Once the pond is empty, and the liner is fully exposed, it’s time to remove it. But wait! In some cases, it may be a reasonable option to leave the liner there. Significantly damaged and degraded PVC or EPDM won’t help you at all, so it’s best to go ahead and get rid of those. Some liners (PVC) can even shrink over time. If that’s the case, there’s not much to do but remove it.
If your old liner is HDPE or RPE and is in reasonable shape without excessive wrinkles, it may be worthwhile to consider leaving it in place. Most liner materials can rest against different liners without any adverse results, but it’s best to verify. It’s also reassuring to note that HDPE and RPE liner materials will not shrink over time.
While it’s true that RPE doesn’t require underlayment in most situations, a relatively thin layer of additional protection against punctures honestly never hurt anyone. Your new liner won’t have any leaks, so the older one can be just a bit of extra insurance. Just make sure it’s largely intact and not bunched up or causing other issues. If it’s bunched up, and you want to leave it in place, it may be a good idea to add some relatively thin underlayment between the old and new liners. The underlayment will bridge any gaps and cushion any wrinkles that could cause problems down the road.