Upgrade skimmer without replacing liner

suburbiaboy

Well-known member
May 12, 2018
50
Ontario, Canada
My ancient 16x32 pool has a tiny skimmer (something like Hayward SP109) and I've been planning to replace it with a larger wide mouth one.

The deck is currently made of large concrete pavers and they're a total mess, large gaps, un-level etc so we're going to get a new concrete deck poured as a priority to stop water intrusion.

The liner is ok condition and is not that old (less than 10 years) so I wasn't planning on replacing it even though it's the ideal time. In fact there's just no budget for it now.

So the question is how likely is it that I could install a bigger skimmer without destroying the liner? I assume the main issue is cutting the steel wall? Any thoughts or experience?
 
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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
29,065
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Show us pics of the pool, skimmer and deck areas around where you want to replace the skimmer and maybe @jimmythegreek will have ideas.

I doubt your liner will survive the surgery but maybe Jimmy will think differently.
 

suburbiaboy

Well-known member
May 12, 2018
50
Ontario, Canada
Ok, here's my little skimmer. Note the quality craftsmanship of the deck. Under the pavers is sand and gravel, no concrete.

IMG_9623.jpg
 

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wireform

Silver Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 15, 2017
3,116
Spring Valley, NY
A 10 year old liner is like playing Russian roulette. I don't think it stands the chance. The portion of the liner that isn't in the water is technically shot at this age let alone what's under the water line. Water chemistry plays into this heavily too. I say don't chance it cause if it made it through surgery it may split later on from tension and you'll be without a pool the way things are happening today.
 
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suburbiaboy

Well-known member
May 12, 2018
50
Ontario, Canada
Thanks, I assume the likelihood of damage is why I've found literally no examples of anyone doing anything like this either on this forum or generally on the internet – no one wants to risk their liner. Thing is, I'm destroying things either way – if I wait until I replace the liner I'll have to tear up a section of the new deck and replace that!

I've never worked with a vinyl liner so I have no experience so two final questions for the sake of my curiosity:
1. Could you apply a large vinyl patch for strength – larger than the new hole – then cut the new hole through the patch and old liner?
2. If I were willing to take the risk (and then replace the liner next year if it didn't survive) what form is a failure likely to take? Tearing from the edges of the new hole?
 
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wireform

Silver Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 15, 2017
3,116
Spring Valley, NY
Not sure you understand what a new skimmer entails. The liner will have to be pulled away from the coping a good amount so the work on the wall can commence. Cutting the wall opening larger and catching all the debris then getting the brittle liner back into the bead and then clamping the new skimmer faceplate to the new opening thus enlarging a portion of it. At what point do you adhere the patch and at times by this point the liner can have been pulled down some making almost impossible to get back into the bead.
 

suburbiaboy

Well-known member
May 12, 2018
50
Ontario, Canada
No I didn't know what a new skimmer entails as I mentioned. Thanks for the explanation, it makes total sense and I can now completely understand the issues and why it very likely wouldn't survive the work.

Regarding the patch idea, I imagined you would remove the old skimmer faceplate, apply the patch over the hole then proceed with the work. You would cut a new hole like you would a new liner.
 
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Bill1974

Well-known member
Jun 18, 2014
105
Hauppauge, NY
Pool Size
32000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
Wait till you need to replace the liner is the most sound option. Yeah it might be possible to install a larger skimmer with the existing liner, but be ready for a new liner when the poo hits the fan.

Cutting a larger opening in the pool wall will likely cause debris to fall between the pool wall and liner unless your walls are in great condition. Trying to work from the backside of the pool wall make this many times more difficult. Also draining enough water to be able to get the liner away from the wall is not going to great for the liner and will probably cause wrinkles if you managed to ruin the liner.

I am in the in the process of redoing the pavers around my pool. Earlier this year I had the liner replaced and the liner track replaced so coping could be changed. I replaced the skimmers and light niche and skimmer lines myself. Even with this i still cut the liner back to be able to remove the old skimmers and light niche. I can't really imagine cutting a larger opening in the pool wall from the back side unless you did a lot of digging. The metal pool wall is some thick metal (I would guess mine was 10 gauge). This week I am replacing the return lines and running a new electric service.
 

suburbiaboy

Well-known member
May 12, 2018
50
Ontario, Canada
Thanks @Bill1974 I appreciate the explanation – I was aware it's likely a risky prospect but really wanted to understand why. We're replacing all the plumbing (2x returns and the skimmer line) so will be digging below and around the existing skimmer regardless but the other issues are pretty significant.

My original idea was to leave the liner attached possibly with a patch over the original hole then from the outside slip some foam or rubber or some other thin wedge to force a few mm of space between the steel and vinyl. Finally the hole would be cut from the outside very slowly using an oscillating tool with a carbide blade which would produce only very fine debris, most of which could be caught with a vac. Still a huge risk of just chopping into the liner and that doesn't help with screw holes that would need to be drilled and would produce loads of sharp shavings...
 

Newdude

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 16, 2019
11,182
NY
Hey Suburbia !!! As said above, but I don’t believe the gravity of the statement was understood……. If you ruin your liner you may not be able to get one. My build is currently 3 months late (with no rescheduled guess) because my PB can’t get liners right now. I am obviously locked in with him and at the mercy of his suppliers, But nothing says I would do any better on my own either.

So please weigh that into any decision. The raw material shortages don’t seem to be improving anytime soon and if things go south you could lose 6 months waiting for a replacement liner. If the pool sat empty for that long the walls would need to be braced so they didn’t cave in.

food for thought. (y)
 

Bill1974

Well-known member
Jun 18, 2014
105
Hauppauge, NY
Pool Size
32000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
Oscillating tool, it's not wood or drywall. Carbide blade or not it's going to a slow cut if it works at all. Make a test cut on the thick piece of sheet metal and see how that goes under ideal conditions.

If I were to attempt this I would drill all the holes and corners first then use something like this to make the cuts. Milwaukee M12 Cut-Off-Saw-Tool or an angle grinder with a cut off blade.

The holes should be pretty accurate, the large cut out can be less precise.

This is what mine looked like. I think the pool is from the late 80's or early 90's. I am putting in the 4th set of lines.
1633982639373.png

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1633982721613.png1633982736267.png
 

suburbiaboy

Well-known member
May 12, 2018
50
Ontario, Canada
@Newdude I did catch wireform's comment about "the way things are" and meant to ask what that was about so thanks for the explanation I had no idea about that. I wonder if it's the same in Canada – presumably yes if it's a material shortage.

@Bill1974 thanks so much for the pics! Yeah I know an oscillating tool may be slow/ineffective, just seemed like a good option (if it worked) for minimising mess. Anyhow as everyone has said, it seems a bad idea as a whole so perhaps I'll move on!
 

1Sammy

In The Industry
Jul 20, 2017
438
Windsor, Ontario. Canada
What do you hope to gain by going with a wide mouth ? Being here in Ontario i would think you use a solar blanket most all the time so skimming is reduced and the use of some sort of cleaner running around in the pool is what does the cleaning anyway ?
If you had a wide mouth and wanted to go smaller, yes there are issues of course but going larger would be no problem, new or old liner. Just lower water an inch or so below skimmer and put double sided tape between the wall and liner. Tape a drop sheet just above water level or to how far the bottom of the new skimmer will be and go at it. No need to yank, stretch nor remove liner anyplace.