Leaky Swimming Pool? Tips for What to Do
Detecting and Fixing a Leaky Swimming Pool
Have you noticed a larger than average drop in your in ground or above ground swimming pool‘s water level? If so, your pool just might have a leak. Determining whether that is truly the case, though, and then locating the source of the leak, can present a challenge.
If your swimming pool uses an automatic fill system that keeps the water at a constant level, you may suspect a leak if you spot any of the following situations:
- An out-of-the-ordinary increase in your water bill
- Cracks in the pool deck as a result of settling earth
- Existance of water puddles outside the pool that cannot be easily explained
- An increase in your pool chemical usage
First, turn off your pool’s automatic fill system for at least 24 hours and keep track of the water level. If the level drops significantly within that time, your suspicions may be right, and you may have a leak in your pool.
Another sign that your pool may be leaking is if there is air in your pump that is being blown into the pool. A leak in the suction side plumbing (from skimmers and main drains to equipment), may pull air into the lines where it will show up in the pump or be blown back into the pool through the returns. This condition can also be caused by an obstruction or blockage in the suction lines. Either situation requires immediate professional attention to prevent mechanical damage to your pool equipment.
Considering Evaporation — The Bucket Test
What about evaporation? Before investigating your potential leak further, consider the possibility that evaporation may be the cause of your drop in water level. A pool that is not regularly covered with a pool cover loses water over time through evaporation, but the amount of evaporation depends on environmental factors and local climate. How much water evaporates from a pool can differ greatly from season to season, and from pool to pool. To test whether your pool’s decreased water level is a result of evaporation, perform a “bucket test.”
Fill your pool to its normal operating level. Place a bucket filled with water on the first or second step of your swimming pool, but do not completely submerge the bucket. The water in the bucket should be at the same level as the water in the pool. This ensures that the bucket water is exposed to the same environmental conditions as the pool water. Mark the water level inside the bucket as well as on the side of your pool. After 24 hours, measure the amount of water lost from the bucket and from the pool using a ruler or tape measure. If the bucket and the pool have lost the same amount of water, the cause is most likely evaporation and not a leak. If, however, the pool shows a greater amount of water loss than the bucket, you are probably dealing with a leak.
Looking for Leaks
Before calling a pool leak detection professional, you can follow a few easy steps to determine if you have a pool leak and narrow the possibilities for where it is located. Here are some of the more common areas where leaks can occur:
- In and around the pool equipment (heater, filter, pump, etc.)
- At fittings (lights, returns, skimmers, etc.)
- In the liner or shell of the swimming pool
- In the pool’s underground plumbing system
Any leaks in the underground plumbing will require professional attention, but you may be able to find obvious leaks in other parts of the pool using simple visual inspection techniques.
Check for drips or other signs of moisture around the pool equipment. Also check to make sure that your multi-port valve is not positioned to allow water loss.
Underwater leaks in the pool fittings or shell can be identified with a dye test. You can make your own dye tester by using dark food coloring and a turkey baster or a plastic syringe. If using a turkey baster, slowly depress the bulb to allow a slow, steady stream of the dye to be injected into the pool. Place a small amount of dye near the suspected leak. Liquid follows the path of least resistance, so dye will be drawn out of the pool where a leak is present. Test areas where potential leaks may occur, such as cracks in the plaster or tile, and places where skimmers, return fittings, or stairs join to the pool shell. Much of this testing can be done from the pool deck; however, you will eventually have to get into the pool with a dive mask to completely inspect the pool’s structure.
Don’t feel discouraged if you are not able to find the leak; most leaks are not visibly obvious, or they may be in parts of the pool that are not accessible, such as in the underground plumbing system. A qualified pool leak professional uses specialized equipment to find leaks. This process can take as little as an hour or two, but more complicated jobs may take longer.
The Professional Approach
A pool leak professional will want to know as much about your pool leak as possible. When did you first notice the potential leak? How much water is being lost? Provide the professional with your results from the bucket test, and describe any measures you have taken on your own to determine the location of the leak.
Most jobs will then involve a pressure test of your plumbing lines to confirm whether the leak is in the plumbing or the shell of the pool. Based on the results of the pressure test, the pool professional may use a variety of sophisticated electronic devices and diving equipment to pinpoint the pool leak.
Once the location of the pool leak is determined, the professional will provide you with several repair options that they will perform themselves or refer to someone else.
The longer a pool leak goes unnoticed or ignored, the more complicated and expensive the fix will likely be. Because of this, pool owners should make a point to routinely check their swimming pools and equipment for any signs of leaking. Preventive measures always pay off in the end.