Hot Tub Leaking from the Bottom
A leaking spa or hot tub is cause for alarm. But don't freak out! It's almost never the spa shell, and in most cases, spa leaks can be found and fixed easily.
Take a deep breath! After your blood pressure drops, we can get up under there and find out what is leaking and where.
Here's a list of the most common causes of hot tub leaks and how to fix a leaking spa.
Spa Pump Leaking
We covered this problem in detail in an earlier post: "Help! My Spa Pump is Leaking!" To summarize the article, when a spa pump is leaking, it's either the shaft seal, unions or the wet end volute. Look closely with a flashlight to determine the exact source of the leak on a spa pump. This should help you determine the replacement parts needed to fix the leak.
Spa Light Leaking
The lens for the spa light can become loose or cracked, especially with high heat halogen spa lights. The light housing or niche is usually located on the same side as the spa pack so the bulb can be serviced easily. Shine your flashlight onto the area around the housing to determine if water is leaking from the spa light. The fix for a leaking spa light is usually a new spa light kit, or the locknut could just be loose.
Spa Filter Leaking
We also covered this topic in a detailed post called "Hot Tub Filter Leak Repair." To summarize that article, the usual spa filter leak fix requires a new gasket or o-ring, or possibly a new filter housing if the body is cracked. It's also possible that the locking filter ring could be loose and just needs to be tightened up! Like I said, most spa leaks are small and easily fixed. But if you've got worse problems than what we've already covered, read on.
Spa Plumbing Leaks
It happens, but leaks in the PVC pipe are actually pretty rare. Much more common are leaks on the backside of spa jets, caused by loose locknuts or deteriorated spa jet gaskets on the inside of the spa.
Spa leaks occur in other gasketed equipment - anything with o-rings and gaskets. This includes things like skimmers, lights, pumps, unions, chlorinators and ozonators.
Freeze damage can shatter PVC pipe, but most spa plumbing leaks actually occur at the glue joints, or where the pipe is glued into a coupling, spa jet, union or tee fitting. If the original PVC glue was thin in one area, over time water can seep out between the pipe and fitting walls.
Locating a Spa Plumbing Leak: If you don't see the spa leaking anywhere inside of the equipment bay, then you have a real spa plumbing leak. It could be on one of the fittings, jets or somewhere on the pipe. But where? It takes some sleuthing to decide where to remove the cabinet panel.
Shut the pump off, and allow the spa to drain to its lowest level - pay attention to where it stabilizes and stops leaking. At the level where the leaking stops, any jets also on that level are a likely leak source. Sweep or use a leaf blower to dry off any standing water around the tub. Then add water to the spa for a few minutes and watch closely where the water begins to run out. A doctor's stethoscope or a simple paper cup can be used to listen for leaking water.
Spa plumbing leaks will often leak more when the pipes are pressurized, or when the pump is running. Some hot tubs may stop leaking altogether when the pump is off. In this case, you'll need to refill the spa, and run the pump while looking for the leak source.
Small leaks in hot tub fittings and spa jets can be fixed by adding the emulsion Leak Seal by Leisure Time. Leak Seal seeks out leaks, and clots together to form a permanent repair. It works great on small voids, seepers and weepers, but does have its limitations. It won't fix large cracks or stop large spa leaks, but for small leaks, give it a try.
Removing Cabinet Panels: Once you have determined where the spa plumbing is leaking, carefully remove the cabinet panels. These are often glued or stapled onto the frame or studs around the spa shell. In some cases, you'll find screws under the trim on top and bottom of the panels. If glued or stapled, find the seam or space where two panels join, and use a large flathead to pry one of them up. You won't need your power saw, but you may need to remove the header or footer strip to make it easier to pull out the cabinet panel.
Digging Thru Spa Foam: Once the panel comes off, you may have full visibility of the plumbing, or you may have a wall of insulating foam. Just dig it right out, using a screwdriver or large kitchen spoon, and search for the wettest area of the foam. Keep digging towards the moisture until you expose the pipes, fittings or spa jet that is leaking. A wire brush on a drill can be used to clean up the little bits stuck onto the PVC, or you can use pipe cleaner to dissolve the foam bits.
Spa Plumbing Leak Repair: Once you find the leak, you'll want to fix it. Leaking spa jets may need a new gasket (or just tightening). Leaking pipes and PVC fittings (90s, 45s, couplings) should be replaced if possible; just cut it out and replace the fitting with a new one. There are some PVC repair products such as Mr. Sticky's that can be tried, but they are not always successful. Snap-on PVC repair cuffs or compression couplings can also be used in tight spots. As a drastic last resort, the line (or jet) can be abandoned by cutting out the leaking area and capping the pipe on both ends.
After the spa leak repair is complete and your spa is leaking no more, you can pick up a few cans of spray foam and replace most of what was taken out. This helps the spa retain heat and block cold winter temperatures. Replace the wall cabinet panel in the same fashion as before, using screws, a staple gun or a wood adhesive like Liquid Nails.