Finding And Detecting A Leak In Your Pool Or Spa

Written by Lisa Hallett Taylor and published on

All swimming pools and spas lose water naturally through evaporation.  When the relative humidity is low, and winds are high, the evaporation rate accelerates significantly.  In this article I will be covering both how to detect leaks, determine whether the water loss is due to natural causes like evaporation, or if you have a larger problem like a leak that needs to be repaired.  After determining where the leak is there are many different methods that can be used to repair the leak.

It is very common, and likely that at some point your pool will leak.  Given enough time it is close to 100% certain that your pool will spring a leak during its lifetime.  So don’t freak out or get worried if you pool suddenly starts loosing water and you have to keep adding it with a hose.  This is simply par for the course for all pool owners as it will definitely eventually happen.  Here I will describe some of basics.

How to Find a Leak in a Pool or Spa

man cleaning pool

Signs that a swimming pool or hot tub is leaking may or may not be obvious. If you suspect a leak, there are proven ways to inspect and detect. In the tome, The Ultimate Guide to Pool Maintenance, author Terry Tamminen suggests several methods for detecting leaks in pools and spas. Some he considers easy do-it-yourself methods, others he suggests consulting a professional.

Give your chosen test some time, care, and patience. Oh—and prepare to get wet.


9 Signs Your Pool is Leaking

House exterior, swimming pool

One or more of these clues might indicate your swimming pool or spa is leaking:

  1. Persistent water-quality issues or algae that indicate imbalances in the water chemistry, because a leak prevents constant, even levels.
  2. Loose tiles or cracks in the pool deck or surrounding area.
  3. Loose coping stones.
  4. Tree roots can lift the pool deck, plumbing or pool walls.
  5. Cracks or gaps in the bond beam.
  6. Soggy soil or grass near the pool, spa, pumps or pool plumbing equipment.
  7. Your pool deck is sinking or lifting.
  8. You need to add water to the pool more than once a week.
  9. Your pool or spa seems to be losing about 1/4-inch of water each day.


Leak Detection Test No. 1: The Evaporation Test

In the evaporation test, author Tamminen suggests filling a bucket and placing it on the deck next to the pool or spa. With an indelible pen, mark the level in the bucket and also for the pool or spa. Turn off the circulation. Wait a few days, then mark the new level in the bucket and pool or spa. Both the bucket and pool water should evaporate equally (using inches or centimeters). If the pool or spa level is significantly more, you may have yourself a leak. If the water levels evaporate at the same rate, then it is probably not a leak.


Leak Detection Test No. 2: The Dye Test

  1. Prep: Carefully clean and brush the pool, paying attention to steps, corners, and fittings. Begin your inspection on a calm day, since wind ripping the surface makes it hard to see small cracks. Squirt tile soap across the surface to increase visibility.
  2. Inspect: Examine for cracks, starting at the tile line. Tap the tiles gently with a tool to see if any fall off, are loose or sound hollow.
  3. Dye Time: Squirt a squeeze bottle with food dye in areas of suspected leaks. Enter the pool. Squeeze dye. If it swirls around the crack without getting sucked in, no leak. If the dye gets sucked in, it’s riding on a flow of water leaking from the pool
  4. Observe: Continue checking other areas, like fittings, lights, skimmer, main drain, and return outlets.


When to Call a Professional

If the other methods fail to help you locate a suspected leak, there are two other methods of leak detection. Unless you’re a plumber, happen to own a geophone or an extreme DIYer, call on the pros.

By applying the geophone—an electronic listening device—an operator can actually hear water dripping or flowing. By using the device around a pool and related plumbing, the operator can identify where water is moving out of the system.

Method No. 2 is leak detection via pressure testing equipment. Again, it takes know-how and additional equipment to conduct a pressure test. Your wisest move is to hire a pool builder, plumbing contractor or leak detection company that has the right stuff to do the job.


Schedule a Professional Leak Detection Test

If all tests indicate your pool has a leak, contact a reputable leak detection service to conduct a test. To make sure you get an accurate leak detection test, vacuum and clean the pool vacuumed and beforehand. Dirt and debris in the pool can make it challenging to spot even large leaks. Water should be as clear and clean as possible. If it is green it most likely means your pool has mildew, algae, or fungi.

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