A pool in your backyard can be the ultimate way to relax and splash on a hot summer day. Despite the appeal, pools have serious downsides like “pool popping” that leave you in troubled waters. No pun intended! It happens when a swimming pool lifts out of the concrete ground during draining, requiring costly repairs. While this is rare, pool owners should be aware of this potential disaster.
Is your pool popping out of the ground? Here’s what to do, including the cause and how to prevent this from happening.
What Does It Mean When Your Pool Is “Popped” or Floating?
Pool popping occurs when an entire swimming pool rises or floats out of the ground. During this process, the water pressure underground exceeds the pressure of the swimming pool, causing a pool drain. It can happen to any inground pool, whether concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl. Typically, concrete pools are more likely to experience pool popping.
Most homeowners insurance does not cover pool popping damage, so it is best to know the cause and repair options for prevention.
What Causes a Popped Pool?
The most common cause of a pool popping is the pool drain. As previously mentioned, the water pressure under the ground exceeds the pressure of the swimming pool, ultimately pushing the pool floor up above the ground. Just imagine the force from thousands of gallons of water weighing down your pool floor!
However, some factors can cause pool drain issues. Here are the reasons:
When your pool is full of water, it builds hydrostatic pressure from the pool interior. Hydrostatic pressure refers to water that is not in motion. Think diving to the bottom of a pool. When a swimming pool is full of water, it weighs down the pool from the force against the walls and floor of the pool interior. In contrast, when a swimming pool is empty, there is no longer any hydrostatic pressure within the structure.
Soil conditions can affect how much the ground expands around the pool. Soil with a large amount of clay eventually absorbs more water than traditional dirt and can lead to lifting the swimming pool upward. If moisture levels increase significantly, the swollen soil causes the structure to shift. Not only does it pop the pool structure, but it can also result in pipe damage.
Storms, floods, hurricanes, and heavy rains, these are just some extreme weather conditions that contribute to water accumulation in the ground soil. Once it saturates the ground, it creates a high water table until it pushes the pool up, lifting it out of place.
High Water Table
The water-table level is the divider line under the ground that separates the soil surface from the area where groundwater penetrates the spaces between sediments and rock cracks. After the water table reaches capacity, the pool may float out of the ground.
A high water table level depends on the season and weather conditions like rain, floods, and droughts. Most concrete pools that pop up or float typically have a 20” to 40″ difference in the water level from inside the pool to the exterior.
How to Fix a Popped Pool
The repair process of a popped pool means starting from the beginning, which can be an expensive and time-consuming project. While it is best to consult with a reputable swimming pool company, there’s some action you can take in the meantime.
Following steps you can apply for yourself or review with a pro:
Repair the Pool Deck
Just like your pool, the deck around it can face problems due to soil and moisture issues. Frequent deck problems include uneven deck surfaces, cracks, loss of pool water and chemicals, or wall separation due to sinkholes and soil settlement.
In most cases, you will need the removal of your entire pool deck because the significant shift has resulted in a useless deck.
In some rare instances, you may be able to do a DIY repair to your pool deck if the damage is minimal.
Reconnect the Underground Lines
While the ground is shifting during pool popping, it is not uncommon to hit or damage underground lines, drainage pipes, electrical cables, and other types of plumbing. Reconnecting the underground lines is crucial to the function of a swimming pool, so it is best to properly connect the lines underground to restore your swimming pool.
Lift the Pool
Once the underground connection is complete, it is time to drain and lift it out of the ground. This process will allow you or the contractor to assess the ground area and decide if it is safe to accommodate a new pool. If large cracks are present, it is most likely time to install a new one.
Reinstall the Pool
The final step once you find your installation location is determined is time to install the pool back into its original place and dig additional dirt as needed. During this phase, one should reconnect the utility lines and a newly repaired pool deck. This costly project is why homeowners opt to fill their pools as an alternative.
How to Prevent a Popped Pool
Don’t Leave Your Pool Unfilled
It is advised not to leave your pool unfilled for extended periods to prevent pool popping. Elements like extreme weather, leaves, and debris can cause structural damage. It can also cause other issues related to hydrostatic pressure and plaster damage.
Therefore, if you plan to keep empty your pool empty during the winter season or for maintenance, it is best to leave it unfilled temporarily to avoid long-term damage. However, understanding your pool construction can help gauge how long you can leave it empty.
Don’t Drain Your Pool After a Storm
Maintaining a swimming pool after a storm or heavy rain can be challenging. Despite what you may think, pool experts suggest that you not drain your pool, even partially, after a severe storm. The soil around your pool could become saturated since the flood water makes the ground conditions around the pool extremely wet, causing pressure.
If you need to drain the pool, proceed with caution. Wait until the ground conditions are dry to the depth of the pool to prevent hydrostatic pressure.
Avoid Draining Water Near the Pool
Caution! Preventing unwanted water around the swimming pool is a serious component of maintaining your pool area. You could experience hydrostatic pressure when the groundwater around the pool pushes against your pool floors and walls, similar to how rainwater would. Water is heavy, and hydrostatic pressure can be forceful.
If you don’t want your pool to pop, ensure there is no drainage near the pool and the surrounding areas.
Drainage serves two purposes:
- To keep rain, snow, debris, roof gutters, sprinkler, irrigation systems, and other outside elements out of the pool.
- To prevent pool water from splashing on the surrounding areas, damage to the material (ex: concrete), and damage to the landscaping and plants.
Use Hydrostatic Pressure Relief Valves
Most pools use hydrostatic pressure relief valves drilled at the bottom of the pool. The purpose of this valve is to act as a relief and allow the pressure to release, preventing pool lifting. Experts recommend keeping the valves open while draining to establish a balance between the existing water in the pool and the groundwater.
If unsure how to use hydrostatic pressure relief valves, do not attempt to drain your pool, and consult with a professional first.
Was all this information draining?! As with all routine maintenance, problems with your pool are likely to happen. It is important to note that a swimming pool that pops out of the ground is a rare situation. However, it is beneficial to understand the causes, prevention, and how to fix it if you are a pool owner.
Unfortunately, this is an expensive project that many pool owners never attempt to repair. For this reason, many home buyers prefer not to have a pool due to maintenance. Fixing pool popping is a big project that you shouldn’t take lightly. Doing it right requires some effort and resources.
Moreso, one should have a quality drainage system in place. Once you recognize the problem, we advise consulting an experienced, licensed, and insured pool contractor.
While it is an investment, you will enjoy your swimming pool for the ultimate summer fun for years to come.