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Which is Best: Overlap or Unibead Liners?

Overlap Pool Liners vs Unibead Liners
By Pools Above Ground
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Which is Best: Overlap or Unibead Liners?

OK, so you've settled on an above ground pool model that you and your family absolutely love. What's next? Well, if you want my professional opinion, your next decision should be what kind of pool liner you want to install. Your liner is a waterproof material (typically vinyl) that forms the inner wall of your pool and helps keep the water inside. There are many liner brands and types. Some have simple colors or patterns, while others feature detailed designs, ocean scenery, and even faux stonework. They can be either light or dark in color, depending on the type of mood you're trying to create. However, what's actually more important than what your liner looks like is how it installs. You see, there are a few different styles of pool liners out there, all of which have their own installation method, benefits, and drawbacks. In the following article, we'll compare two of the most common ones: overlap liners and unibead liners.

Overlap Pool Liners

Overlap pool liners are unique in several ways. For one, they only need to match the exact length and width of your above ground pool to fit. Since they are designed with extra material to go over the sides, they don't necessarily need to match the pool's height (or depth, depending on how you look at it). You can easily recognize an overlap liner from the way you can see it hanging under the rails when you walk around the outside of the pool. That said, if you don't particularly like this look, you can attempt to tuck it underneath to make it a bit less visible or even trim it down. However, should you choose the latter option, you need to make sure you only trim the very ends to avoid the liner being pulled out of place. Regardless of the visible excess, many pool owners love overlap liners because they are so easy to install. They only need to be draped over the pool frame, and you can start filling immediately. In fact, they can even be adjusted while the pool is filling with water to ensure an even fit. If you were doing a DIY pool liner replacement and the pool isn't perfectly round or has settled over time, this is the type of liner I'd recommend.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros Fits a variety of pool heights due to excess material
  • Great for DIY projects as they are super easy to install
  • Can be adjusted while the pool is filling
  • More affordably priced compared to Unibead or beaded liners.


  • Excess liner will be visible over the outside of the pool
  • Typically less decorative water graphics and tile line designs

Unibead Pool Liners

Unlike overlap liners, unibead liners need to be sized to the exact length, width, and height of your pool. This means they need to be customized in every direction to ensure the perfect fit. There are two types of unibead liners: J-hook and beaded. To make sure you're aware of all your options, we'll look at both types separately. Unibead liner examples here.

J-Hook Unibead Liners

These liners feature a special strip at the top designed to hang directly over the edge of the pool. These edges are made of a different material (typically thicker vinyl or plastic) and only overlap the pool's edge by an inch or two. As you’ll see in a minute, the J-Hook design helps pool owners avoid the problems that sometimes occur with beaded liners, where water gets trapped behind the receiver tracks and lead to corrosion. As the liner will be cut to size before shipping, installing J-hook liners is actually quite easy. You simply clip it to the top of the pool using the edge, working around the side of the pool until all of the J-hooks are in place. Their integrated design allows them to "snap" to the top of the pool itself, which means that you won't need a bead receiver. And since everything is pre-measured, you can enjoy a liner design with straight borders at the waterline (which gives a more professional look).

Beaded Liners

Beaded liners are cut to fit as well. Only they are actually designed to fit into a plastic liner receiver that you install over the top of the pool edge. As the name implies, beaded liners feature a bead that snap into place along the receiver, creating a perfect fit that's easy to install and replace. In fact, with the beaded liner, you don't even need to take off the pool rails to replace it, which is perfect if you want to install decking overtop to create an "in-ground" look. That said, due to the extra parts needed for the receiver, Unibead liners can be on the pricier side. Moreover, the addition of the liner receiver can sometimes create gaps behind which corrosion, algae, or mold can start to form. Though this is rare, you would need to take the rail system and liner out to fix the problem.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros No excess material lying over the edge of the pool
  • Allows for more intricate designs with “water level” precision
  • Don’t need to take the rails off to replace the liner


  • Must be cut precisely to the pool, with no room for error
  • Can create gaps where corrosion can form (beaded only)
  • More expensive when compared to overlap liners

In Conclusion

As you can see, no liner design is absolutely perfect. In the end, I recommend overlap liners if you're planning on doing a DIY pool installation. There isn't much that you can do wrong, and you'll have your pool up and running in no time. However, if you want a more professional look with an elegant water line design the unibead is my choice. But if you're planning on building a deck overtop the rails, beaded is the way to go. If you are unsure of what's best best for your pool project check us out at

January 11, 2021