Kitty PoP – “Stop taking my picture and help me dry off, PLEASE!”
We have a bit of a confession to make. For the past 4 or 5 months (at least – maybe longer?) we’ve been emulating ostriches. You know, sticking our heads in the sand to ignore problems around us.
The problem we’ve been ignoring is that our pool has been exceedingly thirsty this winter. You see, winter is our dry season, so due to normal levels of evaporation, we find ourselves having to add water to the pool occasionally to make sure the water level stays high enough so that if Kitty PoP falls in he can get himself out. (It doesn’t happen often, but his safety is pretty important to us.)
But… as this winter got drier and drier, we began to realize we were having to fill the pool a lot more often than we normally do. And our water bills began to reflect that, too. Rather than being about $5 higher than summer on average, they were running us around $20/month more than previous years. By January, Mr. PoP and I had talked about how it felt like we were filling the pool a lot more often than we had in previous years, and by February, we were pretty sure we had a leak.
Confirming of Our Fear
But we didn’t really know how big of a problem this was going to turn into. Would we have to dig up the yard to get at pipes? We really had no concept of the probability of serious damage in order to estimate the cost of potential damages… so we were letting a $20 leak in our budget go by because it was letting us delay what we thought might turn into something huge.
Remember, we are NOT pool experts. We’ve tried and failed at the pool care game in the past. But I happened to be home when the Pool Guy (PG) came by to do the chemicals about a month ago, and the normally silent PG broke his silence.
PG – You ARE filling pool?!?
Mrs PoP – Yes… the level gets too low for the cat…
PG – I know because I use 3x chemicals when you fill. You have leak. You call here to fix.
(PG is very efficient and omits articles when he speaks. I like it!)
In our normal DIY spirit, Mr. PoP and I tried some of the leak diagnoses techniques that we found on YouTube, but weren’t able to figure out anything definitive except get a good estimate on the volume of water we were losing on a consistent basis. And I’m actually ashamed to type it here. It was in the hundreds of gallons each week… Eeep! What’s the point of making sure Mr. PoP and I turn the faucet off when we brush our teeth if we’re just going to be throwing hundreds of gallons of water away each week. And I know it was cutting into PG’s bottom line. If we didn’t fix it, I was sure he would raise our rate to compensate for having to use more chemicals.
So after realizing we didn’t have the skills to DIY it, I checked Angie’s List to confirm PG had referred us to someone good, and scheduled an appointment with the Leak Detector (LD).
LD showed up and when I answered the door, I told him a little about the the problem, and he said he’d meet me back by the pool with his tool kit. I was ready to be impressed. Surely this professional leak detector was going to have some pretty awesome tools, right?
The Leak Detector’s Tool Kit
Left – disc of modeling clay with tube to condense pipe flow to small stream, Right – The entire kit… goggles not pictured.
When he came around back, I didn’t see any big machinery like I was expecting. Instead, he unrolled a beach towel and set out the following:
- a pair of goggles
- a couple of screwdrivers
- modeling clay
- 6″ worth of thin plastic tubing (a clear straw would also work pretty well)
- small handheld mirror (like the one you’d grab from an old make-up bag or at the $1 store)
- red phenol (R-0014 in our pool chemical test kit. If you have a pool, you probably have this around – if not, it’s $5 or you can substitute food coloring)
- thin straw stuck in the dye so it comes out thinly and evenly (LD’s came from a can of WD-40, but a coffee stirrer probably works just as well)
And that’s it. Seriously. That was his entire kit. The only thing that we didn’t have around the house was the modeling clay, and that costs about $3 on Amazon.
According to LD, he is the company’s first (and primary) line of defense against pool leaks. With this little kit, he’s able to diagnose and fix more than 95% of all the leaks that he encounters. The company has big, fancy leak detecting equipment, but they don’t even bother to keep it in the trucks because they use it so infrequently.
With his simple kit, LD took about a half hour and taught me how to use that kit to figure out where our leak was. He confirmed that it was NOT underground. (A huge sigh of relief on that one!)
As it turned out, our leak was in the 2nd most common place that leaks tend to form. The concrete pool had started to separate from the plastic of the skimmer box. When we pointed the straw with the dye in that area and gave it a little squeeze, you could see the dye being sucked straight out of the pool through the crack that was maybe a milimeter or two wide. LD had checked everywhere else and not found anything. He believed this was the source of our problem.
Pool Epoxy 2 part kit. Knead equal parts resin and hardener in hands until completely mixed. Roll out into pencil like strands, then use to seal cracks.
And The Fix?
About 5 minutes later, with about $2 worth of this Atlas Epoxy Pool Putty Set, our leak was sealed. LD came back the next day to double check his handy-work, but the pool level has been perfect since the fix. The leak in the pool is no more.
Read also: That Time I Tried Stitch Fix
Take Home Lessons
Ostriching doesn’t solve anything. We spent more on wasted water over the past 4-5 months than we did for LD to come over and fix the problem once and for all. We also no doubt let a good deal of Pool Guy’s chemicals go to waste since he was adding 3x what he usually would to make up for all the freshwater we were adding. Neither of these actions was good for anyone’s pocketbooks, nor for the environment.
But at least when we decided to take our heads out of the sand, we did it right and made sure we were around to learn from LD. Now that we know the proper way to diagnose a pool leak – as well as the steps that were missing from those YouTube “how to” videos, we definitely won’t be ostriching again on stuff like this anytime soon. And heck, we’ll be able to help out friends and neighbors figure out leaks in their pools, too!
Have you been ostriching on a problem lately that you’re not sure you really want to know the full extent of? Have you plugged any leaks in your wallets lately?