Is It Time for a Sprinkler System Inspection?


Temperatures are rising! And although we have enjoyed a wet spring, you know that won’t last.

Soon our lawns and trees will be depending on us for consistent and thorough watering to keep them lush and healthy, which means that we need our sprinkler systems to get the job done. But is your sprinkler system up to the task?

Your sprinkler system has been lying dormant over the winter. Now is the time to catch any problems that could hinder the performance of your system and cost you big headaches later, not to mention dead plants or higher water bills.

Before you get the sprinklers running full-throttle, take the time to inspect your system, and make any necessary repairs.

Start With the Sprinkler Heads

The first thing to check is the sprinkler heads. Take these four steps to make sure that your sprinkler heads are ready for the summer.

  • Visual Inspection
    • Start with a visual inspection by looking for rocks, mulch, dirt, or any overgrown grass that may be obstructing the sprinkler head.
    • Check out your shrubs and bushes, as they have probably grown since your last sprinkler check. You want to be sure they aren’t blocking water flow.
  • Sprinkler Breaks
    • Inspect the sprinkler heads for cracks or breakage.
    • If they are cracked or broken, replace them with the same model/brand for optimal performance.
  • Sprinkler Angles
    • Make any necessary adjustments to the height or angle of the sprinklers.
      • They may have gotten knocked around during the winter.
      • The environment around them may have changed.
      • Some may now be too low or too high.
      • Some may even be leaning.
    • Be sure the tops of sprinkler heads are in alignment with your lawn’s slope.
  • Flush the System – If it’s been a wet winter and your sprinkler system has been on a hiatus, you need to flush the system. To do this:
    • Locate the sprinkler head at the end of each zone and remove it to create a flush point.
    • Turn on the system and sweep out accumulated debris and insects.

Check Your Valve Boxes

The first step is to locate the valve boxes. This may be difficult if you haven’t been maintaining the area around the boxes by keeping it clear of debris and overgrown grass.

If that’s the case, commit now to consistently maintain these areas so you can easily find the boxes in the future. Once you have found the valve box:

  • Check the Valve Assemblies for Damage
  • Look for any Broken or Loose Wires or Cracked Valves – If you find some, you will need to replace or repair them before using your sprinkler system.
  • Check for Water – Ruptured valves may be leaking. You may also find water leaking between fittings.
  • Remove Debris – In the valve, diaphragm, or solenoid. Replace the diaphragm if it is damaged. Replace the solenoid if the plunger won’t move. You may even consider replacing the whole valve.

Inspect the Backflow Prevention Assembly

Here are five steps you need to take to inspect and repair the above-ground backflow prevention assembly (BPA).

  • Inspect for Damage – Even if you used the system during the winter, you don’t want to skip this step.
  • Check the Isolation Valve – If it is closed, slowly open it to prevent water hammer. Water hammer is a powerful surge that can not only damage valves but burst pipes. And you don’t want that!
  • Close the Test Cocks – If your test cocks were half-closed during a freeze or for the entire winter, then its time to fully close them.
  • Open the Ball Valve Handles
  • Check the Relief Covers – On reduced pressure zone BPA’s (RPZs). If the bolts are loose, tighten them.

Check the Controllers

Your lawn lives or dies based on the proper functioning of your sprinkler system’s controller. Double-check the time and date on the controller to make sure it is correct.

Now is the perfect time to change the back-up battery if your controller has one. The back-up battery should be replaced approximately every six months, and the best times are in the spring and fall.

Investigate the Sensors

Your system’s sensors must be working properly and in the correct position.

  • Check for Debris – If you have rain or rain/freeze sensors, check for debris inside the housing, and remove any leaves, dead bugs, etc.
  • Check the Disc Condition – Discs that are moldy or misshapen lose their ability to expand and contract. They need to be replaced.
  • Check the Batteries – If you have wireless rain or rain/freeze sensors or soil moisture sensors, check the manufacturer’s instructions as their batteries may need to be replaced.

Flush It Out

We briefly referred to flushing the system in the sprinkler head section. If you didn’t run your sprinkler system during the winter, you need to flush the system zone by zone. To do this:

  • Remove the sprinkler head at the end of the zone.
  • Turn on that zone.
  • Flush out any debris and insects that have collected in the pipes.
  • Run each zone long enough to flush it out thoroughly. You can verify the flush by looking at the flush points to see that water is running freely.
  • When done, replace the sprinkler heads that you removed at the end of each zone.

System Operation

Now that you have thoroughly checked your sprinkler system’s components, it is time to confirm that the system is operating at its best.

To do this, you must manually activate each zone one zone at a time, and look for and fix the following ten issues.

Pop-up Sprinkler Head Leaks

If there are leaks:

  • Clean out any debris and tighten the caps.
  • Replace worn-out or damaged parts, like worn-out seals.
  • If the riser broke, replace the whole sprinkler head.

Partially Extended Pop-up Sprinklers

  • Clean out any debris in or around the sprinkler heads and filters.
  • Replace damaged sprinkler heads. One reason that the heads might not completely extend is if the water pressure’s too low. This may be the case if the valves on the backflow prevention assembly are not fully open or if there are any leaks in the pipes.

Pop-up Sprinklers Getting Stuck in the Extended Position

If your pop-up filters are not fully retracting, remove any dirt or debris between the sprinkler heads and risers.

Water Falling Short

Of its mark or pop-up rotor sprinklers not rotating.

  • Check the filters.
  • Give them a good cleaning.
  • Replace broken rotors.

Gaps in the Spray Pattern

  • Clean dirty filters.
  • Remove and clean nozzles. Nozzles are inexpensive and scratch easily, so it may be faster to replace nozzles instead of cleaning them.

Sprinklers Are Creating a Mist or Fog

Check the water pressure as it is either too low or too high.

Lack of Head-to-head Coverage

One sprinkler may be falling short and not overlapping the area watered by the next sprinkler. If this is the case, you need to turn the radius adjustment screw on the nozzle to reduce or increase the radius. You can also fine-tune the adjustment screw on the rotor to address the problem.

Leaking or Broken Pipes

You don’t have to have x-ray vision to know if a pipe is leaking or broken, just look at the ground. If you see water bubbling up or areas where the ground is unusually wet, soft, or depressed, a damaged pipe is likely to blame.

Zone Not Shutting Down

When the system is inactivated, the zones should shut down. If they don’t, there may be an issue with the controller, or the valve may not be shutting off.

Sprinkler Heads Draining

When the system is off. If your landscape is sloped, the sprinkler heads on the lower parts of the slope may be draining while the sprinkler system is shut off. If that is an issue, you need to install check valves into your current sprinklers or replace your existing sprinkler heads with heads that have built-in check valves.

Now your sprinklers are ready to beat the summer heat. All you have left to do is program the controller and let the sprinkler system take over!

More Work and Expertise Than You Were Expecting?

Sprinkler systems have a lot of moving parts, literally. It’s a lot to keep track of. And let’s face it. We live in Texas. Having an effective sprinkler or irrigation system is imperative to keep our lawns and trees looking their best.

And going through the steps to inspect and repair your sprinkler system is time-consuming and maybe a bigger job than you want to take on. No problem! Our team at Compete Landscultpture is here to help!

Our team can consult with you on:

  • Current or potential issues
  • Repair leaks
  • Replace any damaged parts
  • Replace the whole system with an updated one

When properly designed and installed, sprinkler and irrigation systems save money and keep your landscape healthy and happy. Call us today for a consultation!

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