How to Install a Liner on an Above-Ground Pool

An above-ground pool with a liner

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 3 - 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 3 - 5 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $300-800

Installing a new liner on an above-ground pool is not the first thing you think of when you get a pool. Because when you first take the plunge into pool ownership — pun intended — they look fabulous: nice new sharp looking liner, shiny top rail, maybe even a brand new deck to go with it. After a few years however, you start to see some wear and tear on the liner.

There could be a few reasons you would want to replace your liner instead of repairing, such as if you find a rip at the seam, algae staining, sun bleaching, the liner pulling from the track and stretching, or just one too many patches. This is definitely not the smallest of jobs to do but with a little planning, some muscle, and maybe even help from friends, installing a new liner on an above-ground pool can be done in a day.

Before You Begin

Before you start to take on this job you must understand what type of liner you will be working with. There are three main types: overlap, beaded, and J hook. This can be determined by observing how the liner is connected to the frame (usually under the top rail of the pool). Overlap liners do exactly what it sounds like — they go around the top edge of the pool and get held in place by a separate coping strip that goes on top. A beaded liner goes into a track that sits on top of the pool wall. A J hook liner will have the “hook" or "track” built into the liner that will go on top of the pool wall.

Safety Concerns

No matter what size pool you have, the liner will be heavy. If you have problems lifting heavy items, do not attempt this. Also, most installs will require you to disassemble part or all of the top rail; this is the part of the pool that maintains its strength on the top. Be very careful when disassembling to not have the pool collapse or the supports move too much; this can affect the structural integrity of the pool once filled with water again. You may be able to get away with disassembling part of the top rail at a time to help out but this only works on a case by case basis.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pump
  • Screwdriver
  • Broom or vacuum
  • Box cutter


  • Pool liner
  • Duct tape
  • Sand or foam


  1. Drain the Pool

    If you haven’t already, set up a pump to drain the pool. It is very important to get as much water out as possible. The less water, the less weight you will have to lift over the edge of the pool wall. If possible try to keep it running as you are removing the liner so as the area gets smaller it can pump out to the last second.


    When setting up the pump, stretch out the new liner as much as possible in the sun to make it as malleable as possible. This will help with the install later getting the last little bit in the track.

  2. Remove All Accessories

    Remove all items such as ladders, stairs and anything else that touches or holds in the liner. Only remove the fittings after the pool is pumped dry. This also includes any fittings such as return fittings and skimmer mouth frames on the inside of the pool. Be careful not to lose the gasket, since that is necessary to sandwich the liner and hold it in place.

  3. Remove the Top Rail

    Pick your starting point and go around your pool removing the screws that holds the top rail on. Be mindful of the flex once you remove a few sections. Remember, it is perfectly normal to see the pool walls move inward because of the weight of the liner, but if the movement seems excessive, stop and call a professional.

  4. Remove the Liner and Cut It Up

    Go ahead and lift the liner out of the hook or remove the coping strip (depending on what type of liner you have). Gently go around the pool and continue until you get it all off. Once off it is easiest to cut it up and throw it over the side.

  5. Inspect and Repair the Pool Bottom

    Depending on the exact pool you have you may either have sand, foam or concrete on the bottom of the pool. Now is the perfect time to insure that everything is as it should be on the bottom corners of the pool. This is important because it will help the pool liner stretch evenly once filled with water and help prevent leaks at the corner. If there is sand, make sure it is still dispersed evenly, especially on the corners, since this is where the most pressure will be and the biggest risk of tears. There are Styrofoam corners you can purchase to help with this. If concrete, give the floor a good sweeping and make sure there are no sharp rocks or objects on the bottom. Those will create a puncture as soon as you fill the pool back up. It is also a good idea to tape over any protrusions from the pool wall, like bolts or seams, with duct tape. This will help the weight of the water disperse more evenly around the bolt protrusions and reduce the risk of a puncture.

  6. Carefully Lift the Liner Over the Side of the Pool

    Now that you checked the bottom of the pool and walls, it's time to install the liner. Grab the new liner and toss it inside the pool, being careful to not put too much stress on the pool wall. If you drag the pool liner over the wall, there is a high probability you will damage your pool.

  7. Connect the Liner to the Pool Walls

    Once it's orientated the correct way (if there are already cutouts for the skimmer/returns or for any other type of pool other than a circle) inside the pool, the easiest way to actually get it attached to the pool is to have someone inside the pool help lift the first few sections to a person standing outside of the pool. (This is where the muscle and help from a friend come in.) Have the person on the inside pass the liner to a person on the outside so they can hook the liner onto the bead on the top of the pool wall. Once this is started it should get easier and easier until you're almost done hooking it on and the person inside the pool will have to get out of the pool to help with pulling from on top of the pool wall. Do not be worried if it is a little tight. Pool liners stretch slightly once filled with water and since it has been in the sun this should help with the initial install as well.

  8. Check the Security of the Liner

    Carefully check around the top of the liner to see that it is not stretching irregularly and the top rail is securely into the bead all the way around the pool's edge. Once the pool is filled with water there is no going back, so this is the last chance to make sure it is right.

  9. Reinstall the Top Rail

    Once you have checked that the pool liner is installed correctly go ahead and reinstall the top rail around the pool the same way you took it off. You will see as you go around reattaching the rail, the pool will gradually get stronger and go back into shape.

  10. Reinstall Return Fittings and Skimmer Mouth Frame

    If the liner had holes for these items then reinstall is simple: line up the gasket and fittings and simply use a screwdriver to tighten. If there are no holes do not fear, the install is simple. Simply install right on top of the liner, puncturing ever so slightly where the screws go. Once installed, take a box cutter and cut the inside of the fitting and skimmer mouth out. This is OK to do because you installed the fittings beforehand and they should hold the liner in place so there is no water leakage.  

  11. Install Accessories

    Reinstall the stairs and ladders and any other features else the pool had.

  12. Fill Pool and Balance Chemicals

    Fill the pool back up and once at the proper level (half way up the skimmer mouth), turn the pump on and add/balance chemicals.

When to Call a Professional

This is one of the more difficult repairs of owning a pool, not only because of the risk taken from weakening the pool structure but also because of the strength required to maneuver the liner into place. If you are uncomfortable at any time with doing this work, see excessive movement in the pool structure, or discover damage once the pool liner is removed (such as excessive rust on structural members or around penetrations), stop immediately and call a professional. There is nothing worse than going through all the trouble and expense of replacing a pool liner only to wake up a few days after and notice that the pool has collapsed or is losing water somewhere.