Quick and Dirty Sprinkler Repair
My sprinklers are on a timer and that timer is set to “off.” So, it came as a bit of a shock when the gushing sound of a geyser woke me up at 4:30 in the morning. I lurched outside to the controls and turned them off, and why they came on in the first place is a mystery that will never be solved.
Anyone with a sprinkler system knows, leaks, drips and full-on blowouts can happen at any time, regardless of the season or your watering schedule (but it’s usually at night and cold and raining). So, when the line breaks, here’s what to do about it for about 10 bucks.
Step 1 – Expose the Pipe
Depending where the break is and the force of the water, this may not take much work, as the leak may have already blown the dirt aside. You still need to clear enough dirt away that the pipe is exposed for about a foot. Use the best digging tool you have.
Remove the sprinkler after you do this to minimize the amount of dirt that gets inside it.
Step 2 – Cut the Pipe
Identify the break in the line. Chances are it’s where the pipe meets a fitting. If you have a PVC cutter it will cut down on vibrations when you cut, but if you can’t find it a reciprocating saw works well.
Cut the away pipe a few inches on either side of the fitting.
Step 3 – Find the Fittings
If you have parts on hand, just match them up with what you cut away. If not, take the fitting to the home center and find one that matches. You also need 2 straight connectors and a short length of pipe, all of the same diameter as the original. You may have to shuttle back and forth between the plumbing department and the garden/irrigation department to find everything you need. Don’t forget PVC glue. When I’m at the store I can never remember if I have any at home, so there’s gallons of it in my shop.
Step 4 – Size the Replacements
Cut a few inches off the new length of pipe and attach it to one end of the fitting. Attach a straight connector to the other end. Hold this assembly up to one end of the broken pipe, figuring it will fit half way into the connector. On the other end of the broken pipe mark how long it needs to be to match up with the fitting and cut it there. If you made a larger gap in the pipe, you may need a length of replacement pipe and a straight connector on both sides of the fitting.
Step 5 – Replace the Fittings
This can be a bit of a puzzle because everything fits together with very little slop. I slid the fitting onto one end of the pipe and then the connector to the other end. You can bend the pipe a bit to get it to snap together. Dry fit everything to make sure it matches up.
If it matches up, pull it apart and then repeat the process, first putting PVC glue on the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting and connectors.
Step 6 – Reattach the Sprinkler and Bury It
The PVC glue sets up almost instantly, so reattach the sprinkler parts and fill in the hole, leaving the top of the sprinkler exposed.
Finally, sleep well, knowing you’ve averted another geyser in the wee small hours of the morning.