When is a Swimming Pool Leaking Too Much?

by Pool Builders on 09-16-2009 in Articles

A swimming pool is designed as a static water retention device coupled with a closed look plumbing and filtration system. In theory that means that once you put water in it, it should stay there. In actuality there are more factors at work here than this.

Evaporation alone will account for at least some water loss, especially if your pool is subject to heavy cross winds and you do not employ the use of some kind of cover system. This article serves to inform the ways above and beyond evaporation, which we all know and expect to some degree, such as water loss through the plumbing system or through the structure of the pool itself.

Before moving past evaporation though you can easily measure the water loss differential between evaporation and water loss through any other means quickly and easily. Using a bucket or similar waterproof and translucent container, sit the container on a step or improvised secure platform so that you can fill the bucket to the exact same water level as the water which surrounds it. Use pool water in the bucket to match the temperature and chemical content of the water for optimal results. Additionally avoid small mouth or opening containers that will not experience the same cross wind effects that your pool may experience. Simply monitor the water level as it evaporates from both your pool as well as the bucket. Any discrepancy between the two water levels is what you can consider to be your external water loss.

Now, moving on to water loss above and beyond evaporation you need to be aware that all swimming pools leak a little. The majority of swimming pools I am called out to see have leaks additional to that of evaporation. Let me extrapolate on this further:

All swimming pools leak a little due to design and construction factors. This is completely normal to the operation of a swimming pool. For example, arguably the best swimming pools on the planet are built with concrete. I think so, but other swimming pool contractors may have differing opinions so to be fair, arguably the best swimming pools on the planet are made with concrete. Concrete is, by nature and design, porous. Most concrete pools have a finishing waterproof coating such as plaster or marbelite, but these also are a concrete product, and also porous. Though the dense mortar mixture of a plaster or marbelite combined with a smooth trowel finish have proven to be very good at water retention, they are at best very water resistant.

Not to worry, this is an acceptable loss incorporated into the design of concrete pools. When maintained properly and refinished as necessary the interior finish of a concrete pool will lose only minimal amounts of water...in theory.

In practice there more factors at work still. The design of concrete pools accounts for the theoretical amount of water loss. In actuality the construction of a concrete pool leaves a great deal of room for error and deficiencies in the water retentive capabilities of the pool shell.

So if water can leak out of a swimming pool under acceptable circumstances, at what point is the leak considered to be the problem? The bad news is that by the time a swimming pool leak has progressed to the point where the average owner notices the water loss, the problem requires immediate attention. Leaking water from your pool excessively can cause far too many new problems to remotely consider ignoring the leak.

A pool that loses water more rapidly than from evaporation alone requires attention and likely a series of leak detection tests. The rate of water loss is your best indication of how serious the leak problem is. A pool that loses more than 2" of water per week is a significant leak considering how much water it would take to reduce the entire surface area of your pool by two inches. A pool that has a daily loss or a loss of two inches or more every few days requires more urgent attention. Pools that require constant water level monitoring are very likely to experience further failure from the migrating water, and any structures near to your pool, like a house for example, also can be damaged by the leaking water.

If your pool loses water at a rate faster than evaporation alone you need to perform further leak detection tests or call a swimming pool specialist to diagnose and repair the leak for you.

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