A Detailed accounting of a pool damaged by Hurricane Laura and subsequently repaired again after Hurricane Ida illustrates why epoxy pool putty isn't a permanent fix When it comes to picking up after a Hurricane, repairing a swimming pool is rarely anyone's priority. When a person's home or business sustains heavy damages getting the pool ready for swimming season again is usually at the bottom of the to-do list. Severe weather can introduce dirt, tree limbs, and storm debris into a swimming pool, while flooding can increase the number of contaminants like mud, silt, and bacteria. Many homes go without electricity for weeks at a time after a storm and without the pool pump running many homeowners return from hurricane evacuation to find their pool full of foul-smelling green water. Faced with all of these challenges, it's easy to see why a homeowner might think it would simply be easier to drain their pool to remove the storm debris and refill it with fresh clean water. However, this is often a mistake because fiberglass pools rely on the force of the water *inside* of the pool to counteract the force of the water *outside* of the pool in order to maintain the pool's structure. When you remove the water from a swimming pool it becomes an empty vessel that can "float" on top of the groundwater that lies beneath the pool much like a boat floating in the ocean due to hydrostatic pressure. This is a common problem in swampy, low-lying areas like Coastal Louisiana. Here on the Gulf Coast we often hear horror stories of pools that "pop" - or rise out of the ground, but that phenomena usually only happens to gunite (aka concrete) pools. Fiberglass pools can rarely withstand that kind of force, and the bottom of a fiberglass pool shell will usually crack and split open before the pool "pops". Consequently, much like the way that more people are injured during storm cleanup than during the storm - while we do repair many pools that are damaged by storm debris and treefall - we are most-often contacted by homeowners who simply drain their pool incorrectly when attempting DIY pool repair and storm cleanup. This scenario is what happened to a recent customer's pool not once - but TWICE. The Hurricane Laura Fiberglass Pool Crack This unfortunate client lives in Baton Rouge, LA, and the pool is situated in a backyard just beyond a lake in a quiet residential neighborhood. The home was in the path of Hurricane Laura in 2020 and was subsequently damaged by the homeowner when he tried to drain and clean it himself.
Remember: You should *always* leave pool draining to a pro. You can easily damage your pool in minutes by draining it incorrectly.
In this instance, the homeowner didn't drain his pool much farther below the skimmer before the bottom of the pool shell cracked and split open. After the crack appeared the homeowner contacted a local pool repair company in Baton Rouge who came out and applied some sort of epoxy pool putty in order to "repair" this pool. We aren't sure of the brand name of the product - but it hardly matters - because the one thing we are sure of is that none of these products are long-term solutions.
These sorts of products are not permanent repairs. Pool puttys are designed to temporarily fix pool leaks as a stopgap measure until the pool can be permanently repaired. Think of them as sort of like "Fix a Flat" for your pool. Tire sealants aren't supposed to permanently repair the tire - they just allow you to safely limp down the road to a tire shop. That is how these sorts of underwater epoxy pool putty products SHOULD be marketed, but we often see pool companies erroneously market them as "solutions" when they aren't. They are temporary fixes at best.
Lets take a look at what happened to this pool after Hurricane Ida to see why.
The Hurricane Ida Pool Crack
Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in August 2021, and is currently only second to Hurricane Katrina in the cost of storm damage. Ida left $75.25 billion in storm damage in her wake, along with the loss of 115 lives.
This unlucky homeowner in Baton Rouge was once again affected by Hurricane Ida, only this time he thought he'd learned his lesson when it comes to disaster cleanup and called a large franchise pool company who assured the homeowner that their technicians could safely drain and clean his pool. The homeowner notified them about his past pool leak fix, and the pool company assured him that they were professionals and would be able to drain the pool with no problem. The homeowner had little reason to doubt them. The franchise pool company didn't didn't drain the pool much below the skimmer before the pool shell cracked again.
There are a couple of reasons this job went south, but in our assessment the main reason was that pool putty is not a permanent fix for your pool.
Below is a close-up of the "repair" to this pool performed after Hurricane Laura. You can see that the initial repair company didn't really do much more than smear two-part epoxy pool sealant designed to plug the hole and make the pool water-tight again. In addition to being an unattractive glob that looks somewhat like chewed bubble-gum stuck to the bottom of the pool - it was also inches thick - and undoubtedly stubbed many toes.
This type of epoxy pool sealant is destined to fail eventually. Why? The sealant won't flex with the fiberglass pool shell should the pool need draining in the future, and that is exactly what happened in this instance. When the pool patch failed it caused the crack to grow even larger, but this time the floor of the pool also lifted and raised a few inches as well so the pool sustained even more damage than the initial crack.
This is why we consider these types of pool sealant products as a temporary stopgap measure at best. If you live in the path of a Hurricane you will most likely need to drain your pool at some point for disaster recovery - or the putty itself might fail - and usually at the worst time. We receive a call nearly every spring from at least one homeowner who uncovers their pool to find an empty, cracked, pool shell because they didn't notice a slow leak that developed over the winter. Its not a matter of *if* the pool putty will fail, but *when* it will fail, and whether or not you'll be around to see it when it happens and are able to put a garden hose into your pool before the water drains away and the pool shell cracks again.
Structurally Sound Fiberglass Repair Vs Pool Putty
When this pool shell cracked on the second occasion the upwards pressure of the groundwater beneath the pool also caused the floor to "lift", resulting in a raised hump. The only way to repair the pool floor is to cut slits in the floor that we can open like flaps and then rake the underlying filler material so the pool floor will lie flat again.
From here we install a fiberglass overlay.
And then we resurfaced the entire pool with our durable and attractive ecoFINISH product that is covered by a 10-year limited manufacture's warranty.
Why don't we just use epoxy pool paint? For a few reasons, but the main one is exactly what got us here in the first place - hydrostatic pressure. Epoxy pool paint would need to cure for days, and we just don't have that kind of time. We need to get water back into this repaired pool quickly, and ecoFINISH has no cure time. It dries virtually instantly. Plus, it’s attractive with a more high-end look and feel than epoxy paint or gelcoat.
All done! Who would have thought this pool had ever been though a Hurricane at all?
If you're finding this page for pool crack repair after a hurricane or natural disaster anywhere along the gulf coast, feel free to give us a call at (337) 247-6719. We work in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas and we have products for recoating both fiberglass and gunite pools. Good luck!