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The dos and don'ts.

With so many variables pointing to a potential underground leak, a customer's best defense against major foundation damage and soil contamination is to closely monitor a pool or spa, looking for all possible warning signs. By conducting a yearly inspection, leaks can be detected before causing major damage. Some steps in the inspection must be conducted over a period of time in order to properly detect a leak; others can be determined immediately.

During a routine examination, there are a number of physical signs to watch for that can help determine weather a leak has occurred. The signs range from highly noticeable cracks in a substructure to the less obvious presence of different shades of grass in the area around the foundation. Whatever the signs, early detection is the key to preventing more serious damage from a leak left undetected for too long.

Lance Anderson stresses the importance of knowing where to look for a leak. "It's just not proper to look for a leak until you know where you should be looking, or if you should be looking at all. His company, Anderson Manufacturing Company Inc. (Saint Paul, Minn), manufactures pressure test accessories and advises service technicians throughout the company on leak locating techniques.

Anderson advocates a very specific and detailed procedure for locating leaks. "Step one is the information gathering stage, where we actually confirm if there's a leak or not. Step two is the isolation step. During this phase, we conduct various tests to determine if the leak is in the structure of the pool or in the plumbing lines. This is time consuming, but necessary."

In certain parts of the country, where people close down their pools and spas for the winter, the best time to check for leaks is in the spring, when the fill them with water for the first time for the season," says Jim Carter, Director of Technical Services for American Leak Detection (Palm Springs, California).

In areas of the country where pools and spas are used throughout the year, an annual inspection can take place during any season. The investigative procedures are the same at any time.

  • The most obvious sign of a leak is a drop in the water level. Once a pool or spa is completely filled, an evaporation test should be administered. By monitoring the amount of water that leaves a pool within a 24 hour period, the service professional can determine if a leak is present. Calculation evaporation can be done by comparing the pool or spa water loss to that of a full five gallon bucket. If both lose a similar amount of water within the 24 hour period, it is considered evaporation. But if the pool or spa loses more water than the bucket does, there is a strong indication there is a leak.
  • Another suspicious thing to look at are air bubbles, black algae appearing in plaster, dirt coming out of return lines, and jets not working properly, Blockages in lines that impair proper water flow and malfunctioning equipment are also signs of a leak. If chemical are constantly being replaced, the auto-fill system might be working overtime. This fills the pool or spa with fresh water and constantly dilutes the chemicals.
  • Structural damage is an obvious sign of an underground leak. Cracks in pool walls or concrete foundations, decking of foundation shifts, and soil erosion can also spell trouble.
  • Homeowners should be taught by service professionals how to look for less conspicuous things such as unusually green grass next to a pool or at the bottom of an embankment, which could mean water is saturating those areas
  • By going through a checklist each year, companies providing leak detection services and repairs can help homeowners to prevent or detect a leak before it gets out of hand.
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