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Vinyl Liner Pool Repair: Basic Leak Detection And How To Patch A Liner

Vinyl Liner Pool Repair: Basic Leak Detection And How To Patch A Liner

Like all pools, vinyl liner pools come with their share of possible problems that need to be solved. Some have fairly complex solutions while others require simple solutions. And here at Royal Pools and More, we’ve seen pretty much all of the problems you can think of, including leaks and tears in the liner.

In this article, we’ll be focusing on basic leak detection and how to patch a tear in a liner which can be done to smaller tears to avoid having to buy an entirely new replacement liner.

So, let’s get to it!

Step 1. Confirm you have a leak

If you can’t see a tear or hole in a liner but notice you are losing water it’s imperative to confirm it is a leak and not evaporation.

There are a few basic methods you can follow to determine if there is, in fact, a leak in your vinyl pool: the bucket test and an ink test. We do recommend taking both steps as a starting point with the bucket test. If you are sure you are losing water then you may want to move immediately to the ink test.

Option 1: Bucket Test to confirm a leak

The bucket test is simple but takes at least 24 hours to determine if there is a leak.

Here are the steps involved with the bucket test:

  • Fill a bucket with water and place it on the steps (the water level in the bucket should be even with the water level of the pool)
  • Mark the water level on the bucket
  • Keep the pump off for at least 24 hours
  • After 24 hours, check the water level of the pool compared to the water level in the bucket
  • If the water level in the bucket is higher than that of the pool, there is a leak
  • If the water level in the bucket and that of the pool are even or almost even, there is no leak. If you feel you haven’t given it enough time then please feel free to extend the bucket test. 

how to perform a bucket test

Option 2. Ink/Dye Test

Compared to the bucket test, which confirms a leak. The ink test helps locate a specific area of the pool where a leak could be!

Before we get started there is a special dye we recommend that is safe to insert into pool water and has high visibility: Pre-Filled Dye Tester created by Anderson Manufacturing Company. A lot of people choose to use food coloring but the food coloring will dilute much faster in the pool water than professional ink. To buy ink you can go to your local pool professional or purchase directly from Anderson at leaktools.com/

pool dye tester with cyringe

Please shoot ink on the following

Following the directions on the bottle.

  • All seams on the liner
  • All return fittings in the pools
  • All skimmer face plates
  • If you can get down to the main drains ink test them as well.


Patching the Liner

If you do find a hole or tear in the liner you can patch it, but we don’t recommend patches on any tear over 2 inches long as a permanent fix. Please patch it then replace the liner immediately.

Now, there are many different circumstances when it comes to tears: small tear on a newer liner, small tear on an older liner, large tear on a newer liner, large tear on an older liner, etc. Each instance may call for a different action, and although we can recommend certain solutions, it is ultimately up to you to decide which route you want to go.

Waterproof Tape Pool Patch


Waterproof tape is very similar to duct tape, but obviously, it can be used underwater and hold up over an extended period of time. All you have to do is place the tape over the tear in the liner and make sure that it is smoothed out so there are no air bubbles. Failure to do so could result in the tape losing its grip to the wall and exposing the tear once again.

One perk of waterproof tape is that it’s UV resistant, meaning that the ultraviolet rays from the Sun won’t cause any damage.

However, one drawback of waterproof tape is that it is clear, meaning that even when the tear is patched, the steel walls of the pool will be exposed, the pool bottom will be exposed and the patch can look ugly. And if the patched tear is near a seam, the wall could be more susceptible to damage.

Vinyl Patch Kit

A vinyl patch kit includes both a patch of vinyl and adhesive that will stick the patch to the wall of the pool.


The process of placing the patch on the wall is pretty simple. First, you apply the adhesive to the patch and then fold the patch in half so it’s not exposed when you place it in the pool. From there, you should hold the folded patch right in front of the tear, quickly open it, and place it on the tear. Then, make sure the patch is smoothed out so there are no air bubbles present.

Now, while the kit does come with a vinyl patch, it likely won’t be the same exact liner that extends around your entire pool. This is why we give you the portions of the liner that we cut out during installation. You can use the extra pieces of vinyl for this exact issue so when a tear does arise, you can patch it with the same vinyl, avoiding a patch that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Peel-and-Stick Patch

This option is pretty much just as it sounds. The patch is made of vinyl and the installation is as easy as peeling the patch so the adhesive side is exposed and sticking it to the appropriate area on the liner. And that’s pretty much it! You’ll just have to make sure that it’s as smooth as possible as you would with the other options.


The drawback here is that the patch likely won’t be an exact match to the rest of the liner, leaving it easily noticeable. But, that’s just the nature of a peel-and-stick patch.

What if Patching the Liner is Not the Right Choice?

There’s only one alternative to patching a liner—a replacement liner.

We recommend that you replace your liner every 4-9 years under normal circumstances. Normal wear and tear will occur to the liner over time, so it’s important to replace liners once they get worn down. The typical cost for a replacement liner is between $6,000-$6,500, so we understand why you may prefer patching the liner over purchasing a completely new liner. However, not every situation can, or should, be solved by a patch.

So, if you encounter a tear in the liner of your vinyl liner pool, it’s important to consider all of the options. We can’t tell you that one solution is better than another—only you can make that decision.

Hopefully this information has aided you in making that decision and if you have any more questions, you can visit our Learning Center to learn more!

Visit our swimming pool learning center