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What Are the Different Vinyl Liner Bead Types for Swimming Pools

By Team Royal - Updated On: 08/28/23

Vinyl Liner bead typesIf you're looking to replace your vinyl liner in your swimming pool, you'll need to consider the bead type attached to your existing liner. 

The liner bead is either hung on the pool wall directly or inserted into a bead track (also called bead receiver) which goes around your swimming pool wall and allows the liner to be securely attached to the pool wall.  The bead is what holds the liner in place and provides a seal so the water stays in your pool.

Liner beads come pre-molded to the top edge of your vinyl liner's perimeter and are considered to be a part of the liner itself. Meaning, your pool may require a specific type of liner/liner bead when it comes replacement time. 

Why does this matter? 

When replacing your old liner, you need to be sure that the liner will fit seamlessly into the bead around your pool. If it doesn't, the liner could bunch up or create gaps, both of which could lead to liner failure, wrinkles, or tears. It could also void your warranty. It is essential to get the correct bead when replacing your liner. 

We've got you covered with how to identify your liner's bead type. Keep reading to learn more and get back to swimming sooner! 


What You Need to Know First

Not all vinyl beads can fit in all types of pools, which is why it's important to know which bead type is right for your pool. Here are the questions you'll need to answer before shopping for a replacement liner. The first question is a super easy one: 

1. Is Your Pool an Inground or Above Ground Pool

The two main types of pools are inground pools and above-ground pools. The bead options will be different depending on which kind you have. And keep in mind, if you have a semi-inground pool, even one that is completely sunk in the ground, this is still considered to be an above ground pool when it comes to liner replacement. 

If you have an inground pool, congratulations! You can skip the next questions, and jump on down to the next section. Above ground pool owners, keep on reading: 


2. Does Your Pool Have an Existing Bead Track

To determine if your pool has an existing bead track, check under the top rail of your swimming pool to see if yours has a bead track or just a coping strip. See the images below.  

Vinyl liner bead track Vinyl liner AG coping

You will only need to buy a liner with a bead if your pool has an existing bead track. Some pools, especially older ones, do not have bead track. If this is the case, you have three options:

  • Buy an "Overlap" liner, which does not require a bead track
  • Buy a Liner with a bead type that does not require a bead track
    • These are J-hook, EZ Bead, DuoBead, Unibead, or Wilkes Bead
      • We'll cover more on bead types further down 
  • Buy a "Beaded" liner as well as the correct amount of bead track or track for your pool's size

Most folks in this situation opt for one of the first two options as they tend to be more cost-effective and easier to install if you don't already have an existing bead track in place. 

3. The Height of Your Pool

If you plan to order ANY liner with a bead for an above ground pool, you have to know the height of your pool wall. Unlike overlap liners that have an extra few inches of liner material on each side, beaded liners must fit perfectly.

If the liner is too small, it will stretch beyond the capacity it was intended and most like rip, causing it to be useless and void of any warranty. Conversely, if the liner is too large, it will bunch up, wrinkle, and risk snagging/ripping, again voiding the warranty.

The most common heights are 48", 52" and 54". You must buy the correct size liner for your above ground pool so triple-check those measurements. 
Liner bead types explained for swimming pools

4. The Brand of Your Pool

The brand of your pool can also play a factor in your bead type. While most pool brands can use multiple types of beads, certain pool brands are only compatible with a specific bead. If your pool brand is any of the following brands, you will need the bead that is made for those pools: 

  • Kayak®
  • Wilkes
  • Ester Williams

Above ground pool liner bead type

Types of Vinyl Liner Beads 

Some liner beads are compatible with multiple swimming pool brands, but some are only good for one type of pool. There are 9 types of liner bead, each one listed below. 

  1. Standard (Beaded)Vinyl-liner-Bead-types
  2. Reverse Standard
  3. J Hook
  4. Unibead
  5. EZ Bead
  6. Duobead
  7. Kayak
  8. Wilkes
  9. Esther Williams

If you have an inground pool you only have 3 types of beads to consider: 

  • Standard
  • Reverse Standard
  • Esther Williams

If you have an above ground pool, any of these could apply depending on the questions you answered in the previous section. 

Standard Bead 

A standard bead is designed to fit into a track found around the perimeter of a pool. It is the most common type of liner, and it's also the easiest to install. Its design allows it to slip easily into the track, and it has a tight grip to keep the liner from moving. For the standard bead, the bead head lip will face downwards (towards the bottom of the pool) when inserted into the track.


Reverse Standard

Reverse beads (very rare) are literally the standard bead type but in reverse, with the bead head on the other side of the bead tail. This is an important distinction since your liner would have to be installed inside out in order to be secured in the track if you order this one incorrectly. Therefore, for the reverse standard bead, the bead head lip will face upwards(towards the sky) when inserted into the track. See examples below this chart. 



J-beads get their name from their shape, which is similar to the letter J. J-beads, also known as the J-hook, have a small lip that sits on top of the pool's coping (the edge that sits around the perimeter of the pool). This lip helps to keep the liner in place and provides a nice, tight seal. The J-beads can fit into the pool's track or on the pool's edge.




The uni-bead is a combination of the standard bead and the J-bead. It has a small lip like the J-bead, but it can also be used with a standard bead track. This makes the uni-bead one of the most versatile liner beads. If you want to use it as a standard bead, you need to remove the hook. On the other hand, to use it as a J-bead, you just need to clip the hook on the pool's perimeter.

A unibead liner can be used even if your old liner was any of the following: 

  • Beaded
  • J-Hook
  • EZ Bead
  • DuoBead


EZ Bead

The EZ bead is similar to the uni-bead. It can be used with a standard bead track or placed on the pool's coping. You do not need to modify the EZ bead to use it with either a standard or J- bead track.



Duo Bead

The Duo bead can be used in two ways: Folded or Unfold. When folded, the Duo bead acts as a standard bead that fits into a bead track.  When unfolded, the duo bead is able to hang directly onto the pool wall like a J-hook. If using unfolded, you do not require bead track.   



Kayak Bead

The Kayak® bead design is similar to the standard bead, but it has a lip that helps to keep the liner in place and provides a tight seal. However, it is designed to only fit in Kayak® bead track.



Wilkes Bead

The Wilkes bead is only intended to be used on Wilkes® pool brands. It isvery similar to the J-hook, just smaller. 



Esther Williams Bead

The Esther Williams bead does not fit into standard tracks and can only be used for Johnny Weissmuller® pools and Esther Williams® pools. It has a rounded top and is slightly thicker than the standard bead. It is also more difficult to install than the standard bead.



Keep in mind that the Standard and the Reverse bead can be a bit confusing if you're trying to figure out what kind you have. Here's an easy way to tell: 

Vinyl Liner bead types Standard reverse

The Standard bead will have the liner pattern printed on the same side as the flat side of the bead so when the bead head is inserted into the bead track receiver the liner pattern is facing the correct direction.

This will mean that the bead lip is facing down- towards the bottom of your pool when inserted into the bead track receiver.  

See the image for reference. 


Vinyl Liner bead types Standard reverseThe Reverse bead, on the other hand, will have the liner pattern printed on the same side as your bead head lip.

See the image for reference.

This means that the bead lip is facing up -towards the sky when inserted into the lead track receiver. 


Bottom Line

Now that you know the different types of vinyl liner beads and how to choose the right one for your pool, you can make an informed decision about which bead is right for you. If you are still not sure, we recommend that you consult with one of our professionals at Royal Swimming Pools. We will guide you in choosing the right bead for your pool so that you can enjoy it for years to come.

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Filed Under:

Tips, Inground Pools, Liners