In-ground sprinkler systems do an excellent job of keeping lawns green, plants healthy and watering chores to a minimum. Although they can provide years of reliable service when properly cared for, they occasionally need repairs, especially in the spring when they’re first put back into service. Luckily, the types of problems you’re likely to encounter are simple to diagnose, and their solutions are usually fairly easy.
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Repair 1: Fixing a Broken Sprinkler Line
As the freeze-and-thaw cycle of the seasons causes the ground to shift, over time the sprinkler system’s main water-supply lines can crack or separate. You’ll know this has happened if you find a consistently wet or muddy spot where a line is buried. To fix it, first dig away the soil to expose the buried line. If it has simply pulled apart, clean the pipe ends; then use PVC solvent to reattach the pipe. (Wait a day before you reactivate the system.) For cracked PVC lines, use a hacksaw to cut away the damaged section. If, however, you have black polyethylene supply tubing (PE), cut the line at the break, insert a brass coupling into the tube ends and use hose clamps to secure the tube ends to the coupling.
Repair 2: Replacing a Sprinkler Head
Just as lines can break, sprinkler heads can snap off. To replace one, first dig away the soil until you expose the entire sprinkler head and the coupling that joins the head’s riser to the supply tubing. Unscrew the damaged head from the riser; then unscrew the riser from the coupling. Inspect the riser for any damage and replace if necessary by screwing the new riser into the coupling; then screw the new sprinkler head onto the riser.
Repair 3: Aiming a Sprinkler Head
If you’ve replaced a sprinkler head or changed your landscaping, you’ll probably need to adjust the aim or spray pattern of the head. Adjusting the aim can be as simple as turning a screw on the top of the sprinkler head. To adjust the spray pattern, you’ll need to replace the sprinkler head’s flow nozzle. Different nozzles are available for different patterns, and they usually snap into place.
Repair 4: Moving a Sprinkler Head
If you’ve changed your yard’s hardscaping or added shrubs or other plants, you may need to move a sprinkler head. To avoid running new supply lines, install a flexible extension. These short lines use either a saddle fitting to attach to the supply line in midrun or an elbow to attach to the end of a supply line, and they allow you to offset the sprinkler head by as much as 2 ft.
Repair 5: Adding an Auxiliary Sprinkler Line
If a line is severely damaged or if you’re redesigning your sprinkler system, you’ll probably need to run new supply tubing from the sprinkler system’s manifold. The easiest way to do this is by renting a gas-powered trencher that can make fast work of cutting the soil to the correct depth for a new supply line. If you’ve never used a trencher before, ask the representative at the tool-rental store to walk you though its operation.