A new mystery leak

Rocket J Squirrel

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Jun 7, 2018
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Alamo, CA
For the past 3 weeks or so, I've noticed water loss in my in-ground always-covered plaster pool. Today I woke up to water so low that the plaster was exposed in the spa. There is water in both pool skimmers. (No skimmers in the spa, just a drain.)

The water level is currently just above the skimmer openings. Shall I wait to see whether it drops further as an aid to finding the leak? Or what would you suggest?

In the first photo, you can see the spa water is up to about 2 3/4 inches from the step on the measuring tape. It should be up to the white make-up return. In the second photo, you can see exposed plaster in the spa, which is normally submerged.

I sure could use some help with this.
SpaWithTape.jpg
SpaWaterLow.jpg
 
Last edited:

kimkats

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Jul 10, 2012
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Tallahassee, FL
You can do the *bucket test* to see if you are losing water through out the pool or if is just leaving the spa into the pool?
 

Arizonarob

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Mar 25, 2018
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If it were my setup, I’d do the bucket test in both the spa AND the pool at the same time. You need to figure out if it’s the spa that’s leaking, or like Kim said, is it just leaking into the pool.
By doing the test in both spots, you’ll be able to determine what path it’s leaking. :cheers:
 
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Rocket J Squirrel

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Thanks. Buckets are in. But the amount of water I'm losing from the spa is tiny in comparison with the volume of the main pool, so I'm not sure I'll see a measurable difference in the pool bucket.

Meanwhile, the mystery deepens. Last night I went out to take a look at the water level. It was dark, so I pushed the button on my EasyTouch to turn on the pool lights. The GFCI breaker immediately and repeatedly tripped.

Aha, I thought. The water is leaking into the light niche and causing the breaker to trip. So I left the cover open and the pump off overnight.

This morning, to my surprise, the water level was not down to the light niche. In fact, it wasn't any lower than in the photos in post #1. And, this morning, the pool lights worked and did not trip the breaker.

There is a junction box for the light and some other electric items in my pool deck just slightly above water level. Obviously not up to code, being underground, but installed in 1988, when maybe there wasn't a code. Anyway, I looked in there this morning and it was damp but not flooded as I'd expected.

So now I have 2 mysteries. Where is the spa water going, and what happened to cause my breaker to temporarily trip?

I hope the buckets reveal something.
 

Rocket J Squirrel

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News update, just a half hour after I wrote the above post.

Having filled the spa and added the buckets, I went out for another look. This time, the in-deck junction box was indeed flooded, and the light breaker trips again. The water must be flowing into the light niche to the j box and finding its level just a few inches below deck level.

So now what do I do? How to seal the niche so it stops leaking? Here are some more photos showing the height of the deck and the flooded j box.
Deck.jpg
Jbox.jpg
 

JJ_Tex

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Jul 17, 2019
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Prosper, TX (DFW)
I'm sure you are right, but you can also buy a dye kit from a pool store for around $5 and that should be an easy way to confirm it is the light and not somewhere else.
 

ajw22

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Jul 21, 2013
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Pool niches are not designed to be waterproof. The niche and conduit can be wet. Only the light hosing containing the bulb and electronics will be waterproof and dry.

A junction box is required to be 8 inches above maximum water level and at least 4 inches above deck level. That is all to ensure that even when water gets into the niche and the conduit the wiring will be above the water level.
 

Rocket J Squirrel

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I know the j box & wiring "should" be above ground, but whoever built this mess 30 years ago did not. There is a second j box for the other pool light which is at the proper height. Go figure.

I have lived here over 7 years. I had the pool replastered in 2018 and put in new light housings & bulbs at that time. I never had any leakage until just a few weeks ago, and it's winter and the pool is unused, so why this would suddenly happen is puzzling.

I guess I have to seal the leak at the j box side of the conduit and allow the rest of the conduit to be submerged?
 

ajw22

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Jul 21, 2013
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I might remove the light and then blow air into the conduit pipe on the ground and see if you can see where bubbles come out at the light niche.

The picture you posted does not show a good view of the top of the conduit at the box. You can try plugging it with putty but the putty can not be permanent as you need to be able to pull wire through in the future.

Where is the bottom of the box relative to the pool water level? I would think the box is above the water level at least by a little bit.

You have not had rain? You don't have a lawn sprinkler system that could be leaking into that box?
 

Rocket J Squirrel

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The water under the deck correlates with the water in the spa. I quit the bucket test and drained the spa down to "leak level", and the water in the box also went down. So I'm pretty sure the "where is the water going" mystery is solved.

On closer inspection, there's not even a plastic box in there any more. Just exposed wires & waterproof wire nuts. The PB who remodeled my pool was good with plaster but not so good with electricity. I hired a trusted electrician to fix up his mess, and once everything was working, I didn't look in there again. No box, and where the conduit emerges must be below water level because water is going there. Sigh. I have no idea why this didn't leak from day 1 when the PB installed the light, or what suddenly happened few weeks ago to cause the water to go there.

In this photo, the arrow points to the light cable and the circle is where it goes underground to conduit. I know it's hard to see. There are other conduits in there for the auto-cover and some lights. I'll have to clean it all out to be able to seal it. I hope there's something other than dirt in there where the conduit emerges.

What kind of putty or sealant might work for this?
conduit.jpg
 

Arizonarob

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If that were mine. I’d let that area dry out, then hit it with some silicone. You can easily pull the wire out of silicone down the road if need be.
 

Rocket J Squirrel

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Here are more photos. 2 showing the underground "thing which is not a junction box", and where it sits relative to the pool. If you look closely, the cement lid says ELEC on it. The big thing covered in tarp is a daybed, and it usually sits over that access hatch, hiding it from view. 3rd photo shows the light cable running underground with the other wires pulled out of the way.

deck1.jpg
deck2.jpg
conduit2.jpg
 

Rocket J Squirrel

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LOL, breakers are off. I'm going to wait until that area dries out and the 49ers have won the Super Bowl. Then I'll jam a big glob of silicone in there. And I'm going to wrap those wire nuts individually in plastic to seal them away from future moisture. That area will always get damp from rain and seepage so I guess the silver lining is that I now know what I've got going on before anyone got shocked.
 

ajw22

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Jul 21, 2013
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And I'm going to wrap those wire nuts individually in plastic to seal them away from future moisture.
Replace the wire nuts with waterproof wire nuts that are filled with a dielectric silicone sealant that surrounds splices.



 

bdavis466

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Aug 4, 2014
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San Clemente, CA
You are nuts if you think any kind of nuts would make it safe enough for my nuts to be anywhere around that pool.

The NEC specifies all pool electrical wiring terminations need to be in an approved pool rated junction box 8" above the maximum water level and 4" above the grade. That contraption doesn't comply with either of those...

You should never see water in a junction box PERIOD!