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4 Simple Steps: How to Check Your Pool for Leaks

You want your pool to be in good shape this summer. One essential skill is knowing how to check your pool for leaks. This article should show you exactly how.

You can repair most small cracks with pool putty or something like it. Ask your local pool pro for a recommendation based on your pool deck material.

Likewise, you can fix many holes in the liner with a vinyl repair kit. Do take the time to examine the whole pool before you start repairing. You need to know what the problem is and how extensive your repair work will be. If you’re like most pool owners, you may have a small hole or two, with not much to repair each year. But you still need to know how to check your pool for leaks.

We’ve distilled our decades of pool installation know-how into this simple list for you to check off. Here’s how to check your pool for leaks in 4 easy steps.

How to Check for Pool Leaks

1. Check Obvious Areas First

At times, the problem can seem so big that it’s hard for us to think of solutions. And we can miss the first step. Avoid that trap by starting here. Check your pool for leaks in the most obvious places. Check the ground around your above ground pool for moisture. If you have an inground pool, the leak won’t be as obvious in the ground. But you can inspect for sunken places or areas that are softer than usual.

  • Check where your equipment is kept. You’ll need to look closely at:
    • The filtration system
    • The pump
    • The heater
    • Each of the valves

The plastic skimmer often separates from the concrete pool edge. Since it’s common, it’s a good thing there’s an easy fix. Simply re-attach it with pool putty.

  • Give the light fixtures a close look. Leaky lights are hard to fix, but worth the effort.
  • Now you can move to the liner (or shell, if you have a fiberglass or concrete pool).
  • Turn off the pump and let the water become still.
  • Pour some pH Indicator Reagent into the pool near any visible cracks. Watch closely to see if it moves closer to the crack (or even gets sucked out). If it does, the crack is deep and leaking water.

Check the pool liner near equipment, lights, and stairs to make sure it’s still sealed. Again, you can pour a dash of Reagent near them to see if it gets sucked out.

2. Do the Bucket Test

Now it’s time to get scientific. We all know that water evaporates out of pools. So here’s how to find out if that’s the only way your pool is losing water. Hopefully, it is.

Run the test during a 24-hour period when you’re fairly sure it won’t rain. If it does rain, start the test over.

  • Turn off the pump off and let the water settle down.
  • Fill a 5-gallon bucket with water (around 2/3 full). Add weight by putting bricks or sand in it.
  • Set the bucket on the pool stairs. It should be about half underwater. Make sure no water will splash into it.
  • Carefully mark the level of the water in the bucket. Mark it inside. Then, mark the pool water level on the outside.
  • Wait for 24 hours. This is the easy part. Go golfing. Heck, go camping overnight. The next day, carefully measure how much the water level in the bucket went down. Then, measure how far the water in the pool went down on the outside of the bucket. Compare the two measurements. Unless your bucket leaks, the only way its water level went down is through evaporation. If the pool water level went down more than the bucket water did, your pool is leaking.

3. Check the Pump and Filter

If you know your pool is leaking (here’s hoping you don’t need to do this step), you need to find the leak. Does the plumbing leak? The filtration system? Or the pool shell?

Let’s check the filter and pump first.

  • Fill the pool all the way. That means up to the tile or skimmer.
  • With still water, mark off how high the water comes on the side of the pool.
  • Now, turn your autofills off (or check to make sure they are). Then, turn on the pump. You’ll let it run for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours is up, head back to the pool and check the water level. Has it gone down? Of course, since water evaporates. Now you’ll measure how far it went down and compare it with how far it went down during the bucket test.
  • If your pool has lost more water than evaporation would indicate, then your plumbing system may be losing water.
  • Run the pump in the filter position, then inspect the backwash line. If there’s any water leaking from it, then it’s time for you to repair or replace the filter valve – pronto.

4. Now Turn the Pump Off

If, after inspecting the pump, you can tell that it’s not the source of the leak, turn it off. Now you’re going to test the pool shell and lining.
As in step 3, make sure your pool is full up to tile or skimmer.

  • Mark off how high the water comes on the wall of the pool or inside the skimmer.
  • Turn off the pump after first double-checking any autofills to make sure they’re also off.
  • After 24 hours, check how far the water level has dropped. Again, keep evaporation in mind by comparing the drop with your bucket test measurement.
  • If, with the pump turned off, the water in your pool is less than it should be, you probably have a pool shell or liner leak. But if the level dropped significantly more when your pump was switched on, the plumbing system is most likely to blame.

Now What?

All this testing is worth it – if for no other reason than to give you peace of mind. Now that you know how to check your pool for leaks, follow these steps each year before pool season starts. More than likely, your pool is only losing water through evaporation. If you check your pool for leaks and find one, it’s probably visible and you can fix it yourself.
What if you doubt your ability? Is the pool leaking and you can’t find the leak? In that case, you might need to get professional repair help.
At The Great Backyard, we’re pool construction experts. We’d love to share our expertise as you determine what you need to do. Pool ownership should be fun! And professional leak repair will make the fun last longer. After all, what’s more fun than peace of mind? Just come on in or give us a call today for free advice.

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