By Jason Mitchell
Proper Water Balance
The number one factor that determines how long your liner will last is water chemistry—an area often overlooked by most pool owners.
Proper water balance is measured using the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI), which takes into account the water’s pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness and temperature. These readings let you know if your pool water is corrosive (pH lower than seven), scaling (pH higher than eight), or in balance (pH ranging from 7.4 to 7.6).
With the increasing popularity of salt water pools, the importance of water chemistry has never been more paramount (or more overlooked). Many salt water pool owners are under the impression their system will manage the pool’s water chemistry on its own. As a result, the water’s pH and alkalinity have a tendency to become imbalanced, thus creating an aggressive water environment that can shorten your pool liner’s life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of time for your water to become imbalanced, so it is imperative that you test your water regularly.
Maintaining Sanitizer Levels
In addition to keeping your pool water properly balanced, a sanitizer level must be maintained to keep your pool water free of bacteria and algae. The most widely used sanitizers in the pool industry are chlorine and bromine. Whichever sanitizer you use in your pool, it is imperative the appropriate sanitizer level is maintained:
• Chlorine—one to three parts per million (ppm)
• Bromine—three to five ppm
If chlorine or bromine levels are allowed to become too high, it will create water balance problems, which will also have a negative affect on your pool liner and mechanical equipment. Salt water pools are not immune to fluctuations in water balance. In fact, they still generate chlorine and as a result, the chlorine level still has to be managed and maintained at appropriate levels. Salt water systems are set to produce chlorine at various intervals. If these intervals are too frequent, it can lead to higher than desired sanitizer levels, which in turn shortens the life of your pool liner. More specifically, the liner will lose its elasticity and develop permanent wrinkles, which can lead to further problems with pool cleaning and maintenance. It should also be noted, when dealing with a salt water pool, salt levels must be maintained to the manufacturer’s specifications. Each salt system requires different levels of salt for optimal performance; consult the manufacturer of your salt system to be sure your pool is operating at the appropriate level.
Will My Liner Last Another Season?
This is one of the most common pool owner questions, and frankly, in some cases, it is very difficult to answer. Generally speaking, your liner is starting to show its age if it has any of the following characteristics:
• discolouration or fading;
• pulling away from the sides or corners of the pool;
• wrinkles that look like a ‘brain’ diagram (also known as alkalinity wrinkles caused by low pH and alkalinity); and
• brittle and delicate.
If any of these characteristics start to appear, your liner is approaching the end of its life and it is time to start thinking about a new one. When replacing your liner, the spring season is the most common time of year to do so, as most pool owners try to leave the existing liner in the pool to take the brunt of winter, or to simply defer the expense to the spring when it comes time to open the pool. It is not necessarily better to replace your liner in the spring, summer or fall; it is more a question of the temperature. Installing a vinyl liner is a much easier task when double-digit temperatures are reached on the positive side of the mercury scale. Warmer temperatures give the liner a little more elasticity, thus making the job easier for the installer. However, as much as trying to get one last winter out of your liner may make sense, it is not necessarily the prudent choice. For example, should your liner develop a hole or does not withstand the winter elements, your pool can lose water, thus worsening the situation and increase repair costs due to frost damage to the pool floor.
The cost to replace your liner is dependent on the size and condition of your swimming pool. Generally speaking, costs average between $3,500 to $5,500 plus taxes, water expenses and balancing chemicals.
What’s Involved in Replacing My Liner?
Several steps must be performed before your new liner can be installed. First, your pool must be drained and the liner removed. Next, your pool needs to be measured for the new liner. It is imperative to have accurate measurements to ensure the liner fits nicely and has not been overly stretched to fi t your pool. If measurements are not precise, the liner will be stretched beyond its limit and won’t last as long as it should.
Once your pool has been measured, preparation of the pool floor and walls, prior to installing the liner, are also key. At this stage it is common to see some minor cracks in your pool’s floor and some surface rust on the sidewalls. Both of these areas must be addressed prior to installing your new liner to ensure its integrity will not be compromised. For instance, minor cracks will be grinded and filled with a hydraulic cement to prevent them from spreading, while rust stains will also be grinded and treated with a rust-inhibiting paint.
What Options Can Be Added Along With a New Liner?
When installing a liner, several options are available to upgrade or modernize your pool. For example, one of the more popular add-ons associated with liner replacement is a salt water system. This is a bit of a misconception, however, as a salt system can be added anytime, although it seems to be a common upgrade with new liners. However, if you are renovating your pool and replacing the pool deck at the same time, your options are almost endless. You can replace your aged pool deck with flagstone, natural stone or paving stones, add water features (natural stone or sheer decent), deck jets, various lighting packages or the ever-popular jumping or landscape rock. In either case, the look of a new liner will give your backyard a refreshing, upgraded appearance.