Pool Leak Repair
After I'd fumbled my way through my first dozen or so leaks I realized it was time to come up with some kind of standard pricing structure. No leak yet had cost more than $10 in materials or taken more than an hour to find and repair. My only capital expense was a used work truck, second hand scuba equipment and basic hand tools. But, how much to charge?
My only real competition was an older guy who'd worked on pools since the mid Fifties. He was knowledgable and widely respected but with an interesting twist; He didn't swim. For anything more complicated than a leaky wall fitting, he had to drain the pool. I figured I offered faster service and a better value and set my prices about 50% over what he charged. I made the rounds to all the pool stores, builders and services in Central Florida and announced my new commercial and residential leak repair service. Some were interested, some weren't; some wanted a cut, some just wanted someone they could pass the problem off to. In less than six months, I was repairing as many as thirty pools a week with the occasional $1,500 day (tho I don't recall ever surpassing that figure). Not bad money 30 years ago.
My costs and time per job actually dropped and I traded for a newer truck with a working heater. So, should I reduce my prices? Would you..... could you?
My problem became how to maintain my prices while discouraging everyone else from getting into the leak repair business. How? With HYPE! Convince everyone that leak repair is complicated and difficult. Assure them it takes special equipment to find leaks. Persuade anyone who would listen that they couldn't possibly repair a pool leak on their own. All hype.
Well, ignore the hype. Most swimming pool leaks are found and repaired with five simple tools.
First, make certain that you have a leak. Check your evaporation rate by placing a pail on your deck, add water and mark the level. A loss of 1 inch in the pail over a weeks time explains a 1 inch loss in the pool over the same period.
Does your pool lose more water with the pump running?
With the pump running its normal cycle, measure your loss for a 24 hour period. Now, turn the pump off at the breaker and wait another 24 hours. If the loss is about the same, you have a static leak, usually something simple inside the pool. If the loss is noticeably (2 or 3 times) more, you have a pressure leak, something in the plumbing and a little more interesting to look for.
Where does the water go? In Florida, water drops straight back down to the water table.
How big is a leak? One pencil sized opening can easily claim 2 inches a day in a commercial pool.
Most pool leaks can be found and repaired with 5 simple tools;
Just as a personal observation, people who like Sudoku puzzles seem to do well at repairing pool leaks. It takes patience but more importantly, it takes someone who can convince themselves that this problem can be mentally disassembled and analyzed logically. Every leak is a neat little mystery; the clues are there for you to find and the solution will come to anyone who refuses to give up. The only way to fail at leak repair is to quit. And that simple observation has gotten me through a few of the more interesting jobs.
Click on the photo to find a leak under this return jet.
Note: All 468 color photos on the Pool School PRO CD are enlargable.
If you know the 'stop- level' of the leak (where it stops leaking), you already know the elevation of the problem and any fixtures at that level (skimmer, return and lights) become suspect.
Leaks generally occur where two different materials meet. This includes where the skimmer meets the vinyl, tile, grout or marcite of the pool surface. The next most common site is beneath the vacuum and return wall fittings in concrete pools and seams in vinyl liner pools.
Place a drop of the dye near a suspected leak site.When the dye reveals water flowing through the pool wall, you've found your problem.
Two- part pool putty (available any pool or on-line pool supply store) is the basic cement pool leak repair material. Every repairperson who's ever tackled their second pool leak carries it.
We buy pool putty by the case. Mix two equal marble- sized parts to a consistant color and apply to the leak site. You have about 20 minutes to work with putty before it begins to set. And the amazing thing: 2- part works underwater!
When you find a leak at a return fitting, remember that all fittings were installed by the same plumber, on the same day, under the same conditions. It's very common to find more than one leak.
Vinyl and Fiberglass pools rely on a marine sealant like 3M-5200 (available most hardware, home supply or any marina or marine supply) to stop leaks around skimmers and return fittings, although 2-part putty will hold them until it's convenient to partially drain the pool.
A skimmer is the weakest element in any pool. The stop level in this pool was the bottom of the skimmer and a quick check revealed the crack visible here.
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