Pool Plumbing leaks are one part of pool maintenance that makes many pool owners a little nervous, but making PVC plumbing repairs, or installing new or replacement equipment into the plumbing pipes is easy.
The tools and materials needed to repair PVC are easily found at your local hardware store. Our pool plumbing parts department also stocks common PVC fittings.
Read More: how to fix a pool leak in pipes
You can save hundreds of dollars by making your own pool plumbing repairs. Despite the dramatic image, most pool pipe leaks are not below the ground and can be easily repaired.
Fixing Pool Leaks:
Pool Leaks come in many forms. There are many types of leaks, from the tiny drip to the big gusher. For small drips, I’m often heard to say “It won’t drain the pool!”, and unless it’s dripping onto the motor, or causing problems, the slow drip on a plumbing fitting or slow drip from the pump – won’t amount to any noticeable water loss in the pool, and usually won’t get any worse.
Larger pool plumbing leaks can lead to problems. To fix them, you will need to replace any cracked or bad glue joints.
Suction Side Leaks
The suction side refers to all the plumbing Before the pool pump impeller, which carries water under suction or vacuum. This includes the main drain suction pipe, fittings and valves that terminate at the front of the pool pump. Leakage on the suction side of the pump will cause air to be drawn into the pipes while the pump’s on and water to escape (usually) when the pump’s off. Shrunken fittings are the most common problem with the suction side. These fittings are threaded PVC and screw into the pump’s front. So common that we’ve done a whole blog post on pool pump fitting repair. You can temporarily repair side leaks with silicone or pool putty, but you’ll need to remove the pipe and fittings.
The suction side valves could be cracked, damaged, or leaking – eventually they will need to replaced. But it can be difficult to just replace one valve on the suction side, oftentimes it’s necessary to replace the entire suction manifold, or most of the pipes from the ground up, into the pump. It may be because all of the Tees and 90’s are bumped against each other, or additional PVC fittings from previous pipe and fitting repairs can make future repairs impossible.
Pressure Side Leaks
After the impeller, the water flows under pressure, and any tiny crack or void will leak water when the pump is running, and often when the pump is off too. Pool Although equipment such as the pump, filter, heater and chlorinator can all occasionally leak water, today we will be focusing on leaks in the plumbing. The most common pool plumbing leaks on the pressure side are glue joints (where a pipe is glued to a fitting, like an MTA, 90°, 45° or coupling), or threaded joints, where PVC male and female connections are made.
Under pressure, it is impossible to repair an inground pool plumbing leak. You can’t wrap it with leak-stopping tape, and pouring epoxy over the area won’t work either. Wrap it a hundred times with duct tape and you will slow the leak, but it’s still gonna leak! You can repair suction side leaks by using pool putty on the outside and other sealants on it. The sealant is drawn into cracks under the pressure of the water. Pressure side pool leak repairs can’t be done from the outside, or the inside.These pipes must be removed and replaced.
Pool pipes that are underground are not usually the cause of pool leaks, but they can be broken from freeze damage, tree roots, settling decks or shifting soils. Flexible PVC pipe (flex pipe) can be damaged from earwigs and chlorine. It is not recommended to be used underground. Replacing underground flex PVC pipe with rigid PVC pipe is a common repair on 30 year old pools, so common that we’ve done a whole blog post on flex pipe skimmer repair.
Once you have confirmed that the leak is underground the next step is to test the line(s) with pressure. Next, use specialized equipment to listen for the leak’s exact location. You can also choose to replace all of the pipes, even if they are extremely short or badly damaged.
You can tunnel under the deck for pools with a shorter pool deck apron (between 3-4 ft in width) instead of digging and cutting. After a few hours digging, the skimmer pipe can be completely unveiled. You may also need to dig up the location where the return line meets the pool wall. To support the pool deck, you can use large timbers to help dig out enough dirt beneath the deck. You may not require supports if the deck is only exposed by 1-2 feet.
Alternately, you can use a concrete saw and break up the pool deck to expose any leaking or damaged pipe fittings. Either way, it’s a lot of dirty work – but if you’re up for it, read on.
How to Fix a Pool Leak
Once a pool leak has been located and identified, either above ground or underground, the next step is to cut out the bad and replace with new. Before you break out the hacksaw or reciprocating saw to cut the pipe, make a solid plan of attack. Make a diagram of all equipment and fittings to help you plan for complicated repairs. For simple fitting replacement you’ll need enough room to be able to connect the new fitting to the pipe with a coupling. Before you begin cutting pipes, make sure that you have a plan for re-connection.
Cut the pipes straight and then use sandpaper or emorycloth to clean up the edges. Make sure you leave enough pipe for a strong connection of about 2 inches.
You can pre-cut pipe sections, but it’s more accurate to cut the new PVC pipe pieces as you need them, so you can measure again just before cutting. I add 1/2″ to my measures, because it’s better to be too long than be too short! And although clichè to say, Measure Twice – Cut Once!
Use PVC primer on pipe and fittings about 30 seconds before adding copious amounts of fresh PVC glue. Primer is used to clean and soften the pipe. It heats up the plastic in order to make a solvent-weld. To quickly clean up glue drips, keep a rag nearby. Push the pipe down into the fitting for 10 seconds.
When Gluing 90’s and 45’s, glue them in place with a length of PVC pipe inserted (dry fit, not glued) into the other side. This allows you to adjust the angle to the right direction for the fitting.
For threaded male PVC fittings, smear a silicone sealant like Blue RTV over the threads, and then wrap the threads several times with Teflon tape, in a clockwise direction (holding the threaded side of the fitting towards you). Tighten a threaded fitting in by hand, and then give it another 1 to 1-1/2 revolutions with large Channel-Lok® type pliers.
Sacrifices: In many cases, to replace a simple fitting, you may need to replace other fittings that are in the way of making a new connection. Sometimes, a Jandy valve, check valve, or union must be sacrificed in order to replace one leaking PVC fitting. Sometimes, you will need to reinstall the pool equipment plumbing or chlorinator.
Jandy valves can be saved, if you spend time with a hacksaw blade and small screwdriver. The glued pipe will remain inside the valve port if the pipes are removed directly against the valve. The inside pipe should be cut 2-3 times using a hacksaw blade (blade and only). Next, use a small flathead and a small hammer to remove the white PVC pipe. You can save a Jandy Valve by covering the outside with a 2in coupling and then reduce the coupling down to 1.5 in with a reducer Bushing.
The final connection that is made will be tight, and usually requires some bending of the pipes, or pushing of the equipment, to make the final glue joint connection. Pipes and equipment always have an inch or two of play in them, so don’t be afraid to push and pull as needed, to make the final glue joint.
OTHER POOL PLUMBING REPAIR TIPS
- Don’t reduce PVC pipe size with inserts or sleeves.
- Pipe turns should be avoided.
- Use fresh medium or heavy-body PVC glue.
- Water and Glue don’t mix! Never glue pipes or fittings that are not dry.
- Pressure applications require schedule 40, deep socket fittings.
- Visit a plumbing supplier if you need pool plumbing parts that are not available at your Hardware store.
- Don’t use flex PVC pipe underground!