Pool Leak Detection: Find That Leak Yourself (3 Ways)

Do you have a pool leak and can’t figure out where it’s coming from? If so, keep reading to find out how you can easily detect those leaks. If your pool leaks, no matter how small it might be, it can wreak great havoc if you don’t detect and fix it promptly. You may end up with a huge water bill, and damaged pool parts if the leakage lingers. Beyond the pool itself, leaks can ruin your landscaping and soak decking if neglected.

For pool leak detection, you can use the Bucket technique, perform the dye test, or follow the bubbles. You can start off with the bucket technique since it’s the easiest to learn and implement, requires simple equipment, and gives dependable results.

This post will help you detect pool leaks by yourself, show you how to fix them, and realize when you need an expert’s help. You will also get to learn about the three most effective methods for finding leaks in a pool and the materials you will need to fix them.

Three Methods of Finding Leaks in a Pool 

Pool leaks can result from mechanical problems in its parts, structural damage or a design flaw, plumbing issues, or loose or broken fittings.

Finding leaks in a pool can be done in different ways. You can choose any method we shall discuss based on the cause of the leak, your experience, and your technical ability. The accessibility and affordability of the requisite tools and materials can also determine the method that can be applied.

Below are three dependable techniques you can use.

The Bucket Technique

This is a time-tested method for figuring out whether your pool is losing water through evaporation or leakage. The materials needed to execute this are quite common and inexpensive. They include;

  • A five-gallon bucket: this bucket will be used for taking and holding water samples from the pool.
  • Colored tape: marks are made on the tape to compare water levels in the bucket at different time periods.
  • A pencil or a marker: this is used for making inscriptions on the tape to enable accurate measurements of water level changes within the bucket.
  • Measuring tape or a ruler: used for measuring the observed values.

Guide to Performing the Bucket Technique

Below are the 3 steps you must follow in order to successfully carry out the bucket technique leak detection method.

Step 1: Setting up the bucket

Cut a piece of stripper tape of about 10 cm to 20 cm in length and 5cm in width. Plaster the tape vertically on the outside of the bucket. The tape should be in the middle of the external surface.

Cut another piece of similar dimensions and put it on the inside of the bucket, on the opposite side of the one you put outside it. This tape should be towards the top of the internal surface, covering about a quarter of the length. The bucket is now ready for the test.

Step 2: Determining water levels

Dip the bucket into the pool and scoop enough water to fill it. Put it on the top step of the pool and then allow the water in the bucket to settle for about two minutes. 

After the water settles, use the pencil to mark the outside surface of the bucket where the water line meets the surface. Mark the inside surface too where the water touches the tape. Let it stand for 24 hours.

As the water level in the bucket drops after 24 hours, use the pencil to make new marks on both surfaces on the current water levels.

Step 3: Measurement

Use a tape measure or ruler to determine the distance between the lines marked on the first hour and the 24th hour. If the distance on the inside is the same as that of the outside, then the water loss is due to evaporation.

If the distance on the internal surface is about a quarter of an inch less than that of the external surface, then your pool is losing water due to a leak.

Precautions to Take While Using the Bucket Method

  1. Rainfall: rainfall can make you get an inaccurate result. Perform this test on a non-rainy day.
  2. Holes in bucket: use an intact bucket free of cracks.
  3. Pets: If you have a cat or a dog, keep them away from the pool area while the test is ongoing to prevent them from drinking from the bucket.

The Dye Test

This test is carried out to determine if the location of the leaks you have identified visually is the real cause of the pool leak problem, to know if there’s actually water escaping from the pool. This method is based on the principle that the concentrated dyes are heavier than water and will move toward the source of the leakage faster than water.

Materials and Tools Required for Dye Testing

  • Colored dye: the preferable colors are blue, yellow, or red. Red dyes are the most commonly used. Blue dyes are best used for detecting leakages on light-colored pool surfaces while yellow dyes are used for dark-painted surfaces.
  • Syringe: this is used for applying a thin stream of dye into the suspected source of water leakage.
  • Inspection mirror: this is used for tracing the direction of the flow of the dye in the pool water.

How to Do the Dye Test

Below are the 3 steps you must follow in order to successfully carry out the dye test leak detection method.

Step 1: Water current

Ensure that the pool is calm and that there is no active water current. You can achieve this by turning off the pool pump.

Step 2: Dye application

Put a small amount of dye using a syringe or any other suitable alternative near the parts of the pool you suspect to be responsible for the leakages. 

Step 3: Identifying the leaking area

When there is a leak, the dyed water will flow into the cracks or fissures in the pool wall responsible for the leak. The dye then traces the direction of water flow to the leaking area. Tracing the dye eventually leads to the identification of the precise source of the leakage.


  • Use only a small amount of dye.
  • Make sure there’s no source of water current like winds or that the pool pump was inadvertently left running.

The drawback of this test is that you have to already have an idea of where the water is leaking from before you can use it. It cannot be used to trace leakages from scratch.

Secondly, a single dye test is unlikely to be enough to locate the leaking part.

Follow the Bubbles

Noticing active bubbles of water bouncing around your pool can be worrisome. Air bubbles form when the suction part of the pool pump sucks in the air. Occasional gentle bubbles can be normal, but if you find a lot of bubbles moving noisily, then something is wrong somewhere.

Excessive air bubbles can indicate a leakage in the suction component of the pool’s plumbing, which can originate from either the skimmer line or the main drain itself.

Most of the leaks are from the pump lid’s O-ring when it is either worn out, placed improperly, or has debris around it preventing it from getting a good seal. It can also come from the pump lid, the holes in the suction cleaners, or the valves in front of the suction side of the pump.

To prevent these plumbing risks, ensure the pool builders use rigid PVC pipes for the plumbing. In addition to that, they can reinforce the plumbing with gravel backfill and plumbing straps.

Materials and Tools Needed

  • Incense
  • Shaving cream
  • Dish soap
  • HyraFlush

Signs of Air Leaks in Your Pool

  • Air in the pump strainer
  • Low PSI on the pressure gauge on your filter
  • Air bubbles or weak flow from return jets

How to Detect Air Leaks

Method 1: Burn some incense around the suspected leak areas. If there’s a leak, the incense will be seen being sucked in. 

Method 2: Apply shaving cream around the suspected area with air leakage. If there’s an air leak, there will be dimples on the shaving cream from where air is sucked in.

Method 3: Get some dish soap, and mix it up with water to create some bubbles. Put the bubbles where you think the leak might be and the bubbles will be drawn in.

How to Fix Air Leaks

  1. Put the system underwater pressure
  2. Take a HydraFlush ( used for blowing obstructions out with water), attach it to a garden hose, and push water from the skimmer or vac port toward the equipment.
  3. This is done with the system off. 
  4. Wherever you see water leaking on your suction side is exactly where the air leak is.

How to Fix a Leaking Pool 

Finding the source of leakage in a pool is only half of the hurdle. Fixing it requires a different set of tools and skill sets. Waterproof tape, vinyl patch kits, and Peel-and-Stick patches are some of the commonest materials used for fixing a leaking pool.

Use Waterproof Tape

This method involves using waterproof tape like FlexTape, Gorilla, or T-REX to close a source of pool leakage.

  • Locate the leak
  • Use a clean cloth to remove any grime, dirt, or oil around the leaking area.
  • Cut a piece of waterproof tape larger than the hole that needs to be repaired.
  • Seal the inside part of the leakage source. You can use a hard substance like wood to further plaster the adhesive surface and remove any crease or air bubbles between the tape and the surface of the pool.
  • Repeat the process on the exterior part of the pool.

How long does waterproof tape for a leaking pool last? It is effective for about five years.

Pros and Cons of Using Waterproof Tapes for Sealing Leaking Pools

It is an immediate remedyIt is mostly a temporary situation
Cost-effectiveIt does not last for many years
Easy to implementIt might break down

Try a Vinyl Patch Kit

This involves using a liner repair kit to fix pool leakages.

  • Buy a liner repair kit online; it comes with waterproof glue and replacement vinyl.
  • Cut the vinyl at least five times the size of the hole.
  • Apply adhesives and then place the patch on it.
  • For vinyl patches, just apply them on top of the hole. 
  • Wait for the patch to dry.

Pros and Cons of Using Vinyl Patch Kit for Sealing Leaking Pools

Last longer than waterproof tape No extra adhesive in case you misuse the first patch.
Easy to applyOnly suitable for small holes
Does not require much technical skills.
  • A 2-inch vinyl patch kit can fall off after a day and a 10-inch patch can last for five years.

Use a Peel-and-Stick Patch

These patches often come in a pack of 10 containing 5 3’ peel-and-stick patches. It can be ordered from Amazon for about $8. It adheres instantly and works underwater without any need to empty your pool. 

To patch a leaking pool, peel off the back of the patch and plaster it onto the leaking area.

Pros and Cons of Using Peel-and-Stick Patch for Sealing Leaking Pools

It works underwater and creates no glue messIt eventually wears out over the years.
It is affordable
Easy to use

It can last for a few years, depending on the quality of the brand and the size of the defect in the leaking pool.

When Should You Call a Professional?

While you can detect the source of the leak and even fix it, some types of defects require the technical abilities of pool experts. Below are some criteria for calling a professional:

  • Plumbing issues: unless you’re a trained plumber, it’s better to hire one in order not to complicate the problem.
  • Pool shell: defects in this plaster coating are better handled by the pros.
  • Forestalling future problems: the experts not only fix the current cause of pool leakage but also set up preventive measures against future problems.

Cost to Repair a Swimming Pool Leak

Most pool leak detection costs between $100 to $500 depending on the cause of the leak and the technical ability required to do so.

The cost to repair it depends on the size of the pool, the size of the leakage, and whether it’s a luxurious or a simple above-the-ground pool. Low-end pool repairs can cost about $175, the average range is between $600 to $1,400 and high-end pools can cost as high as $5,000.


This article has explored the various methods of detecting the sources of pool leaking by yourself, how to seal it and when you should hire a professional.

While doing things yourself will save you money and even be adventurous, you must be careful enough to know when to call in the experts to prevent further damage or even hurting yourself.

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