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How to repair common sprinkler system problems

How to repair common sprinkler system problems

Your lawn is your pride and your sprinkler system is instrumental in keeping it beautiful and healthy. But the system itself is complex, with many parts. A problem in even one part can affect your lawn. Fortunately, common issues with sprinkler systems make themselves known quickly. Catching them early is key to restoring the optimal maintenance of your landscape.

Here's a look at the common sprinkler system problems and their fixes.

Got these sprinkler issues? Know what's behind them.

An idea of what can go wrong with your sprinkler system is helpful to understand whether you can take on repair yourself or call in a professional.

1. Sprinkler heads not popping up? They may be clogged.

The filters in sprinkler heads catch sand, dirt, grass blades, and debris. Over time, they can get clogged with these contaminants.

If your sprinkler head does not rise or rises but does not spray water, it's likely the result of a build-up within the filter. But it isn't anything you cannot fix on your own.

To clean the filter, turn off your water, lift the pop-up rise, and remove the head and filter. Rinse the filter with clean water. Also clean the head to remove any dirt on it. Put the filter back in and return the head to the riser.

If your sprinkler heads don't have filters or if the filters are damaged, you may want to get new/replacement filters without delay. Running without a filter will push sand and small particles into the inner working of the head. Eventually, the fouled sprinkler heads will fail.

2. Yard flooding? The heads or pipeline may be broken.

Broken sprinkler heads

A sprinkler head mounted too high is at a risk of being driven over by a lawnmower or vehicle. You'll know you have a problem when you sight cracks on the casing or broken pieces of plastic near the sprinkler head. Another obvious sign is when you pop up the head and water sprays everywhere.

A damaged sprinkler head is no good and needs to be replaced. Turn off the water supply and unscrew the head from the riser. If you're unable to remove it by hand, you'll need the help of tools. When unsure, use a professional sprinkler repair to get the job done in a jiffy.

You'll want to get new heads of the same model to match your sprinkler system. If you don't have the specifications on hand, take pictures of the damaged head for reference when you make the purchase.

Cracked pipeline

Sprinkler heads are connected to a series of pipes that run under your lawn. Over time, the pipes can break due to several reasons.

Tree roots can wrap around the pipes and the resulting pressure can cause cracks in them. A shift in the soil can cause the pipes to bend or break. A sudden change in water pressure and age-related wear and tear are other reasons.

Flooding or random soggy patches in your lawn point to issues with piping. Depending on the extent of damage, entire sections of a pipe may need to be repaired.

When you call in a professional, they will determine where the leak is originating. Having a good idea of the underground irrigation system, the professional will carefully remove a section of the grass above the pipe, dig up the dirt above the broken pipe, cut out the broken section, and fit the new section. They will then cover up the hole and replace the grass.

3. Sputtering sprinkler heads? There may be issues with pressure, valves or head.

Some sounds like fizzing and the sound of flowing water are normal for an active sprinkler system. But if you hear your sprinklers make coughing sounds, a quick health check is advised!

Sometimes, it could just be that the pop-up head is knocked out of position and putting it back correctly will set the matter right. A clogged or broken sprinkler head may also be behind all the coughing. Pressure problems or mechanical issues with the valve are other culprits.

In general, the water pressure of your sprinkler system can have a significant impact on its operation. When too high, your sprinkler shoots out water too fast and increases wear and tear on the system. When too low, your sprinkler will not sufficiently irrigate the area it's meant to.

The average water pressure for most homes is between 30 psi and 50 psi. You can measure the water pressure at your site using a flow meter. If low, you can crank it up - find the pressure regulator, a bell-shaped fitting just past the main shutoff valve where the water main comes out of the wall and into your home. Twist the bolt on top in a counterclockwise motion to turn the pressure up. To lower the water pressure, turn the bolt clockwise.

4. Some dry and some soggy patches? Blame the control valves.

The control valves of your sprinkler system tell it when to open or close. A defective, leaky, or blocked valve can prevent your lawn from receiving optimal water. So, some areas will be under-watered and others will be over-watered. A bubble in your lawn should also raise suspicion, although it could also be due to a broken pipe.

Start by checking whether the valve is wet and the area below it damp. Also check whether water has pooled near the filters or pressure regulators. It's possible that the valves are not shutting off electronically due to an issue with your control unit. Engage a professional for a correct diagnosis and fix.

5. Your sprinkler skips a zone. The water line, valve or controller are usual suspects.

If a zone in your landscape does not receive water, it is being skipped. If you notice that one or multiple zones don't seem to turn on at all, your sprinkler system may be dealing with a couple of issues.

Checking for a water line leak is a good start. Water pooling in an area of your yard, soggy parts, and dead spots will confirm your hypothesis.

A malfunctioning valve can affect the water supply for a zone. A wiring or other issue with the controller could be behind the skipped zone(s). A possible wiring issue can be deduced by measuring the controller's voltage and ohms using an electrical meter.

DIY or professional sprinkler system repair?

Common sprinkler system problems are easy to catch but difficult to always diagnose correctly on your own. Minor issues with sprinkler systems require simple DIY fixes. But some may still require quite a bit of manual dexterity. For broken or malfunctioning units, repairs or replacements will necessitate the practiced eyes and hands of a professional.

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