How To Tell If Your Pool Is Leaking: Do A Bucket Leak Test Yourself

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Published: May 6, 2017 Last Updated: April 8, 2024

You can do an easy test yourself to see if your pool is leaking. All you need is a 5 gallon bucket.

Water bills high, ground soggy, cracking of the pool deck?

A leaking pool can raise your water bill and cause damage to your property and even to your neighbors property. To discover if your pool is leaking, you first have to verify that it is. That it’s not simply evaporation.

Rule out evaporation

An average pool will loose water due to evaporation at the rate of approximately 1/4 inch per day. This varies greatly depending on a number of things. Wind intensity is one of the factors that affects the rate of evaporation. The higher and gustier the wind, the more water particles that will be be blown off or out of the pool. You have seen this in a magnified condition when you’re at the ocean or a lake and their is a strong wind blowing a heavy  mist of water over you.

Temperature and humidity is another factor factor affecting evaporation. On a hot sunny day water evaporation can be high. Add wind to this condition and the evaporation can get very high.

During your test be sure that you:

  1. Shut off the pool fill valve, if one. A number of pools have an automatic pool fill valve that automatically adds water when the water level gets too low. Turn the valve off during your test.
  2. Pool sweeps, cleaners or crawlers. Turn these off during the test period.
  3. Filter pump. Shut off the filter pump during the test. After, the first test, you may wish to then turn back on the filter pump and perform the test again, for that may help narrow down where a leak is if there is one.
  4. Shut off any fountains, water falls or other water features of the pool.

The test

  • Take a 5 gallon bucket and place it on a step in the pool. Yes, your right, it can be a 3 or 4 gallon bucket and you can even let the bucket float about the pool.
  • Fill the bucket approximately 2/3 to 3/4 full of water.
  • Mark the water level inside the bucket with a Sharpie permanent or water proof maker. Then mark the outside of the bucket at the pool water level. Note that some people like to get the water levels at the same height, but it is not necessary.
  • Note what time you did this, now 24 hours later, check the water level in the bucket and outside of the bucket.
  • If the water level outside of the bucket has dropped more than the water level inside of the bucket; then you probably have a leak. If no leak, then the water level decrease inside and outside of the bucket should be the same.  The drop in water from the line merely reflects how much evaporation has taken place, because the water in the bucket and pool will evaporate the same amount.
  • Most people will leave the bucket in the pool for two or three days and check it every day at the same time. It helps verify your results. Also by doing it on a 24 hour cycle makes it easier to calculate how many gallons of water you’re loosing a day based on the surface area of the pool.

If the pool is leaking

First, you may want to ask yourself, do you have several issues relating to water lose and high water bills. For example, you may have a pool leak in the body of the pool, at the skimmers, at the lights or in the underground pipes. There could also be leaks not just in the pool but in the pool equipment, such as, the filter, pumps, the heater or fittings.

Who to consult

  • Pool contractors
  • A Leak detection company
  • Pool service company
  • The original pool builder, if known

There are also leak detection kits that a home owner can buy. Often the big box stores or pool supply companies sell them.

A little peace of mind

Generally water loss from a pool is not from the pool leaking, but from evaporation or leaks at the pool equipment.

Additional Resources

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