Do you think you have a pool leak in your salt water pool? Before you call a leak detection service and pay them, there are a number of things you can do yourself to check for a problem you might be able to fix on your own. You may also find that your pool loss is actually normal water loss from the two most common culprits that we’ll discuss below.
Here are a list of common leaking pool repairs and checks you can do to get to the bottom of pool water loss.
Is My Pool Actually Leaking?
The most common leaking pool repair tends to be caused by something that is actually quite normal and is not actually a leak that needs to be fixed. You notice over a period of days or perhaps a week that the water level is suddenly dropping quicker than what you’re used to.
I’ve experienced this before: I see what appears to be a sudden drop in water level and wonder if there is a leak in the vinyl or some other major problem I need to worry about. You might be surprised to learn about how much pools lose water each day naturally.
I always keep an eye on the water level by looking at the skimmer each time I walk into the backyard. By checking the level here each day for a second, I can keep an eye on water level and I will notice a large change in water level quickly.
I also check out the pool equipment at the back and look for wet spots around the pump, heater, filter and pipes. Once I noticed that the epoxy seal on piping was leaking so I contacted my pool company, bought some pipe epoxy and fixed it myself. A few times the buckles on the pool filter came loose and a few drips of water were coming out. Not enough to worry about per se, but you need to tighten up the buckles because the filter is under pressure and leaking water and air is not good on a pressurized system!
In the normal course of owning a pool, you are going to lose water from a few different ways that have nothing to do with a leak. Namely:
An average pool may lose 1/4 of an inch of water per day due to evaporation and water loss from direct sunlight and wind. It is not unusual to mistake normal evaporation for a pool leak. Very hot sun or very strong winds can significantly increase evaporation rates for your pool.
You may lose 70 or more gallons of water per day from evaporation alone depending on how big your pool is and how hot the sun is.
Splashing And Normal Pool Usage
Water loss from normal pool usage – jumping, diving and splashing – adds up. Especially if you have kids, a diving board, slide or you like to do cannonballs and belly flops. The more people you have in a pool and the more you use the pool, the more water you’ll obviously lose.
Can I Test For A Pool Leak Myself?
The quickest way to test for a pool leak so that you can rule out evaporation is as follows:
- Fill a large bucket almost to the top with water.
- Sit the bucket on one of the steps in the pool and adjust the water in the bucket so it exactly matches the water level of the pool at that time.
- Use a permanent marker to draw a line on the inside and outside of the bucket to match the water level on each side.
- Turn the pool pump off and let it sit for 24 hours.
- Compare the two water levels after 24 hours. If the marking outside the bucket (ie. the pool water level) has decreased more than the water level inside the bucket, you most likely have a leak.
In this case, you may have more than just an evaporation problem because you lost more water from the pool than from the bucket.
Signs That You Have A Pool Leak
- You’re losing more than 1/4 of an inch of water per day consistently.
- You have to top up your pool with water more than once per week.
- Air is getting into the system and you notice air in the pump basket, air coming of the water return jets or pool heater, or other noticeable air leaks.
- There are sinking or wet spots around your pool and decking.
- You have cracks (in the case of a concrete pool).
- The pool pump is sucking air and/or the pump housing won’t completely fill with water.
- There are noticeable cuts or damage to the pool liner. This includes the pool liner coming away from the wall of the pool in multiple areas and allowing water to splash behind the liner.
Popular Leaking Pool Repairs 101
Ok, so you’ve confirmed that you likely have a leak and have determined that it’s not simply a case of evaporation or water loss from splashing and normal pool use. Here are the main reasons why you may have a pool leak and how you can address each.
Why Is My Vinyl Pool Liner Leaking?
Vinyl pool liners deteriorate over time, degrade, stretch and eventually need to be replaced. While our liner has lasted 10 years, you might need to replace yours within the 5-9 year timeframe. Vinyl pool liners tear and rip if they were improperly installed, can rip if you have a dog or other animal whose sharp nails cut the liner or you may damage the liner through regular pool usage or cleaning/vacuuming.
Solution: Vinyl liners do need to be replaced. If you liner is older than 5 years, inspect it carefully for tears and rips and other damage. Speak with your pool company and get them to take a look at the liner especially if it is coming away from the wall to see if a full liner replacement is in order or if repairs can be done.
Why Is My Chlorinator Salt Cell Leaking?
The chlorinator salt cell screws into the existing piping and effectively becomes part of the piping system albeit as a removable part. If you routinely remove the salt cell to inspect it during the season or during winter when the pool is closed, the salt cell threading and o-rings can get damaged.
Solution: Inspect the salt cell carefully on an ongoing basis. Eventually the threading on the salt cell may get damaged as may the rubber seals used to prevent water leaks. It’s also possible that the salt cell has simply become loose from vibrations and needs to be tightened. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the one we neglect to consider first. Also be careful not to cross thread when reinstalling the salt cell.
Why Is My Pool Heater Leaking?
Pool heaters tend to leak from the pipes leading in and out of the heater, from condensation, from a problem with the heat exchanger. The leak may also be from other parts of the pool but make it look like it’s coming from the heater.
Solution: Keep pool chemistry in line as much as possible. Very poor water chemistry can damage the heat exchanger and seals inside the heater that can lead to leaks. Visually inspect the heater and piping to look for leaks that need to be repaired. If you have a puddle or wetness underneath the heater that suddenly appears and doesn’t go away, it’s likely an internal part of the heater (heat exchanger or seals perhaps) that needs to be repaired or replaced.
Why Is My Pool Pump Leaking?
Pool pumps push water through at a very high rate and thus can cause water leaks for a number of reasons. The most obvious reasons are leaks from:
- The inlet pipe coming into the pump. It may need to be replaced.
- The outlet pipe coming out of the pump. It may also need to be replaced.
- The o-rings and other rubber gaskets. They wear out over time.
- Loose pump drain plug. Most pumps have a drain plug that can be removed to drain water. It may be loose or damaged.
- The pump housing. While something may be loose or an o-ring might be damaged, there could also be permanent damage from freezing weather over winter. Pumps may eventually seize up and need to be replaced, as I have experienced one time so far.
- The pump lid. Sometimes the pump lid can become loose and will allow air in that will be noticeable since it’s under pressure and water will leak out.
Solution: Ensure that the pump lid is securely fastened at all times. It can come loose due to pump vibrations. This is the easiest fix. Inspect the pump and other pool equipment regularly for damage and leaks. If you live in an area with freezing cold temperatures over winter like I do, you may eventually find pipe and pump damage due to the weather that needs to be addressed.
- Water loss in a pool may be from a leak due to reasons mentioned above or it may be from normal evaporation and pool usage (splashing, etc).
- Evaporation can be significant and easily confused with a leak.
- Reduce water evaporation by using a pool cover particularly overnight and on days where you aren’t using the pool. Not only do solar blankets heat pool water, they can reduce evaporation significantly.
- Want to calculate the amount of water you’re losing each day in your pool to verify if you have a problem? Check out this water loss calculator to determine your daily water loss.
- Consider use of a professional pool leak detection service if you can’t solve the problem yourself.