Preventing Spring Sprinkler Leaks

Don’t you love a full, bright green lawn under your bare feet? Proper watering is important for a healthy-looking lawn, but when your lawn is not hooked up to a sprinkler system, it can be a hassle to get the lawn of your dreams. When a sprinkler system is installed, it not only eliminates the hassle of hand-watering; but it helps save time, money and energy. A sprinkler system allows your lawn to be watered uniformly and regularly, keeping it in good shape.

Many homes now have sprinkler systems that operate on timers, which is so helpful; but sometimes leaks occur, and these can be difficult to pinpoint. Knowing how to avoid leaks in your sprinkler system as well as knowing what to look for when you suspect a leak will help you resolve the issue quickly and minimize potential damage.

Preventing Sprinkler System Leaks

To keep your sprinkler system in good working order, it is important to do some post-season and pre-season maintenance. “Winterizing” your sprinkler will help you avoid costly repairs or substantial damage:

Insulate: To insulate, you need to shut off the water supply to your irrigation system and then add a protective covering over the main valve to prevent freezing. Any piping that is above ground should also be insulated.

Be in control: If your system is automated then you must shut down the controller or the timer. To fully shut off the signal to the valves, either choose “off” or “rain-mode.” If you select rain-mode then the programming information will continue and you will not lose any of your settings. However, for security purposes, you may still want to write down the information in case you end up having to reprogram it.

Drain the pipes: Keeping the water in the pipes during winter is leads to spring leaks. Standing water can freeze, expand, and break the pipe. Remove the water through either a manual or automatic, drain valve or compressed air blowout method.

Protect valves and backflow preventers: If backflow preventers and valves are above ground, then be sure to insulate them. Just be sure you do not block the air vents and drain outlets when insulating the backflow preventers.

Signs of a Leaking Sprinkler System

Soggy Grass
A sprinkler system works to keep your lawn watered evenly, but if you notice soggy or squishy grass under your feet, and it has not rained recently, then this could indicate a leak. The sogginess may be more noticeable in certain spots where a sprinkler valve or connection is buried. Make sure it is not a drainage issue or simply a sunken area where water will naturally settle. If the grass is not soggy after rainfall, but only after using the sprinklers, then you probably have a leak.

Unexplained Water on Concrete
If you ever notice a large wet spot or a small stream of water on your concrete, walkway or patio, and you know it is not due to rain or a recent sprinkler watering, this could also be a sign of a leak. Excess pooling or streaming water will eventually damage these surfaces, so it is best to get the necessary repairs done quickly to protect against further damage.

Sprinkler Head Damage
Sprinkler heads and pipes can become susceptible to damage when exposed, so regularly inspecting any areas that are accessible is important. If you suspect animals have been burrowing or feeding on or near your lawn, or you suspect a shoe or bike wheel ran over a sprinkler head, be sure to test it for damage. Sprinkler heads can become cracked or chipped, altering its performance. Furthermore, sprinkler heads that pop-up can shift out of position and cause puddles in areas you do not want water. Keep in mind the heads can also accumulate debris and become clogged, which causes water to spray off target and leaves thirsty grass to die.

Water Pressure
How is the water pressure of your irrigation system? If the sprinkler coverage does not overlap water streams due to low pressure, there may be a leak or a clog. Anytime you notice bubbling, gurgling or hissing you probably have a leak. However, if you notice a regular fluctuation in water pressure, the problem may be coming from the irrigation pipes which are susceptible to invasive tree roots and shifting ground.

Fungus Growth
Mushrooms are a fungus, and fungi love moisture. They do not naturally grow in a suburban or landscaped environment, so if you are seeing mushrooms, this could indicate a leak. Excessive and constant water flow around plants can kill root tissue which can result in a dying lawn. If grass and plants are not able to absorb the nutrients they need to thrive due to excessive watering, they will be more vulnerable to fungi growth.

Spike in Water Bill
Late Spring, Summer, and early Fall are the times your water bill will be higher. However, if you notice a spike in your irrigation bill beyond its normal use, you may have either a sprinkler leak or a plumbing problem. If your plumbing, toilet, dishwasher and washing machine all seem normal, but your water meter is constantly spinning, it is time to investigate your sprinkler system.

A sprinkler system is a great way to keep your lawn healthy and beautiful. Taking precautions to protect your system from leaks, and knowing the signs of a leak will help you keep your lawn in good health and give you peace of mind about keeping leaks to a minimum.