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Thread: Fake Main Drain?

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    Agent99's Avatar
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    Fake Main Drain?

    I perused the various forums and wasn't quite sure where to post this so mods feel free to move elsewhere if you deem it appropriate.

    Our house was built in the early 70s and the pool was installed in the spring of 1978 by the original owners. We are the 3rd owners of the home and we bought it in 1998 so the pool was 20 years old when I took over. The second owners of our home took over in 1984. Each owner kept shockingly meticulous records of just about everything that was done to the home. This is how I know the pool was installed in April, 1978...I have the original invoice! Kinda cool. The cost was just under $12k!

    Along with the original invoice, I also had various pamphlets and flyers/ads and manuals for the various items that came with the pool like the lights, the filter, the skimmer and so on. It is kind of like looking at late 70s, early 80s Sears catalog if you get my meaning in how the ads and pictures looked for some of them.

    Fast forward to May-ish, 2015 and we are knee deep (literally) into the backyard and pool remodel. The pool has been gutted: coping removed and plaster jack-hammered down to the gunite and the decking (exposed aggregate concrete) around the pool and most of the backyard has also been jack-hammered and removed. I have a trench dug from the corner of the house to the pool equipment because I have the chance to move the pool breaker box hanging ugly off my house into the new pool-equipment shed and out of sight. I also want to send plumbed water into the shed for the auto-fill and general convenience. While I am at it, I also moved the solar plumbing into the trench and was able to bury more of it (we had that installed in 2005). Also, a new 2" gas line was going into the trench for the new 400k BTU Pentair heater for the attached spa.

    ANYWAY, my skimmer and main drain were plumbed from one to the other. This was my chance to separate them and take individual lines back to the pad so I could have some flexibility in setting them. COOL. So on I went to digging out the skimmer (I was getting a new one anyway...it practically fell apart even though my concrete guys were trying to be careful around it). It was the original skimmer dating back to 1978 and I had the ad sheet to prove it...they matched so odds are good that it was original. So I dug out (busted out would be more appropriate to say) the old skimmer and dug down half-way to China to finally get myself some room to cut the main drain pipe that was plumbed into the bottom of the skimmer. I glued a fitting onto it and then installed pipe back to the pad to put it exactly where I wanted it. At the same time, I did the same thing for the skimmer line. SWEET.

    As part of the pool refinish, the pool company was to pressure test all my lines during the work. So they hooked together the skimmer, MD, and spa suction lines together and stuck a hose bib and pressure gauge on them and filled them with water to 30 psi. They (and other lines) would remain this way for several weeks as the work commenced. Funny thing though, I saw that the pool company sealed the drain in the spa and at the skimmer but in looking at the main drain, I saw nothing. It was just a small pile of rubble, dirt, leaves, twigs, cigarette butts and small pools of water at the low point of my pool. Hmmm. The next day, the 30 psi was 0 psi for the suction lines. DARNIT. New plumbing was going to be a lot of money. Let's keep in mind that the workers on my pool all spoke nothing but Spanish and my Spanish is weak at best. The company owner is Italian...and his English left much to be desired as well.

    As the days went by, they worked on isolating the leaky suction line and found it to be the MD. Keep in mind that communication at this point was weak. I kept asking that if the MD line was leaking, how was it sealed at the bottom of my pool? I didn't see how it was sealed. I even went to the bottom of my pool and clean it up and I could find nothing. No pipe, no nothing. It was like I never had a main drain despite the cover being there..................and that is exactly what the case was! "Chreeees, you no main drain," was what I finally got out of them. The next was, "$2k for main drain if you want." UGH.

    I got to thinking back to all these years running this pool and noticing that the main drain always had debris around it...nothing ever went down it for whatever reason. I never thought much about that until now. Now I know that I never had one...a fake main drain? What?!

    I was on a mission! Well, there MUST have been a drain there at some point right? In fact, owner #2 had had the pool replastered a year or two before we bought the house...maybe he knows something? I didn't want to spend $2k to lay about 18' of pipe from the main drain to the bottom of the new skimmer. Hmmm, I wonder how far the pipe goes...maybe it is very close to where the drain cover was and they can jack-hammer a foot or two and connect to it?! Ya think?! They wouldn't charge $2k for that!! Heck, I'll rent a jack-hammer and do it myself if I need to!!

    So I cut the MD pipe I just installed at the skimmer and get it out of my way. I get out my trusty electrical fish-tape and my 25' measuring tape and get ready to insert the tape into the pipe to see just how far it went. Maybe I'll get lucky! I pull out several feet of the metal tape and reach down deep into the dug hole and get it into the hole and before I even breathe, the tape stops. Thunk. ?? Thunk, thunk, thunk. I'm 8" into the pipe and I hit a dead stop. I jam it in a few more times moving it around: thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. This pipe goes 8" and I cry. Then I get mad. Then I get curious. There is a story here.

    The story is that this pool, with the ORIGINAL connections and pipe to the ORIGINAL skimmer never had a main drain. Since 1978, Apache Pools of San Jose, CA, never installed the main drain in the pool at my future home in 1998. I am nearly convinced of it. They pulled a fast one over on owner #1...perhaps. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn't. Or perhaps owner #1 pulled a fast one over on owner #2...perhaps. Maybe he knew, maybe he didn't. Or perhaps owner #2 pulled a fast one over on owner #3: moi! It is quite possible owner #2 told me the main drain wasn't real but I really don't think so. I was a younger man back then with a sharp memory (a far cry from where I am now but hey, time does things) and I'm about 98% sure he didn't tell me...assuming he even knew. But back then I knew just about zero about pools and now I know a bit more than zero so it could have flown right over my head but I still am pretty sure nothing was mentioned.

    I'd love to know the real story about my fake main drain. Did Apache fake us all out? Did something get messed up during the install and so they made it look legit even though it wasn't? And what about the mid 90s replaster by owner #2? Was he made aware of it then? Did whomever do the replaster know anything or mention anything? If one removed the drain cover, everything there looked legit, I think. It was only when I had the plaster jack-hammered off did the whole MD contraption get removed and the truth, after a while and some broken Spanglish-Englatalian, laid bare.

    What do you think?
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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    Mod Squad kimkats's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    What a story! You are my kind of person--------keep digging until answers are found!

    Are you going to make the main drain work? There are some pools without a main drain so you can just have them dig up the fake one and plaster over it.

    Kim
    TFP Moderator 33x52 round AG 25,600 gals Sand Filter 1.5hp Pump - 2 Speed, SLAM, Pool School, Recommended Levels, Recommended Chemicals, Pool Math, Chlorine/CYA Chart, TF-100 Test Kit

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    wjr75's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    That's a weird story. I wonder if it is plugged at the main drain. If you don't extend it you should make sure the ports are plugged in the main drain. Good spot for algae to grow in the pipe since there may not be any water flow.
    Inground 22k gallon gunite 15x31 main pool, 15x7 wading pool/sunning deck, hot tub/with overflow (9' octagon with limestone top) & slide NSWG, Aqua Blue Pebble Sheen
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    Kiss4aFrog's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    Wow . . . Someone along the way put a cover where there was no pipe. That cost something for nothing so it's likely it was the builder as the owners really didn't have anything to gain. But then again, who knows.
    Great story. You're going to make quite a few of us jump in and see if we have suction at the white thing on the floor in the deep end.
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    Agent99's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    Yeah, so the Pebble Sheen is done...day 28 since the fill-up is tomorrow (Wednesday).

    My pool officially has no main drain (see it in my sig? )

    I'm on pure skimmer suction only.

    Now the pool company did connect the MD port on the skimmer to a port on the wall: an equalizer line so to speak. So I kind of sort of maybe but not really have a MD on the pool wall about 2' down from the coping.

    But technically, my pool has no main drain! Since I was stopped short at 8" from the skimmer side of things for the MD pipe, I have absolutely no idea if there is even a pipe hidden in the gunite along the path to where the fake main drain was. I can tell you for certain that there was no pipe connection to the main drain in the bottom of my pool. Not even a hint of one.

    The mystery will live on until someone else decides to either install a main drain line in the pool or they bust the pool up and fill it in. I doubt I will know in my lifetime!

    Also keep in mind that I'm in the Bay Area...we get earthquakes out here. Maybe one busted up the pipe while they were building it but I dunno. There are a lot of theories but I may never really know! I'm still stuck on the fact that there was simply no pipe at all in the bottom of my pool connected to the MD but maybe it was cut back and sealed and just packed with gunite and just out of site. Maybe 5 more minutes with a jack-hammer in that area might've revealed it? I also am stuck on the fact that the pipe was connected to the skimmer but it was plugged! That HAD to happen when it was built...that skimmer was original.

    SIGH!!!
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    My first pool had a non functional drain. But, there was a plug in the pipe under the drain cover and also in one of the two openings in the bottom of the skimmer. I deduced that the plumbing under the pool between the skimmer and drain had leaked, and a previous owner had plugged both ends and abandoned the drain.
    chiefwej
    Tucson, AZ
    16x36 rectangular (19k) Pebble Tec play pool/spa, Pentair Intelliflo VS 011018, Super II 2hp (spa), Aqua Rite T-15 SWG, Pro Grid 60 DE, Hayward H400 & Heliocol Solar heating, A&A infloor system, fill water w/high CH and TA, 50 ppm borates,TF-100 test kit

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    aussieta's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    are you sure that it is not a hydrostatic valve
    i thought i had a main drain
    (embarrassed face)
    but i was wrong
    SWG inground peanut shaped eco-bright concrete pool
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    are you taking care of your pool or is the poolshop taking care of you

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    Agent99's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    Here are a couple shots of my pool with an up-close of the equalizer 'wall drain' included.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    Great story! I too am thinking I have a similar situation and age of pool. I drained it once to clean and refill after buying the house and thought I'd stick a water hose into the drain hole and flush out any debris...in case it had been blocked up. Needless to say after about three seconds, the "drain" cavity filled up and no dirt was coming out, it was prestine. I figured it had to be one of two things. One, no main drain at all, just a cover that I guess everyone expects to see in a pool. Or two, maybe they found a leak in that line and just filled with concrete or something. Since then, I now have a camera inspection tool so the next time it needs a complete drain, I'm going to see what's in there. I haven't had any issues having no main as water circulates 24/7 during the season and a spa that 'dumps' into the pool and it gets used nearly every day.
    20,000 gallon IG plaster pool
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    aussieta, thanks for the input. I think you solved my curiosity question about my pool and lack of drainage from the main drain. I know I have a "breather" pvc pipe coming up by the house under the awning and the septic guy said "that goes to your pool (dumbass implied)". I wrote it off but now wonder if this valve has ceased to function properly after reading up on how these work. Anyways, add another project to the list!
    20,000 gallon IG plaster pool
    Hayward sand filter/Pump
    Bypassed rusted out NG heater
    Spa with air injection

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    Agent99's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    'Breather' PVC pipe? Can you expound on that?

    I have a pipe for my spa but that is just an air entrance/venturi to have bubbles in the spa.

    Yeah, maybe you have a pipe there and it is just blocked.

    Anyway, my pool as been running on skimmer only suction since (likely) 1978 and certainly since 1998 when I bought the place.

    I also do not think I even had a hydrostatic valve in the MD...there was no hole through the gunite into the earth. Now as my pool drained, the pool company did drill a hole or two through the gunite into dirt just to be sure. It is as dry as California under my pool...pool pops seem rare around here unlike say, Florida.
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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    Sunbaby's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    Such a cool story! I'm a researcher too, it's neat to figure out a little mystery.
    ~Wendy
    33'X17' Sports Pool (3'6"-5'-4'6") 7' flush Spa, Blue Granite PT, Waterfalls, Weeping Wall, Baja Ledge and Doggie Beach Entry! Pentair Clean and Clear 420, IntelliFlo XF Pump, SuperFlo 1.5 HP Feature Pump, MasterTemp Heater, Pal-Treo LEDs, Dolphin M4, Liquid Chlorine & TF-100 - My Build Thread

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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    awesome story and very nice looking pool
    Pool: Intex 16x32 15000 gal, 2 speed 340042, Pentair CC320 Filter, CircuPool SJ45 Salt System, Intermatic PE653RC; Hot Tub: 650 Gal SWG Megachlor
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    Agent99's Avatar
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    Re: Fake Main Drain?

    Thanks, Everyone! There's still a bit of mystery here. Is there ANY pipe between the MD and the skimmer?? ??????????????????? LOL
    ----Chris----
    25k IG/Spa Figure 8, 18x36, Pebble Sheen Blue Granite, Sta-Rite S8M150 Cartridge Filter, Pentair 460805 400k BTU Heater & 011018 IntelliFlo VarSpd
    Liquidator, Fafco Solar Heat, Polaris PB460 Booster Pump w/280 cleaner, Katchaleaf Cover, TF100 Test Kit, FAKE MAIN DRAIN

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