How to Detect Swimming Pool Leaks

The following is a guest post by Matthew Davis (author information at end of article)

Swimming pools lose water every day to evaporation, especially in the high heat of summer, but generally this natural water loss is minimal. That’s why most pool owners know when their pool is leaking. For instance, you might notice that you’re losing an inch or two of water in a matter of days, or that your monthly water bill is trickling up. Either way, something isn’t right.

But how can you confirm your in-ground pool is leaking? And how do you find the source? Is it a crack in the vinyl pool lining? Or is water sweeping out around a light or loose fitting? Luckily, there are a few quick ways to confirm that your pool is leaking and find the source of the leak.

1. Overnight Water Level Tests

Want to tell the difference between evaporation and a leak? A quick overnight test can help. In the first test, you can mark your pool’s water level with a grease pen or piece of tape. If there’s a leak, the water will drop an inch or more in a day or two – that’s not evaporation. Or you can try the “bucket test.” Set a small bucket on a step in your pool. Fill the bucket so that the water inside matches the water level of the pool. Again, wait a day or two and compare the water levels. More than an inch of water loss in 24 to 48 hours likely means a leak.

2. Visually Confirm You Have a Leak

Simple leaks around equipment can be easy to detect, which is why a quick visual check can help you quickly diagnose a problem. First, examine the area around the pool and look for saturated ground. If the landscaping around your pool is waterlogged, you may have a leak in the plumbing. Plus, be sure to inspect your pool’s hardware, including the filter, heater, and the pump. These units are built to withstand the constant workload, but they’re also prone to leaks. Check for water damage, stains, standing water, drips, and sweeping. Leaks in these systems may be fixed with simple patches or chalking, or they may require a replacement part.

3. Check Your Pool Lining for Tears

With proper maintenance and installation, a vinyl pool liner can last 10 or more years. But they are prone to separation and rips, and that can spell trouble for water bills. A small tear in your pool’s vinyl lining can result in an inch or more of water loss in 24 hours. To begin, visually inspect the lining, looking for cracking, tears or rips, and start with areas most prone to problems, like seals around returns, lights, and in the corners. Pool lining patches are available, which provide a low-cost repair, but in some cases, the lining may need to be replaced.

4. Checking Skimmer and Return Lines for Leaks

Each pool has a suction system or skimmer, which delivers water to the pump. The pump sends the water to the filter, and then that filtered water returns to the pool. These system lines are common sources of leaking. You can check by plugging one line at a time and monitoring water levels. For instance, there are low-cost rubber plugs that can be inserted into any return line outlets. After plugging all of the outlets, wait 24-48 hours. If the water level drops, you likely have a leak in your return line. If not, move on to the skimmer lines. Then, plug all skimmer intakes with the rubber plugs. If there’s a leak, there will be significant overnight water loss. If you’d like to check all of the lines at once, try turning the system off for 24 hours, but do not use the pool in this time. If the water levels still drop an inch or 2, there’s a leak elsewhere. If you turn the system back on and the drops continue, then you can start looking for leaks in the lines.

5. Using Dyes to Detect Leaks

Another common method for detecting leaks is using a cheap dye pack. The dye is drawn to the source of the leak, and can quickly help you locate the source. In these instances, turn off the pool’s skimmer, and place dyes around problematic areas like fittings, lights and corners. As you work your way around the pool, you’ll likely be able to isolate the source. Don’t worry too much if the dye doesn’t work the way you expect. In most cases, it just falls down to the bottom, indicating no significant leaks in that section of the pool.

6. When To Call A Professional

If you’ve exhausted your options or discovered a leak, it’s probably time to call a professional pool crew. Professionals have specialized equipment, which can detect slight leaks without any destruction. If you’re struggling to find the source of a leak, a professional can help. Plus, they’ll be able to perform any repairs. Although some basic repairs are DIY jobs, like minor lining patchwork or adding putty around a loose fitting, more complex jobs like skimmer and return line repairs and vinyl lining replacement, require professional expertise.

Author Bio: Matthew Davis is an associate of Leisure Pools, LLC, a Maryland pool repair company.

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When Kevin’s not enjoying the water himself he’s engaging himself in the wide world of pool and spa knowledge which he passes on to our customers through producing content for our blogs and website. Outside of the pool world you can find him enjoying life with friends, family and his off the wall dog Brixton.