Have you noticed sand leaking into your swimming pool lately? It’s a good bet that you have a broken lateral to repair before your pool becomes a beach. Fortunately, it’s not a difficult fix, and I can walk you through how to replace a lateral in a pool sand filter.
What is a Lateral, and What Does It Do?
If you have sand leaking into your pool, you can probably guess what a lateral does. Depending on the design, your pool filter has between eight and ten laterals, and a crack in just one could lead to problems.
The laterals are tubes that look like fingers arranged in a wheel-spoke pattern at the bottom of a central pipe. Each lateral has small holes, like a sieve, that allow water to pass through them while keeping the sand particles out.
What Does a Broken Lateral Look Like?
A broken lateral may have an obvious break or crack somewhere along the tube. In some cases, the damage could be a small slit that’s not as obvious, so it’s a good idea to inspect each lateral.
It’s important to note that seeing some sand after backwashing your filter does not mean you have a broken lateral. However, if you notice large sand deposits around the returns, you probably have at least one damaged lateral.
Step-By-Step Process for Replacing a Lateral
As promised, we can walk you through how to replace a lateral. It’s not a complicated process, but it’s important that you follow each step to avoid causing damage to your filter system.
Before starting, make sure you have everything you need so that you don’t have to stop mid-job to make a supply run! Here are the basics:
- Replacement laterals. It’s a good idea to have more than one in case there are multiple damaged pieces.
- O-ring for the connection between the valve and tank
- Teflon tape
- Replacement sand or sand alternative
- Unions (if your pump doesn’t have them currently)
- Garden hose
- Flathead screwdriver
Turn off and unplug the pool pump.
Locate the drain cap at the bottom of the tank. Remove the drain cap to release excess water and sand.
To access the laterals, you need to remove the top valve, commonly known as the multiport valve. Before you can do that, you need to disconnect the hoses and pipes from the multiport valve. Start with the “waste” line hose, then disconnect the “pump” and “return” pipes.
Note: If your pump and return pipes don’t have unions connecting them to the unit, you need to cut the pipes. It’s a good idea to cut the pipes at different spots so that you have room to insert the unions later without overlap.
Remove the flange clamp that connects the filter and tank. To do this, unscrew both bolts to separate the clamp from the multiport valve. Be sure to set the protector caps aside so that you don’t misplace them.
Slowly, gently twist the multiport valve to lift it off the pipe. Slow and steady is the key to prevent breaking off the lateral pipes inside.
Cover the pipe with Teflon tape to keep sand out. Skipping this step could lead to clogged laterals later.
Sticking with gentle hands, pull the entire assembly out of the tank. Before you can remove it completely, you need to lift the laterals up so that they don’t get stuck in the tank.
Once you have the entire assembly outside the tank, you can inspect the components for damage. You may need to soak the assembly to dislodge clogs before you can identify the cracks.
To replace broken laterals, you need to identify which connection type you have. Some sand filters use clamps and screws to attach the laterals while others simply screw into a base around the central pipe.
- For clamped laterals, remove all screws holding the plates in place. You may need to pry them apart, but be as gentle as possible and slowly work around the plate with a flathead screwdriver until it dislodges. Remove and replace the broken laterals, then reattach the plates and screws.
- To remove screwed laterals, turn them counter-clockwise. Insert the new parts by turning them clockwise.
Check your work by making sure that all laterals work properly and move freely.
Grab your garden hose and thoroughly wash out the tank.
Look over the tank and drain cap for signs of damage. Replace the drain cap.
Before replacing your lateral assembly, it’s important to refill the tank halfway with water to serve as a cushion.
Arrange the laterals to face up as you did in step 7 so that they can fit through the hole. Gently insert the lateral assembly into the tank.
Rotate the laterals back to the “down” position.
Make sure the Teflon tape remains intact over the center pipe and that it’s centered in the tank’s opening.
It’s time to replace the sand. If your sand or sand alternative came with a cardboard shield, you may want to use it.
Carefully pour the sand into the tank until it’s about six inches from the top of the filter. Keep the sand as level as possible, and don’t lift the assembly from the tank’s bottom.
Step 18 (Optional)
Remove the multiport valve’s existing O-ring and inspect it for signs of damage. If you notice some wear, it’s a good idea to replace it now.
Apply silicone lubricant to the O-ring. Keep it light, but make sure you can easily side it onto the valve.
Remove the Teflon tape from the center pipe and replace the multiport valve. Make sure the O-ring sits in the proper position.
Reinstall the clamp around the tank and valve. Tighten the screws and replace the protector caps.
Reconnect the “pump” and “return” pipes.
Note: If you didn’t have unions initially, now is the time to apply them. You can also glue the pipes back together with couplers, but if you ever have to replace laterals again, it makes your job more complicated.
Turn your tank so that the waste line faces the place you want to dump the pool wastewater. Make sure the pump remains off and turn the multiport valve to “backwash.”
Ensure that one suction and all discharge lines remain open, then turn the pool pump on.
Run your pump for at least two minutes after you notice a steady water flow from the waste line. This step flushes out the impurities.
Turn the pump off and shift the valve to “rinse.”
Turn the pump back on and let it run until the sight glass water runs clear. This step should take around one minute.
Turn off the pump and shift the valve to “filter.” This setting is the normal operating mode. You can turn your pump back on.
Tip: Make a note of your pressure gauge reading because it marks the clean sand filter pressure for your system. If it increases by 10 psi, you need to backwash the filter again.
You did it! Now you know how to replace a lateral in a pool sand filter, and you didn’t even have to call for help.
Questions? Let me know. And for more maintenance tips, head over to my guide on troubleshooting common pool sand filter problems.