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Sprinklers are a daily staple in the lives of suburban America.  Sprinklers keeps our lawns beautiful and enhance our landscaping.  Maintaining these vital lifelines of water keeps our home’s curb appeal looking top-notch.  Regular sprinkler maintenance during the warm summer months, and proper winterization and de-winterization each year will ensure you protect your sprinkler (and landscape) investments.

When proper sprinkler maintenance is neglected it can result in the following.

  • too much or too little water pressure (over/under watering)
  • clogged sprinkler nozzles
  • water wasting due to leaky/broken sprinkler pipes or nozzles
  • uneven water spray
  • misaligned and buried sprinkler heads

Should you find your sprinkler system to have some problems, many you can resolve on your own.  The most important part of maintaining your sprinkler system is with basic, regular inspections.  By keeping a checklist handy to run down every few months you can ensure you keep your sprinkler system running smoothly and your lawn looking beautiful.  Here’s a sample of items that the average homeowner should look for each season.

  • clogged sprinklers
  • leaking valves
  • broken pipes
  • broken or missing sprinkler heads
  • grass overgrowth that consumes a sprinkler
  • inefficient spray patterns

Clogged Sprinkler Lines

It is common for sprinkler heads to get clogged with dirt or grass overgrowth.  This can be identified by dry spots in the grass that should otherwise be receiving water from the sprinklers under normal use.  It can often be easily seen visually by a split pattern of water spray.  A clogged sprinkler can also often be identified by a pool of water around a sprinkler head, caused by backlogged water that doesn’t disperse properly.

Sprinklers typically clog in either the risers, pipes or nozzles.  Identifying where the clog is will help you get them cleaned and back in working order.  A sprinkler is housed inside a sleeve, which is buried in the ground until it rises up when the sprinklers turn on and the water pressure pushes the actual sprinkler up.  When the water pressure is turned off then gravity causes the sprinkler head to drop back into the sleeve.  The majority of sprinkler clogs come from this cycle.  Often times a sprinkler can be popped up from the sleeve and cleaned by inserting a thin wire into the holes of the sprinkler head.  This will push out any built up dirt.

Winterizing Sprinklers

There’s a few additional tips that homeowners can review, particularly as the seasons change.  It is important to winterize your sprinkler system.

  • make sure no repairs are needed before the winter freeze
  • ensure sprinkler heads are hitting all points of the yard, and not hitting any points too much
  • look for excessively saturated areas of the lawn (can indicate a broken pipe under the grass)
  • empty all lines after last seasonal use
  • empty and disconnect hoses
  • insulate pipes or hose bibs

Should all of the above checks turn out ok, yet you’re still running into sprinkler problems than it may be your water pressure.  In this case, a professional should inspect the water pressure from your sprinkler’s central irrigation point, or your home’s water pressure if you don’t have secondary water.