Understanding Vinyl Pool Liner Thickness

Secard Pools and Spas


When talking about the “mil” or “guage” of vinyl pool liners, you should first get a decent understanding of what these terms actually mean. The most common term for vinyl, “mil” (not to be confused with millimeter) is a unit of measurement equal to one thousandth of an inch. Therefore, a 20 mil liner thickness is equal to 20 thousandths of an inch. The term “gauge” (not to be confused with mil), is a bit more of a moving target. See, multiple industries measure items such as wire, shotgun barrels, sheet metal, photographic film and hypodermic needles by their gauge. This can be very confusing as in a case like shotgun barrels where the smaller the gauge, the larger the barrel. This is not the case when it comes to vinyl pool liners where the higher the gauge, the thicker the material.

When shopping for pool liners, it is very important that you are aware that gauge is not equal to mil. Some manufactures or retailers like to offer their liners in terms of gauges because they sound thicker than a true mil. To be technical, a 30 mil liner is equivalent to 0.0300 inches. A 30 gauge liner is equivalent to 0.0260 inches (26 mil). Therefore, if you see a liner advertised at 35 gauge, it is truly a 30 mil liner. To avoid this confusion, always make sure and purchase from a company that advertises in mil, versus gauge.

To give some additional perspective, here is the mil of some everyday items:

ItemThickness (in mils)
Standard sheet of paper10 mil
Dime49 mil
Human hair2 mil

When deciding what’s best between the thicknesses of vinyl pool liners for in ground pools, a variety of factors should be considered. Such as the location of the pool in relation to sun exposure, how much time the pool will spend covered and the type of surface the liner will be laid on.

If the pool will experience longer exposure to direct sunlight throughout the year or when you’re dealing with a rougher surface material, such as a concrete or a sand and concrete mixture, the appropriate, preferred mil of vinyl pool liner would be the 28-30 mil. Although thicker material will typically cost you about 5 – 10% more, it is 29 – 32% thicker than 20 mil, and will no doubt provide adequate thickness and protection for its purpose.

With that being said, all pool liner material, no matter the thickness will boast the smooth nature vinyl is famous for, come in an array of patterns to choose from, and in most cases, carry the same warranty.

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105 Responses to Understanding Vinyl Pool Liner Thickness

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  86. Vic

    Thanks a lot for the explanation, please suggest me what vynil patches should I use to cover a 10 inches vertical seam cut in my swiming pool of 12X48 above ground with metal bars frame branded Intex.

    • Bob Cannon


      Patching a seam is difficult enough but 10” makes it even
      more of a challenge. Your best bet would be to obtain material from the
      manufacture of your liner (if possible) and good vinyl adhesive. Using the same
      material your pool is made of will make it easier to work with and ensure a
      better bond.

      Best of luck!


    • Ann

      I am taking a pool from a friend. He has had it three years no longer wants it due to health reasons. it is above ground 24. I guess i should replace the liner. What type of gauge should i get and should i use a pad between the liner and pool frame?

      • Ann,

        When moving an above ground (steel wall) pool from one location to another, it will definitely be required that you replace the liner. I would request from your local dealer, the thickest liner they have available for that style of pool. The range for above ground pools is usually anywhere from 12 mil – 20 mil and sometimes can be found as thick as 27 mil. The benefits of having a thicker liner will most always outweigh the minimal cost difference in upgrading from the thinner to the thicker mil. Lastly, there should always be some type of protective layer beneath the liner. On our pools, if it is going on top of concrete, we place a foam pad down under the liner. If the pool is going on dirt, we use a non abrasive material called Provisil or a light silica sand. Best of luck with your new pool.


  87. Michael Kern

    This is a great article, so many companies prey on the ignorance of the typical customers. I live and work in Massachusetts where winters can be quite harsh, and we have professionals recommending overlap liners that are 15 gauge just to make a sale.
    BTW…Typo Second Paragraph…Ticker=thicker

    • Bob Cannon

      Glad you enjoyed the info Michael. It’s hard finding a reputable company sometimes. Even harder finding a reputable editor…. Thanks for the heads up on the typo.


    • Guest

      15 gauge would be a very thick liner…here again, the smaller the gauge number the thicker the liner. However when measuring in millage (mil) the higher the number the thicker the liner. the measurements work in reverse of each other.

      • PoolMan

        Not true! Are you nuts? it’s not like needles!! The pool factory 25 gauge is thicker than the 20 gauge!!! Any company that does it opposite is crazy.

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