How can I tell if there is a pool leak?


Trying to figure out a problem with my swimming pool. I just purchased the house so don't know it's history much and the inspector did not catch anything - sigh...
There is a drain at the bottom of the pool, and there is a "skimmer" on the top. The skimmer I guess is connected to the filter and pump and the water is returned to the pool via three jet heads.
Initially the water is right at the level of the skimmer, I then filled 4" more water which took about 4 hours with a garden hose. The pump is running and water is sucked in and pumped back out. After one day the water lowered to the skimmer level again. I tried it a few times and same results.
I asked the pool expert out and he says "well there is obviously a leak in your pool, why don't you hire us to patch it and resurface it?"
But he cannot pin point to me where the leak may be. Since the water is going into the skimmer and it always lower to the skimmer level, it seems to me there is a high likelyhood of the pool itself is NOT leaking, but the pipes connected to it may be leaking, or may be the valve to the sewer drain is...any idea how I can verify it one way or another?
Thanks,
MC
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<snip>
Good thinking MC. Check your waste line for water. It should be dry, of course, but if there's a sign of a discharge you may have a bad valve in the filter valve. On the above ground models it's called a 'spider valve gasket'. Mine cost me $8 and was an easy install. Just mark all your parts so that you maintain the proper orientation upon reassembly.
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Which one is it? Patch or replaster. About a 15x difference between the two. Sounds like he's guessing.
There is a place where your skimmer actually attaches to the pool. If you drain your pool down a foot or two so you can see into the skimmer with no water in it, you can take a mirror and search to see if there is a separation. Just look for gaps. If you find any, go to the pool supply house and get the two element epoxy fix. Tell the guy what you're doing. If they aren't sure, go to a different store.
Mix it up and apply it as deeply in the cracks as you can get it. Mound it up a little around the top of the crack, too.
If there is no separation in your skimmer, then you got bigger problems. The next step would be drain the pool and look for leaks, perhaps around the bottom drain, and along the sides. Almost everything except major separations amount to putting band aids on hemorrhages with regard to fixing with epoxy.
After looking in the skimmer area yourself, if you don't find a separation, fill it again, and call some more plastering companies. Look and see if they even look into the skimmer area. They probably won't, since they want to sell you a big replaster job instead of just fixing the small leak.
How is the surface of the bottom of the pool? Does it have any obvious small cracks? Does it have any sloughing off of areas of plaster?
It sounds like you have a pretty good leak if it is losing that much water that quick. Maybe you can get a straighter answer just from a regular pool maintenance/fixit man. They won't be geared up to do a whole replaster, but if it's a simple repair job you need, it'd be better to spend a hundred or two rather than a few thousand. Our 35,000 gallon cost $3,000 (in Las Vegas), but the plaster job was 25 years old.
We drained the pool on Sunday. They came 7 AM Monday, chipped out the plaster. They were shooting concrete 7AM Tuesday, and at 3PM Tuesday, we were filling it with water.
Lastly, how long have you had the house? You may have some recourse under disclosure laws if only to get the seller to split a fix or plaster job with you.
HTH
Steve
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Is this in ground or above ground?
Steve
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Steve it's in ground. The skimmer and the piping goes underground and emerge about 40 feet from the pool on the other side. There are two pipes that comes out (I assume one from bottom drain one from skimmer). These two pipes goes into the filter and out to the gas heater. Then the pipes come back out of the heater and back into the ground which I assume go to the three jets that shoots the water back into the pool. Along those lines there is a fork that drains to the sewer with a separate valve.
MC
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Check that area around inside the skimmer carefully. Lots of times they separate. If that's it, it's an easy fix.
What about the other overall condition of the plaster. That is a big indicator.
Steve
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OK I went down to the house this weekend and did some investigation.
First I used a garden hose to fill up the pool to four inches above the skimmer level. I used something to plug the skimmer inlet so no water will leak into it. I waited a few hours while I did other things and the water level did NOT drop. So I am now convinced the pool itself is not leaking.
Next I unplug the skimmer inlet and turned on the pump. I have not been back yet but I am sure the water will reced to the skimmer inlet level.
So definitely something is leaking water beyond the skimmer inlet.
I tried to look and feel the areas around the skimmer, and it looks fine.
Next I went to the pump area. There are two pipes that comes there (one from skimmer and one from bottom drain). Those two feed into the pump and comes out with a pipe that splits into the sewer drain and the pool heater. The pool heater is not turned on so it just routed the water back into the pool via the nozzles.
I looked at the PVC line that leads to the sewer drain and listened to it carefully...I heard nothing. Nothing that sounded like water flowing through. I then opened the plastic valve to drain and I can hear water going through. I shut the valve and quiet again. Now it could be a low flow so I can't hear, but for now I "think" nothing is going into the sewer drain. I make sure I guess I can open the cleanout much further downstream or take the pool sewer drain valve apart.
But it seems the point between the pool skimmer and the line back there is a leak.
I am wondering how I can figure this out. Will a pool company be able to do that or a leak detection place? Do they use a camera cable to find the leak?
I guess another option I can try is to shut off the pump, shut off the valves that goes into the pump filter and fill the pool again. If there is still a leak then it could be the pipes between the skimmer and the valves. If there is no leak than it is somewhere downstream.
MC
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We didn't come up with a good answer last week, and your pool expert isn't telling you so the pool expert has the upper hand. It's time to negotiate a price with him or start haphazardly repairing pipe, starting at the skimmer I guess.
Bill
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