Your sprinkler system does a great job of keeping your lawn and surrounding plants fresh throughout the year. But any exterior system is subject to the stresses of outdoor life including temperature fluctuations, water pressure, tree roots, and burrowing animals. Plus, any in-ground automatic sprinkler systems' sensitive electronics can fail over time. Valves and hoses, often made of lightweight ABS, poly, or PVC, can crack, crush, or break.
But this is balanced out by how easy and relatively inexpensive it is to repair your sprinkler system. Individual replacement hoses, tees, elbows, and valves can cost just a few dollars. Tubing, buried seven or eight inches down, is easy to retrieve. Sections or parts can be repaired or replaced individually, with no need to pull out the entire system. Follow these tips for repairing your sprinkler to keep it in good working order.
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If your sprinkler heads aren't popping up or turning on, or if they have inadequate water pressure, the problem may lie farther up the line with the valves.
The valves act like traffic controllers, opening and closing as needed to send water to pre-determined areas of the lawn. When a valve is faulty, everything down the line is affected.
Replacing valves can be a rather involved process that requires cutting of the PVC pipes leading up to the valves. Some sprinkler kits don't have a separate valve set. Instead, the water runs directly through a single automatic timer box, then out through the lines to the sprinkler heads.
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If you've already ruled out that the sprinkler valve isn't turning on due to water supply issues, then the fault might be a solenoid. A solenoid is like a little door within the valve that opens and closes in milliseconds.
While solenoid replacement might sound like a complicated repair, it's anything but. You'll find inexpensive replacement solenoids in most home centers, hardware stores, and, of course, through online retailers. The repair takes about five minutes.
- After shutting off the water and disconnecting power, remove the faulty solenoid's two wires.
- Turn the faulty solenoid counterclockwise to remove it.
- Replace with the new solenoid by turning clockwise.
- Connect the same two wires as before.
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Winterize Your Sprinkler System
Since your sprinkler system isn't needed during your region's cooler, wetter months, it's best to shut it down for the duration. To properly winterize your sprinkler system:
- Do not leave the timer pressurized. Remove the timer from the hose bibb, then drain and store it in a clean, warm, and dry location.
- Drain water from the entire system to prevent damage from freezing.
- Blow out remaining water through the system's blow-out port. (This task requires a compressor to complete.)
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Find a Break in a Sprinkler Line
One of the more vexing sprinkler repair problems is how to find breaks in the in-ground line. Short of pulling up all of the buried line, you'll need to pinpoint the exact break point so that you can fix that spot.
Finding the leak means being highly observant and looking for circumstantial clues:
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- Pooled water that isn't next to a sprinkler head may indicate water coming up from below.
- Sometimes, the grass is merely damp, not soaked. Run the sprinklers for about an hour at night. Wait until later in the day, when any water has evaporated. Feel the grass with your palm near the suspected air for any signs of dampness.
- Take a visual reading. Look for areas of higher grass or grass that is greener than surrounding areas. This may mean that these areas are getting more nourishment from water below.
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When a leak in the sprinkler line is located in-ground, you'll first need to dig to unearth it. With a spade or flat-bladed shovel, carefully dig in the area of the suspected leak. Some lines are fairly shallow, but they may be as deep as twelve inches. In some cases, they might be only two or three inches down.
To repair the line, you'll need to cut away the damaged section. Many of the popular sprinkler kits use a flexible polyline. Take this to the home center to purchase the correct repair materials. You should be able to find a replacement line, along with brass or plastic adapters to connect the replacement to the existing line. (You'll need the proper tools and clamps to complete this task. Be sure to pick them up at your local supplier before beginning.)
Be safe! Before digging, always call 811. This free utilities locating service will mark utility lines.
7 Tips for Avoiding Water Damage and Water Loss this Winter. City of Arlington, Texas.