August 23, 2011

Sprinkler Leaks

One thing you want to make sure you do regularly is check your yard for any real wet spots. If you have an underground sprinkler system, chances are, you're going to run into a few problems from time to time. If you are responsible when it comes to taking care of your lawn, you probably go out and weed, mow, edge, prune, and tidy up around your house on a regular basis. Since you're out and walking around your lawn, this is a great time for you to inspect for any leaks.


Your biggest concern should be not allowing a small leak turn into a huge problem. Regular inspections insure that you catch the problem before it becomes a huge headache and bite out of your wallet.

Pull Weeds

A lot of the time, weeds will pop up around your lawn like little devils. While they are pesky and ugly, you can use them as an indicator of a leaky pipe or broken sprinkler valve. In some of the hotter climates, many people deal with Bermuda grass creeping up in and around their lawn. Bermuda grass has roots that go deep into the ground. This is mostly a bad and annoying attribute but can be good for one reason: because the roots go down so far, if you pull it up carefully, the roots will tell you whether or not you have a puddle of water beneath the surface. Other plants can also serve this same purpose. So take advantage of such plants if you have them.

How to tell if it's a leaky pipe or bad valve

So let's say you come across an area of your lawn that is really wet; either deep under the surface or right at the top. It could be wet because of the sprinklers, or it could be a leak. Which is it? And how do you tell? Here are some things to keep in mind.
  • Is the wet spot in a shaded area? If it were from properly functioning sprinklers, should it be dried by now, or no?
  • Is there a sprinkler head nearby? A bad valve can cause a section of sprinkler heads to dribble water for hours after the station should be shut off. If you determine your problem is a malfunctioning valve, check out Orbit valves and a video on how to replace sprinkler valves
  • Is the wet spot so wet that the ground is squishy and soft?

Broken sprinkler head

A more noticeable indication for all the excess water in or around your yard is a broken sprinkler head. However, if you run your sprinklers in the early, early morning and you never see your sprinklers go off, you'll never see your sprinkler head gushing out gallons of water. Running your sprinklers manually once a week for inspection will allow for you to catch any sprinkler head malfunction.
So, if you find yourself with a water leak problem, check the heads first because they are the quickest and easiest fix.

Leaks in your Drip Irrigation System

Another common location for water leaks is within your drip irrigation system. The small rubber hoses are very susceptible to cracks especially when exposed to sharp rocks, edges, and the sun. Some ways you can tell if you've got a leaky drip line:
  • A trail of water seems to come from nowhere
  • Leak occurs near driveway or around plants
  • Wet area will not be extensive, in comparison to a leaky sprinkler pipe.

Get it taken care of

If you find a wet spot in or around your lawn or plants, dig it up and figure out what's wrong. If nothing seems to be wrong with the pipe and the sprinkler head is doing all the leaking, check your valves. It is not difficult to repair a cracked PVC pipe, and replacing a watering valve only takes a few minutes. Get after it before you're whole lawn is flooded.


Phil Goold is a retired landscaper of 30 years. He loves being outside more than anything else, except maybe pie. He enjoys connecting with other landscapers and gardeners because everyone brings something new and fun to the table. Connect with Phil on Twitter and Google+.

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