How do I find a pond leak in Minneapolis, Minnesota? How do I repair my leaking waterfall in Maple Grove, MN? Leak detection can be a very frustrating process. It’s not quite rocket science, but does require patience, dedication and accuracy. We have spent a lot of time looking for leaks, so we created a leak detection process to make it go easier.
First, how much water should my pond use? As a general rule, water features can use between 1 to 3 inches of water per week and be normal. Size, wind, heat, humidity, how you enjoy, waterfall pattern, plant load, and other things affect water consumption. Continue reading if you’re adding more than 1-3 inches of water per week.
If you plan to have us fix it, please don’t help “too much”. Only do step 2 below. Taking your water feature apart right away is often NOT the right thing to do. We frequently find leaks with very little disassembly.
If you decide to look for the leak yourself, remember to take it step by step. If you skip steps, you may miss the source of the leak and need to start over. Worse, if you skip a step, you’ll think you found the problem and spend resources “fixing” a leak, only to find it wasn’t the source of the leak.
Where is my waterfall leaking? Well, it depends. How big is your pond? How intricate is your waterfall? There is no easy answer to this. After years of practice, we have shown up at a water feature we’ve never seen before and found the leak in 5 minutes. Other times, it took hours and even days of testing to find the cause of the leak. At what point does the cost of finding the leak overcome the cost of rebuilding your backyard pond just the way you want it with a full warranty?
This maybe the most important part! Step back, take a deep breath, enjoy the sight and sound of your water feature. Think about how water is always seeking the lowest level. It will take any path allowed to get to the lowest level. Look over your entire pond system while it’s running. Visually inspect things around your pond. Plants, roots, edges, sharp rocks, etc. A low edge, a settled rock, a new plant installed close to the edge so the liner was pushed down are some examples of things we find. Often we make this look too easy when we show up and find the leak in 10 minutes! :) This skill has taken years to develop, so don’t feel bad if we do this to you. In fact, even our newer employees with a little experience under their belt can feel bad when a more experienced pond builder shows up and finds the leak in 5 minutes.
Once you start a testing period, don’t change anything about the pond. Moving anything in the pond when you’re doing your test changes your results. Moving rocks, plants, or gravel can alter flow rate and skew your test. If you move anything, you have to start over.
Start your leak detection here:
1: We need to know how much the pond is leaking, and if it is.
Put a tape measure, ruler or yardstick in the pond for the entire duration of testing. The measuring tool needs to stay put and not be moved. “The special rock spot you fill to” is great for general filling and knowing when to add water, but it won’t give you consistent exact readings when finding a waterfall leak. The measurement needs to be from a spot we can get very consistent readings from.
Write down the date, time, and measurement the water is at. Let the waterscape run until the water goes down an easily measurable amount. That could be one inch. If it goes down in 24 hours and that calculates out to more than 3 inches per week, continue the test.
2: Check the easiest part, the pond or basin.
Shut your pump off. Allow the water in the streams and waterfalls to drain down into the pond. After about an hour, record what the water level is. Leave the pond for 24 hours. If you have fish, be sure to care for them. This will tell us if you have a leak in the pond or basin.
3: 24 hours later, check the water level in the biofalls, which also tests the plumbing. The water should be almost to the top of the biofalls. If it’s full, skip to step 4.
3B: If the biofalls is low or empty during the 24 hour test, we recommend sealing the pipe where it comes into the skimmer and refilling the biofalls to the top. Let it sit for 24 hours. You should not lose any water in the biofalls when this test is done.
3C: If the water drops again, you have a leak in your plumbing. With specialized tools, we typically can locate the leak, or you can replace the entire biofalls, pipe and fittings. After being repaired, start test 3B over to make sure you cover your bases.
4: Check the measurement on the pond level. If it’s a lower measurement from yesterday’s number, repeat this step until it stops losing water. We’re looking for a leak in the pond liner.
4B: When the pond level stops dropping, the leak is at the water level. You can look yourself, or start moving rocks to find the leak. Give us a call if you can’t find it or don’t want to deal with it.
5: So if the pond level doesn’t go down, and the plumbing tests ok, the leak has to be in the waterfall. Finding a leak in waterfalls can take more time and cost than it would just to replace the liner and rebuild the falls. Do you like the look of your waterfall? Is it how you would like to have it anyway? If not, consider installing a whole new liner and rebuilding the waterfalls. If you choose to look for the leak, test each level and make sure it doesn’t leak as you move up. Run the test for as long as the original test took that had a measurable result.
It is an awesome feeling to find a leak in my pond and fix it but it can be such a pain to find a waterfall leak! We have been known to recommend “full replacement” after seeing pictures of your pond and discussing it. Replacement may not be the right thing, but keep it in your mind as an option.
Jeff Chudek has been building ponds and waterfalls professionally since 2005. As a kid, his favorite time of year was spring, because the spring thaw created so much mud and puddles, and all the trees and plants were waking up. He loves figuring out the best way to use something, and fixing things that are broken. He's good at coming up with ideas, and helping choose the best idea for you.