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Don’t Let Leaks Drain Your Pool and Wallet

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Learn how to stay proactive and address leaks as soon as they are detected. This will allow you to enjoy your pool for years to come.

Don't Let Leaks Drain Your Pool and Wallet

Swimming pools provide a great way to cool off during hot summer months and are designed to be watertight. However, over time, sealants can deteriorate, and some parts of the pool can settle, shift, or wear out (and a pool leak begins). As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself adding at least two inches of water to your pool weekly, it’s time to call in a professional for a pool leak detection.

Repairing pool leaks is crucial. Apart from helping you save chemicals, heat, and water, the timely repair of pool leaks can also help ensure the pool’s structural components are not compromised. This occurs when sediment gets eroded due to the constant flow of water. Think about how you plant new trees, by flooding the root mass with a water hose. The water hose consolidates the soil around the roots. The same happens beneath your pool shell when you have leakage. Timely detection of leaks can help prevent costly repairs later on.

To help with the process, we recommend conducting regular checks of your pool for leaks. If you suspect you have a pool leak, be sure to check the following items before calling a professional for help:

  • Check the shell of the pool for tears in the vinyl or cracks in the plaster/gunite.
  • Examine the tile line and take a closer look inside the skimmers. These are the most common locations for leaks, and happens when the concrete pool and the plastic skimmer gets separated.
  • Check the pool deck and the area between the pool and the equipment pad for wet areas. Look for eroded areas or wet soil.
  • Look for mineral deposits in a linear, but likely irregular, pattern.

There are three common types of leaks that affect swimming pools: fitting leaks, structural leaks, and plumbing leaks. A fitting leak is any penetration through the pool shell or in the piping. A structural leak refers to a leak in the pool’s structure, often caused by ground movement, groundwater pressure, thawing and freezing cycles, settling due to soil shifting, poor engineering or construction. Plumbing leaks, on the other hand, can be attributed to the movement of the system, corrosion, or installation defects.

To identify swimming pool leaks, look for gaps or cracks in the concrete shell, loose or displaced tiles, standing water or mushy spots around the pool, settling of the vessel into the ground, the need to add more water than usual, the automatic filler constantly releasing water, or algae forming quickly after a chemical treatment.

If you suspect you have a leak but are unsure of where it is, there are some hacks you can use to determine if you have pool leaks.

Bucket Test

The bucket method involves placing a 5-gallon bucket on the second step of your pool. You take a marker and mark the bucket at the height of the water inside and outside. The water levels can be different, as long as you have a marking on both. Leave the bucket in place and operate the pool/equipment as you normally do. Check back and measure the water levels inside and outside the bucket after 24 hours. If the water in the bucket is higher than the water surrounding it, you most likely have a leak. This is due to the fact that the water inside the bucket and outside the bucket should be evaporating at the same rate. The difference in water drop should be considered a Red Flag (I know, sorry….couldn’t help myself) to the fact that a leak exists.

Food Coloring

Another option is using food coloring near the area where you suspect the leak to be. Let’s say you observe a linear area of mineral deposits (as mentioned above). You discharge a small volume of food coloring near it to see if the dye floats over to the suspected breach or not. Be careful not to disturb the water when doing this test, as the dye can easily mix with the water and disappear. In the end, if there is a leak the food coloring will get sucked into the crack.

Pressure Test

A pressure test involves sealing off the pool’s skimmers, returns, and main drains and then pressurizing the pool’s plumbing system. If the pressure in the system drops, it’s an indication that there is a leak in the plumbing system. The inspector will then use specialized tools to determine the location and severity of the leak. Due to the requirement to purchase equipment, this method tends to only be used by Leak Detection specialists.

To conduct the pressure test, the pool inspector will first plug the return jets, skimmers, and main drain with specialized plugs. Then, they will attach a pressure gauge to the system and pressurize it to a specific PSI, which is usually between 15 and 25 PSI. The inspector will then monitor the pressure gauge for several minutes to determine if the pressure drops. If the pressure drops, the inspector will use specialized tools to determine the location of the leak or replicate the test while moving the locations of the plugs.

Audible (Sound) Test

Another test typically reserved for the professionals, due to the elevated cost of the equipment. A sound test is a simple and effective method of detecting pool leaks. The sound test works by listening for sounds that are not supposed to be present in a normal pool environment. These sounds can be caused by water leaking from the pool into the surrounding soil or by air escaping from the pool. While we cannot hear the sounds with our ears, the use of ultrasonic listening devices helps us hear the leakage occurring.

To perform a sound test, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Turn off all pool equipment

Before starting the sound test, you need to turn off all the pool equipment, including the pump, filter, and heater. This is because the sound of these equipment can interfere with the test results.

  • Listen for sounds

After turning off the pool equipment, listen for any unusual sounds coming from the pool. These sounds can include hissing, bubbling, or gurgling sounds. These sounds can be an indication of a leak in the pool.

  • Use a listening device

To perform a more accurate sound test, you can use a listening device. This device can help you hear sounds that are not easily detectable by the human ear. You can use a stethoscope, a listening disc, or a leak detector to help you identify the source of the sound.

  • Locate the source of the sound

Once you have identified the source of the sound, you need to locate the exact point of the leak. You can use a dye test or a pressure test to confirm the exact location of the leak.

What to Do Once Leaks Are Confirmed

Detecting leaks in a swimming pool can be a daunting task for any pool owner, and it can be frustrating to have to deal with them. However, the good news is that once you have confirmed that there is a leak, there are several options available to fix the issue.

One option is to use a leak sealer. A leak sealer is a product that is specifically designed to seal small leaks in a pool. It works by finding the source of the leak and then sealing it up. Leak sealers are available in different forms, such as liquid or tablets, and they are easy to use. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging, and apply the product to the affected area.

Another option is to patch the leak. If the leak is larger than what a leak sealer can handle, then you may need to patch the affected area. Patches come in different sizes and shapes, and you can choose the one that best fits your needs. To apply a patch, you will need to drain the pool to the level of the leak, clean and dry the affected area, and then apply the patch according to the instructions. If this option is attempted, the groundwater must be considered because the pool can pop out of the ground due to buoyant force if a heavy rainfall event occurs.

Underwater and marine grade epoxies are likely among the most popular responses that peopel have to learning of a pool leak. These epoxies are typically sold in syringes, and self-mix prior to installation. They can be fully installed underwater and need a few hours to cure. Surface preparation should occur, with wire brushing the surface to remove any mineral deposits.

If the leak is located in the plumbing of the pool, then you may need to call a professional to fix the issue. Pool plumbers have the knowledge and experience to identify and fix leaks in the plumbing of a pool. They use specialized equipment, such as cameras and pressure testers, to find and fix the leaks.

If these methods fail, or appear intimidating, call in a Pool Leak Detection company. These guys have all of the tools to get to the bottom of your leak, and will most often use epoxy to repair minor issues.


In conclusion, it is important to keep an eye out for signs of pool leaks to avoid potential damage to your property and ensure a safe swimming environment. While it may be tempting to try and fix leaks on your own, it’s always best to seek the help of a professional pool leak detection service. With their expertise and specialized equipment, they can accurately locate and repair leaks, saving you time, money, and potential headaches down the line. By staying proactive and addressing leaks as soon as they are detected, you can enjoy your pool worry-free for years to come.

Hello!  I’m Mike Powell, P.E., the founder of Red Flag Home Inspection, LLC and the creator of this website.  I am also a Professional Engineer and Forensic (failure) Scientist.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.  We appreciate your time spent on this site and are always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers.  You can connect with us through our social media channels (FacebookInstagram, Youtube, Twitter, or Email me anytime. We would love to hear from you. 🙂

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