View Full Version : sprinkler system woes

Jim O'Dell
04-22-2006, 11:46 PM
Ok, it's late, and I'm really disgusted, confused, perplexed, yadda yadda yadda. I wrote something last week about working on my sprinkler system. Ken F. was a BIG help with diagnostics to get the pump running. When it did, it blew the filter off of the pump outlet! I've now got the new parts in hand, but not installed yet. Thought I'd try to locate all of the sprinkler heads and valves, and maybe backflush each pipe by turning the breaker to the pump off, but energize each valve one at a time and hook up a water hose where the sprinkler head ties in, and run til I get clear water out of the pipe the filter will hook up to the "system". Well, initial searches turned up 5 spinkler pop up heads in various parts of the yard, and 2 misters in the front flower bed, and only 3 valves. Looking at the control box shows that 9 of the 12 possible valves hookups have wiring hooked up. Hmmmm...where are the other valves? Today I found another valve box out front , and I've located 2 more pop up sprinkler heads. I told my wife, who knew about one of the head locations, that we weren't planning on going anywhere, I might as well get a shovel and start digging. Man, did I find a mess! I am including 1 picture and one diagram. In the diagram the thin line is 3/4" pipe, and the heavy line is 1" pipe. The round black objects are the valves. I found 3 more valves within about 3 square feet of the one I located out front. All were completely covered with soil! And the valve boxes were mostly full, to the point that you couldn't see the wires for the valves. Hopefully you can tell from the photo what I'm talking about. It appears that water output from one valve goes to another valve? Maybe I don't understand this sprinkler stuff, but I thought you would have one input pipe carrying the supply water. It sould go to a manifold, or series of wyes and tees to take that water to each of the valves. Then the output of the valves would branch off to the sprinkler devices for that particular zone. A very simple flow chart. If that is true, then the person that designed this setup must have been on some really good stuff!!
If anyone can point me to a good website for trying to figure this out, I would be most grateful. At this rate, I'm going to have to dig up an entire acre, less the house (I hope :D ) to find all of the pieces. I did track down some wiring out of the control box that goes to the west side of the house, stapled under the eaves. It drops into the ground in the flowerbed. I've found no valve boxes or sprinkler heads on that side of the house. I wonder where they are burried??? :confused:
I at least know how my summer is planned out! No shop time for me. By the time I get this figured out, either the growing season will have passed, and/or the creek will be dry, and I won't be able to pump anything to water with anyway!
I've spent the last 2 hours trying to get the scanner hooked up on m computer to do the diagram. It is normally on my wife's computer and I just make a copy to cd and bring to my computer. Guess what? Yep, her CD writer quit. At least they don't cost much these days. Thanks for reading! Jim.

Lee DeRaud
04-23-2006, 12:09 AM
IMHO, the only pipe you need to care about at this point is the main line from the supply/pump. Situation like this, best thing to do throw everything away except the valves and start over....and do it right. This looks like they started with 1 or 2 valves and added more later.

Plumb up a manifold with a stub from each valve and get that part working. Then you can either run from the stubs to the existing lines out to the heads...but if that part is the same "quality" of design as is showing here, better just design a new system and build from scratch. With luck you can reuse the existing head bodies, rest of the stuff is relatively cheap.


Ken Fitzgerald
04-23-2006, 12:45 AM
Jim.........I designed the sprinkler system for my lot. And after building my new shop....I redesigned it as local building code forced me to put it in a very specific spot and ruined all but one circuit in the backyard. You could go to the DIY net 2 years ago and they had a service from one of the sprinkler companies. You gave them a very basic to scale drawing of your property, building locations etc and within 3 days they'd return finish drawings with the recommended circuits, heads, layouts and parts list.

My advice is similar to Lee's. I'd start over.

Find a local sprinkler wholesaler or even retailer of sprinkler parts. Often if you give them the basic layout of your property with property dimensions, building layouts, etc. they will design the system for you FREE if you buy the parts from them. There are a couple of such companies here. Myself, I designed it myself and got a free design from the DIYNEt a couple of years ago. My design and theirs agreed for the most part so I used my design. Most companies have heads with similar characteristics so that even if you don't use that companies products, you can find a competitor's product that is a good substitute.

Also at the local Walmart and Costco, they sold a CHEAP program that you could design your own system for Toro brand products. These programs(I bought one) will even show the spray pattern for a given product/sprinkler head so you can check for proper head to head coverage.

I also have a 3 dimensional building design program that has a built in sprinkler design program.

There are a lot of options.

You can check ...Toro's webpage provided free design ....Hunter is another brand. I'd check the webpage for a brand that is popular and readily available in your community.

I'd redo it totally so you know what you have....you know it works.....

I'd rent a ditching machine.....In a half a day, you can do a lot of damage...trenching that is .........

Good luck and let me know if I can be of any help!

(PS....I don't do ditching.....:D )

Robert E Lee
04-23-2006, 3:56 AM
Jim is there anyway you can get any information from the previous owner or maybe a neighbor.

Jim O'Dell
04-23-2006, 9:47 AM
Thanks, guys. Some good info. Like I daid, I know how I'll be spending my summer! :mad: I saw several stations work when we bought the house. I think a lot of my problem is not having all the heads and valves uncovered. But the mess I uncovered last night is weird. I know it's hard to tell from the photo and diagram, but at one spot there are 3 pipes crossing each other on different planes. The valve on the far right appears to feed the other three valves. I need to look into how this thing works. If one valve opens the main water to a group of stations on one module in the control box (there are 4 modules) then this makes sense. Otherwise it was designed by the "Crack Baby Irrigations Conlsutants Firm." :D
Lee, I talked to a neighbor across the street. He seemed to remember that the system had pretty good coverage. but he's 88, and you know how that goes. He did enlighten me about one thing on the property. I knew my shop building was of older construction than the house, and it didn't make much sense until Mr Curly told me they even knew the people that lived here when the previous house burned down. Suddenly many questions were answered just from that statement!
Thanks again. I'm going to continue to investigate. I really don't want to rebuild this thing, time or money wise. Both are a little short right now. Jim.

Ken Garlock
04-23-2006, 1:38 PM
Hi Jim. Find a way to get hold of a metal detector. There is some wire in the each solenoid valve that might/should be detectable. Worst case you can get a detector from Radio Shack. Test the detector out on known valves so that you know when you find a hidden valve, then just start scanning the lawn until you find the valves....

I also like the idea of contacting your agent that sold you the house, and let them get you information on the sprinkler layout. Although it is perfectly OK, by all standards that I know, to know the seller, the real estate community likes the sale of a house to be a 'secret' transaction. That is a bunch of 'stuff.'

Another possibility is to check with your 'lawn Nazis,' they may already have a sprinkle map on file.

Jim O'Dell
04-23-2006, 10:02 PM
Good info, Ken. I had thought about that. Our agent is no longer in the business, but I could get ahold of her if need be. I'm sure I culd find the sellers number and call direct, but it was his parents house, and I'm not even sure they are the ones that installed the system. I had already tried to borrow a metal detector, but the one person I thought might have one, didn't. As it turns out, when I powered the system up this afternoon, it had enough oomph to pop the heads up. See http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=35267 . Thanks as always for the info. Glad I didn't need it!! Jim.

Joe Mioux
04-23-2006, 10:05 PM

Besides rebuilding this lawn irrigation system, if you don't already have one make sure you install a high quality back flow preventer. Contact your plumbing or a local lawn irrigation contractor to tell you what kind is needed.

In my greenhouses I have to have a plumber licensed for back flow preventer inspections come out once a year and test my back flow preventers. Testing generally costs about $50 per year.

This is one of those instances where DIY jobs can easily bypass this critical installation and be in violation of state and municipal laws.

Make sure you are in compliance with your local laws. .

This is a serious issue and it is not a DIY job in many instances.