Why Is My Skimmer Not Skimming? This Is What to Check


Having debris and bugs floating around on the surface of your pool is not nice for swimmers. If you constantly have this then it is likely that you will find the skimmer not skimming properly so you need to investigate.

There are a number of things that could result in your pool skimmer not working, or at least to not work properly. Most things are easily fixed fortunately.

If your pool skimmer is not skimming it will generally be for one of three reasons:

  • the level of water in your pool is too low (or too high)
  • you are not getting sufficient suction in your skimmers to pull in the debris from the surface of the pool
  • you have a problem with the weir door/flap in your skimmers so that debris is not being trapped in the skimmer

I will go through the various options to try and solve the problem of a skimmer not skimming to help you identify the problem.

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Correct pool water level

The first thing to look at, if you find your skimmer is not skimming, is the water level. Is it correct? The level should be roughly half way or a little more up the skimmer inlet hole.

correct water level for skimmer to skim correctly - skimmer not skimming
Correct water level

Level too low

If it is much lower than this, or perhaps doesn’t even reach the skimmer inlet then that is the problem. To rectify it you need to raise the pool’s water level by topping up with a hose pipe.

If you have an automatic top up system lift the lid and check that the float has not become caught in an upward position, which would mean the valve was not opening to let water in. If it is free then check that when you push the float down that water starts to come in.

Level too high

If the water level in your pool is too high, so it comes right up to the top of the skimmer hole, or even above it, then the skimmer cannot function correctly.

The most common reasons this may occur are if you have had some heavy rain that has raised the level of the pool or, if you have an automatic pool top up, there may be a problem with the float getting stuck so the valve continues to open letting water into the pool or it could just be badly adjusted.

To rectify it you need to pump out the excess water using the waste setting on the multiport valve until the water level is correct (after fixing the problem with the pool top up if that is what caused it). See my article What do the settings on a multiport valve mean if you are unsure.

Insufficient suction

If the water level in the pool is correct then you need to determine whether you are getting suction in your skimmer or skimmers.

With the pool pump running on filter can you see water being drawn into the skimmers? If you can’t see water coming in then try putting a hand over one of the inlet ports at the bottom of the skimmer. Do you feel any suction?

If you have plenty of suction but debris floating on the surface is not being drawn in, or doesn’t stay in, then it is probably a problem with the skimmer weir. See next section.

If you seem to have no or little suction then check the following

Skimmer valve

This is an obvious one but it can be easily overlooked. Check that the valve in the pipe that draws water from the skimmer to the pool pump is open and not closed, or just partially open.

Skimmer basket

Check that the skimmer basket is not full and blocked by debris (leaves, bugs, pollen etc). If it is then empty it and replace it and see if you have suction now.

Pump strainer

Check that the pump strainer basket is not full of debris and stopping the proper flow of water to the pump.

Backwash

You may have little suction if the sand filter needs backwashing. Read my article How to backwash a pool if you are unfamiliar with this.

Cartridge Filter

If you have a cartridge filter, rather than a sand filter, then it may be clogged and need cleaning.

Blockage

If the above are ok then you may have a blockage in the pipes going from your skimmer to the pump. With the pump off you can try using a hose to push water back from the pump to try and unblock it (if that is the problem). If you have a blockage you will probably see debris coming up from the skimmer inlet.

Air lock

You may have an air lock in the system. Read my article How to bleed air from a pool pump of filter.

Problem with the skimmer weir door

If plenty of water is being drawn into the skimmer, and you can see debris being pulled in through the hole, but it doesn’t stay there (particularly once the pool pump is off) then you probably have a problem with the skimmer weir door.

The weir door contains a float medium which keeps the top of the door roughly level with the pools surface. The suction draws water (and any debris) over the top of the door and traps it inside the skimmer.

Check that the float medium is still there as normally it is just a push fit so they can become dislodged.

skimmer weir door

You could have a twig or some other debris stuck in the door somewhere that is preventing it from floating at the correct level or, as happens in my pool from time to time, one of the small plastic “hinges” may have come out of one of the holes so it is no longer swiveling.

Buy a floating skimmer

If you have lots of debris in your pool, particularly if you have trees near your pool like I do so you are constantly removing leaves, and which your skimmers struggle to deal with then you may wish to look at adding a floating skimmer to help out.

These devices are solar powered and move around on the surface of the pool under their own power collecting debris as they go. You just need to take it out and empty it now and again (as you do a skimmer basket).

It saves you having to use the skimmer net so often and because it moves around it can collect debris before it gets waterlogged and sinks to the bottom, particularly when the pool pump is off so the skimmers are not skimming.

There are two popular models available:

Solar Breeze

The Solar Breeze removes 90-95% of surface debris as well as reducing the amount of dust, leaves, pollen and bacteria. It also has a chemical dispensing tray which can take two three inch tablets/pucks so it distributes chemicals as it goes.

The Solar Breeze is available on Amazon

Solar Breeze Video

SolarSkimmer 2.0

The SolarSkimmer is powered by the sun and navigates across the pool collecting debris as it goes (under its own power) before the debris sinks to the bottom of the pool.

Solarskimmer in use

Saves having to keep getting floating debris out with a skimmer net. It also means you have to empty your skimmer baskets less frequently.

A friend of mine has one and says “It’s been great. Runs all day no charge needed all solar. Turns off at dusk.” His pool is certainly free of leaves as you can see.

The SolarSkimmer is available on Amazon

SolarSkimmer Video

My top three pool cleaning tools to make life easier

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner – the best time saving product on the market. I have never heard anyone say they regret buying one.

Hayward Poolvac Leaf Canister – very useful when leaves are a problem in your pool

Aquatix Pto Pool Step & Corner Vacuum Head – I use this every time I vacuum my pool. It gets where other vacuum heads can’t.

JP in Fuerteventura

I have had hot tubs for many years and a pool for the last 7 years. I had to learn how to clean it, maintain it and fix it the hard way. Since then I have helped many friends and neighbors with their pools and now I want to share everything I have learned with you.

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