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The Truth About Above Ground Pool Liner Warranties


I have built over six thousand above ground pools from almost every manufacturer that has ever made one. I’ve also sold, worked on, and put above ground pool liners in thousands more.

The truth about pool liner warranties

During the past 36 years, I’ve had more of my share of warranty issues with liners and what the makers do about them. This article will cover my experience and opinion on warranties for above ground swimming pool vinyl liners

The warranty for above ground pool liners covers seam separations only. Any hole or tear not on a seam isn’t covered. Also, fading and shrinking aren’t covered.

STANDARD GAUGE VS HEAVY GAUGE WARRANTIES

In the world of liners, there seem to be a lot of choices of grades of liners for above grounds. In truth, there really are only two main choices – standard or heavy gauge.

Standard gauge liner

  • Usually described as 20 mil or 20 gauge thickness
  • Comes commonly in solid blue, partially printed, fully printed, Uni-bead, J-hook, or overlap
  • Some liner patterns will only come in standard gauge
  • Typically comes with a 15-year warranty. Prorated for full replacement for the first 12 months only
  • Realistically lasts 3 – 7 years

Heavy gauge liner

  • Usually described as 25 mil or 25 gauge (sometimes 30)
  • Comes commonly in partially printed, fully printed, uni-bead, and J-hook. Uncommonly, you may find them in solid blue or overlap.
  • Some patterns do NOT come in heavy gauge
  • Typically comes with a 25-year warranty. Prorated for full replacement usually for the first 24 months.
  • Realistically lasts 5 – 8 years

ABOVE GROUND POOL LINER WARRANTIES ARE PRORATED

This is like the warranty you get when you buy car tires. As time goes by, the percentage of coverage for a replacement goes down. What’s most important here is how long the warranty covers one hundred percent of the replacement.

For most liners, you get either one year or two years of one hundred percent replacement. After that, the percentage decreases starting at twenty percent a year to ten percent and then less of a drop per year until the warranty ends (either 15 or 25 years).

This proration doesn’t matter much past the time of 100% replacement (the first or second year) because if the liner manufacturer decides to honor the warranty beyond this point, they will just give you a discount on the replacement liner. And that discount won’t really be based on any proration schedule on the warranty. They’ll just give you a discounted price on the phone or email, and then you will decide if you buy it or not. That’s about it.

WHY A LINER MANUFACTURER CAN ONLY WARRANTY SEAM RIPS OR SEPARATIONS

Plain blue overlap liner set in an above ground swimming pool and filling with water
Plain blue overlap liners don’t last as long

One of the drawbacks of having a vinyl lined swimming pool as opposed to the more expensive concrete or fiberglass ones is that the liner can get a hole in it. Concrete and fiberglass pools leak as well, but it’s not as easy to create a leak with them.

There are a bunch of ways that a vinyl pool liner can get a hole in it. Don’t be too alarmed about this as it’s fairly uncommon for a pool to get a hole in it for at least the first few years. Here are a few ways:

  • Kids can have something sharp in the pool and poke a hole with it
  • Something sharp can be left under the liner like a root, rock, or piece of glass and it can make a hole at the bottom (Learn how to fix something sharp at the bottom of your pool)
  • Natural things like nutgrass, horned nose beetles, or moles can cause a hole
  • Dogs in the pool paddling against the side of the pool can cause a hole
  • Applying granular chlorine to the pool without diluting it first can sit at the bottom and cause the liner to bleach out, turn brittle, and weaken the vinyl making it easier to get a hole or crack.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to determine how a hole got in a liner and if that hole was made by a manufacturer’s defect. A lot of people will lie to the manufacturer or retailer about not knowing how the hole got there or what caused it in an attempt to get a free replacement.

Liner makers are well versed in pool owners not knowing how the hole got there. They have a strict policy of not honoring any hole other than one clearly caused by the seam of the liner (where pieces are fused together) coming apart and causing a hole.

Some liners don’t last very long before they start leaking. My opinion is they get thin and brittle because of manufacturing issues. I occasionally replace a liner that is only a year or two old, yet it is paper-thin and brittle like one that’s eight or ten years old.

To me, this is usually a liner that was made poorly and didn’t last but that would be impossible to determine as the same premature damage can be achieved by bad pool chemistry practices by the pool owner.

The same goes for a printed liner that fades quickly. This could be a manufacturing issue or an issue caused by pool chemicals. Since no one can tell for sure, the liner maker cannot warranty that.

WHAT LINER WARRANTIES DO NOT COVER

Let’s say your new liner did have a seam separation and the manufacturer is sending you a completely free replacement liner. This will be all you get.

The other costs will not be covered. Here they are:

  1. Labor to replace the liner – As a pool installer, I’ve noticed about one in two hundred liners will get a seam separation. If I installed the liner, it wasn’t my fault in any way, so I can never do the replacement for free. Most of the time, I will replace their warrantied liner for a pretty good discount as I know it wasn’t the fault of the pool owner and I feel for them. Certainly though, the liner manufacturer will not pay me or anyone else the labor to replace their defective liner.
  2. The cost to replace the lost water – Depending on where you live, water can be quite expensive. The water in a pool that needs a new liner cannot be saved because there is nowhere to pump it out and store while the new liner goes in. A 24’ round above ground pool (which is the most common size) holds about 14,000 gallons. This could equate to a couple hundred dollars or more as an added cost to getting that defective liner replaced. The manufacturer’s warranty will NOT cover this.
  3. The cost of start-up chemicals – When your pool has to get drained (or drained itself), you lose all the chemicals that went into the water. And when filling it back up after the replacement liner goes in, it will need new chemicals. This can be a considerable expense if you are re-filling with poor quality water OR have a salt system. If filling with well water, the specialty start-up chemicals to get the water clear and balanced can cost over a hundred dollars. Also, with having a salt-chlorine generator on your pool, you will have to start all over again and depending on the size pool, could spend $50 or more on salt.
  4. The cost of any damage caused by the seam separation – It’s rare, but sometimes when a liner’s seam comes apart, it rips a big hole, and the entire pool empties in a matter of minutes. This quickly exiting water can cause some displacement of the pool track, some decking support, and/or landscaping. No incidental damage caused by a seam separation will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

SOME RETAILERS WILL HELP SOMETIMES, BUT DON’T EXPECT IT

Over the years, I have occasionally been paid to replace a defective liner by a retailer who sold the pool or liner. This is very rare and most times they will replace the liner because they made a lot of profit on selling you the pool (you overpaid).

Usually, retailers new to selling above ground pools may do this in the beginning. But as they learn more about selling pools, they will stop paying for extra expenses that come with a defective liner replacement.

ABOVE GROUND POOL LINER MANUFACTURERS

I thought about compiling a list of liner makers but that wouldn’t help much. There are a lot of companies that make liners and they come and go quicker than anyone will admit. I say that because retailers will carry liners from a manufacturer that is just getting into making liners for above grounds for one reason or another, then that manufacturer will decide it wasn’t profitable after a year or two and they will be gone. The retailers that carried their liners have to move on to another new guy or go back to the two big staple above ground liner makers.

Also, there are six or eight vinyl makers that will custom make a liner for above ground pools, but don’t really count as a manufacturer because they only do a few made to order and they are grossly expensive.

For these reasons, I will only mention the two big above ground pool liner makers. And they are GLI and Swimline.

Both of these liner manufacturers are about the same. They make about the same product, carry almost all the same patterns, cost about the same, and have almost the exact warranty.

As a pool installer, I have my issues with Swimline and GLI. Certainly, you can get a better liner for the money from another maker, but that is only when they are in their first year or two of making above ground liners and are selling them for less and backing them up better. If they decide to stay in the business and have a better product than Swimline or GLI, they always have to increase the price.

BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

If you have been in an industry or a function of some kind for more than twenty or thirty years, you begin to become comfortable with and trust the things in it that are lasting. This is how I feel about a lot of things in the above ground pool business and liners are included in this.

Seems almost every year, I come across a liner or two from a new maker. A lot of them feel heavier and feel of better quality than the thinner staple liners made by Swimline and GLI. They also often are packaged better and are folded better making it easier to install. In truth though, I have found that most of these new liners don’t last any longer than the Swimline’s or GlI’s.

When people ask me which liner to get, I really wish I could consistently direct them to a liner made by someone other than Swimline or GLI. But while always trying to give the best opinion that I can, I must just recommend one from these two big guys. This is because I know that a liner from Swimline/GLI will be at least an OK liner that will last the normal period with normal wear. When it comes to receiving advice, people don’t want to get “a roll of the dice” option. They want the solid, tried and true products recommended to them.

SWIMLINE LINER WARRANTY

GLI LINER WARRANTY

danknowitall

Dan writes with the knowledge of having 35 years (and counting) in the above ground pool industry.

4 thoughts on “The Truth About Above Ground Pool Liner Warranties

    1. There’s no reason for me to think that a liner would last longer in a shipping container pool. It’s mainly about sun exposure, chemicals, and the water that affects the life of a liner.

  1. Hi …I live in Las Vegas, Nevada where there is never a nice summer when it comes to above ground pool upkeep.
    When we put up my pool this past spring (2022) my son was in a hurry and I ended up with wrinkles in my 18′ round pool liner. Last summer(2021) it actually cooled down really fast at the end of the season, I live alone and couldnt get the proper help to close it so I ended up having to correct a big green pool this spring. Its actually been pretty easy to maintain this summer except the way the desert sun evaporates the water. So from the mess I cleaned up from last season and the repeated heavy chemical use to clear it, there is a big fat white and light green line around the inside. And with the wrinkles…well I want to have a new liner put in. So what would it cost me to get a new liner in my 18′ round pool ? I know that entails draining it , but other than that I dont want to have to completely disassemble. Is there an easier way? what do you suggest? HELP I need all the GOOD advice I can get ..ASAP. Thanks, SinCitySwimmer

    1. It’s hard to say what it will cost you in your area, but I just wrote this which will help
      https://abovegroundpoolsknowitall.com/how-much-cost-replace-above-ground-pool-liner/

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