pool options. And for another, they make swimming pool maintenance much faster and easier.
They’re also pretty durable, but that doesn’t mean they’re never susceptible to tears or holes. Unfortunately, that’s one of the cons.
Depending on the size of your pool, a leak may or may not cause you some alarm. But try not to panic.
Leaks aren’t fun, but they’re certainly not hard to fix yourself in most cases. Hopefully you don’t need this tutorial just yet, but bookmark this page in case you ever do!
Reasons Why You Should Learn How to Patch a Pool Liner
It can cause damage.
For inground pools, the water can get underneath your pool surroundings, eroding your deck or rusting your metal posts. This can cause a great deal of damage and instability.
Of course, this scenario usually happens when a leak has gone unattended for a while. If you fix it quickly, you shouldn’t have to deal with that.
For above ground pools, you might see the same damage, depending on your setup. But mainly, you risk collapsing your pool and turning your backyard into a swamp.
To save you money.
Learning to patch leaks yourself could save you hundreds in expensive pool repair. Because even though the supplies are cheap, labor is usually not.
In addition to that, you’ll be wasting valuable water, and maybe a lot of it, depending on the size and location of the leak.
To save you time.
The water loss from a leak will cause you some headaches when it comes to balancing your chemicals. You’ll have to keep adjusting them every time you add fresh water.
How to Patch a Pool Liner
Before you decide you definitely need to patch your pool liner, make sure there’s actually a leak to fix and locate it.
Just because your pool is losing water doesn’t necessarily mean you have a leak. Keep in mind that most pools lose about ¼ – ½ inch per day during the summer due to evaporation. To put that in perspective, that’s about 25,000-50,000 gallons of water per year!
This amount can be greater or smaller, depending on the area you live in. But as a general rule, if you’re losing an inch or more a day, it’s possible you have a leak.
To determine this, you can use a couple of methods. The bucket method is probably the easiest.
To do this, you just need to place a five-gallon bucket with some water in it by your pool. Then mark the water line in your bucket and your pool (make sure the pump is off) and leave it alone for 24 hours.
After those 24 hours, if your pool water level is lower than your bucket water level, you probably have a leak.
The other method is the ink method. But this method assumes you are pretty sure you have a leak and have a general idea of its location.
To perform this test, you’ll need a leak-finding kit or some dark food coloring. Then, equipped with goggles, squirt a little dye in the area where you think the leak is.
If you do have a leak, you’ll see the dye stream steadily toward it, seeping out with the rest of the water.
Once you’ve determined that you do, in fact, have a leak, it’s time to patch that sucker up!
- Locate the leak.
We talked about the ink method in the paragraph above. This method will tell you if you have a leak and help you locate it if you’re not sure where it is.
- Choose your patch.
There are several different types of patches — peel-and-stick, vinyl kits, and patch material. The type you use will depend on the location of the leak and personal preference.
- Clean the leak area.
You want your patch to stick to the liner, so it’s important to make sure there’s no dirt or debris hanging around it. You can use a rag, pool brush, or gentle scrubber pad to wipe it clean.
But use a light hand so you don’t make the tear bigger.
- Peel and stick.
For peel-and-stick patches, just peel the paper backing off and apply the patch to the area with the hole.
- Trim the patch.
For other types of patches, trim to make them a couple of inches larger than the hole all around.
- Apply adhesive.
Apply a good amount of vinyl adhesive to the back of your trimmed patch.
- Apply the patch.
Stick the patch directly onto the hole and press out any seams or bubbles.
- Hold in place.
Allow the adhesive to cure by holding the patch firmly in place for a couple of minutes. If possible, apply pressure for 24 hours.
This can be done by setting a weighted object on it if it’s at the bottom, or by using a clamp of some sort on the pool wall.
This is not always possible, but some manufacturers recommend trying to do it.
How big of a hole can you patch in a pool liner?
No matter how well you patch a vinyl liner, it’s not a permanent solution. That doesn’t mean it can’t last for a long time, but probably not the life of the pool.
You can certainly keep repairing these by double patching or applying more adhesive, but eventually you’ll likely need a new liner.
For small tears and holes, repairing over and over again is not usually too big of a deal. But larger holes can be a problem. They might be fixable one time, but then you might be replacing your liner when it starts to peel up.
To answer this question, there’s no hard and fast rule about how big a hole can be before it’s beyond repair. In our opinion, every hole is worth trying to fix before throwing out the whole thing.
But as vinyl liners get older, they tend to show more wear, thin out a little, and develop small tears. If this is the case for yours, any hold might be too big to patch.
Tools for Patching a pool liner
The tools you’ll need depend entirely upon what type of patch you’ll be using. In general, though, you’ll need the following:
- Brush, rag, or scrubber
- Patch kit, patching vinyl, or peel-and-stick patches
Can you patch a pool liner underwater?
In most cases, you’ll probably have to patch your pool liner underwater. If the leak isn’t too far down on the pool wall, you can drain some water, if you’d like, to make it easier to work with.
However, don’t drain all the water unless there’s just no other way to do it. Draining the water out of a vinyl liner exposes it to the elements and dries it out. This can make it brittle and more prone to tears.
Pool patches and adhesives are waterproof and made to be used underwater. So, while it’s sometimes not the easiest thing to do, repairing your pool underwater is necessary.
Tips for patching a pool liner underwater
- Get some help. An extra pair of hands never hurts, especially for larger repair jobs.
- Use good swimming goggles. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you won’t need any. Opening your eyes underwater for very long will make you miserable later.
- Get your tools together ahead of time. Place all your tools beside the pool before you begin. Getting in and out of the pool to get what you need is a pain.
- Consider using a snorkel. If you have a larger leak or one that you think might take you a while to find, a snorkel will be a huge time-saver.
- Work quickly. While the adhesive is waterproof, the less contact it has with the water, the better. It sticks better if you can quickly get it to surface and slap it on. To help with this, you can fold it in half with the glue on the inside. Then, insert it into the water and unfold it right before you stick it on the leak.
Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with pool leaks very often. But when you do, you’ll be prepared to patch them like a pro!
Hi, I’m Matt Harper, the founder of poolcareguy.com, a site I started with one simple mission: to help people around the world clean and take care of their pools and hot tubs on their own, without the hassle.
I’m not a professional pool cleaner and don’t have any formal training, I’m just an average guy who loves hanging out by his pool and hot tub and taking care of it. After many years on the job, I’ve become quite good at it.
On this website I will be teaching you absolutely everything I know about pools and hot tubs.