How To Find A Leak In A Pool: Your DIY Guide

Worried your pool is leaking? Hiring someone to find a leak is expensive. Use our DIY expert guide on how to find a leak in a pool.

Finding A Pool Leak Quick Answers

  1. Is your pool actually leaking?
    1. Changing water levels
    2. Moisture in your yard
    3. Cracked tiles or concrete
    4. Water near the equipment pad
    5. Inconsistent chemical levels
  2. How to detect a pool leak location
    1. Run a dye test
    2. Do some visual spot-checking
    3. Check the equipment pad

While it is common for pools to lose a little water every day due to evaporation, excess water loss may indicate that you have a leak. Fixing those leaks quickly is key for pool maintenance – but finding the exact source of a leak can be tricky. If you end up calling in a swimming pool leak detection professional, it can be pricey, too.

Fortunately, finding where your pool is leaking yourself is typically fast, easy, and much less expensive. Read on to learn how to find a leak in a pool with this complete guide. We address how to find a leak in all pool types such as fiberglass, plaster, concrete, and vinyl liners. Once you find the leak, here is our guide on how to fix a pool leak

Is your Pool actually leaking? 5 major signs

If you’re not yet sure that you do have a pool leak, it’s essential to learn the telltale signs. These include:

Changing water levels

As we mentioned above, rapidly losing water is the most obvious sign of a leak. However, it is vital to measure and observe these changes for a day or two to rule out evaporation or spillage as the cause.

The easiest way to check for leaks is with a so-called “bucket test.” Just get a five-gallon bucket, fill it with pool water, and place it on the first step of your pool. Then use a marker or painter’s tape to note the water level on both the inside and outside of the bucket. If you have any autofill devices for your pool, make sure they are turned off so that you get an accurate reading. 

Once you have marked the bucket, wait a few days, and then check the water levels. If the water on the outside of the bucket has fallen more than it has on the inside, evaporation is not the problem. You likely have a leak.

Moisture in your yard

Another common sign of a pool leak is when grassy areas surrounding the pool are abnormally damp and mushy. These wet spots can occur anywhere between the pool and the equipment pad. To locate these moisture-filled patches, take a walk around the swimming area and look out for sections of your yard that are unusually damp or boggy.

a damp and mushy patch of grass in a backyard by a swimming pool
This is an example of what the excess moisture might look like

Cracked tiles or concrete

If you find cracked tiles or broken concrete around the pool deck or area, chances are there is a leak below the surface. Underground leaks can shift the ground below, resulting in these breaks on the surface of a concrete pool. This may present itself as a fracture within the tiles or the bond beam surrounding the pool. 

cracked tiles on a concrete swimming pool wall
This is an example of what a crack in your pool wall might look like if your pool is drained, but it may not be as easy to spot when your pool is full of water.

It is also important to note that these signs of leakage may be a result of tree roots intervening with either the plumbing or the pool wall. In this case, re-landscaping may be required to fix your pool leak.

Water near the equipment pad

If you find water near your pool’s equipment pad, it is important to inspect the area to verify that the water buildup is due to a leak. There are quite a few areas where leaks can occur at the equipment pad, including the valves, filter, heater, and the pump. Keeping the area under careful observation for a day or two will usually reveal the source of the leaking water.

Inconsistent chemical levels

Finally, a major sign of leakage is chemical imbalance in the water. When a leak occurs, the water that’s draining also removes chemicals, such as calcium and chlorine. This means that the chemicals and overall pH in the pool are thrown off, resulting in inconsistent chemical levels within the pool. 

This chemical imbalance can lead to further issues, such as algae growth and water discoloration. Once a leak is found and fixed, you will need to make the proper chemical adjustments to get your pool back in balance. Pool Calculator makes it easy. With our simple, user-friendly desktop and mobile app, you can identify an imbalance right away and fix the problem before it becomes severe.

How to detect a pool leak location

While it may seem like a daunting task to determine how to find a leak in a pool – and even more tedious to find the exact location – the whole thing is probably easier than you imagine. Here are three different approaches to pinpoint your pool leak:

1. Run a dye test

A well known and reliable method from leak detection experts is to squeeze dye or food coloring in the area around a suspected leak and see if it gets swayed or sucked into a crack or hole. The bright, visible colors of the dye (red is generally easiest to see) will help you visually track how water is moving within the pool. 

To properly do a dye test, the water be as still and calm as possible. This means that the filtration system must be turned off, and any pool equipment or accessories such as vacuums should be removed prior to the test. Once the water is still, release a few drops of the dye near the suspected leak, using a plastic syringe if necessary. If there is a crack in the plaster or separation in the liner, you should be able to see it fairly easily. Don’t forget to wear gloves to protect your hands from staining!

2. Do some visual spot-checking

Although your pool may not be back to its normal swimming conditions just yet, hopping in with a set of goggles may help speed up that process if you can visually pinpoint the leak. Once you’re submerged, swim around and check for any tears or separations in the pool liner. If the pool is tile or concrete, keep your eye out for any fractures along the plaster. While you are in the water, be sure to check the skimmer and underwater lights to see if the seal or trim has become loose. 

If you don’t see any obvious leaks, the dye test may come in handy again. As long as you can remain relatively still so that you don’t disturb the water, you will be able to apply dye in areas that are more difficult to reach from the surface. 

3. Check the equipment pad

If the dye test doesn’t reveal any cracks, and if getting into the water is inconclusive, you are likely to find the source of the leak at your equipment pad. Give the equipment pad a careful once-over, then turn the pump off and on while looking for any unusual water movement – i.e., small sprays or drips. 

Excess water and erosion near the equipment pad usually suggests that there is a crack in a specific area, such as the filter or the pool pump. However, a small amount of dripping does not necessarily mean there is a leak. Be on the lookout for a moderate to heavy amount of leakage from any of the fixtures at the equipment pad.

So you’ve found a leak. Now what?

a man with both of his hands on his head looking stressed about finding a leak in his pool
A leaking pool can be very stressful

Knowing how to find a leak in a swimming pool is an excellent first step. But what comes next? 

Fortunately, small leaks – e.g., from loose pipe fittings, abnormal pressure in pipes, or a cracked seam on an underwater light – are ones you can typically repair on your own. Pool putty or caulk from your local home improvement store can do the trick and is very affordable. However, if the leak is larger or more complex, you may need to call a detection services professional to take care of it. 

Either way, when you get your in-ground pool or above-ground pool running leak-free once again, it is essential to stay on top of maintenance and catch problems before they become costly. Pool Calculator is one of the easiest ways to do that. With our handy desktop or and iOS and Android mobile apps, tracking your pool’s chemical levels won’t just keep swimmers safe and hygienic – it’ll help you detect leaks sooner and keep your pool or hot tub in outstanding condition for years to come.


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