Crack in upper body of IG skimmer

HDClown

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Mar 27, 2015
38
Orlando, FL
My IG pool was installed about 5 years ago. Sometime this summer I noticed it was losing water at a non-normal pace and I just ignored it. Did a bucket test a few weeks back and confirmed a leak. Eventually reached out to pool builder who wanted me to mark and measure fill levels in the skimmer, which is when I noticed a giant crack which explained my easy. The PB says I'm on my own because they warranty skimmer for 1 year.

ngbX4gd.jpg


I have 6" water line tile and the major crack runs right trough the midpoint on the tile, so when I fill to mid-tile I end up losing 1-1.25" over the next 24 hour period, then I'm below the crack. The crack at the top of the body is well above the water line.

I don't know any way to explain this other than some kind ground shifting. I am in Orlando, FL area and the dirt is very soft and lose. Since it's a paver deck it was compacted and a stiffer layer put above it for the base, but from what I recall it was sand/dirt based stuff, not any kind of major aggregate. We get a lot of rain and there has certainly been a number of rain events (from hurricanes) that led to pool being overfilled and maybe 1 or 2 overflow events from that. 1 paver to the right of the basket (looking in from throat) is very lose but it has not sunk either. All of the surrounding paver sand is gone and it's mostly gone or very low around other pavers which would explain that 1 paver being lose but I don't see any signs of ground shift via sunken pavers anywhere. Note that there is an aluminum screen enclosure wall about 1 foot away from the skimmer and it sits on a very shallow concrete footer (like 6" or less of a footer in depth).

The PB has not come to look at this in person but told me typical range to replace a skimmer $2-5k, which seems rather outrageous to me. The basket is just surrounded by dirt and it's a paver deck (see pictures below). The wildcard is the screen room wall sitting on a couple pavers that probably need to be pulled out for easier access, but I think those would be able to be slid out from underneath and slid back in (see pics below).

Looking for thoughts on a few things:
  1. What caused the cracking
  2. What a fair price would be for this repair
  3. Can I get by for a while with filling cracks with a water safe epoxy (JB WaterWeld, Plastaid, Marine Epoxy, etc) and if so, what is the best product to use

Here are more pictures for reference of the installation

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And here's a shot from the plumbing rough in. This was just back filled with the ground dirt that was dug out for the shell.

sDEwNBf.jpg
 

ajw22

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Looking down at this pic you can see how the deck and the ring above the skimmer shifted up, or the ground pushed the skimmer down, leaving a gap at the top. This shifting of the deck put pressure on the plastic skimmer and cracked it.

gHjszgI.jpg


If you look at build threads you will see that the skimmer is usually surrounded by rebar and gunite and becomes part of the pool structure. The pool expansion joint then surrounds the skimmer and the skimmer is protected from ground movement.

Your builder left your skimmer unprotected to fend for itself.

sDEwNBf.jpg


If your skimmer is simply in the sand then it shouldn't cost thousands to dig down and replace it. I suspect that your PB thinks your skimmer is surrounded by gunite and will have to be chipped out in which case it can take a lot of labor. Get your PB to see what he did on your build.

When the skimmer is replaced it should be surrounded by some rebar and concrete and tied into the pool structure or this will happen again.
 
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ajw22

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You can try epoxy putty or pool putty on the cracks...

 

Dirk

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I agree with Allen's assessment 100%. I agree with the PB's assessment 0%. He didn't build your pool correctly. The skimmer warranty excuse doesn't apply. The skimmer didn't fail, he did.

Do you have a warranty on the shell? Has it expired? That is the warranty that applies. And perhaps not even then.

I just won a small claims case here in CA because I proved that the missing insulation in my attic was a latent defect. A latent defect is one that cannot be reasonably seen by the consumer. Your issue would qualify, IMO. Mine was on the far side of my attic. The missing insulation was missed by the contractor, the sub, the building inspector and my home inspector. And even though my home's warranty was only one year, and issued by the original contractor to the previous owner, I still prevailed because of the nature of the defect. I lucked out and found it in time. The statute of limitations for a latent defect is 10 years in CA.

So the first step is to insist the contractor come look at the problem, and insist that he fix it based on the argument above. Not all the latent defect stuff, we'll save that. Just the part that the defect was caused by his construction method, not the skimmer. See what he says, come on back and report. Hopefully he'll see it your way. If not, we go from there. Depending on the laws in FL, you shouldn't have to pay anything for this fix. So, to answer your questions:

1. Allen answered that one.
2. $0
3. It's important that you do nothing yet to fix the problem, which could, ironically, relieve the PB from his liability. You MUST allow him the opportunity to come see the problem and fix it himself. If he refuses, even a temporary fix, then, for now, some waterproof tape is a reasonable tactic to keep from losing water, without compromising your legal standing. Don't goop any sort of permanent material, like epoxy, into the crack just yet.
 

HDClown

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Mar 27, 2015
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Orlando, FL
I honestly can't say with any certainty if the skimmer is not encased in concrete.

The picture above was the day the rough-in was done. I have a picture from when they did the screen room footer and while it's a further shot, after zooming in the only rebar I can really determine is long piece running parallel to the pool shell which is for the screen room foot itself. I see no pieces perpendicular to the the pool on the side of the skimmer. Looking over my time lapse videos of subsequent days up until the pavers were done I don't see anything that indicates to me someone came and added rebar/concrete around the skimmer.

I'm waiting for the next response from the warranty specialist at the PB on an email expressing my concern about the proximity of the screen room footer to the skimmer and piece of rebar that looks to be practically touching the skimmer, although it is a zoomed in shot without a lot of detail. I also asked if they can come evaluate the situation to determine if there is some issue with the original construction. I'm playing to dumb for now.

The paperwork I signed indicates a limited lifetime warranty on gunite shell and underground plumbing to not leak due to cracking. It does list exclusions for near by construction, changes in water table or natural phenomenon, none of which I see as applicable here.
 

Dirk

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@jimmythegreek, @JamesW, can you take a look at the pics and help HD determine what is going on with his skimmer?

In my most un-expert opinion on the subject, the rebar cage and I'm thinking the gunite surrounding the skimmer, too, would have been in place when the gunite was shot, not all added at some later date. I believe your photo above is evidence that it was not done as it should have been. It doesn't matter for now. The crack occurred not because there was a defect in the skimmer or its material. The crack occurred because the skimmer is being pulled out of place, which is a construction defect, for which the PB is liable (IMO).

Anywho, you're on the right track. Play dumb for now. Let them hang themselves. DO NOT offer any theories about what's wrong. At this point, say nothing, or at most just ask questions. Only questions. So... not "Hey, you didn't install the skimmer correctly!" but instead "Why did the skimmer crack?" or "Why is the skimmer no longer aligned with the hole in the pavers?" Let them tell you, not the other way around. Have someone else present for any meetings with the PB at the pool. Ideally not a spouse or relative. After any conversation, follow up with an email and summarize what was said, as in "On Monday, Jan 11, 2021, we met at the pool to discuss the broken skimmer. You said "xxxxx" and you explained "yyyyy" and you offered to do "zzzzzzz". Etc. Ideally, get the PB to acknowledge receipt of the email. Either outright ask him to, or include an innocent question he would likely respond to, so that you can prove he received your email.

I'm not suggesting both barrels at this point. The guy might step up, which is what you want, and trying to intimidate him at this point in time could backfire. But it is important you start a paper trail about what the problem is, when you discovered it, what you asked him to do, and how he responded. If this goes sideways, then you'll have what you need.

Just for the record, his initial response should have been "I'll be right over to take a look." Period. NOT "That's not covered and you'll need to pay me $5K to fix it." That is not a reasonable response. Not without even looking at the problem. I only mention this, not to get your hackles up and to put you on the offensive, only to encourage you to take some prudent steps now that will hopefully keep the peace, but keep you in good shape if this goes another way.
 
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Dirk

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The paperwork I signed indicates a limited lifetime warranty on gunite shell and underground plumbing to not leak due to cracking. It does list exclusions for near by construction, changes in water table or natural phenomenon, none of which I see as applicable here.
So "limited lifetime warranty" sounds like good news, depending on the definition of "limited," or course. IMO, a skimmer is underground. And it is part of the plumbing! And it is cracking. Done. "Natural phenomenon" is sticky, because theoretically he could claim the dirt is shifting because of "natural phenomenon" and the skimmer is going with it, which is not his problem. But had the skimmer been embedded in the gunite shell, as others here have suggested it should have been, then I think that brings it back on him. Hopefully one of our builder experts (Jimmy and James) can analyze your pics and tell you what's up.
 

jimmythegreek

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I've never seen anyone add the concrete later but I'd think it has to be cemented in. Otherwise you would lose the seal at the throat if it was shifting. Tough to speculate.
I will say I repaired a crack just like that last year. Pool wasnt even finished yet. A newer guy on the crew (long gone) whacked the side of skimmer with the plate compactor amd it cracked. You couldnt tell it was cracked by looking from afar. My foreman saw it amd went and checked it out hes a hawk like that. Would have bit me in the rear later otherwise.
 

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sktn77a

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If the leak is just coming from the skimmer, that can be patched with PVC cement and some flexible PVC. That won't fix the underlying issue with ground movement and it may further crack but might be worth a try. Might be a long term fix or it might not.
 

HDClown

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Mar 27, 2015
38
Orlando, FL
Response from the PB person I am dealing with said "This is an expansion crack with all the cold and hot heat it will cause these to crack" and they also said "I’ve even seen this happen with paver decks the pavers start to settle and put pressure on them and cause them to crack as well." They also said the skimmer is a "wearable part".

I pressed back on them saying I am concerned there could be a construction issue (I gave no specifics otherwise) and if I repair the skimmer I have no evidence to show that it won't happen again in such a short time frame. The person I am in communication with said they went to the owner who said this is out of warranty and stood by 1 year on the skimmer. They seem to have zero interest in sending someone out to investigate in person, other than someone giving me a repair quote.

I've been looking through Florida building code trying to determine if there was a possible code violation even though this was a permitted job that passed all inspections. So far I've found language that says "Approved surface skimmers are required and must be installed in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions". The manual for the Hayward Skim-Master doesn't explicitly state that it should be encased in concrete but the cross-section of a "typical installation" shows it encased in concrete.
 

Dirk

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Ugh. If they won't send someone out, then that speaks volumes to their character. No matter. The next step is a demand letter. I can only offer advice based on my experience, and what I know about the law, here in CA. You might have to google to see how much applies in FL. Our small claims court limit is $5K, so that's something else to figure out: what the cost is to repair and what kind of court you might have to settle this in.

But first things first. The demand letter. Look for examples online for the proper format for FL. Short and sweet you state the problem, leave out any emotion or personal comments, just facts, include some pics, and that you expect the PB to fix it. Give him a deadline. I gave mine two weeks.

What you're doing is officially notifying the PB of your expectations, and allowing him to provide the fix. That is key here in CA, you can't just have a problem fixed by someone else and then try to sue the original contractor, you have to give them a shot at it. I think two weeks is resaonsonble, considering the pool is leaking and costing you money. In CA the letter must include words to the effect that if he doesn't perform, you will have it fixed and send him the bill. If he still refuses to pay, then you will take him to court to collect. That last part being the most important component of a demand letter. The part about suing him. Send it certified mail. Then hold your breath.

If he doesn't respond in three weeks (allow a little buffer), report back then we'll go from there. Resist the urge to fill the crack, for the reason I stated above. At most, try something temporary, like tape, to see if that'll work.

Now if you don't have the stomach for this, because it can be very stressful, then fill the crack and let it go. Personally, I don't mind the fight, even though I get really stressed, because I don't like contractors blowing off customers just because they think the customer will give up (which many do, which is why he's trying this tactic on you). He hasn't even gotten on the phone with you, right? Uhg. So I would accept the stress. In your case, even if you could fix this with epoxy, the problem might get much worse, in which case you'll need to pony up the dough.

Sidebar: and maybe our builder experts can weigh in: the notion that a skimmer is a "wearable part" sounds ridiculous to me. If installed correctly, I don't see why a skimmer wouldn't last as long as a pool, if not longer. Maybe the way he installs them they wear out! This is just tactic. It costs him nothing to say anything, just to see if he can get you to go away. You're nothing to him until the demand letter shows up, then he knows you mean business.

BTW, the next step is to get a third party out there to assess the problem and give you an estimate. That would be evidence, but also might be the first step in the repair. Because of the current backlog of pool work, you might consider starting that step now. It could be weeks just to get a guy out there. Your demand letter deadline might expire before you can get an appt. It might be tough to find someone to do the work. And you're going to need someone to corroborate, in writing, that the original construction is defective, which also might be hard to get, since sometimes these guys don't like to get involved in that sort of thing. So you might have to hang tough. The system can seem rigged against you, which is why a lot of folks give up.

I've won all my small claims cases, but only collected on some of them, so there's that. Winning doesn't always mean getting paid. Sorry, just giving you all the info. Don't start down this path unless you're ready to take it on...
 
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HDClown

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Mar 27, 2015
38
Orlando, FL
I backed off on my my email tone and transitioned to getting the PB to provide estimate to repair. The person who originally told me $2-5k is now telling me to expect $1-1.7k estimate.... I wonder why. They need to have two different subs handle the work (skimmer separate from paver deck) so two different people providing estimates. They will provide the plans for my pool to these subs as part of providing a quite.

I'm currently waiting for confirmation there is no cost to get this repair quote (I sure as heck hope that's the case). As I work from home, my plan is to talk to the sub handling the skimmer and inquire about the lack of a concrete encasement on the skimmer and see if I can get them to tell me "this wasn't done correctly in the first place".

I intend to get estimated from a couple other people but I want the PB's estimate first. If anyone is going to be poking around to be able to put together a quote, I want that to be all PB supplied people before I have 3rd parties involved and the PB trying to blame something on them.

I've also reached out to Florida Swimming Pool Association to see if they will give me any information as to if there was an improper installation done and if it may violate any codes. I am also going to talk to the county permit office to review with them. In my initial research about codes there is an item about skimmers needing to be installed in strict accordance with manufacturer installation requirements. I have the user guide for my skimmer (Hayward Smart-Kim) and there is no written language about a concrete encasement or something mechanical attachment to the shell being required, but it does have cross section images listed as "typical installation" clearly showing the skimmer encased in concrete. I don't know if that would qualify as not to code, and if it was determined to be a code violation, how the PB would react and what recourse I have without having to get lawyers involved.

If all else fails, FL small claims court limit is $8k, so this would fall into that realm. I don't know if I want to dal with it, it will depend on what repair costs come in it. One of the local leak detection companies has info on their website about skimmer replacements and they say they start at $1500 due to the work involved to chip out the old skimmer. Given that I'm about 99% certain there is no concrete involved, that makes it a much less intensive repair and thus lower cost. It may just not be worth the time and effort if I'm looking at somewhere around $1000 repair.
 

Dirk

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That sounds to me like a perfect plan. You can use the demand letter idea later, if it comes to that. I can guess why the price came down, but that would be purely biased speculation. One small addition: the repair estimate(s) should include the concrete and rebar work required to properly bond the skimmer to the shell, like it should have been done, otherwise this will just happen again.
 

HermanTX

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I think the OP stated earlier there was a picture of the skimmer without concrete around it (which is on this thread) but not sure if it was later done and no picture was taken. Given that, suggest the OP be present when anyone starts to dig around the skimmer and take video if possible so it can be a continuous documentation of what is found when the investigation starts. Even if no concrete, there will be a debate if that is a requirement or just a best practice to have concrete. The PB would need to provide a statement why concrete was not used if that is the finding. That then could be used if you pursue further consideration for the repairs.
 
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Dirk

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Even if no concrete, there will be a debate if that is a requirement or just a best practice to have concrete.
That's kinda the issue, and kinda not. It's not really up to the OP to prove that the concrete encasing is supposed to be there or not. Or if that is best practice or not. (Though that will help his case, for sure.) The real issue is that the pool is leaking. The PB is claiming, "Oh well, skimmers fail and the warranty is only a year. Sorry. Tough noogies." When the real issue is that the skimmer failed because of the way the pool was built, not because the skimmer was faulty. If it had opened up on a seam, or anything that looks like bad plastic, then maybe. But it's very clearly moving away from where it started, and is being torn apart. It's not falling apart. The how and why or the PB's reason for building it the way he did is irrelevant. The pool isn't holding water, and unless the PB can prove it's because of a defective skimmer, then there is no one else to blame.

And even then, I don't think he has a defense:

The OP writes: "The paperwork I signed indicates a limited lifetime warranty on gunite shell and underground plumbing to not leak due to cracking." The end. It was most helpful that the PB threw in that "due to cracking" and wrote "plumbing" when he probably meant "piping." Thank you very much. The skimmer is plumbing. It is underground. It is cracking. It is leaking. CLACK! (That's the sound of a gavel!! ;) )

That's just one angle. I'm sure there are others (including the missing concrete).

Bottom line, this is a small claims case. In CA they're holding those via Zoom. If that's what they're doing in FL, then it's worth a shot. You don't even have to drive anywhere. You call in, show the pics, show the warranty, explain your case, and hope the judge is pro-consumer. Maybe you'll get a check, maybe you won't. That's surely worth about an hour of your time... Ya gotta go through the whole demand letter stuff, to make it official. But that's pretty easy, too.

I would give him two weeks. When he doesn't perform, you have someone else fix it correctly. Then the bill is part of the evidence. If the PB never shows up onsite, and continues to ignore you, that's actually good. Judges hate that [at least in CA]. I'm not sure if having his estimator out is going to impact that. Might be a gamble. When I was fighting for my pool fix, I wanted the PB to blow me off, so I could pick someone better for the fix.

Anyway, just some random thoughts. Use 'em or not. Either way I'll send you my bill. I hear lawyers are getting $20K/day nowadays... 😝
 
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Dirk

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Out of curiosity, I tried to research about what the word "limited" means in "limited lifetime warranty." As near as I can tell, it's what I expected. The warranty is limited to what the issuer (in this case the PB) describes as the "limit." Your warranty describes several limits:
- the length of the warranty is lifetime (so basically no time limit)
- the components that are warranted are limited to the shell and the underground plumbing
- the defects that are considered warranted are leaks due to cracking

That's pretty darn limiting. But unfortunately for the PB, (like most contractors), he doesn't know squat about law and took a stab at protecting himself, himself. As I hinted, he probably wanted his warranty to cover only "cracks in the shell" and "leaks in the buried pipes." But that's not what he wrote. And (at least in CA), it's on the contractor (the contract provider) to put in all the right clauses and sentences and to make them clear. If there are missing sections or topics or words, or any ambiguity, the call goes to the consumer. The contractor is considered the expert party, of the two of you, and so the onus is on him to provide the contract.

So because he wrote it the way he did, I think you have "a lifetime warranty on underground plumbing to not leak due to cracking." Which is exactly what you have: a cracked leaking skimmer.

Where's Jack when you need him!?

giphy.gif

Don't worry, since I wrote those last two posts today, they're both included in the $20K.
 

jimmythegreek

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If theres no concrete around the skimmer it's not installed properly, you just can't do that. On a wall pool the skimmer is bolted thru. On a concrete pool, the cement holds it in. No other way to do it. I'd bet theres concrte around it poured after that pic. It may not even be tied in to the shell for all we know amd settled or slid back
 
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wireform

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I'm thinking like what Jimmy said. It may have the concrete but as the picture clearly demonstrates it wasn't in the initial pour so the weight of the concrete surrounding the skimmer and not being tied to the wall ,will let it slip or sink independent of the pool structure.
 
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