Swimming Pool Repair: Common Problems and DIY Solutions

Updated: Mar. 17, 2023

Swimming pool malfunctions don't always require an expensive service call. Here are some pool repairs you can safely tackle yourself.

It was the summer of the staycation. In May 2020, Google searches for in-ground and above ground pools spiked as families realized they weren’t going anywhere for the summer and sought to make the most of their backyards. Across the U.S., pool manufacturers and vendors reported record sales and exhausted inventories of residential swimming pools.

Jon Foshee, president of Concord Pools & Spas, a Latham Pool dealer, expects further growth with consumers moving out of big cities to more suburban areas. “They have land and room for a pool in their yard, so demand is going to continue to rise,” he says.

Among all those new pools and a whole lot of older ones, maintenance issues are bound to happen. And while some pool break-downs and malfunctions require professional intervention, you can save a bundle by doing some repairs yourself.

Here’s a look at some common swimming pool problems with DIY solutions. Note that we’re limiting this discussion to leaks, tears and clogs, rather than mechanical issues or chemical imbalances that affect water quality.

Pool Liner or Cover Tears and Holes

Common seen with above-ground pools and occasionally with in-ground pools, vinyl liners are among the more economical choices for a swimming pool surface. While a vinyl liner can be durable, it can also tear, especially if accidentally pierced by garden tools, sports equipment or other sharp items. Pool covers also may tear if tree branches or other objects fall on them.

For liner tears above the waterline as well as vinyl cover tears, you can make a decent patch as long as the vinyl is clean and dry. This fix won’t last forever, but it will buy you time until you replace your liner or pool cover. Keep the products on hand for vinyl repairs:

For tears to covers made of canvas, mesh or textured vinyl, try a self-adhesive patch made specifically for pool covers.

For liner tears under the water level, grab a pair of goggles and get busy with a patch kit that can be applied underwater. Matt Giovanisci of SwimUniversity recommends, when possible, to set a weight over the underwater area that’s been patched. But where this isn’t possible — such as on a pool wall — just make sure that all the air bubbles are pressed out under the patch, and leave the area undisturbed for 48 hours.

For INTEX brand or similar inflatable pools, INTEX Wet Set repair patch, despite its name, has to be used on dry vinyl. That means you’ll need to drain your pool to repair a patch below the waterline.

Concrete Pool Leaks

Jason Hughes of River Pools and Spas says that leaks in concrete pools result from issues with the pool structure, fittings or plumbing. Leaks around fittings are the easiest for a DIYer to tackle. Hughes says that gaps around jets, lights and skimmers can be sealed with silicone caulk specially made for use underwater. Main drain leaks, he says, require professional replacement.

Plumbing leaks can be among the most complicated and expensive. They may involve excavating around the pool until the leak is found, then possibly replacing pipes. Some pool experts suggest trying a stopgap measure first, a product called Fix A Leak Pool Sealer. It’s poured into the pool skimmer and targets and seals leaks in the plumbing.

Be sure to read the manufacturer’s directions carefully or risk doing more harm than good. If this product doesn’t fix your leak — or you’re not willing to try it — then it’s time to call a pro.

Clogged Lines or Skimmer

Water intake and outtake lines in your pool become clogged with leaves, hair and other debris. Left unattended, these clogs can make your pool’s pump work harder and eventually cause it to break down.

You can blast the clogged line with water yourself by using a Drain King nozzle or similar tool attached to a garden hose. The Drain King’s expanding bladder keeps water from backflowing and blasts high-pressure water through the line to clear the clog.

For a clogged skimmer, uncover the skimmer, shut off the pool pump and insert the Drain King nozzle as far into the intake line as it will reach. Close all other valves so that water can only travel to the skimmer. Turn on the hose at full blast, then watch at the skimmer box for a big blob of debris to come out.

For a clogged main drain line, turn off the pump, close down all valves and remove the drain cover from the bottom of the pool. Insert the Drain King nozzle directly at the pump and blast water through the main drain line. You’ll see debris blast out of the drain of the pool. Keep running the hose until the water runs clear. Then run the pool vac before all the debris gets sucked right back into the drain.

If you live in a cold climate, you may need to partially drain your pool in the winter. Here’s how to drain a pool for passive winterization.