I made a pretty big mistake last summer. I drained my above ground pool to clean it and the walls buckled in several different areas along the top when refilling. I was told that liner shrunk and I would need to drain and adjust liner. I did so and the walls unbuckled when drained but when the liner was pulled back into place they re-buckled in same areas.
At this point I was told to replace liner however I didn't have the money. I went through the winter with buckled walls. I left the pool half full and there is no sign of rust on the wall.
If I replace the liner should the walls be okay? Have I waited too long to do this? I'm hoping that my pool isn't a total loss.
Your pool should be fine, the problem was your liner.
Vinyl liners can only be completely drained during the first year or two. After that they loose their ability to stretch back into place and windup pulling down on the pool wall causing wall damage. After a couple of years the pool should never be without at least a foot of water in it.
The wall damage should be much of a problem if you make an attempt to flatten it back into shape as best possible. Use a piece of 2 x 4 and a hammer and flatten out any creases you may have.
Vinyl liners can be installed in many different ways. They also fit the pool different every time. The brand of liner makes a difference and so does the amount of direct sunlight at the time of installing. The temperature is also a big factor. With so many factors involved it is impossible to say how much downward pressure the new liner will put on the stressed areas of your side wall. In most cases you should be
Be sure to not cut your skimmer and return openings until the water level is just below them. That way you able to drain and reset the liner if necessary.
There is a way to install the liner without putting any downward pressure on the wall at all. Not knowing the condition of the wall or the type of liner you are installing it is impossible for me to know if this is what you need to do. If your first installing method does not work, keep this one in mind.
You will start by draping the liner over the frame of the pool as illustrated in the links below. As the water fills you will release the liner a little at a time. When the water is just a few inches from the wall, all the way around the pool, stop releasing the liner. At this point you just want to let the pool fill. If the liner is tight and will stay in this position just leave it alone. If it is loose and wants to slip or fall into the pool it needs to be pinned into place. Use cloths pins and attach the liner to the outside of the top rails. You do not want the liner to slip or fall into the pool while it is filling.
When the water is just below the skimmer opening the top rails can come off, a few at a time. The liner can be set and the pool put back together as you work your way around the pool. Letting the pool fill, before attaching it to the sidewall, puts all of the pressure on the pool frame and takes it off of the sidewall. The water pressure pushing out on the damaged wall will keep it from caving in as you set the liner.
Pages related to installing a vinyl liner in an above ground pool.
Above Ground Pool Liner Installation
Vinyl Liner Replacement
Expandable Liner Installation