Metal-walled above-ground pools are fairly durable. They are made with a pretty thin metal wall though, so they can get holes in them. Let’s look at what caused the hole and how to fix it
Having a hole in the wall of an above-ground swimming pool is usually not a big deal and can be repaired. Before repairing though, it’s important to know how the hole happened and if the cause was rust. A hole in the wall of an above-ground pool made from rust is a big concern and should be addressed quickly.
INVESTIGATING HOW THE HOLE HAPPENED
So, you’ve in some way discovered that there’s a hole in the wall of your above-ground pool. Now what?
The first thing you’ll want to do is determine how the hole happened. This will help you decide how to repair it.
A rock or something from the lawnmower hit it
This is very common. Sometimes you won’t know it happened at the time, but when you see the hole, you can tell how it happened.
Looking at the hole in the metal of the wall will usually tell you what it was that hit it. Most of the time, a flying rock or something will make a rip in the liner. You’ll see that by how the metal folds around the hole.
You’ll also usually tell which direction the rock came from by the fold of metal around the hole. You’ll see that the rock hit the wall from down low.
Something sharp was thrown and hit the pool wall
This you can tell by inspecting the hole and the way the metal folds inward. Kids will be kids and throw stuff. Kids may also not tell you that they hit the pool while playing.
Sometimes extreme weather like a hurricane or tornado can blow something into the pool wall and make a hole, too.
Something sharp punctured the wall from inside the pool
This is not good. Again, kids are probably the culprit here but you never know. Pools and alcohol make a fun mix and things can get crazy.
Many pool owners realize early on that they need to make a rule. “Nothing sharp is to go in the pool” often is a rule made the hard way.
You’ll know if the hole came from the inside of the pool by inspecting it. The liner will have a hole in it too and the metal around the hole will most likely be pushing outward. Duh!!
Someone shot my pool!
This may be more common than you think. In the 35 years of me working on above grounds, I’ve done more than a few wall repairs from gunshots. I even had one from a cross-bow which was kind of cool.
In America, we love our guns. Unfortunately, some innocent above-ground pools get shot by mistake. For some, it’s not a mistake. #greenpoolscanmakeyoucrazy
The hole was caused by an outside rust spot
For one reason or another, a pool wall can get a spot of rust on the exterior. This can be from a manufacturer’s defect in the wall or a scratch that removed the protective coating.
Eventually, the rust spot continued to corrode and made a hole in the wall. This is not good but the best-case scenario when it comes to holes made by rust.
The hole was caused by rust beginning inside the pool wall
This is the worst way to have a hole in your above-ground pool.
In most cases, it’s hard to verify that the hole was caused by rust inside the pool wall. The only real way to tell is to drain the pool down so you can pull the liner away from the wall and look.
You don’t know how the hole happened
Even after 35 years of working on pools, I still see new things and still come across situations that I cannot explain.
Usually, a hole in the wall of an above-ground pool can be explained, but not always. Plus, some will just not care to know how it happened and that’s cool. If you don’t know though, then you’ll have to assume the worse.
And the worst is #6 which means if only patched, it will eventually cause the pool to rust out.
HOW TO FIX THE HOLE IN YOUR POOL
Now that you have figured out what caused the hole in the metal wall of your pool, it’s time to fix it.
The fix will depend on what caused the hole, so here is the fix for each cause.
FIX FROM A ROCK FROM MOWING THE LAWN OR SOMETHING SHARP WAS THROWN AT THE POOL AND MADE A HOLE
Step 1 – Make sure the liner wasn’t damaged as well – In many cases, a hole can be made in the wall of the pool, but not the liner.
Check inside the pool where the hole is to see if there’s a hole in the liner. If there’s a hole, patch the liner with an underwater patch kit right away.
Step 2 – Check the edges of the hole for sharpness – If any part of the ripped metal is sharp, then that can cut the pool’s liner and has to be addressed.
If the edges are sharp, then you will have to smooth them out or flatten the hole. Because most holes are too small to use a tool to smooth them out from the outside of the pool, you will have to access that area of the wall from the inside.
HOW TO ACCESS THE INSIDE OF THE POOL WALL
A Drain the pool down to where the hole is – Right now (with the pool full of water) your liner is pressing against the wall by the weight of the water it’s holding. To be able to get between the inside of the wall and the liner, you’ll have to drain the water that’s holding it.
B Take the top of the pool apart above where the hole is – So you don’t damage the pool’s liner, you’ll have to gain access to the inside of the wall between it and the liner. This means you have to take the top of the pool apart so you can be able to make space to separate the liner from the inside wall.
Remove whatever parts of the pool’s frame it takes to get to the top of the liner. Once done, you can now move the liner inward to gain access to the hole from the inside of the wall.
NOTE: Most holes made by lawnmowers throwing rocks are low in the pool’s wall. This means you’ll have to drain the pool down quite a bit. Make sure to not drain the pool all the way down. Doing so will cause the liner to shrink and you’ll have to replace it.
Step 3 – Use a hard flat surface and a hammer to smooth out the hole’s edges – Hold something flat on the inside of the wall where the hole is, then tap the wall around the hole on the outside. This will flatten out the edges of the hole.
If the hole is lower in the wall, you’ll need two people to do this. One to hold a piece of wood(or something flat) on the inside of the hole and one to tap the hammer on the outside.
Step 4 – Spray the edges of the hole with a rust inhibitor – An above-ground swimming pool wall has coatings both on the inside and outside. When a hole is made, the edges of the hole will not have a coating.
Spray the edges of the hole (from the inside of the pool) with a rust/corrosion inhibitor. This won’t stop corrosion from continuing, but it may slow the process way down, which is good.
Step 5 – Tape a piece of roofing tin or thin sheet metal over the hole from the inside of the wall – Cut a generously sized piece of metal to place over the hole.
Using duct tape, tape the metal piece over the hole from the inside. Make sure and tape all the edges of the metal piece. You don’t want any edges exposed to the liner when the pool goes back together.
Step 6 – Re-assemble the top of the pool and re-fill – Your repair is now done.
SOMETHING SHARP PUNCTURED THE WALL FROM THE INSIDE OF THE POOL
Step 1 – Use a hard flat surface and a hammer to smooth out the hole’s edges – Since the hole was made from the inside, the edges will be protruding outward, so you won’t need to access between the liner and the inside of the wall.
Also, there is already a hole in the liner so you can go straight to smoothing out the hole’s edges.
Take something hard and flat (like a small piece of wood) and press it against the inside of the hole while taping the outside of the wall with a hammer. This will flatten the edges of the hole.
Step 2 – Patch the hole in the liner – Use an underwater patch kit for this and follow the directions. Once everything is dry, proceed to step 3.
Step 3 – Spray the hole’s edges with a rust inhibitor – You’ll be doing this from the outside of the pool, so be careful not to discolor the wall when spraying.
Step 4 – Tape a piece of roofing tin or sheet metal over the hole from the outside – This is a fix on the outside of the pool wall, so make sure to use tape that can withstand the elements.
Tape around all edges of the piece of metal so as not to expose any openings.
NOTE: This is an ugly fix as the patch is on the outside of the wall and visible. If you want a nicer-looking repair job, then follow the directions above for patching on the inside of the wall.
A HOLE CAUSED BY AN OUTSIDE RUST SPOT
Step 1 – Sand around the hole and anywhere there is rust from the outside
Step 2 – Spray and coat the corroded area and edges of the hole with a rust inhibitor – Be careful not to discolor the pool’s wall too much if spraying. (You don’t want your pool to look like it was tagged by some kid).
Step 3 – Tape a piece of roofing tin or sheet metal over the hole from the outside – This is a fix on the outside of the pool wall, so make sure to use tape that can withstand the elements.
Make the piece of metal big enough to cover all of the originating rusted area around the hole.
NOTE: If you want to do a slightly better repair job, then you’ll have to tape a piece of metal to the inside of the wall at the hole as well. It may not be worth doing depending on how low the hole is in the wall as patching on the inside will not gain much. See above for how to do this.
A HOLE THAT WAS CAUSED BY RUST BEGINNING AT THE INSIDE OF THE POOL’S WALL
If you have determined that the hole is the result of rust originating on the inside of the pool’s wall, then you have already inspected the inside of the wall in that area.
WARNING – THIS IS THE MOST SERIOUS CONDITION FOR GETTING A HOLE IN THE WALL AND SHOULD BE ADDRESSED AGGRESSIVELY
Step 1 – When looking at the rust on the inside wall, make sure to view all of the rusted areas. You’ll want to try to determine how the wall started corroding. This is very important!
Step 2 – If the rust appears to be covering a big area and may continue around or at other parts of the pool wall, then I recommend draining the pool and inspecting the entire inside of the wall. Go to step 7.
NOTE: It is fairly rare to only have a small area of the inside of the wall to rust and then locally cause a hole. In most cases, there is rust in other places as well.
Step 3 – If only a small area of rust around the hole, then sand the rusted area and apply a rust/corrosion inhibitor. Sand and apply to any rust on the outside wall as well
Step 4 – Tape a piece of roofing tin or sheet metal to cover the hole on the inside. Also, use duct tape (or similar) to cover the entire rusted (and now treated) area of the wall on the inside. This is to protect the liner from the damaged(rusty) wall.
Step 5 – Tape a piece of sheet metal over the hole on the outside of the wall as well. This is to stop direct exposure to the elements and reducing the rate of corrosion.
Step 6 – Replace the top of the pool that you took apart to get to the inside of the wall and re-fill the pool. Your repair is complete.
Step 7(Continuing from step 2) – If you have drained the pool mostly, inspected the wall in several areas, and found a lot of inside wall rust, then I recommend draining the pool completely and buying a new liner for it.
Cut the liner out of the pool in pieces and discard.
NOTE: This may seem extreme to some, however, if you have a hole in your pool wall resulting from inside wall rust AND you have a lot of wall rust, then you may have an issue that will kill your pool in a matter of several months or less.
Step 8 – Now that the liner is completely out of the way, you can view the inside of the wall everywhere. Take something pointy (like a screwdriver) and poke all the badly rusted areas of the wall.
What you are doing here is seeing if any other part of the wall has rusted through. If you poke the wall and the screwdriver goes through, then you have another hole.
Step 9 – If all rusted areas feel solid, then you only have surface rust everywhere (except where your hole is). This is good news. Address the one hole that you have by following steps 3-5. Now the hole is patched.
EXCEPTION: If the hole is severely rusted and towards the bottom of the pool, you may want to do an advanced wall repair.
Step 10 – Buy wall foam and spray adhesive. Before installing your new liner, you’ll want to protect it from your rusty wall. Installing a thin layer of foam will do this. Read about wall foam here.
Step 11 – Install your new liner, re-assemble the pool frame, and re-fill the pool. You are done.
ADVANCED ABOVE GROUND POOL WALL REPAIR
If you have discovered that the inside of your pool wall is rusted through badly, but only in one area, then you can fix this by doing an extreme repair.
This involves draining the pool, buying a new liner, possibly buying wall foam and adhesive, and getting a piece of wall. This article will not be covering how to do an advanced wall repair, but you can learn about it by reading an article I wrote some years back here
WHEN YOU NEED AN ADVANCED WALL REPAIR
1 If the rusted hole is lower in the wall of the pool – An above-ground pool holds water above the ground. And water is really heavy. This means that the wall of the pool is holding in tens of thousands of pounds of water weight.
The wall of the pool has a lot of outward pressure from this water weight. And that outward pressure increases towards the bottom of the wall all way around. This is because the body of water has a downward weight as well. Duh!
So, the further down you go with a body of water, the greater the downward weight. This increased downward weight combines with the outward pressure the wall has the further down the wall you go.
If you’re not following me, that’s ok. Just know that the further you go down the pool wall, the more weight it has to hold. This means that it is more likely to fail and split open from the water weight the further down the hole is.
If the hole in your rusty walled pool is toward the bottom of the pool and it looks really badly rusted, then I would recommend doing a full piece of wall repair.
2 If the rusted hole is big – If the rusted hole in your above-ground pool is bigger than say four inches, then I would consider doing more than just patching it.
Remembering that a pool wall holds an extreme amount of water weight, the bigger the hole (caused by corrosion), the less overall integrity of strength. This is especially true if the rust hole is more vertical. This means its ability to split from the outward water weight is greater.
3 If the rusted hole is directly under the skimmer or return – In many cases, a leak from an improperly installed or faulty skimmer and/or return fitting is what caused the wall to corrode, get rusty, and ultimately cause a hole in the first place.
This means that the wall got rusty due to constant moisture from a leak, which usually means that the rust is traveling straight down the wall from the skimmer box or return fitting.
A vertical line of rust in the wall of an above-ground pool (that has rusted through) is dangerous and can easily take away its ability to hold all of that water weight. This is why it may be a good idea to replace the entire piece of wall when a hole is under the skimmer or return fitting.
4 If just one area of the wall is extremely rusty – I have seen pools in absolutely perfect condition with no rust except for just one area of the wall. For this, it would be a shame to replace the entire pool just because one area is bad.
In many cases, when a wall is severely rusty on the inside of the wall, it’s rusty in too big an area and the whole pool has to be replaced. An advanced wall repair is a big job, but worth it if the pool is in good shape otherwise.
SOME EXTRA COMMENTS ABOUT HOLES IN METAL-WALLED ABOVE GROUND SWIMMING POOLS
You cannot replace the wall’s integrity with just a patch of metal
During my 35 years of working on above grounds, I have tried all kinds of repairs. Some held nicely and others failed miserably.
As an example, a 24’ round above-ground pool has about 14k gallons in it. At 8.3 pounds per gallon, this is over 116,000 pounds of water weight. For you country folk out there, this equates to the combined weight of more than 25 Ford F-150 pick-up trucks. Don’t think for a second that if you pop rivet an 8”x8” piece of sheet metal to the inside of the wall(over your rust hole) that it will restore the wall’s original ability to hold that much combined weight. It won’t.
Just overlapping a big piece of sheet metal over the inside of the pool wall won’t do it either. The only way to be sure is to bolt a full piece of wall over the old one and bolt both sides to the existing wall from top to bottom.
You can take your chances with what you think will work and hey, maybe it will hold for a while. Maybe forever. I have tried everything that you are thinking of right now and can tell you there is only one way to guarantee the fix – an advanced full wall repair.
This is why I recommend using just tape for patch repairs. Anything more substantial to keep the piece of metal in place is just a waste of time.
Once there’s rust, the corrosion will continue
Some will go through a lot to sand down all the rust, treat it, and then maybe re-coat everything with a fancy anti-corrosion paint. And that’s a lot of work.
Fortunately for me, I get to see how these things fair over the years. This is because years later, I get to go back to put new liners in some of these pools. I can tell you that for the most part, everything you do to prevent rust from continuing will fail.
You can reduce the rate of corrosion, which is cool. But I don’t know if it’s worth the effort because just like the beatings, the rust will continue.
You will most likely be unsuccessful at just replacing the service panel
The majority of rusty walls originate from a leak at the skimmer or return fitting. Some better model pools will have a service panel.
This is a separate piece of wall at the skimmer/return openings that is designed to be removable and then replaced with new. Yeah not so much.
If your pool has a service panel made from stainless steel (which is what it should be made of), then you will never need to replace it because the stainless steel will never rust through.
Some pools have service panels made of the same metal as the rest of the wall. When these pools rust at the skimmer/return, you are supposed to be able to remove the panel and replace it with a replacement panel. Yeah no.
In the 15 or 20 years that Wilbar (the biggest pool manufacturer) has been making non-stainless service panels, I have yet to see one successfully replaced.
WHY? – Because the bolts on these panels are always fused together and cannot come apart. This results in either damaging the wall when aggressively taken apart or not being able to be taken apart at all.
So, don’t think that if you have a non-stainless steel service panel, you can just replace it. You most likely will not be able to. Learn about stainless panels here.
4 thoughts on “Help! There’s a Hole in my Metal Above Ground Pool Wall”
My above ground pool has had the liner removed due to a leak. Plenty of surface rust with a few holes no bigger then the size of a nickel. But many( about 50 to 70) tiny pinhole found after wire wheel and sanding. How do I address these pinholes? Pool has salt system. Thanks in advance
It’s very rare to see steel rust and create tiny pinholes. This is usually how aluminum will corrode(rust). What color is your corrosion? If mostly white, then you have an aluminum-walled pool. If so, then that amount of pinholes is a major concern as the pool may not hold water for very long. It may also hold water for a years too. You just can’t tell. If Aluminum wall, then my advice is to consider a new pool.
If somehow your steel-walled pool created a bunch of tiny pin holes, then this is also a big concern, but not as big. You have a greater chance of the pool holding.
With that many pinholes, if you decide to keep the pool and put in a new liner, then you can either put a piece of duct tape over each hole, or glue wall foam on the entire wall. Don’t bother trying to do something to increase the lost structural integrity of the wall. That will be a waste of time.
And don’t worry that your pool has a salt system. That didn’t have anything to do with your wall corrosion.
I have a rust hole approximate size of a nickel. It’s 2/3 up the wall of pool and above my winter water drain level. Based on what I read you think if I patch that inside and out it would still not hold the water? Pool is a chlorine 27 ft 4 1/2 feet deep to 5 foot center. I think it is a result of a piece of duct tape on outer wall that maybe took top layer of coating off wall. Any help would be appreciated.
If only the size of a nickel, 1/3 down from the top of the wall, and no other rust (poor wall integrity) around it, then I think you have a very high probability of the wall staying in tact.