How to Detect Sprinkler Leaks


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How to Detect Sprinkler Leaks

Our latest post comes to us from SFGate’s Home Guides ,

A leaking irrigation system can lead to many lawn problems. Water may pool in lower areas and form mold and mildew that kills your lawn. The nozzles on sprinkler heads may spray in an uneven pattern due to debris inside and not provide complete coverage. This can leave dry spots in your lawn that turn brown in the heat of summer. Observe your system while it is operating and shortly thereafter, to point you in the direction of any sprinkler leaks so you can make repairs.

External Leaks

  1. Remove the last sprinkler head in the irrigation system. Turn the sprinkler head counterclockwise to unscrew it and lift it off the riser. Some models of sprinkler heads require you to insert a flat screwdriver, hex key or a special sprinkler head key first to unlock the head before removing it.
  2. Insert a paperclip under the screen that lies under the head. Pull the screen out and rinse it off under a strong stream of water. Rinse the nozzle on the sprinkler head with water to clean it out.
  3. Turn the sprinkler system on at the controller. Observe the sprinkler system at each sprinkler head; the last head will pour water out in a fountain and this is normal. Removing the head and turning on the water flushes debris from the last head in the line, where it accumulates. Turn the sprinkler system off.
  4. Replace the screen and last sprinkler head in the line.
  5. Turn the controller back on and observe all of the sprinkler heads. Each one should pop up on its riser and emit water at the same rate. Cut any nearby grass with pruning shears away from each head that does not pop up.
  6. Clean the screen under each head that has an odd spray pattern. Clogged nozzles are usually due to debris accumulation in the nozzle.
  7. Replace any nozzles that are cracked. Cracks in a nozzle will let water drip out underneath it instead of spraying a distance. Replace missing nozzles that may have fallen off with lawn maintenance.
  8. Straighten any sprinkler heads that are tilted and spray directly into the grass near them, causing a puddle in the area where the water sprays and leaving dry spots where the water should be directed.
  9. Turn on the controller and allow the system to complete one irrigation cycle.

Underground Leaks

  1. Observe your lawn soon after a cycle of watering is complete. Look for areas that have pooling water or are much greener above the water lines; this indicates an underground leak in the water line.
  2. Use a shovel to dig small amounts of grass and soil in the area of a water puddle or extra-green grass above a water line. Remove soil in small amounts so as not to cut into the lines and make a leak larger. Remove soil from under the water line that is cracked to about 2 inches deep using your hands.
  3. Cut the cracked water line out with a hand saw approximately 3 inches longer on each side of the crack.
  4. Cut and install a piece of PVC pipe with a coupler on each end into the water line. Allow the glue to dry for at least one hour and replace the soil.
Things You Will Need
  • Flat screwdriver

  • Hex key

  • Sprinkler head key

  • Paper clip

  • Pruning shears

  • Shovel

  • Hand saw

  • Damp towel

  • PVC slip couplers (2-inches long)

  • PVC pipe

  • PVC cleaner

  • PVC glue

  • The best practice is to check all external components and observe the sprinkler system at the start of each year before using an irrigation system to eliminate leaks and ensure even water coverage of your lawn.

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