House hunting is a stressful process. The search never fails to be challenging, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned pro. Once you find your dream home, and you and the seller have signed the purchase agreement and the house goes into escrow, it’s time to schedule the home inspection. But if your new home has a swimming pool, there are some surprising facts you should know.
Don’t Assume Your Home Inspector Will Thoroughly Inspect the Pool
Many people assume that a home inspector will closely look at every nook and cranny of the property they’re purchasing, from roof to plumbing. But some home inspectors share their secrets about the things they pass by. For example, electrical outlets behind heavy pieces of furniture. Realtor.com has an eye-opening article on this topic, which lists several other areas that you may believe home inspectors routinely check, but actually don’t.
Add swimming pools to this list. Basic home inspectors will turn on pool pumps and heaters to make sure they’re working. However, inspectors won’t automatically evaluate cracks in the pool or check for leaks. Considering the expense of repairing a leak – or other problems that may be hiding – knowing the condition of your future pool is essential.
So why isn’t a leak detection test conducted as a matter of course when someone sells a home with a swimming pool? Good question – one answered by Lance Anderson, president of Anderson Manufacturing and industry-recognized leak detection expert.
“Many pool inspections are done by inspectors that come from the home inspection side of things, and they may not want to address leaks because they have no idea how to go about finding — or even talking about — the problem if one is detected. Some might just do a bucket test to determine whether the pool is leaking or not, but then avoid talking about location. Inspectors have different levels of expertise depending on their background.”
Realtor Beth Sterner – founder of Community Real Estate of the Carolinas – offers the following advice for homebuyers arranging a pool inspection.
“When a pool service professional inspects the pool they should test the overall operating condition of the equipment and make sure it is in good working order. Usually this is mainly a visual inspection, just understand that you and the inspection do not have the right to take apart the equipment. If something is questionable, it is the seller’s responsibility to hire someone to further evaluate the cause of the issue and repair if they agree to do so. You will need to discuss any finding with the pool inspector and with your Realtor in the event any modifications need to be made to your offer to purchase the home.”
Should a leak be found, Anderson emphasizes the importance of the professional conducting the inspection to identify its source.
“There are other solutions where a fix can be made without locating the problem; people talk about lining pipes or pumping some kind of material into pipes that have a leak. The selling point is that it saves the cost of going through a deck to repair the leak. The problem with that approach is that you won’t see what caused the problem. It may be there’s a root pressing on the pipe, or a rock where the pipe rubs against it as the pump is turned on and off. That’s very easy to correct so it doesn’t happen again. It’s important to determine the cause of a leak in order to find a lasting fix.”
Common Sources of Leaks in Swimming Pools
If you’ve never before owned a home with a swimming pool, you may not be familiar with common sources of leaks. While you probably haven’t moved in yet, you need to know what the professional who will be doing the pool inspection is looking for – and keep it in mind for later! Once you’ve moved in, our blog post – “Five Ways to Detect a Pool Leak” – can help you be on the lookout for trouble signs.
Structural damage – Concrete and fiberglass pools can develop cracks that cause leaking. Cracks typically occur around lights and returns.
Plumbing – Underground leaks can be caused by corrosion or movements in the ground, damaging your home’s underground plumbing or possibly puncturing the floor of the pool.
Broken pipes – These can include the following:
- Return pipes: When the pool and the pool return pipes settle in the ground at different rates, this often results in a leak where the return meets the pool wall. This type is a very common leak location.
- Main drain: This is one of the hardest factors for finding leaks in pools, and is very difficult to inspect without proper training or equipment. Main drains can leak around the fixture itself, as well as through the suction pipe that connects to them. Additionally, the main drain can develop leaks in the hydrostatic relief.
- Skimmer pipe: Concrete pool skimmers are usually encased in concrete on all sides, making the connection point that much harder to access without high-tech equipment and trained ears. This is why it’s so important to hire a professional leak detection company.
- Equalizer line: Leaks in equalizer pipes are one of the most likely suspects with older swimming pools. The equalizer line in the pool is a non-pressurized pipe that connects from the main drain to the underside of the skimmer, therefore, often left even in major renovations.
- Loose or broken fittings: While breaks, cracks or collapses in the pipe can happen anywhere, they are most likely to be where joint connections have been made. This is a very common situation in both pools and spas.
Knowledge is Power – Be Sure Before You Buy!
Your home is your most important investment. Sterner reiterates that leaving the pool inspection to a general home inspector opens the possibility for serious issues to go undetected, while you believe that all is well.
“Many people who are purchasing a home with a pool think the home inspection will cover the pool, I will tell you this is rarely the case. Considering that pools are not the most common amenity in a home for sale, it is very unlikely the home inspector will have the expertise to evaluate a pool thoroughly. You would be putting yourself at great risk for the inspector missing a costly problem with the pool. In fact, many home inspection reports will include a disclaimer releasing them from any missed problems with the inspection of a pool.
“When you decide to buy a home with a swimming pool, you are agreeing to purchase it ‘as is.’ Before you sign on closing day you want to know what you are getting. If the pool inspection finds one or several problems, you will have to negotiate for either the seller to fix them at their expense or make a purchase price adjustment based on the work required to fix the pool. This should be done well in advance to the closing of the home. There are several ways to approach this, but the overall idea is the same as with a general home inspection. You will want to consult your Realtor to decide what option is best for you.”
Keep in mind that after you close on the house, you’ve lost any leverage you may have had with the seller to pay or adjust the purchase price for repairs. Being an informed homebuyer will save you unexpected expense and help ensure that your dream house doesn’t turn into a nightmare!
Don’t leave this important part of your home inspection to chance! Certified Leak Detection uses technology and techniques we have developed over 20 years in business. In addition to quick detection of pool leaks, we provide industry-leading leak detection for spas and hot tubs, as well as slabs and foundations. Serving areas throughout Central Florida – including Orlando, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford, Kissimmee, Clermont and Winter Springs – our team is ready to answer your call.
Contact us for quick, reliable service, and enjoy your slice of Florida paradise for many years to come!