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Pool Leak Detection: A Complete Guide

Pool Leak Detection: A Complete Guide
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One of the many things that pool owners often take for granted is that their pool will have water. When you look into your pool and realize that the water level is retreating, you will undoubtedly get a sinking feeling. A swimming pool leaking can be one of the most disheartening swimming pool issues you will come across.

As scary and stressful as this situation is, the best thing to do is start the swimming pool leak detection immediately. As soon as you can find where the water loss is occurring, you can get started on fixing it as quickly as possible. We have put together a comprehensive guide to help you figure out how to detect your leak and ultimately how to fix it as well.

What Is Pool Leak Detection?

Pool leak detection is a combination of methods used to find swimming pool leaks. When you notice that you have a leak in your pool, it may not be apparent where the water is leaking from. Using a swimming pool leak detection method, you can make sure that you get your pool water level back to normal. Most leaks can be fixed as long as you can find them and get the pool leak repair process started.

How Does Pool Leak Detection Work?

Depending on the type of pool you have, the leak detection methods are going to vary. For some lucky pool owners, the source of the leak will be pretty obvious. However, for most, there will be a very small area causing the problem, and it needs to be pinpointed.

Most people assume that vinyl looks are the only ones subject to water loss and a leak. This is not true. All pools can eventually leak, and you will need to find a method that will work to get the pool system functioning again.

Pool owners will have the option of calling in a pool maintenance company to use their leak detector services. The problem with this is that the services will cost money, and they don’t even include the cost to fix the leak. This is a process that you can try on your own if you have a general understanding of pool maintenance.

Signs Your Pool Is Leaking

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your pool is leaking or you are experiencing some evaporation. This is one of the most important things to determine because the information could save you quite a bit of money. Let’s look at some signs that will help you determine if your pool is leaking or there is some other underlying issue with your swimming pool.

1. Losing a Lot of Water

When your pool is leaking, the cracks or rips will lose quite a bit of water. You will notice that there will be a significant amount of water missing between the night and the morning. This is not nearly the same as evaporation, where you will have a hard time telling whether or not the water level has changed. Pool leaks will have a significant impact on water levels, and they will be quite obvious. The sooner you can spot these leaks, the better. This is why it makes sense to keep an eye on your pool water level at all times.

2. Air in the System

Air in your pool system is not a good thing. Air in the system essentially means that it is getting in somewhere. Most of the time, this means that there is a crack of some kind in the pool filtration system. The air will look like bubbles that you see coming out of the pool return. Of course, there are times that under normal conditions, you could see a few bubbles, don’t let this fact panic you, instead use it to make sure there are no actual leaks.

3. Cracks That You Can See

It is sort of lucky to be able to see the crack in your pool where the water is leaking from. Of course, it also feels a bit unlucky that you have a visible crack in your pool wall or pool floor. The visible cracks tend to start small and grow over time. Since these cracks suck quite a bit of water through them, you are going to need to get them fixed as soon as you can.

4. Soggy Areas Around the Pool

If your pool is continually losing water, it is escaping somewhere. Where is this pool water going? Is it causing more damage than necessary to your yard while you wait to figure out what is going on with your pool? Look for small areas of water pooling up or a spot in your yard where the soil almost always seems damp. Depending on the type of pool you have, this process can vary. However, looking for water around the pool can also help you pinpoint the area that needs repair.

5. Pool Deck Damage

Have you noticed that your pool deck is starting to get damaged? If the swimming pool is leaking and the water seems to be pooling under the pool deck, it can begin to impact the deck’s structure. Although swimming pool decks are usually quite sturdy, if they are kept in the muddy water at all times, they are not going to last all that long. You will want to try and catch a pool leak before it gets to this point.

6. Continually Filling the Pool

If part of your morning routine includes drinking your coffee, reading the newspaper, and filling the pool, then you know you have a problem. You should not need to add water to the pool all that often.

7. pH Balance Is Off

Another issue that you may notice in the pool is that you have a hard time balancing the chemicals. Sometimes the chemicals are known to get a bit out of whack when there is a leak. You never know exactly what is leaving the pool. When the pool water level lowers, the chemical imbalance in the swimming pool’s makeup will be more noticeable.

8. Areas Prone to A Leak

Some areas of the pool are more prone to leaks than others. Sometimes inspecting these different areas can help you determine the leak’s location and make sure that you genuinely have an issue with the pool losing water. A few places to look include the drain, the filer, the pool pump, and anywhere on your vinyl liner. It is unfortunate, but vinyl liners are subject to rips and cracks quite easily.

5 Ways to Test for a Pool Leak

In addition to being diligent about checking for pool leaks, there are a few ways that you can test for them to ensure that you find the exact location that needs repair. It is hard to fix the leaks in your swimming pool until you have pinpointed the source of the water loss.

Bucket Method

When you are going through this leak detection process, one of the most challenging parts is determining if the leak is in the body of your pool or your plumbing. Sometimes leaks happen along the pipes that are used for pool maintenance. There could also be a seal or a crack in the pump or filter that is leaking water. Just like the swimming pool leak, these leaks will also need repair.

The bucket method allows you to determine if your pool truly leaks. The first step is to take a bucket of water and place it on the second step of your pool. You must make sure that the bucket has the same level of water as the pool. This will help you with your testing.

Next, you will turn the pool filter off and let the water sit in the bucket in the pool overnight. When you get up in the morning, if the water in the bucket and the water surrounding the bucket have gone done, the pool most likely is evaporating overnight. This is common and should mostly result in a minimal amount of water.

If you notice that the water in the bucket did not lose, but the pool did, then you certainly have a leak somewhere. You will then repeat the test with the pool equipment on for the night. If it seems as though the water held up better while the pool equipment was on, chances are you have a leak in your pool plumbing system.

Dye Test

Perhaps one of the most common ways to test for a pool leak is a dye test. The dye test is an excellent choice because you can purchase a small kit at your pool store that will allow you to figure this situation out rather quickly. In addition to testing a pool wall for a leak, the dye test will work in various areas.

When you are using the dye test, you will want to make sure that you have a general idea of where the leak could be. If you are truly clueless as to where then this process could take quite some time. With the dye test, the water will need to be completely calm. Ensure that you are out of the pool and that all pool equipment is turned off before dye testing.

Next, you will place a drop or two of dye right near the area of the pool liner or wall that you feel could be causing the leak. You will look to see where the dye goes. Did it get sucked into the area where you think the leak may be, or did it simply dissipate in the water? If you have a pool leak, the dye will be pulled into the hole, and then you can mark the crack or rip so that you can return to it to fix it.

Ink Method

You will also find that some experts recommend the ink method when looking for pool leaks. This is essentially the same thing as the dye test. One of the things to remember with the ink method is that the water needs to stay as calm as possible to isolate the leak. If you are swimming or the pool equipment is on, the dye may not dissipate the way that it should.

The ink method will sometimes have to be used on the floor of the pool. If this describes your situation, you will likely have no choice but to get in the pool and start swimming around to find the leak. If this is the case, try to do the process slowly and make sure your swimming is as controlled as possible. Simply parading through the pool, spreading ink everywhere is undoubtedly not going to help your situation.

Pressure Test

A pressure test is a complex way of testing the lines in your pool to determine if there is a leak. Although you can purchase the tools necessary to do this at home, most people will find that a pressure test is best left to the professionals.

The pressure test will only work if you have already determined via the bucket test that your pool is leaking via the plumbing and filtration system. If this is the case, you can buy the necessary tools to complete the pressure test and see where the issues could be.

Again, this is something that 95% of pool owners will want to leave to the professionals.

Camera Test

A camera test is what you will need if you can’t find the leak in the pool yourself. Leak detection services that include a camera will be quite a bit more expensive than other options out there. This is because of the specialized equipment and the time it will take a professional. Be very careful about the quoting process on this type of test, and make sure you know what you are paying for.

With a camera test, a small camera will be inserted through the plumbing system of the pool. When this is done, the pool experts can show you as the pool owners exactly where in the system your pool is leaking. Sometimes this could include tiny cracks or a seal that has simply loosened up.

Some areas of the pool equipment are not accessible or visible to the human eye. This type of pool detection method makes it much easier to know where the repair needs to be and what option you have as a swimming pool owner.

How Much Does a Pool Leak Detection Cost?

There are, unfortunately, several costs associated with pool leaks. Not only are you going to be spending money on the test itself, but you may have damage in your home or yard. You will certainly be spending some money on your water bill to keep the water levels where they need to be. Here are a few of the costs associated with pool leak detection.

Pool Leak Detection Services

Pool companies offer services where they will come to a customer’s home and determine where the leak is in the pool. As you can imagine, they have advanced imaging tools that they can use to find the leak. These tools and their knowledge of the industry are going to certainly add up quite a bit. Some companies will charge hundreds of dollars, and this is before any repair has been made. For a pool owner, it does make sense to try and find your own leak.

Water Bill

It does not take a large leak in your pool to waste quite a bit of water. A water leak as small as a pinhole could lose hundreds of gallons of water per day. Not only is this a terrible thing for your water bill, but it is also going to be a sad waste of water. We all need to be responsible for our swimming pools’ water loss. Draining water out at all times is certainly not the way to be responsible for your own pool and home.

Electric Bill

If there is a leak in your pool, you will find that your electric bill will go up a bit as well. This is usually because the leak is going to cause the pool equipment to work harder. When the pumps and filter are working harder, they will consume more electricity. These spikes in your water bill or electric bill should be considered when trying to determine if the pool water loss is related to a leak that you have.

Damage to Surrounding Area of Pool

A cost that many people don’t think of when it comes to swimming pool leaks is the damage to the area around the pool. As the pool water continues to drain, is it flooding your yard? Does your deck now have damage? How about the landscaping surrounding the pool area and home. You may have items that you didn’t realize we’re in the area where the pool is draining, and it could be an additional cost in the process. Overall the sooner you can fix the pool and the more attention you pay to pool maintenance, the better off you will be.

How to Fix Your Leaky Inground and Above Ground Swimming Pool

Above ground swimming pools and inground swimming pools are going to have different types of leaks. You will need to determine where your leak is and how it will impact the fix before moving towards fixing it. Sometimes a leak fix means a bit of pipe glue; other times, it can mean an entirely new vinyl liner pool. Here are some of the most common ways to fix your leaky in-ground and above-ground swimming pool.

Drain Leaks

For an inground swimming pool, there is a drain at the bottom of the pool. The drain is used to help move the water around and get the pool cleaner. The problem, of course, is that drains can also leak from time to time. Drain leaks are hard to fix, but they can be relatively easy to identify. Simply use a bit of dye around the bottom drain and quickly see where the water is escaping.

This may be something you need a qualified professional to help you fix. One important thing to remember as a pool owner is not to drain your pool to fix this bottom drain. Draining your pool has to be done a certain way; otherwise, you will create even more significant problems.

Skimmer Leaks

The skimmer is the area of the pool that takes the top layer of water and removes things like bugs, leaves, and debris, and deposits them in the skimmer basket. The skimmer sometimes starts to separate from the pool lining. This can happen because, over time, the glue begins to dry up, and it becomes more difficult for the skimmer to stick to the wall. Most of the time, a suitable glue or pool putty will do the trick to seal up the skimmer again.

Light Leaks

Pool lights have always been known as a source of leaks in pool walls. The good news about pool lights is that the repairs seem to be a bit easier than some other leak locations. The biggest thing here is to remember that you are working with both electricity and water when you do your repair. If you don’t feel comfortable with either one, skip it and call a professional!

Most of the time, the light itself can be cracked, allowing water to make its way through. Other times there could be a pipe that has come loose because of epoxy drying up or hardening. There are plenty of products on the market that will allow you to get this type of leak fixed up. Again, water and electricity are something that often requires the help of experts.

Liner Leaks

Liner leaks are the most common area that people will struggle with when it comes to pool leaks. Unfortunately, vinyl liners can be a bit fragile, and you will need to make sure that you take precautions not to rip or tear them. Sometimes this ripping can occur even if you are careful with your pool.

With a liner leak, you should be able to install a patch. Sometimes a patch will be like a clear sticker that you place over the leak. Other times you may need to use a piece of the liner and use a special adhesive to get it to attach to the pool wall.

As long as a liner leak is small, you should have no trouble fixing it independently. The adhesive used to get the liner patch to stick is going to hold up underwater as well. Liner leaks that are pretty large may result in you needing to put a new liner in your pool.

With a vinyl pool liner, be mindful of the color of the vinyl liner patch you choose. You will likely be able to see this patch, and you will want something that still makes the pool look great.

Crack in Pool

Depending on the type of pool you have, you may have a crack in it. There are products on the market that will help you repair a crack in the pool. Depending on the location and the size of the cracks, be prepared to spend a bit of extra money to ensure this is properly fixed. These types of cracks can happen in a spa as well, and it is generally a good idea to consult a professional before starting this process yourself.

Plumbing Leaks

Leaks in the plumbing system of your pool can be simple or complicated. With a plumbing leak, you will have to find where the issue is. Sometimes it is just a matter of replacing a seal or tightening up a join connection in the plumbing system. Other pipes may have a hairline crack, and the entire pipe needs to be replaced.

If you have any experience with plumbing, you can easily figure out how the pool plumbing system works and what you need to do to fix it. There are cameras that you can use to help you find these leaks and make sure that they stop causing you to lose so much water in your pool.

A repair of a plumbing week can take an hour and a piece of duct tape, or it can take a weekend and the help of several professionals. Be prepared for these types of leaks to have a wide range of financial impacts.

How to Avoid a Swimming Pool Leak

A swimming pool leak is one of the most challenging things to come to terms with. When you see your pool a little low, you will hope that it is just evaporation. Once you have established that it is more than evaporation, the harsh reality of having to fix this leak and pay for the mess is upon you.

Although some leaks will happen just because of deterioration or pressure over time, others can be avoided by properly taking care of and maintaining the pool. Here are a few tips to help make sure that you don’t get a rip in your vinyl liner.

  • Pay attention to the pool toys that kids are using in the pool
  • Check your pool vacuum to make sure there are no sharp edges
  • Be careful letting dogs swim in the pool and get too close to the edge
  • Follow the proper closing and opening procedures for your vinyl lined pool
  • Try not to lean up against the side of the pool if you think you have something sharp or pointy on your clothing
  • Make sure to remove pinecones and tree branches from the pool as soon as possible and as carefully as possible
  • Don’t use glass drinkware around the pool deck; if a glass breaks and falls in, you can end up experiencing some damage

Swimming Pool Leak Detection Recap

If you are relatively sure that you have a leak in your pool, the dye test seems the best way to test it and pinpoint the exact location. Once you have your leak detected, make sure you follow the appropriate steps to fix the situation. In addition, you will want to make sure that nothing that you have done to your pool has caused the leak to happen. Always be careful with vinyl liners and try and get your pool fixed as soon as you can. Keep in mind that a pool leak is a severe problem, but it can be fixed if the proper steps are taken.