Main Drain Plumbing Leak

tcarroll2

Member
May 18, 2014
12
Lower Alabama
Hello everyone. I have a main drain plumbing line leak. It is quite significant. Can't hold 5psi for 30 seconds. Pool company refuses to fix it and just wants to plug the drains with hydraulic cement. This isn't my first pool and I do not want to eliminate the main drain lines if at all possible.

The leak is in the sidewall of the pool. The builder, Blue Haven, ran the main drain plumbing up the sidewall of the pool rather than straight out and then up where I could have gotten to the bottom 90 and possibly fixed it. The proper repair would require jackhammering out the sidewall and bottom to get to the plumbing.

So, I found some information about Pipe-Fuze and called them. They told me that if the plumbing cannot hold 5psi for at least 30 seconds it was too big of a leak for their product to fix. I then found Fix-A-Leak by Marlig Industries out of Ontario, Canada. I contacted them and they said their product might work, but I would have to create a closed loop with my main drain plumbing and run it at a pressure between 5 and 10psi during the process.

My setup:
I purchased two 2" bypass plugs that I could connect a garden hose to. I plugged the closest main drain fitting with a 2" compression test plug, then put one of the bypass plugs in the farthest main drain fitting. I removed the pump from the plumping and installed the other bypass plug into the plumbing where the pump was connected. The second bypass plug has a pressure gauge and a ball valve so I can close off the valve to increase pressure. The bypass in the main drain is connected via a garden hose to a submersible pump I have in a large pail that I filled with water. The other bypass is connected to a garden hose that dumps back into the large pail.

Process:
I filled the pail with water and ran the pump for about 30 seconds until it drained the pail. I then repeated this process several times to get all air out of the line. After the air was pushed out by the water I continued running the pump. The leak was so significant under pressure that my garden hose supplying water to the pail could not keep up. So, I filled the pail with water again and dumped in about a quarter of the product (32oz bottle). I repeated this three more times until all of the product was in the line. I then ran the pump a few more times until al the water was clear, then I shut it down. The leak is significant enough that it siphoned all the water out of the pail, so my assumption is that the product is most certainly being sucked into the break.

I let the system sit for about four hours, then I went out and refilled the pail with water and started the pump and had to evacuate all the air from the line. Once this was done I ran the pump with a full pail and it appear to have slowed the leak significantly. I have ordered three more bottles and will repeat this process until the leak stops.

Has anyone else had any long-term success with this product? The company told me that I may have to repeat the process multiple times before it is fixed, but sounded pretty confident I would eventually succeed in repairing the leak. The reviews for this product are either stellar, or miserable.

Thanks for any info!
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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
10,829
Northern NJ
Here is a thread with some tips from other users of Fix A Leak.


Keep us informed how it goes.
 
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tcarroll2

Member
May 18, 2014
12
Lower Alabama
Thanks for the link. I'm hopeful this will work. There hasn't been any activity on that thread in a while. I will post to it to see what their experience has been over the long haul.
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
10,829
Northern NJ
Thanks for the link. I'm hopeful this will work. There hasn't been any activity on that thread in a while. I will post to it to see what their experience has been over the long haul.
That user was last seen on Aug 27, 2015. Doubtful he is around. You can see that by clicking on the users icon. You can also send the user a private message by clicking on Conversation, rather then reviving a dormant thread.
 

tcarroll2

Member
May 18, 2014
12
Lower Alabama
Okay, four bottles of the Fix-A-Leak didn't do the trick. So, I completely drained the pool and vacuumed out the main drain line. After removing all the water I was able to hear water running into the pipe. I pulled the near main drain plug I had installed last year and dropped in food coloring to see the direction of flow of the water. It was coming from the direction of the far main drain, which told me the leak was somewhere in the cross pipe that connects the two main drain inlets.

I then used an inflatable pipe plug to insert in the cross pipe next to the near main drain inlet and inflated it. Sure enough, that stopped any additional water buildup at the near main drain. The far main drain inlet filled up with water. So now I knew within about 3ft where the leak was, but still did not know if it was a joint, or a hole somewhere along the pipe.

While I had the inflatable pipe plug in the cross pipe, I inserted by bypass plug and plugged the open end at the pump and applied air pressure. The pipe did not lose any air. In fact, it eventually blew the inflatable pipe plug out of the far main drain inlet. That was good news to me!

I then got my endoscope and fed it into the far main drain inlet to see if I could see where the water was coming in. Unfortunately these endoscopes that use wifi to connect to your phone are not that great, nor do they do well when the lens gets wet. I decided to insert my wet vac nozzle in the near main drain inlet to suck out water while scoping from the other side. Still could see well enough to see a hole. However, at one point I was able to see water rushing past the lens. This gave me an approximate location where the water was coming in.

I then pulled the vacuum nozzle out of the far main drain and inserted a 100,000 lumen LED flashlight into the inlet. I turned off the LED light on the scope and I could then see the water dripping into the pipe from the top. This confirmed the location of the leak within about 3".

When the contractor blew in the gunite, they had to cut a 4" wide trench into the pool bottom to allow for ground water to seep into the shell. It was very rainy that year and my water table is within 3-4ft of ground level during those times. They didn't want the shell to float out of the ground. They then used a quick set cement to fill in the trench, then plastered and filled. The hole is in the vicinity of where they cut that trench in the shell. I believe their concrete saw nicked the pipe because the hole is on the top.

I don't see any way of repairing this through an internal repair since the hole is on the top. If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to hear them. I was researching Cured in Place and other solutions, but I don't see anyone doing it for 2" piping. I also don't see anyone locally that does this type of work.

I've included some photos.
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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
10,829
Northern NJ
You did a lot of good detective work isolating the problem area.

I think you have a choice of abandoning the main drain or cutting out the plaster and gunite to get to the pipe and then patching it back up. The plaster will not match exactly but it is in the deep end. You need to decide if that is cosmetically acceptable to you. Of course you could do a full replaster after the repair.

@bdavis466 ideas?
 
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tcarroll2

Member
May 18, 2014
12
Lower Alabama
Actually, I just got finished talking with a Macgyver type friend to help me brainstorm how I could repair this leak without a lot of destructive or expensive work if the pool company refuses to repair the pipe.

The idea is to buy a 27" bicycle inner tube, cut the air fitting off and then seal one end of the tube to a large bolt on one end, then seal other end of the tube to a piece of pipe on the other end with an air fitting.

Wrap the tube in cellophane wrap, like Saran Wrap, for about 18" along the assembly in the vicinity where the leak would be.

Slide the assembly into the far main drain inlet, through and past the T on the near main drain inlet, to where the far end of the cellophane is at the T.

Apply Liquid Nails FUZE-IT adhesive to the cellophane as it is pulled back into position below the leak.

Inflate the assembly enough to press the adhesive to the top of the pipe and leave it for 24 hours. The pressure of the assembly should push the adhesive into the hole. FUZE-IT is a water curable adhesive and according to the company, it should cure in about 24 hours with this type of application.

Speaking with the company product specialist be believes this will work for my application because the adhesive bonds very well to PVC. The cellophane will tear away from the adhesive and any remaining will eventually rot away and be caught by the filter.

Either way, if the pool company doesn't repair it, or if I have to perform the Macgyver method, I think I may soon have my leak fixed. I'll be sure to post pics of my repair method if I have to go that route.
 

tcarroll2

Member
May 18, 2014
12
Lower Alabama
It's 5.5 years old. Y'all give up too easily. I can tell the difference in the amount of dirt that accumulates on the bottom of the pool with the temporary test plugs in the two main drains. Therefore, I do not want to abandon them unless absolutely necessary. It was a $50k pool. The Dang main drains should work and if I can repair it, I'm going to.
 

BowserB

Silver Supporter
Jul 29, 2018
143
Katy, Texas
It sounds like you're going to beat the leak one way or another. I don't know if this would be applicable to a pool drain pipe, but here's a story. I was in a house with copper water pipes. The pipes go up through the concrete slab, and down through it. I got a leak in a hot water pipe somewhere between the kitchen and the laundry room. Running a new pipe was going to be a nightmare (2 story house) with walls torn out or a pipe actually run outside the kitchen then back in through the wall into the laundry room. A company whose name I can't recall had a franchise for an epoxy fix. They had to have access to both ends of the pipe in question. They cleaned and sandblasted the inside of the pipe, dried it, then blew in an epoxy of some kind. The curing process was not very long. It fixed the problem, and ten years later when I sold the house, it still was good. For that about 20 ft of pipe was around $1,300, but compared to the alternatives, it was a bargain.

FWIW. Good luck.
 

tcarroll2

Member
May 18, 2014
12
Lower Alabama
Yes! I have read about that process and at that price it is a bargain. The process I am going to use if the pool company doesn't do the repair is very similar to a process I viewed on Youtube that a company uses to repair sewer lines. You can see the video here.
It's very much the same process without using fiberglass, resin, or steam to cure the repair work.
 

tcarroll2

Member
May 18, 2014
12
Lower Alabama
The repair is complete! Here are some pics. Twenty-four hours after applying the adhesive I removed the inflatable assembly and performed a 20psi pressure test and it held. Thousands of dollars saved and I saved my main drain system.
I placed a screwdriver, handle first, into the T so if the end of the inner tube assembly would have blown off it wouldn't blow the end cap into the piping towards the pump. I used Tacky Spray to keep the cellophane attached to the inner tube while I slid it into position. The cellophane was cut a few inches to either side of the inner tube and then wrapped around the backside so it would protect the inner tube from getting adhesive on it and sticking inside the pipe.

If anyone has any questions, just ask. I will try to put together a YouTube video of the entire process.

I hope this idea helps someone else avoid costly repairs or losing the function of their main drain system.

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