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Can I find the swimming pool leak myself?

Ask questions first . . . look for leaks later

When did the pool first start leaking? Were there any notable events that happened around this time? Recent construction activity around the pool, a pet or object that fell into the pool or extremely cold, rainy, or dry weather can all be events that may cause specific types of pool leaks.

Does the water stop leaking at a certain level in the pool? Does the pool leak more with the pump running or with the pump off? Answers to these questions can provide an indication of where the pool leak is.

More leakage when the pump is running usually indicates a pressure side plumbing leak, more water loss when the pump is off is usually indicative of a suction side plumbing leak, and equal water loss usually indicates a shell or pool liner leak.

If you end up using a pool leak professional they also find the answers to these questions valuable in locating your swimming pool leak problem.

Searching for pool leaks

If you do decide to start looking for the problem yourself, the first step is to eliminate obvious and visible leaks. Check around the equipment for evidence of leakage or moisture. Carefully check all fittings that go into or out of the pool pump, filter, or heater. Check for leaky pump lids, leaky valves, or leaky seals. Also check to make sure that your multi-port valve is not leaking water to the waste line. If itís possible to see where this backwash line empties, check to make sure that you donít see water flowing or dripping from here.

Underwater leaks in liners can be identified with a dye test. Start by testing suspect areas, inside the skimmer, and places where return fittings, skimmers or stairs join to the liner.

Helpful hint - If you have kids, start in the deep end. Kids tend to use the pool pole to snag things off the bottom like masks or fins. They usually don't bother to put an attachment on the end of the pole and that thing is sharp. Don't be surprised if you see a smiley face shaped gash, exactly the same size as the end of your pool pole. Kids have lousy aim, they forget that water refracts. About 75% of the leaks in a liner with a house of kids were all vac pole strikes.

Don't forget to look under ladder bumpers and also around any built in stairs you may have.

Dye Testing

The pool should be filled to its normal operating level and the circulatory system turned off before dye testing. It is also helpful to assure that the pool has been cleaned prior to testing, as some leaks will be plugged up by dirt or debris and therefore will not draw dye.

The most common way to locate a leak is to swim to the bottom of the pool with a bottle of food color. Squeeze a drop or two by seams or other suspicious locations. The leak will draw the water towards and out of the hole. It is helpful to wear a pair of goggles or a diving mask.† Usually there is sand/dirt around the hole.† You have to look close to see it.

Important to remember

A leak in a pool liner must be stopped immediately or it will get much worse. Sand will be washed out from the leak and the liner pushed into the gulley, which will further stretch and weaken the liner. If the

liner then tears, vast amounts of sand will suddenly be washed away, possibly weakening the pool framework to the point of the collapse. If such a leak develops, get out of the pool quickly and evacuate the area.

Wear goggles to look for the leak. Washed out sand may wrinkle or depress liner. Dirt released at pool bottom will be drawn to a leak. Place a piece of Vinyl patch material (available from all pool shops) over the leak immediately. Water pressure will hold it in place - no need to empty the pool.

If escaping water has created a deep gulley, drain the pool, raise the liner, and pour dry sand through a funnel to fill the void. Cut a patch from material supplied in a kit, and coat with glue. Patch should be circular and twice the size of the tear. Spread the glue over entire surface of patch. If tear is under water, fold the patch in half to keep the glue as dry as possible. Working quickly, remove temporary patch. Open adhesive coated patch immediately and apply. Smooth out any air bubbles.

To help prevent leaks in the future,

Observe these simple rules: Use only plastic plates, cups, and utensils in and around the pool; forbid children to play with sharp toys or BB guns in the vicinity of the pool; see that swimmer's toenails are trimmed to a reasonable length. Keep a pool patch kit and extra patching material handy. Be sure to know what your children are taking in the pool. This way you can avoid future liner holes.

How do you find a hole in a pool liner when the pool is in ground?

Answer

First off. DON'T drain your pool. If you drain it to 6 inches in the shallow end, you can wind up ruining the liner. Vinyl shrinks when you take the water out and has a very tough time stretching back out (if at all) and you can easily snap a seam or have the liner sit back improperly when you fill.

Also, if this liner is 12 or more years old, you may want to start thinking of getting a new one soon. Most liners, if taken care of properly, are good for 15 years, but the average is 12. It may be worth your time just to replace it instead of messing around finding a leak in a soon to be ripped out liner anyway.

Usually there are three places to look for a leak in an inground vinyl pool and there are steps you can take to figure out which it is.


1. The liner- To make certain it's the liner you can do a visual inspection first.

If you have kids, then I'd usually start in the deep end. Kids tend to use the pool pole to snag things off the bottom like masks or fins. They usually don't bother to put an attachment on the end of the pole and that thing is sharp. Don't be surprised if you see a smiley face shaped gash, exactly the same size as the end of your pool pole. Kids have lousy aim, they forget that water refracts. About 75% of the leaks in a liner with a house of kids were all vac pole strikes.

Don't forget to look under ladder bumpers and also around any built in stairs you may have.

Didn't find anything? Let's make sure that the liner is not the culprit for sure by shutting down the equipment. Mark off the current level on the skimmer faceplate with a pencil. Let it sit for a day. If you lose more than 1/4 inch in 24 hours, your leak is in the liner. Most pools can lose 1/4 inch in evaporation with no solar blanket on, especially if there is a large difference between water temperature and air temperature so 1/4 inch loss is understandable but anything more is a leak.

There is an alternate method of this test that will actually be more accurate, called the "bucket test" but takes a little longer to set up and relies on your pool having built in steps. No steps? Don't bother then, but if you do, place a plastic bucket and put it on a submerged step. Weigh it down with a round object (so it won't hurt the liner if it gets dumped in the pool) and add water to the interior of the bucket until it's equal to the level of the water in the pool when looked or measured from the side of the bucket. Leave it for 24 hours. This test is more accurate because if it rains, the bucket fills at the same rate as the pool and because the bucket water is the same temperature as the pool water, it evaporates at the same rate too. After 24 hours, if the level of the pool water, compared to the level of the bucket water, is lower, there is a leak in the liner.

Get back in the pool a do a more thorough search and take a bottle of dye with you (food colouring works well). Squirt some carefully and slowly around any stair strips (if you have stairs) around the return and skimmer faceplates and any irregularities you find in the liner. If there's a leak, the dye will get sucked in and you'll easily see it go.

If you find the liner has torn at the stair strip, get a tech in. You won't be able to patch that with any degree of success. It may require partially draining the liner, a kettle of water, strong hands and a lot of knowledge, to repair it and depending on the age of the liner, may not even be worth trying. The tech will be able to tell you when he has a look.

If the leak is on a seam, it's a tough area to patch, you may not achieve 100% success, but you'll definitely slow it down.

A rip around a return fitting or skimmer face plate generally means having to drain down to the area, remove the face plate, cut a patch larger than either face plate, applying it over the affected area, screwing the face plate back on and cutting out the interior vinyl material of the patch. A pool tech is best to do this, but you could possibly do it yourself.


2. No loss in 24 hours? Your issue isn't the liner, it either the in ground plumbing or less likely, at the filter equipment.† Eliminate the cheaper and easier to deal with possibility first.

The equipment. Look around the pad for leaks. If you have a sand filter and its backwash line is buried, have a look at where it drains to. Is there water coming out that line when the filter is set to "filter" and the pump is running. †If there is, then the keystem, main body or keystem gasket in the multiport is damaged. You'll need to disassemble the multiport and figure out which of the three is the culprit and get a replacement part. Note the make and model of your filter.


3. †Not the liner and not at the equipment? Underground plumbing line - then time to get a pool repair man in.


He'll pressure test the lines to determine which is leaking and then locate the leak to within about 6 inches in accuracy (even under 6 inches of concrete deck and 3 feet of back fill) This should take him no longer than an hour, less if your backyard is in a quiet neighborhood as he won't have to get out his sonic detector and can just use his ears.


It's not uncommon for a leak to happen underground. Depending on the age of the pool, if it was built 15 or more years ago, they used nylon insert fittings quite a bit as opposed to poly fittings. More expensive is supposed to be better, right? Nope, nylon has an issue with chlorine and will break down and bust. Rocks in trenches, in a freeze zone can move too. Those are the most common spots for a leak, there are others, like the electrical conduit for a pool light and the main drain, if you have one.

If in doubt and you can not find the leak, phone your nearest pool repair or valet shop in the Yellow Pages and ask if they do liner pool repairs.


A tip I have been sent


Turn off all your pumps and vacuums and let the pool settle where the only current is the leak. Get some sewing thread, a bright color you can see in the water and cut some in about one foot lengths. Drop them in the water around the pool edge and watch what happens. They go straight for the leak! It may take a few minutes, but they always go to it.

I donít know if it works, but it is worth a try.

©2005