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5 Different Types of Pool Liners: Which One’s Best?

Last Updated: June 2, 2021

Smartline Sunlight 24-Foot-by-72-Inch Round Expandable Liner

When it comes time to buy a new liner for your pool, it can be confusing to figure out which type you need, especially if this is the first time you’re changing it. There are several types available, and the most significant difference between them is how they attached to the pool. Also, some liners allow for a deeper section of the pool, while others only allow for a flat floor. We’ll discuss each type of liner and go over all the pros and cons of each to help you make an educated purchase.

Liner Types

All liners are vinyl, but they can vary in thickness ranging from 20-30 mils thick. A thicker liner will be much more expensive than a thin one, but it will last much longer. We recommend getting the thickest one your budget will allow. Besides thickness, it’s only a matter of how you attach the liner to the body of the pool and whether or not your pool has different depths that will decide what type you need.  Join us while we go over these five liners for both above and inground pools.

Overlap Liners

Smartline Caribbean

 

The overlap liner goes over the above ground pool wall, and they stay in place with something called coping strips. These coping strips clip the liner to the pool wall, not unlike a paper holder you might find in an office. This type of liner is designed for flat floor pools and is not for pools that have different depths. The good thing about these pools liners is that they’re durable. They also come with many design patterns, and they are easy to install.

The downside to these liners is that they hang over the pool wall so they can look messy if not appropriately trimmed.

Pros
  • Less expensive
  • Easy to install
  • Durable
Cons
  • Can look messy

Expandable Liners

Smartline Sunlight

 

An expandable liner is a type of overlap liner that is also placed over the above ground pool wall and held in place with coping strips. However, these liners provide enough material for 72-inch walls instead of the standard 48 or 50-inch walls. The extra liner will allow the pool to get deeper in the middle instead of remaining flat like a regular pool liner.

The biggest problem with the expandable liner is that it tends to bunch up and wrinkle. The expandable liner allows you to have a 2-foot drop in your pool depth, but if you don’t use it all, the extra liner will wrinkle and need trimming once it’s secure over the pool wall.


J-Hook Liners

J-Hook Sidewalls

 

A J-Hook liner has a lip on the liner shaped like an upside-down J. These liners hook on the above ground pool wall and do not require any coping strips to keep them in place. An enormous benefit of this type of liner is that it looks good when installed. There’s no extra liner hanging over the wall unevenly, and it doesn’t require any pre-installed track. Since the J-hook goes around the liner, it’s effortless to install correctly. This type of liner can also convert into a uni-bead liner.

The only downside to this type of liner compared to the others is there can’t be any deep sections of the pool or drop-offs. The pool floor must be flat.

Pros
  • East to install
  • Neat appearance
  • No trimming
  • No guide track
Cons
  • Only for flat bottom pools

Uni-bead Liners

Smartline Boulder Swirl

 

A uni-bead liner is also for an above ground pool and is very similar to a J-hook liner. In most cases, you will buy a liner that is both a J-hook and a uni-bead and convert it into the one you need. To create a uni-bead liner, you add a small plastic piece to the J hook liner. This piece fits into a track that goes around your pool wall and keeps the liner in place. You can remove the extra part again to turn it back into a J-hook liner.

A uni-bead liner has all the same benefits that a J-hook liner has, including easy installation, and a neat appearance with no need to trim your liner once installed. It also requires a flat floor, and this type of liner needs a track installed along the top of the pool wall to accept the bead. This track may require regular maintenance and repair.

Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Neat appearance
  • No trimming
Cons
  • Guide track
  • Flat bottom pools

Inground Vinyl Liner

PRO Vinyl Pool Liner Patch Kit

 

Most inground pools are either concrete or fiberglass. However, there is one type of pool called the vinyl liner pool that will need a liner change about every 7 to 10 years. You typically purchase these liners where you bought your pool because they come in many shapes and sizes and have different depths, so there isn’t a lot of pattern variety. These liners are usually more expensive than the above ground pool, and you hold them in place by pressing them into the wall using a reverse coping strip. Since these liners are specific to your pool, there’s usually no extra to trim.

Pros
  • Easy to install
  • No trimming
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Less variety

Conclusion

We’ve looked at the four main types of above ground pool liners and the inground pool liner as well. There’s not much to think about with the inground pool because you only have a choice between one or two patterns, and you’ll always replace it with the same liner. The same goes for above ground pools if you have the track along the top of the wall. The track will require you to replace the liner with a uni-bead style liner.

If there’s no track on your pool wall, you can choose between an overlap liner or a J-hook liner. We recommend the J-hook liner because there’s no mess to clean up, and installation is easy. You will only use an expandable liner if your pool floor is not flat. Remember, the expandable liner does not actually expand. It only supplies you with more material to accommodate a deeper section of your pool.

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