How do I Find A Broken Sprinkler Pipe Underground?
The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of sprinklers: mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical sprinklers are designed to spray water at high pressure and with little or no human intervention. They have been around since the beginning of time. These systems work well in dry climates where rainfall is plentiful, but they don’t perform so well when it comes to wetter areas like deserts, swamps, etc.
Mechanical sprinklers require maintenance and replacement. You may think that if you have a broken sprinkler pipe, then your sprinkler system will not function properly. However, the fact is that most systems will still work fine without any repairs whatsoever. If you live in an area where rain falls regularly, then you probably won’t even notice the problem.
However, if you live in an area where the weather changes abruptly from sunny to rainy, then your sprinkler system will likely fail. Water leaks into the piping and causes a fire which could cause extensive damage to your home.
If you live in an area where rain doesn’t fall all year round, then you might want to consider replacing your sprinkler system because it’s expensive to replace it every few years!
However, if you live in an area where it rains less often, then you might want to replace your sprinkler system. The reason being is that a broken sprinkler pipe could cause problems with your irrigation system. When the pipes break down, they allow water to run off into your garden and lawn. In some cases, this can lead to flooding.
If you decide to repair your sprinkler system, then you must locate the source of the leak(s). This may require digging up the yard and turning off the water valve to the house. You should check to see if the leak is coming from underground or if it is above ground. Underground leaks are harder to detect because you can’t just look at the pipe to see if it is damaged.
You can use a device called a “tester”
If you decide to fix your broken sprinkler pipe, then be sure to turn off the water first. This is a good idea even if you’re getting new sprinklers because as soon as you cut into the pipe, water is going to come flooding out. You don’t want all of your hard work (or expensive flooring) ruined by a flood.
You need to find the valve which controls the sprinkler in question. which is used to check the pipes for leaks. This can be purchased at most home improvement stores. They work on a battery and beep when they detect water pressure.
You should start by looking at the control box to see if any of the sprinkler heads are damaged. You can then replace the sprinkler heads or turn off the water valves for a short period of time to see if this stops the beeping. Turn it off completely.
Next, you need to start digging. You need to dig in a 6-foot diameter around the sprinkler which is broken. You are going to need a shovel and possibly a pick axe. Check your local hardware store, they should have tools like this for sale.
You want to keep digging until you find the pipe or until you hit rock.
If the sprinkler head is OK, then you can check for underground leaks by putting the device through the pipe opening at the sprinkler head. If you hear a beeping sound then, you’ve found the problem.
Plug up the hole with some sort of sealant (dental rubber works best). Or if it’s underground, you can dig up the pipe and patch it with cement. Once you find the pipe, check it for cracks or other damage. The sprinkler system is buried underground, so you won’t be able to see where the break is without digging.
It’s a good idea to dig straight down and then along the wall that you created.
The reason for this is that your digging tool might hit another pipe which is running perpendicular to the one which you are trying to locate. This means that you will have to start digging at a different angle. Once you find the broken pipe, replace it or patch it up.
Using A Back-Saver
In some cases, the broken sprinkler pipe is located right near the control panel. The head may be missing or the pipes may just need to be tightened. In this case, you can use a back-saver to repair the sprinkler head. A back-saver is a tool which screws onto the pipe and tightens it from the back.
You can sometimes find them at your local hardware store.
If you don’t have a back saver, you can use a wrench; just be careful you don’t over-tighten it.
Spacers For High Lawns
If you have a high lawn or one that has a slope to it, you are going to need some sort of spacer (small pieces of wood or plastic) to keep the head of the sprinkler above ground level. If you don’t do this, water will pool around the sprinkler head and run off the edges of your lawn.
You can make your own spacers out of pieces of wood about an inch thick by an inch wide and 2 to 4 inches long.
Arrange the sprinkler heads so that they are all evenly spaced and at the correct height above ground level. Place a spacer under each sprinkler head.
If you do not have enough spacers, you can stack them on top of one another.
It’s always a good idea to do a quick test run before you let the water run for 24 hours straight. This will let you catch any problems before it turns into a major disaster.
Check the sprinkler heads and make sure that they are all rotating properly. Also make sure that there isn’t too much or too little overlap between each head.
Also check the pipe joints to make sure that no water is leaking out. This means that you may have to dig up the pipe again and reseal the joints.
Now that everything looks good, turn on the main water valve at the meter. Let the sprinkler run for a few minutes to be sure there are no problems.
Move down the line and turn on each valve separately. This will allow you to spot any problems in particular areas.
Once you are sure that everything is OK, turn on the rest of the valves. Now you can sit back and enjoy your beautiful green grass.
Since you will most likely need to hire someone to put down new sod, you might as well get a couple of friends or family members to help you. Otherwise, start making calls to local landscapers and see if they can give you a hand.
When you need to refill the system, make sure that you use only clean water. This is very important since putting contaminated water into your sprinkler system can damage or destroy the heads.
If you start to notice that the lawn is growing too fast, you can slow it down by using less water. Check your sprinkler system every couple of weeks and make sure everything is working properly.
You should also hire someone to come out and do a preventative maintenance inspection once a year. This should cost between $80 and $120.
If you start to notice that your lawn is becoming patchy, then you need to call someone out right away. This could mean that there is a clog or that the pipe has burst. Either way, it needs to be repaired before the entire system is destroyed.
Spend 10 minutes on the phone and have the sprinkler guy come over first thing in the morning.
When you wake up you realize that it’s still quite dark outside so you’ve slept a lot longer than you meant to. You look over at your alarm clock and see that it’s not even 5am. This wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t have an 8am meeting with your boss.
You give yourself a quick shake to wake yourself up and get dressed as quickly as you can. You’re still feeling a little groggy, but you know you have to get going.
After splashing some water on your face, you head out the door…only to find that you can’t. The hallway is completely dark and the power is out.
You groan and wobble over to the staircase to start walking down to the first floor.
You live on the second floor of an old apartment building, so it takes you a couple minutes to slowly walk downstairs. As you do, you begin to wonder if your boss is even coming in today.
At the bottom of the stairs, you can see that there is some light coming in through the windows at the front of the building. It’s still dark outside and you can’t see anything out of the ordinary outside.
You start to think that maybe the power is out everywhere and your work is closed today, but you quickly dismiss the idea. It’s still dark outside, so even if the power is out, it can’t be for the entire area. You’ll know more when you reach the front of the building.
After getting to the bottom of the stairs, you begin to feel a little queasy. You’ve been pushing yourself too hard lately and you’re paying for it. You take a couple minutes to rest before heading to the front of the building.
The first thing you notice when you reach the ground floor is the stench. It smells absolutely putrid and you gag slightly as you try to trace the smell to its source.
It’s coming from outside, but it’s faint. You can only smell it because you’re right next to the front door. There’s no light coming through the windows from outside and you’re confused for a moment as you try to remember if the sun came up yet.
It is quite dark out, but it’s still early. You’ve never known the sun to not come up by this point.
Looking out the glass door, you see that everything outside looks normal. There are no visible cars on the road next to the apartment building and the street lights are all out. Your eyes are drawn to movement a couple blocks away where you can see a group of people walking down the sidewalk.
You’ve lived in this city for years and never seen anyone out this late. You can only imagine they are looking for shelter since their homes are without power as well.
Seeing people outside jolts you back to reality and you quickly think of a plan. Your car is in the parking lot, but the keys are in your apartment…which you left open.
You could walk to a nearby convenience store, but you’d have to pass the group of people to get there and back.
If you just sit tight and wait for them to leave, you can try to sneak out when they’re not looking…but how long is that going to take?
You could also try to sneak out right now before they notice you’re here.
Pick a choice that sounds the best to you.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Hand tool for removing sprinkler heads from underground watering systems (MA Mitschele – US Patent 4,788,894, 1988 – Google Patents)
- Riser repair assembly for underground irrigation systems (VD Allred, DB Harmon – US Patent 4,576,400, 1986 – Google Patents)
- Underground irrigation porous pipe (JE Turner – US Patent 4,003,408, 1977 – Google Patents)
- Working space enclosure for underground sprinkler heads (WK Gunderson, LD Ungerecht – US Patent 7,617,994, 2009 – Google Patents)
- Adjustable sprinkler pipe assemblies (FA Hutty, WJ Trickey – US Patent 3,084,869, 1963 – Google Patents)
- Land of the Underground Rain: Irrigation on the Texas High Plains, 1910-1970 (DE Green – 1981 – books.google.com)
- Siphon freeze drain valve for underground irrigation systems (TA King – US Patent 5,964,241, 1999 – Google Patents)
- Siphon freeze drain valve for underground irrigation systems (TA King – US Patent 5,640,991, 1997 – Google Patents)