Swimming Pool Leak Detection
Have a pool leak? Is the first step to call a leak detection service?
Before Swimming Pool Inspection Services existed, the normal procedure for both insured and insurance adjusters was to call a leak detection service to locate the leak. This was done with the idea, when you know where the leak is located, you might be able to assess the cause of the leak and the cost to fix it.
This is not actually cost effective for the insured or the insurance company. Leak detections usually run between $500 and $1,000 and no conclusions are forthcoming. The leak detection service can only tell you where the leak is and if there is in fact a leak. They can not tell you what caused it, what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again or how much it will cost to fix it.
Insurance adjusters need more information then that. They need to know when the leak started and what caused the leak. This information will allow the insurance adjuster to determine if the insurance company is responsible for its repair or not. Most insurance companies want to help their insured as much as possible by telling them what needs to be done to solve the problem, regardless of who is going to pay for it.
An engineer is sometimes called upon as a first step or a second step to determine the cause. The engineering reports, I have read, do not even give a conclusion, even when the answer is simple and obvious. Engineers like to give information and options. Just to express an educated opinion makes them very nervous, probably due to legal liability. When an engineering report is done and a pool is built based on that report, there is liability. To express an educated opinion as to why a pool is leaking is just that, an opinion. Our staff engineers are required to give a conclusion as to the cause and document why they came to that conclusion.
The Flower Bed
Let me tell you about my favorite example of this. An engineer was brought in to look at a pool with two small cracks. The report talked about the cracks, also stated that water was leaking into the drop down bar that was next to the pool. The report noted that organic matter was observed coming through the cracks. No conclusion was given. The adjuster called my office and said they wanted an expert opinion as to the cause of water leaking into the bar and was there water loss; and if there was, why? I read the report and went out to look at the pool, personally, prior to requesting a leak detection report. A visual inspection made the answers totally clear.
There were two flowerbeds next to the pool. The drop down bar was in between them. The crack with the organic matter coming through was next to the flowerbed which was thick with large green vegetation. The water going into the bar was also coming from the flowerbed with thick green vegetation. Conclusion: The thick vegetation was caused by the water coming into the flower bed. The water was going through the crack into the flowerbed, which was soaked. The water from the flowerbed was then going through the retaining wall into the drop down bar. The second flowerbed vegetation was almost dead, because there was no leak from the pool to irrigate it. The insured and I discussed the observations and he agreed that a leak test was a waste of money. He now knew what he had to do.
He had to remove the vegetation from the flowerbed, then kill and cut all the roots. Put in a plastic liner and repair the small area of the pool wall that the vegetation was pushing into the pool water. This damage was caused over a 10-year period.
The chicken or the egg question was later raised as to which came first, the leak or the vegetation pushing through the pool concrete wall. The answer was the vegetation. The vegetation, in search of water will push the concrete wall even if there is no water present. If there is any sweating at or near the wall, the roots will slowly push in that direction. Concrete is porous and water will soak through it. Plaster blocks the water from going into the concrete. Eventually the root will push into the concrete and hit the plaster. Now we have a pinhole for the water to go through back to the flowerbed.
Old sewer pipes eventually attract roots to wrap around them and crush the pipe. This is because the roots know there is water in the pipe even if the pipe is not leaking. Moisture at the connections is enough to cause the root to wrap around the pipes over years. The roots also dig directly into the pipe and years later you find roots inside the pipes and wraped around them. In order to keep roots away from water you need plastic or steel. (P.S: The steel better be welded completely so no moisture can get through.)
The Generalist and the Specialist
The medical profession 50 years ago learned that the general practitioner served a very important role. He looked at the problem and determined the area of illness. He then sent the patient to the correct specialists. You cannot even get an appointment with a heart specialist unless you have a referring physician.
When you go to three different unrelated specialists with a medical problem, you might discover that each one thinks the problem is coming from their area. They do not see the possibilities of it being in a totally different area.
Insurance adjusters are like general practitioners. They review a claim and decide when a specialist is needed. Pools are a specialty but the information needed varies from case to case. A well-rounded pool contractor knows about plaster, concrete, soil issues in building a pool, cracks in plaster, cracks in plastic pipes, and faulty equipment. Their job is to access the problem and determine the answer, if they can, with their knowledge, and then decide what the next action is, if they cannot.
For example: I hear a lot about ground movement being the cause of pool leaks and crack. The first thing a knowledgeable pool contractor would do is look for cracks in the concrete decking, and/or secondarily multiple cracks in the pool plaster surface. If there is no evidence of this then there probably is not ground movement. A pool contractor would then look for other possible causes. Many leaks are observable without a leak detection test. It is the generalist pool contractor who many times can determine why there is a leak and where it most likely is coming from. Then the theory can be proved or disproved. Digging usually will confirm the truth and this costs much less than a civil engineer.
Swimming Pool Inspection Services has solved the problem of the insurance company adjuster having to decide if a leak detection service, a civil, structural, or soil engineer is needed or a licensed pool contractor is needed. We provide all of these services so that double and triple fees are not necessary. We send out a pool inspector with leak detection equipment if that might be necessary. We have engineers who understand pools and they decide which one of them is needed for a particular job based on what the office explains to them.
Recently we had a claim regarding an in-ground fiberglass pool located in Oregon. The pool bottom had cracked. Instead of sending a pool inspector to look at the pool, we sent pictures of the damage to our fiberglass expert in Los Angeles. He told us his best guess (which turned out to be correct.) He also suggested that we should have a soil engineer do the onsite inspection rather than a civil or structural engineer. We sent our soil engineer who lived in Oregon, to the site and he proved without a doubt what caused the damage. (The pool was emptied while the water table was high.)
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