Popped Pool Repair
There are few emergencies in the pool business, but that doesn't mean things won't get intense.
Many routine repairs require first draining the pool. If you're not aware of the water table and soil conditions in your area, you risk a 'hydrostatic pressure event', or what's known as 'popping the pool'.
"I woke up to loud grinding and scraping sounds like the Titanic hitting an iceberg" was the comment of one homeowner who had drained his pool for cleaning. "I turned on the back porch light and couldn't understand what I was looking at. In the morning I prayed it'd been a nightmare and now, it still is."
The very first thing you must do with a popped pool is to look for dirty water running in the main drain. If so, the main drain pipe has broken and you must stop the flow with a threaded PVC plug before you can do much else. It's critical to get water back into a popped pool but with a broken main drain pipe your fill water will simply flow out into the ground, exacerbating your mud problem.
If the pool shell seems to be holding water, use every hose you can find and recruit the neighbors to use their hose bibbs. You need the weight of water to keep the pool from moving anymore than it has. Your race is with soil around the pool washing into the void underneath the pool. When you've done all you can about fill water, scan the pool surface for cracks.
Once the pool has filled, keep an eye on the water level. Any broken pipes or light conduits will reveal themselves by a dropping water level.
Consider the deck to be a total loss, as is the waterline tile. The good news is that any broken plumbing will be easy to fix because you'll be digging a 3' deep trench around the affected sides of the pool. If you pressure test the piping, don't use more than about 7 psi. The plumbing has been stressed enough, and there's no good in breaking what isn't already broken.
One pool we salvaged by simply setting a level row of tile and then an additional top row along the affected side. By adding steps to the deck, we gave an older pool a more modern look for not much more than a standard pool, deck and tile renovation.
You have many more options with a residential pool than you do with a commercial pool. Commercial pools have to be returned to at least 'as built' condition and often any later modifications to the building code are also applied. As a general rule. you build commercial pools 'up' and residential pools, you build 'down'.
No matter what I've ever said or what you think you may have heard, water, by itself, will not float a cement pool. It takes the hydraulic lift of mud to push a pool out of the ground. Remove the water and you remove a necessary component of mud. There are several ways to safely drain a pool and you must know at least one before you ever drain a pool.
There is always, always, always a palpable sigh of relief when we finish a popped pool repair. Often the homeowners have spent months and even years not venturing into the backyard. One family had covered all the rear-facing windows with aluminum foil so that they would not have to be reminded of the mess. We gave them their 'happy home' back and in the pool business, that's about as good as it gets.
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