How to Find a Leak in an Above Ground Pool

By Cesar Riel

Above ground, pools are more susceptible to leaks than in-ground pools. Suppose you fear that your above ground pool leaks; you must get to work right away. Finding the leak can be a long procedure as you have to check the pool equipment and liner. This article will walk you through all the steps you need to perform to catch the leak in your above ground pool. Before we explain these steps, let’s look at some of the symptoms of a leaking pool.

Symptoms of a Leaking Above Ground Pool

  • The lowered water level in the pool
  • Higher water bills for city water users
  • Higher electricity bills for well water users
  • Standing water around the pool despite no rain
  • Fluctuating water chemistry
  • Algae growth and discolored water

Please note that these symptoms can also occur due to other problems. However, they are usually related to water leaks.

How to find a leak in an Above Ground Pool

Finding-a-leak in an above-ground process comprises two phases. First, you have to find the leak in the pool equipment. If there is no leak in the pool equipment, you will be forced to take the tough route of finding the leak in the pool liner.

Phase 1: Check the Pool Equipment

There is a high chance that the standing water around your pool is coming due to a leak somewhere outside the pool. Follow the checklist below to confirm that none of the pool equipment is leaking.

Remove all the debris, weeds, plants, grass, ant homes, rocks, gravel, or anything which is not supposed to be there.

Dry all the equipment completely with a towel and ensure that there are no wet spots.

Turn on the water pump to let the water flow into the equipment. When water flows at high speed, it will be easier to locate the leak.

Most of the times, water pump shafts and valves are the culprits behind leaks in an above ground pool. The chances of leaking water pump increase even more when you have a new liner and an old pump. If your pump is five or more years old, it is likely leaking. You can use a dry cloth or tissue paper to check if the valves and shafts are leaking.

The same is the case with the skimmer and the return fittings. Inspect them in the same way as you inspected the pump in the step mentioned above. Similarly, if you have a water heater installed with your above ground pool, analyze it as well. It is possible that the heater will be leaking water, and you are finding the leak somewhere else.

This process will take some time. Be relaxed and patient while finding a leak because there is no room for errors here. If you locate the leak’s source, turn off that equipment and call a professional to look after the problem. Not everyone can decipher the working of the water pump/skimmer/heater and repair the leaks.

Phase 2: Finding and Repairing the Leak in the Pool Liner

Finding a leak in the liner is a much more complicated process than looking for a leak in the pool equipment. If your liner is more than five years old and confirmed that it is leaking, we suggest replacing it with a new liner. If you don’t want to replace it or bought it a couple of years ago, repairing it is a much better idea.

How to Find out Liner is Leaking

Some people suggest using a bucket test to find out if the liner is leaking. A bucket test may work in some cases, but, likely, it will not give accurate results. We will discuss the bucket test later in this article. First, look at the symptoms of a leaking liner.

Symptoms of a Leaking Liner

Rapid Water Loss: The water loss due to a hole in the liner is pretty fast. Just imagine that you have a 24-feet above-ground pool with thousands of gallon of water in it. If there is a hole in the liner around a safety pin’s size, you would be losing ½ inch, 1-inch,2-inch, or 3-inch water in a day. If you are losing a ½ or 1-inch over a week, it is probably due to leaks in the filter system, skimmer, or return fitting. It can also happen due to evaporation. You can minimize the water loss from evaporation by keeping your pool covered when not in use.

Wetness on the Outside of the Pool: If there is a leak in the liner, it will continue to leak around the clock. Until there is water above the level of the leak in your pool, it will keep on leaking, and there is no stopping it. You can stop the water leaks in the pump and water heater by turning them off. However, a leak in the liner will continue to leak water, and you will come across wetness in the area around the pool.

Water Level Gets Below Skimmer: If you leak at the bottom of the liner, the water will continue to leak and reach below the skimmer. Bottom leaks are most dangerous as they will not stop until taken care of.

Finding the Leak in the Liner

The following steps will help you find the leak.

Turn off the water pump and let the water get still. It may take some time for water to get still. The goal here is to enable you to see the bottom of the pool as clearly as possible.

leakage area

Inspect the outside of the pool and check for wetness or stagnant water. If your liner is leaking, you will find a clutter of water adjacent to the pool walls. The amount of water can vary depending upon the size of the leak. In some cases, the leaked water travels through the sand/earth underneath the pool and leaves holes/divots in the previously flat ground. If you find anything like this, your liner leaks.

Now that you have confirmed that your pool leaks, it is now time to vacuum and clean the pool. Most of the times, an above ground pool has dirt and debris sitting on the bottom. If your pool’s bottom is clean and you can see the liner, you don’t need to vacuum it.

It is now time to get inside the pool. Make sure your wear safety goggles or a dive mask while going inside your pool. You will need to hold your breath for quite some time, so you may need to get inside or outside the pool after intervals. There are two ways to identify the exact leaking spot. You can either use a leak detecting dye or a toothpick. When you release the dye near the leak hole, it will be sucked by the hole. In this way, you can pinpoint the hole. The other way is to use a toothpick. When you are inside the pool, you will see a lot of black stains on the bottom. These are debris spots on the bottom; you can use a toothpick to verify that these are holes and not just black spots. Be gentle with the toothpick as you don’t want to puncture your liner and create more problems. You can mark these holes with a marker so you can see them easily when you get back in the pool to repair them.

Repairing the Leak

repaired area of a pool

The next step is to repair the leaking spots. You will need to patch them, and if it is done properly, these holes won’t leak ever again. Some people are of the view that you must use repair patches sold at the pool store. We suggest that you use liner patches to get better results. The clear patch that comes with the patch kit is not going to last. It will come off after some time, and you will have to do all the hassle again. Apart from a liner patch, you will need scissors and vinyl liner glue.

The question that comes to mind is how to obtain a patch of the liner. If you have an overlap liner, you will have excess liner hanging outside the wall. Cut some of the extra liners from the wall. If you don’t have an excessive liner, you can get some liner from a pool supply shop. They usually have some extra pieces of liner available.

After you have marked the hole or holes that need to be patched, cut a circular patch of the liner; avoid a square or rectangular patch as it will not hold properly. Secondly, when you apply the glue on a square patch, the edges will curl up, and you will not patch the hole properly.

After the patch is cut, apply glue on it gently and fold it in half. Make sure that the glued side is folded inwards. Now get inside the pool and patch the hole. Do this by applying the patch from the center and then moving outwards. Press it down towards the edges to push out any air bubbles under it. Hold the patch for 15-20 seconds and ensure that all the edges are down. Monitor the patch for another 3-4 minutes so that the edges don’t come off and are sealed with the liner firmly.

Repeat the process for each hole. If you have more than one hole in your liner, you will need to deal with each hole individually. Please don’t make the mistake of gluing the patches at one time and taking them underwater together.

If you have followed the above process carefully, your patch can last a long time without any issues.

The Bucket Test – Why not use it?

To perform a bucket test, you need the following equipment.

  • A 5-gallon plastic bucket
  • Waterproof marker or painter’s tape
  • Stone to prevent the bucket from falling

You will need to turn off the water equipment to make the water still. Now fill the bucket and leave 1-2 inches of space between the bucket’s rim and water surface. Place the bucket as close to the pool so it gets an equal amount of sunshine and wind as your pool. To prevent the bucket from falling, you can place a stone or some heavy object inside the bucket. Now fill the pool to its maximum filling position and mark the pool’s water level and the bucket. Leave the bucket and pool for 3-4 days and then notice the difference in the pool’s water levels and the bucket. If the water level in the bucket is at the same position and that the pool has gone down significantly, you leak into the pool. If the water loss is equal in the pool and the bucket, there are no leaks in the liner.

Why not use the Bucket Test?

The bucket test is based on the principle of evaporation. It is school level science that the evaporation rate depends on the container’s surface area holding the liquid. The surface area of the pool and the bucket has no comparison in any way. The diameter of the bucket will be 1 foot, and that of the pool is 24 feet. How can the evaporation rate be the same in such a scenario? Hence, we suggest you must not use the bucket test for detecting leaks in the above ground pool liner.

Final Words

Detecting leaks in an above-ground pool is somewhat difficult, but they can be dealt with effectively once detected. If you have the patience and will to solve the problem yourself, you can save yourself a handsome amount of money.

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