How long should a pool liner last?

Have you noticed in recent years the trend here in Australia and New Zealand toward an increased life span of (locally made) inground and above ground pool liners?

Does it make you also wonder, “How long should they last”?

In the past few years, large numbers of medium and large sized above ground liners have been imported from China and sold into our local market. And, it shouldn’t be too long now till we see how well they really perform in our harsh climate! As an educated guess, it’s likely they won’t last anywhere near as long as the Australian made liners.

I’m sure consumers are happy with many, many years of use from a locally made liner, but does this limit the opportunity for pool owners to update their pool look because the liner lasts so long? If my car exterior and interior looked as good after 10 years as it did the day I purchased it, I would be less likely to update it every 4 years. But as I drive it each day, the carpet looks a bit worn and the door trims have those scuff marks from the bottom of my shoes. You get the little dents and scratches on the doors from parking at the shopping centre and so you decide its time to upgrade.

This poses the question, “Would a pool owner be happier with a “new look” to their pool more often”?

Would they like to update the look of their pool to match current trends, as often as they change their furniture or paint their house? Or are pool owners deterred from updating their pool because there is plenty of life left in their pool liner and so they opt out because the current one is still doing the job?

My view is that you should expect a pool liner to last around 8-10 years for an Above Ground pool and 12-15 years for an Inground Pool Liner – but I know from experience that many last much longer. What do you think? How long should an Above Ground Liner last? How long should an Inground Pool Liner last?

Message me your thoughts…

Water balance and Vinyl Liners

Recently, one of my colleagues suggested I review an article about water chemistry and testing which focused on the effect of un-balanced pool water on vinyl liners. It concluded that balanced pool water has a major effect on the longevity of a vinyl liner in a swimming pool. I thought it important to pass on a summary of what was learned through the testing process.

We all know that water balance is important to the performance of the sanitising chemicals used in a pool, as well as for water clarity and comfort of the swimmers. However, water balance is equally as important for the life of your pool liner.

Using standard parameters of total alkalinity of 150ppm, calcium hardness at 100ppm and the starting concentration of cyanuric acid at 100ppm, a series of tests were conducted with different types of chlorine and PH levels ranging from 2.0 up to 10.0. Here is what was discovered…….

Samples with free chlorine at 1.5ppm where the PH was maintained between 7.0 and 7.5 (the Aust Std is 7.2 – 7.6) showed no adverse effects. The lower the PH dropped below 7.0, the greater the fading, wrinkling and loss of strength in the vinyl liner, plus it increased in weight (likely from water absorption which is what causes the wrinkling). As PH increased above 7.6 the vinyl lost weight and expanded. Samples with free chlorine at 20ppm where the PH was maintained between 7.0 and 7.5 showed colour change where white turned yellow and blue faded and became dull in colour. This high chlorine concentration caused wrinkling as well.

What this tells us is, it is important to maintain water balance to maximise the life of your pool liner. However, the study also revealed that even though the look of the liner changed with exposure to extremely bad chemical levels, the vinyl still remained functional as a pool liner!

My backyard, is it indoors or outdoors?

The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) annual trade show in Las Vegas last month was focused on Swimming Pools, Spas and Backyard Living. It was obvious to me, when looking through the exhibitors’ booths, that the line between the backyard and the house is not as defined as it used to be. We are now seeing outdoor kitchens as part of our BBQ areas and back doors have been replaced with folding walls in many new home designs so the outdoor entertainment area becomes part of the house. The question this raises for me is, how too will the Australian Pool & Spa industry bridge this line between the house and backyard?

Some innovators have already started…. One thing I noticed was the number of pool and spa accessories that were available, to make the time a pool owner spends in and around their pool more pleasurable. Some of these items included light shows – not just for the pool, but for other water features. Even illuminated floating lights as part of your outdoor table display, fountain or pond. There were Plasma TV units that were in waterproof housings so they could be installed adjacent to the pool without the worry of getting splashed and damaged. Designer spa covers in fabrics that would match patio awnings and outdoor furniture cushions also caught my eye. One top of the range Spa was set up like a “home theatre” with six reclined moulded seats that were covered with jets to pamper you while you listened to music through waterproof surround sound speakers that extended from the spa deck – all this while watching a large screen plasma TV that magically elevated from within the Spa at one end. How great does that sound? The challenge for our industry is to ensure that all these accessories are functional, so they become more widely used and therefore more affordable.

I will admit upfront that I am not a great fan of automated pool covers, due to the fact that the most successful of these covers need to be incorporated into the pool design before the pool is built. I find that new pool owners often don’t plan that far ahead and therefore many of these automated covers are not an option once the pool is built, without major construction work on the pool surround. However, I did see one cover at the show which I thought was fantastic. It was a load-bearing aluminium cover in sections sized between 1200mm and 2400 mm wide. It looked like timber decking and it automatically rolled off the pool using a remote control and stacked the panels below or above the ground. The example shown had a pool with a false wall at one end and the cover magically slid underneath the wall while the pool was in use. When the pool was covered, you had a great deck area that could be used for all types of activities. How fantastic is that?

How lucky are pool owners in Australia?

Last week I was in the U.S. at the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals annual pool show in Las Vegas. While visiting a lot of booths of vinyl liner suppliers, something became very obvious to me, Australian pool owners are lucky. I knew that installers of Inground Pool Liners in Australia were innovative and offered their customers more options than their counter parts in the U.S. & Europe, but being at the show and talking to liner manufacturing companies really highlighted some of the things we do differently (and better) here. That is fastening liners under water.

One company at the show was touting their “new” under water extrusion for liners where you can now have ceramic tiles around the water line of the pool, with the benefits of a vinyl finish over the rest of the pool. For some panel pool systems, this is an attractive option, but I have been in this industry over 30 years and I know vinyl liners have been installed in Australia under water in pools with a ceramic waterline for over twenty years.

Another company was telling me how they were trying to design a suitable measuring system to fit liners into old concrete and fibreglass pools. I developed a successful system back in 1993 to measure these complex shaped pools and then turn the measurements into CAD data to create the patterns and pieces for manufacturing the liner. This is another example where a pool owner in Australia has more options for renovation or repair.

So I have come to the conclusion that pool owners in Australia are lucky. They are lucky to have access to the best technology and systems for measuring, making and installing pool liners to their Inground swimming pools. The Australian pool owner more importantly has available the necessary skills of the installers who then fit the liner to these difficult pools. I take my hat off to the innovators and pioneers of these installation methods. They are true craftsmen that have developed their skills by tackling difficult installations and developing methods and processes to make it work.

Going forward for our industry, I believe it is important we foster these skills and take the time and effort to train newcomers to our industry so we can ensure our customers can enjoy the ease of maintenance and soft to touch finish of vinyl, no matter what the age or construction of their pool.