Making repairs to your swimming pool may seem like a daunting task and never one you relish. When you’re taking a relaxing dip, you may never even notice a leak or damage to your pool liner but maybe you’ve noticed your yard getting a bit more damp than usual?
If you have the nagging feeling that your pool has sprung a leak, don’t worry. Unless there are major foundation cracks or a natural disaster has occurred recently, you can probably repair the leak without too much fuss.
Finding a leak in your above-ground or inground pool may seem like the end of the world but with a quick test and a few short steps, your liner will live to see another day.
So You Think Your Pool Has a Leak?
Before you start slapping on patches and gluing your fingers together, you may want to check if you actually have a leak in the first place. If there’s a hole the size of Texas in your pool liner, that’s a pretty obvious sign, but it’s not always so clear.
There may be a few reasons why it seems like your pool has sprung a leak, even if it doesn’t actually have one.
False alarms to consider before panicking
- High Temperatures
- Low Humidity
Simple water evaporation and increased temperatures can drastically alter the level of water in your pool. When the mercury goes up, the water in your pool warms up and is more likely to evaporate.
This is doubly true if your pool is in direct sunlight. If you’ve recently removed a shade tree from your backyard and your pool is now receiving more sunlight than it used to, the chance for evaporation water loss goes up.
Also, if the humidity has been low in your area, the dry outside air can really suck out the water in your pool over time.
These are some easy things to check and could save you some headaches if it does turn out to be a false alarm.
How to Determine if Your Pool Has a Leak
If you have an above ground pool chances are it’s going to be pretty easy to spot. Just look for the giant fountain that appeared in your backyard.
For a below ground pool, it might not be so easy, and you might not have a leak at all. Especially as the seasons change into summer and heats up, water evaporation can give you a false positive.
For below ground pools especially, it’s good to test your pool’s evaporation to ensure you’re leaking instead of just nature stealing your water. To that, we look to the Bucket Test.
The Bucket Test
The bucket test is a simple way to test the rate of evaporation in your pool, and a necessity if you’re unsure whether you have a leak or not.
Get a bucket and huck it into your pool.
Ok now go and get it back.
You’ll need to fill the bucket almost to the top with pool water.
Use your pool steps to place it in a location where the water in the bucket and the pool water outside the bucket are at about the same level.
Mark the level inside the bucket. You can use a sharpie marker or a grease pen. After that, all you have to do is wait.
If you’re just losing water to increased temperatures and evaporation, the water levels should evaporate at roughly the same rate. If your pool level is significantly lower than your pool level, then you’ll know that you have a leak on your hands.
Keep in mind if the water is disturbed through rain or splashing that the test becomes useless and you’ll need to repeat to get accurate results.
How to Find a Leak in Your Pool
Once you’ve determined that there is, in fact, a leak in your pool, you need to find out where it is. If it’s not readily apparent, that’s actually a good thing! It means the tear is not too big yet and that it won’t be that difficult to fix.
The best way to find out where to start patching is with a technique called the Dye Trick.
The Dye Trick
This is a very easy way to determine if you have a leak and works for both above ground and inground pools. It’s especially useful for inground pools.
You’ll need some kind of dye or food coloring, some goggles and snorkel. The goggles and snorkel aren’t 100% necessary but it’ll make your life much easier. Even the cheap dollar store ones will work for this. No need to get professional equipment.
Next, you’ll need to dive in with your dye and look around to see if there are any inconsistencies in your liner. Squirt a little bit of dye near any visible cracks or tears in your liner. If you can see the dye get sucked through, then you know where your leak is coming from. Make sure to check all the cracks and tears you can find. Just because you find one, that doesn’t mean there aren’t more.
Personally, I find that the little bottles of food coloring work great for this. They’re already in an easy-to-use bottle that you can cover with your finger while underwater and, on the plus side, they’re cheap.
Types of Patches
Once you’ve found the tear or tears in your liner, the next step is to patch them. The steps for all patches are basically the same, so we’ll cover the steps you’ll need to take no matter which type of patch you’re looking to use.
Before that, let’s take a look at the 3 most common patches used to fix pool liners.
Slap Some Tape on It
There are a lot of different types of waterproof tape on the market and most will work well enough for small holes or rips. It’s not the prettiest way to fix a hole but it’s probably the easiest. Clean around the tear and tape that bad boy up.
Make sure you go with a specifically waterproof brand. If you throw regular duct tape on the hole, it’ll look really trashy and won’t hold nearly as long. You also may want to look for a clear-type tape to retain the nice aesthetics of your pool. It’s pretty jarring to take a dive and come face to face with an odd patch of grey or black in the middle of your pool lining.
Stickers For the Win
Sticker patches are exactly what they sound like.
They’re simple premade stickers that allow you to peel off the backing and slap it over the tear. They work well if the whole is slightly bigger and tape just won’t cut it. You’ll still need to do some prep work, so make sure to read the next section.
There are whole patch kits that come with a cover and adhesive. They include a cover and adhesive that can be put over the larger tears. If it’s a bigger tear than tape or a sticker can handle, a patch kit is the next step up.
There’s a bit more work to it but it’s still relatively easy if you know what you’re doing. So make sure to follow along step by step.
How To Repair a Leak in Your Liner (For Inground Pools)
Most of the patching methods out there can be used without having to drain your pool. Draining your pool can actually damage the liner more, so before you start pumping water out of your pool, try to patch the hole first. If you have to drain your pool, chances are you’re going to need to replace the whole liner anyway.
Confirm the Location
The first step is to check the tear and confirm how bad it is. Check the size and measure the tear. This will help you figure out what size patch you’re going to need. It’s also a good idea to check the damaged area to see if the tear was caused by normal wear-and-tear or by a foreign object. It would be a bit of a waste to throw a patch up only to have another hole pop up again.
Prep the Tear
Whenever you’re gluing something together, you’ll want the connecting surfaces to be clean and free of debris. Remember when you were a kid (or adult) and you dropped a sticker in the dirt? It’s not really sticky after that, is it?
The same concept applies here but instead of sticky child fingers, it’s chemicals, algae, and dirt floating in your pool that’ll cause the patch to fail.
Using a simple dish sponge or soft cloth, let’s clean up the area around the tear and near the area where the patch will meet the liner. Be careful here. You only want to use the soft side of the sponge. If you go hard and scrub too much, you risk causing more damage to the liner.
Prep the Patch
This should be the easy part. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the patch. Each one is slightly different but they all will have the same basic premise.
Patches usually come in a big sheet. If you don’t like the idea of having a massive ugly square patch smack dab in the middle of your pool, you’ll need to trim it down. Make sure to keep it large enough that it overlaps the tear. It would be a real bummer if you finished trimming the patch only to find you were a little overzealous on the trimming.
There’s a reason for the saying, “Measure twice, cut once”. It’ll save you a lot of heartache in the long run. Ensure your patch has at least a 1-2 inch overlap on all sides to ensure a good seal.
Apply the Patch
This is the hardest part… at least for me. Some people have a knack for placing stickers or phone screen protectors perfectly without bubbles — but whenever I try, I make a bubbly mess.
There are some tricks to help you out. You can try to fold/bend your patch so that the center hits first and then slowly roll out the rest of the patch. This should eliminate most air bubbles.
If there are still a few bubbles (or a lot) that’s fine too. Just slowly and carefully press them out towards the edge of the patch. You’ll be able to remove them by pressing them outwards. This will keep your patch bubble-free and much more secure.
Once the patch is on, you get to wait.
Stop touching it! It’ll take a while to ensure the adhesive cures around the patch and any poking or prodding reduces its effectiveness. So as tempting as it is: don’t touch it.
One thing you may be able to do to help is to apply pressure to the patch while it cures. Granted, it’s not really feasible to sit in your pool for a day or two pressing on a patch, so it’s not always possible to do this.
If the tear is at the bottom of the pool you may be able to find some kind of weight to sit on the patch. Just make sure it’s wrapped in something soft and squishy so that it won’t cause another tear.
Now that the waiting is done, you simply need to keep an eye on the patch. Make sure that all the edges are sealed and stuck flush against the liner. If it starts to come up, you can add a bit more adhesive or you can put another patch over the first.
You won’t need to set up a webcam to monitor it 24/7 but checking it out every few days (or before you take a dip) is always a good idea.
How To Repair a Leak in Your Liner (For Above-Ground Pools)
Honestly, for above-ground pools, it’s more-or-less the same process just slightly easier. You’ll be able to see exactly where you’re leak is coming from in an above ground pool and it should be easier to apply pressure to both sides of the pool liner to help the adhesive cure and stick longer.
Push it to the limit!
When it comes time to patch your liner, it’s not the end of the world. Your liner can still perform its duty for a long time. As with all things in life though, it’s not going to last forever.
After the first patch, it’s time to start looking for a replacement liner. I don’t mean you have to run out right away to buy a brand new one, but the liner itself is only going to get worse as time goes on.
It’s a good idea to be prepared and do your homework before the day for replacement comes. Take a look at replacements online, check on local professional prices, or read up on DIY replacements. It’s a hefty task, but having everything ready beforehand will help take the stress off when it comes time to retire your liner.
Think of your patch as an early warning system and safety net. It’ll work perfectly fine for quite some time and gives you the necessary time to prepare for a new liner without last-minute scrambling.