Replace Pool Return


I need to replace the skimmer return fitting. My pool is already filled with water. Is it possible to replace the fitting without draining the pool?

I'm afraid if I do, water will get between the lining and pool wall. I cannot find instructions on this replacement.


I do this type of work in the field a lot without draining the pool. I always have a second person to hold their hand over the opening for the brief moments it is left open.

I work fast and usually do not loose much water. There really is not a danger of getting water behind the liner, but it is possible to loose a lot out the opening to the outside of the pool. I do these repairs with a full pool only because I do not have the time to wait for the pool to drain. The other advantage is that I can check for leaks and fix any problems before I leave and avoid a second trip back. For a pool owner doing the work themselves I would recommend draining the pool first.

You will only have to drain a few inches of water to get the level below the return. Without having the water to deal with, and get stressed over, you can pay closer attention to doing something you have never done before.

There are many different types of returns for above ground pools. The basic, and most copied design, is the Hayward return. Changing this fitting requires unhooking the filter hose and removing the hose adapter from the return. There is a large nut on the outside of the return, it needs to be removed next. A large pair of channel locks are needed to remove this plastic nut. The rest of the return assembly can then be pushed forward and removed from the inside of the pool.

The new return can be assembled in reverse order. If the return came with three gaskets they need to go on in a certain order. One rubber gasket goes inside the pool against the liner. The other rubber gasket goes outside the pool, against the wall. The cork gasket goes over the rubber one and next to the large nut.

The hose adapter needs to be cleaned and taped with Teflon tape before threading back into the return.

Comments for Replace Pool Return

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Jun 04, 2010
Best Pool Site
by: Dave

Don't have an issue other than the usual leaky Hayward return,but aside from that I just wanted to commend you. You have the best pool site on the internet. Your thoughtful insights are invaluable and I think I speak for many when I say we appreciate the time you take to offer us sound and logical advice. Great Job. Dave

Mar 27, 2016
Great instructions
by: Anonymous

Thank you for these instructions. As a woman I was hesitant to try it but I was able to do it in no time and have no leaks. By the way I had the pool drained almost below the hole for the return. It was draining a little water as I did it but it worked out fine.

Jul 08, 2016
How to replace inlet with rocked-in above-ground pool
by: Michael

Hi there,

I'm replacing my pool liner and have, what I believe is a typical Hayward inlet. The challenge is, the outside of the pool is surrounded by mortared stone and the PVC pipe leading into the back of the inlet is completely surrounded by mortar. There is no way to get to the lock nut and unscrewing the inside flange seems to require I saw the inlet pipe so it can rotate.

Does that seem right? I've removed the eyeball surround but haven't applied any serious pressure to the main flange against the inside wall.

Am I going to have to demolish a bit to remove the inlet and fit the new liner properly?


Hi Michael Yes, you have to get to that nut, one way or another.

Jul 11, 2016
by: Michael

Thanks for that confirmation. I thought I was facing a case of poor design decisions by the former owner. :-D


Jun 18, 2018
Replacing Return
by: Lori W

I replaced my return but still have a leak. I see you say to put the rubber gasket against the outside wall. I watched a video and they put the cork gasket against the wall and then the rubber one against the nut. Which is correct?

Hi Lori The rubber gasket goes against the wall. The reason for the cork gasket, against the nut, is to allow it to tighten completely without binding on, or twisting the rubber gasket.

Oct 05, 2018
by: Phil

Ok..I've got a leak that doesn't seem to be in the liner and only puddles outside the wall when the filter pump is running. If I leave the pump off a while it seems to dry up. Looking at the return fitting on the outside it looks like the white plastic nut has pulled away from the wall somewhat. I can try to turn it with channel locks but of course the fitting inside the pool turns also. I'm suspecting that if I can't find a pinhole in the liner it must be water leaking from the return fitting in between the liner and the wall?

Hi Try using a second wrench on the inside of the pool while tightening the outside.

Jun 01, 2021
Replacing return hose fitting
by: Anonymous

How about a plunger over the return fitting in the pool then take the fitting out on the outside.. might this work so I don't have to drain water down?

Hi That sounds like a great idea.

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