6 Types of Pool Liners (For Above Ground And Inground Pools)

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

Whether you’re considering installing an above ground pool or inground pool, it’s important that you know about the various types of liners you have to choose from. When it comes to inground pools, the liner simply refers to the material that the pool is constructed out of – whether it be fiberglass, concrete, or vinyl.

Whereas, with above ground pools, all of the liners available are manufactured out of vinyl to hold in the water and also maintain the structural integrity of the pool. These vinyl above ground pool liners can be found in three main types: Overlap, Beaded, and Unibead (or J-Hook). The difference between these is simply how they are attached to the swimming pool wall.

So, how do you know which liner is best? We’re here to help! Continue reading for our comprehensive guide on types of pool liners – both for above ground and inground swimming pools.

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Types of Above Ground Pool Liners

As far as above ground swimming pools go, the pool liner is a necessary component to the entire pool. It ensures that the pool retains water, while providing a protective barrier and preventing leaks. Overall, the purpose of a pool liner is to uphold the pool’s structural integrity and keep the water where it should be. The three key types of above ground pool liners are as follows:

1. Overlap Liners

Overlap liners are easy to install and the most affordable option of the three – albeit only about two dollars or so less than the other options. They are attached to the pool via coping strips, which secure the liner to the wall of the pool. A coping strip is essentially a plastic component that serves as a wide paper clip, running along the top edge of the above ground pool wall.

As the name suggests, this pool liner “overlaps” the pool wall from the inside to ensure that the liner stays secure. Multiple coping strips are installed in order to contour the entire length of the swimming pool wall. Since the overlapping process can result in unevenness during installation, overlap pool liners only come in solid colors or uniform patterns. Though, several different colors are available to allow you to customize the look of your pool.

The main drawback to this type of pool liner is the fact that any excess liner hangs over the wall and is visible from the outside, which can be unappealing. Consider opting for a solid color overlap pool liner instead of one with a pattern, as those with patterns require more effort to get the pattern uniform at the waterline.

2. Beaded Liners

Beaded liners are the easiest to replace and are available in a wide selection of designs and styles. They get their name because of the thick bead of vinyl at the top of the liner that fits into a track, or bead receiver. The bead receiver hangs over the top of the above ground pool wall and the beaded pool liner is snapped into place. This option yields and even, consistent look all around the pool.

The receivers, or tracks, typically come in four-foot pieces and are easy to install across the top of the pool’s wall. Then, once they’re installed, you simply feed the bead of the beaded liner into the channel of the receiver. Because of their design, beaded above ground pool liners come in more intricate patterns, including those with tile trims, wall borders, and other complex patterns.

However, some experts do not recommend these liners for a couple of reasons. For starters, since the leader does not hang all over the pool wall, water can get in between the wall and the liner and lead to corrosion. Additionally, if the bead receiver fails, the liner will come loose and will have to be resecured into the track.

3. Unibead or J-Hook Liners

These types of pool liners are, arguably, the best option available. They are incredibly versatile and consist of a two-in-one function that lets you replace an existing overlap liner with a unibead liner. Short for universal bead, unibead liners can be used with a bead receiver, like beaded liners, or as a J-Hook liner.

If your pool isn’t already outfitted with a bead receiver, remove the J-Hook portion of the unibead system and simply install it like you would a beaded liner by snapping to secure it into position. Though, if you want to use the J-Hook to install the liner, all you have to do is attach the U-shaped thick vinyl piece at the top of the liner to the top of the swimming pool wall.

Aside from being easier to install, one of the greatest benefits to unibead liners is the fact that they allow you to use a tile pattern. These prints can help enhance the look of your pool and make it appear more like a standard inground swimming pool. Plus, unibead liners only hang about an inch or so over the outside wall so you won’t be able to see the liner from outside of the pool.

Types of Inground Pool Liners

There are three different types of inground swimming pools, classified by the material that they are built out of: fiberglass inground pools, concrete inground pools, and vinyl liner inground pools. The “liner” that you choose for your inground pool will ultimately come down to your budget and personal preferences.

1. Fiberglass

Pools that are made of fiberglass are a singular piece, prefabricated in a controlled environment in a factory and then shipped to your home. They can be constructed to include built-in benches, seats, and spas.

When compared to the other alternative options, fiberglass inground pools are often the easiest and quickest to install. The shell of the pool is shipped to your home by a pool professional via a truck. Then, it is carefully placed into a meticulously dug hole on your property with a crane.

Since they are prefabricated, fiberglass pools don’t offer as much customization as other options. The manufacturer can only construct specific sizes and shapes, limiting your options. Though, on the other hand, fiberglass pools are easy to maintain, resistant to algae, and last longer than vinyl-lined inground pools. In fact, you can expect a fiberglass inground pool to last you between 10 and 15 years.

2. Concrete (Gunite)

Concrete is among the most popular material used in the construction of backyard swimming pools. This material goes by other names including shotcrete or gunite, which technically refer to the application method. The difference between each is the specific technique used for mixing and applying the concrete to the swimming pool.

Of the three types of inground pool “liners,” concrete is the most durable and long-lasting option. Unlike fiberglass, concrete pools are customizable as the material is very malleably. This means you can create a pool in any shape and size that you desire. You can also choose from a variety of appealing finishes, such as smooth glass beads, quartz, and colored plaster.

The biggest disadvantage to concrete inground pools is their price. They are the most expensive option, because of the level of customization and how difficult the installation can be. Though, you can reduce costs be opting for finishes that are less expensive or choosing a smaller sized pool. Regardless, it can take from weeks to months to construct a pool made out of concrete.

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3. Vinyl Liner

Swimming pools that are vinyl-lined have been a popular choice for several decades. Though, technically, the vinyl is just the lining and these pools still need a material that gives them structural integrity. The most popular options are cement wall vinyl-lined, steel wall vinyl-lined, and polymer-composite wall vinyl-lined pools.

While each option has its benefits and drawbacks, steel wall vinyl-lined pools are the most popular choice among homeowners. The advantage to this material is that the steel can be cut to virtually any shape or size, which makes it highly customizable to suit your needs and space.

In addition to creative freedom, vinyl lined pools also come in a wide array of colors and patterns. Since these linings will deteriorate over time with exposure to the sun and pool chemicals, they will need to be replaced about every 10 years. Though, vinyl liners that are resistant to UV rays and fungus can help extend their life to as long as 18 years – so long as they don’t get punctured by anything.

Understanding Vinyl Pool Liner Thickness

When it comes to vinyl inground pool liners, it’s important that you choose the right thickness. Vinyl liner thickness is measured in mils, with 1 mil being 1/1000 of an inch (also referred to a “thou.” In other words, 1 mm is equal to about 39 mils.

The thickness options you have to choose from are usually 20, 27, 28, and 30 mils thick. Ultimately, the specific thickness that you select is a matter of preference. While a thicker liner will withstand more impact and be more resistant to punctures (assuming it was properly installed), these liners are more expensive.

In fact, a correctly installed 20 mil vinyl pool liner will last longer than a thicker liner that wasn’t fitted properly.

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Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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