How to Find and Fix a Leak in an Above Ground Vinyl Liner Pool

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  • If you’ve ever owned a portable Intex pool, you are probably familiar with the one thing that can spoil all the fun with it – leaks.

    Maybe the universe conspires so that those pools will get a hole or two, because it is such a common experience.

    And if it can no longer be fixed and you have kids looking forward to swimming after waiting all week, it usually means a mad dash to the nearest Walmart to get a new pool ASAP, so that they would stop crying about it.

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    If you have an above ground pool installed, you should be familiar with the vinyl liner. Not only is it cheap, it is also quick and easy to install, making it an ideal option for homeowners like you.

    However, it also has its own set of drawbacks. Even these liners are susceptible to getting a hole or two, or even large tears.

    When you suspect that your liner is damaged, you need to check for leaks ASAP. Catch it early, and it may still be repaired. But if it’s too late, you’ll have to replace your pool liner entirely.

    If this is your dilemma, you’re in the right place. We have here a comprehensive guide for finding a leak in an above ground pool with a vinyl liner, and how it can be repaired.

    Most Common Pool Leaks

    above ground pool

    One thing any pool installer would tell you is that fixing the leaky sections of a vinyl pool liner is a whole lot easier than finding where exactly the hole is located. Unless the damage to your liner is very obvious, you’ll have to find a hole or two the size of a pinprick.

    In fact, this task is so challenging, that there are some professionals who turn down this type of job. There are also professionals who specialize in this task alone.

    One thing you need to know is that above pool leaks are not only due to a damaged liner; there are other possible causes for it.

    To give you an idea, here’s a list of where leaks usually happen:

    • Pool liners – vinyl liners can last as long as more than a decade, but they can also last less than a year. They can be quite fragile; any sharp object, such as tree branches, can cause puncture holes and tears on it. Even toys with sharp edges can do much damage.

    And if you were unable to properly level the ground for your above ground pool, the rocks on the ground beneath the pool floor will eventually cause tears to the flooring.

    • Light fixtures installed – if you have pool lights installed, their screws can get loose. When this happens, the formerly watertight seal that was formed becomes lax. This will also happen when the light cap, or even the pool light itself, also detaches or gets cracks. Noticing is another issue to look out for, although inside your house.
    • Pool equipment – most homeowners have various pool equipment that is connected to their above ground pool. Little do they know that these can also leak, not just the pool itself. When air, not water, gets into the pool pump, leaking occurs.

    Leaking can also happen along the return or intake lines if there is too much pressure, which happens when air also enters those lines. These instances will also affect the filtration of water in the pool.

    If your pool has a pump motor, it is vital that this is kept dry. However, this also has a chance of leaking, particularly in its seal shaft.

    • Skimmer – this works together with a filter system of the pool, since it pulls water towards the filters, as well as prevent debris from entering them. These skimmers can also get loose, particularly around its edges. As a result, water is pulled not just towards the filters but now also to its edges where the water can flow out of the pool.

    An edge that above ground pools have over in-ground pools have is it is a lot easier to check for leaks. Even at a glance, you may already see if water is located in places where it is not supposed to, or even leaks themselves. The same can’t be said for in-ground pools; it should lose a significant amount of water in a very short time before you can suspect that a leak is present in an in-ground pool.

    Using the Equipment to Your Advantage to Find a Leak

    You already know that finding the source of the leak in an above ground vinyl liner pool is a challenging task. You’ll have to eliminate potential sources one by one, until you find the actual source. To do this, start with the pool equipment, which is the easiest to check.

    Don’t be mistaken, though; there’s more to it than just taking a peek and seeing if water comes out anywhere. There’s still a proper way to do it, and it involves these steps:

    1. Making sure that the area where they are placed is clean and free of debris, including overgrown weeds or plants, ant hills, rocks, debris, and clutter.
    2. Switching on the pump, but making sure that the equipment is completely dry first.
    1. Taking a closer look at the pool equipment, including its components and surroundings, and looking for signs of leaking or wetness.

    The spot under the pump is the most likely candidate for it, since this is where the shaft seals are found. Because they are placed directly over the ground, it makes any leaks hard to discover. To check this out, get a towel or tissue and wipe the area. Afterwards, check if any water or wetness reappears.

    1. Observing both the skimmer box and the return. Any leaking will be present directly under its box and the return. Check this area as well, and use a towel or rag to wipe dry the pool walls on that area first if you’re not sure if the wetness you found is coming from a leak or not.

    More often than not, this would be a time-consuming task, since leaks won’t immediately appear as soon as you switch on your pool equipment.

    If you confirmed that the leak is due to your pool equipment, you need to get a professional to look at it. Tinkering with them is not something just anyone can do.

    But if you don’t believe that the leak is coming from any component of your pool equipment, we have bad news for you: it’s likely coming from the pool’s liner and this will be a much more difficult hunt.

    How to Find a Hole in a Pool Liner

    Unless the hole or tear is as big as a coin, finding the hole where the leak is coming from in your pool’s liner might feel like an impossible task. Don’t worry, it’s doable; you just need a lot of patience, perseverance, and change of clothes, because you’re going to get wet.

    To determine if your pool is actually leaking or just losing water due to evaporation, the easiest way to do it is via a bucket test. For this, you will need the following materials:

    • A plastic bucket.
    • Painter’s tape, waterproof crayon, or any waterproof marker
    • Stones or any heavy object that can prevent the bucket from toppling over

    Once you have all those materials, here’s what you need to do:

    1. Turn off all the pool equipment to make the pool water as still as possible.
    1. Fill up the bucket with water, making sure that there is around an inch or more of space between the surface of the water and the bucket’s rim.
    1. Place the bucket as close to the pool as possible. Prevent it from being knocked over by placing the stones or the heavy object inside. It’s important that this bucket is close to the pool to make sure that it gets an equal amount of heat.
    1. Fill up the pool with water to its usual level. On average, a pool will only lose about a quarter to half an inch of water each day due to condensation. Note that this amount would vary, depending on your location.
    1. Mark the inside of the bucket to indicate its initial water level. Do the same for the pool.
    1. Leave it alone for at least an entire day, then measure how much water is lost inside the bucket and the pool. If the amount is equal, it means that there are no leaks, and the water loss is due to evaporation.

    If your pool has pool steps inside the pool, the bucket test will be much accurate. You just have to place the bucket on the step (the second step is ideal) pour water into the bucket until the water level inside matches the one of your pool. Mark them with the tape or crayon, and leave them alone for 24 hours or more. Afterwards, check whether they are still of the same level or not.

    If the water levels between the two are vastly different, with the pool losing more water than the bucket, it’s likely leaking. The next step is for you to find out where.

    A dye test will help you narrow down the area where a leak is, but it may not really pinpoint its exact location. And if it doesn’t work, you’ll have to manually search for it. This means bringing out your scuba gear and manually looking at every nook and cranny of your liner, including the walls and pool floor. Take note that this is something that only trained divers should do, because there is still the risk of drowning.

    And if diving for leaks is something you or anyone you know can’t do, your only course of action is to get a professional to do the job for you.

    Pool Liner Leak Detection Dye

    Some people believe that emptying the pool is a must before finding the hole in the liner. However, this would make this arduous task even more difficult – how are you going to find a leak if no water is coming out from an empty pool? And yes,  leak detection can be hard.

    That’s why finding where the leak is coming from needs to be done with an undrained pool. And since water will keep moving around and distort images inside the pool, this ups the difficulty of doing so. This is where the dye test comes in.

    The dye test is a convenient way to discover the location of the source of a leak. Just make sure to use dye colors that will stand out from the color of your liner. Red is often used, but you can also use yellow dye if your liner has a dark color, and blue if your vinyl liner has a lighter shade.

    You need to get a pool dye testing kit that normally contains a syringe and the dye itself, as well as other accessories that can help you locate a hole in your pool faster. Some also already combine it with poor repair kits that usually consist of patches and epoxy.

    If you can’t find any dye testing kit, good old food coloring also works great. Don’t use permanent fabric dyes, as it may leave stains even if you use only a small amount.

    Here’s how to do the dye test:

    1. Switch off your pool skimmers, pumps, and other pool equipment that will cause water to move around – it needs to be still.
    1. Get the syringe with dye and slowly release some of that dye to the area of your pool where you suspect the leak is located. Avoid disturbing the water as you do so, as this may cause the dye to just float around before dissipating.
    1. Observe the direction of the flow of the dye in the water. If the dye seems to be stationary, it means you likely have the wrong area. If the dye flows into a certain direction, this is where the leak is coming from.

    This might take time, since the dye will not immediately move towards the hole or tear in your pool. You may also have to repeat this test a couple of times if the dye dissolves early, or if you want to confirm a certain spot.

    You may also need to do this around the entire pool, since the leak may not only be happening in one spot.

    What you should know is that the dye test will only help you identify the area where there are holes or cracks for water to pass through; you’ll have a hard time if you’ll only rely on this to find the exact spot. And if you use a vinyl liner with designs, this might make following the path of the dye much harder for you.

    Take note that this is only effective for checking holes or leaks suspected to be from installations in your pool. In particular, you can use the dye test to check for leaks in:

    • Pool steps
    • Skimmers
    • Pool lights
    • Returns

    If the leak happens on the walls or floor of the liner, the dye test would not really help you find them. The dye or food coloring you used will more than likely dissolve first before reaching any hole on those sections.

    That’s why if the dye test doesn’t seem to work, and taking a dip in the pool to try to find the leak is also unsuccessful, you have no choice but to call for help from a professional.

    Swimming Pool Leak Repair

    There are various ways of dealing with leaks in an above-ground pool. If it happens in your pool equipment, a technician may be able to do the fix. It may be by tightening loose components, patching up holes, or replacing broken-down parts or the problematic equipment itself.

    If the leak is caused by the fixtures installed, these loose fixtures also need to be tightened or reinstalled, while damaged ones need to be replaced. And if the liner separates from these fixtures, it needs to be reconnected. Do note that all these can only be fixed by a professional.

    As for leaks on the vinyl liner, you’re often limited to two options: applying patches to the holes or damaged parts, or completely replacing your entire vinyl liner with a new one.

    Some may suggest using sealants instead of patches, but we don’t really recommend them. Although sealants can indeed stop the flow of water from a leak, vinyl can move around and stretch, and this can dislodge the sealant applied. Not only that, sealant will only work on tiny holes or rips.

    So, how should you know if you can still patch up your liner or you’re already looking at a complete replacement? It will all depend on the size of the hole or tear on the lining. If it measures less than six inches, you can still get it patched up. but if the size is more than that, it is best that you get it replaced.

    If you are not sure what exactly caused the damage to your pool’s liner, especially if the hole or rip is quite big, you should also get it checked out. It may not just be because an object hit the liner, but it may be related to your pool itself, like wrong installations. A professional can trace the cause of it.

    If repairable, you should now start hunting for a patch, often included in a repair kit, that is the same design as the pool liner or close to it. But if you have leftover material from your actual liner after its installation, it would perfectly do the job; all you need to get is the right kind of adhesive.

    Once you have that, here are the steps to follow to apply the patch the traditional way:

    1. Drain the pool, either completely or until the tear or hole is exposed and already above the surface of the water.
    1. Use wet or dry sandpaper to lightly sand the area where the patch will be applied. Don’t forget to clean this area, as well.
    1. Measure the hole or tear and cut a patch that is at least an inch larger than the size of the hole all around it, or even double its diameter.
    1. Put adhesive around the tear or hole and to the patch to make it adhere better.
    1. Apply the patch over the area that needs to be covered up. Air bubbles are hard to avoid, so remove this by rubbing a flat object over the patch towards the edges, until it is completely flat and all air bubbles have been removed.
    1. Allow it to settle and adhere properly by checking it every few minutes for around 30 minutes or so, as there is a chance that the patch will not properly stick and have sections that lift up.
    1. Leave your pool alone for as long as 24 hours to let the patch completely adhere and settle on your liner.

    But if a liner replacement is needed, this is a job that beginners should never attempt. Vinyl liners are easy to damage, and mishandling it can easily result in new tears, which will require you to get a new liner again – it’s going to be painful on your budget because these liners are not cheap.

    So, you need to get any kind of damage on your vinyl liner repaired asap if you don’t want to aggravate the situation. Left alone, the tears can worsen and this happening will require you to get a new liner for your pool, instead of just having it repaired.

    How to Patch an Above Ground Pool That Has Water in it Without Draining It

    above ground pool

    In the past, patching up a pool’s liner can only be done on a drained and dry pool. These patches come with adhesives that do poorly in water and needs to be completely dry as it sticks to the liner. Placing them on a wet liner will make the patch useless, since it will easily come off.

    But nowadays, you can already get the patch applied to your pool’s vinyl lining without draining. Adhesives for pool patches now also have waterproof variants that allow you to place the patch on the lining, even if there’s water inside the pool.

    The process of doing so is almost the same as how this is done traditionally… save for not draining the pool, of course. But to be more precise about it, here’s a detailed guide on how patches are applied on an undrained pool:

    1. Cut the patch to a size that is a bit bigger than the rip or hole in the liner. An inch or two bigger all over is ideal.
    1. Get the adhesive supplied with the patch kit and apply it to the back of the cut patch. Different manufacturers have different recommendations on how much adhesive is needed, so refer to their instructions on how much should be applied.

    What’s vital is that the amount of adhesive applied entirely covers one surface of the patch. If not, the edges may lift up on its own, allowing water to re-enter.

    1. Fold the patch first, since this will help retain the stickiness of the adhesive while submerged in water.
    1. Go to the spot where the leak is located. While underwater, unfold the patch and immediately place it over the leak. Do this by applying it from the center moving outwards, and press it down and towards the edges to prevent air bubbles from forming under the patch. This will also remove the excess adhesive.
    1. Put pressure over the patch for some time to allow it to properly set. You can do this placing your foot or any heavy object over it; you don’t need to stay underwater until it completely adheres to the vinyl.
    1. Since the hole affects both sides of your lining, you may also opt to add another patch on the same spot, but on the outside of the pool. Doing so will greatly lessen the chance of water still leaking on that spot. You can also use a putty mixture especially for pools on the outside of the lining, instead of another patch.
    1. Let the patch settle over your lining by allowing it to be left there undisturbed for 24 hours or more. This will allow the adhesive to dry and stick to the vinyl.
    1. Check if the entire patch has adhered to the vinyl. But if some parts of the patch pull away after some time, you need to redo the process. The patch may still be reused, so you only need to reapply the adhesive.

    The application of the patch on an undrained pool is much more recommended now. Doing so on a drained pool is said to increase the risk of your liner wrinkling, as well as slipping, and increasing the damage on it.

    And if the patch needs to be applied in the deeper end of the pool where you have to fully submerge yourself but you don’t know how to swim, paying someone to do it for you is infinitely better than drowning. Never compromise your safety just to save some money.

    Pool Leak Repair Cost

    If you’re worried about how much a leaking above ground pool is going to cost you, we have some slightly good news for you: it’s not as expensive as repairing a leaking in-ground pool. However, it can still set you back by hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the damage.

    The patch repair kit only costs around $10 to $20 on average, while the pool sealant retails for $25 to $40. But if you need to get the liner replaced, a new vinyl liner will cost hundreds of dollars, averaging around $300.

    The DIY route may be the cheapest way of repairing a pool leak, but it’s definitely not the easiest, fastest, nor safest way of doing so. Sure, hiring a professional or two to do the job may cost you a lot, but this is a tiny factor compared to the risk of drowning, damaging the materials, particularly the pricey liner, and having to buy replacements, and wasting water because it’s taking too long to find and fix the leak.

    Experts on finding the exact location of a leak can charge as much as $200 to $400 for it. Pool professionals who will do the repairs can charge you either by the hour or for the entire task. If they will be billing you per hour, their rates can go higher than $50. But if their charge is for the entire project, their flat rate is usually around $100. These rates may go higher if a liner replacement is needed.

    But if the leak is due to faulty pool equipment, you may also have to pay between $100 to $500 to replace a broken part. This does not include the professional fees to replace your pool equipment with a new one.

    Getting Free Quotes from Competing Contractors

    By now, you are aware of how challenging finding and fixing leaks are, even for an above ground pool. If professionals are already having a hard time with it, especially when it comes to pinpointing the exact location of the leak, how much more would it be for a DIYer?

    Not only that, it can also be a daunting task to find someone to go search for the leak in your pool, since not all pool pros will accept this kind of job. Some pros refuse to do it because they find it too hard, and not all neighborhoods have leak specialists.

    What if we tell you that we can help make it easier for you to find the right professionals to do the job for you, just by filling out our form? Yes, it really is that simple!

    Once you fill it out and submit it to us, all you need to do is to wait for qualified professionals to contact you. And once they do, expect to see their quotes for the job, as well as any related offers they have.

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    You only have to choose which one of them you want to work with. But, don’t be obliged to pick just because you used our service – you’re free to turn all of them down if you are unsatisfied with their quotes or offers. We won’t hold it against you, nor charge you for it.

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    So, why are you still not clicking on the link to fill out the form? Try our service now to get your leaky pool fixed asap and get everyone back to enjoying a swim in your above ground pool soon!

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