Things to Remember When Inspecting Your Lawn Sprinkler

Clint Bird

Written By Clint Bird

Published 02/21/22
Inspecting Your Lawn Sprinkler

The allure of a home sprinkler or irrigation system is that you can set it and forget it and enjoy a lush lawn all summer long—with minimal effort on your part. But don’t let the convenience of a sprinkler system fool you into thinking it doesn’t require care and attention. You should perform a lawn sprinkler inspection once per year—at a minimum—to ensure your system is in working order.

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Why a Home Sprinkler System Inspection Is Important

The primary purpose of a sprinkler inspection is to ensure the system works, of course. But a faulty system can lead to problems of a higher order. Broken irrigation lines or sprinkler heads lead to swaths of unsightly dead grass or stunted plants. A malfunctioning system can also cause the ground to become oversaturated with water, inviting a host of troubles: mud, erosion, nutrient depletion, and even tree rot.

Leaks nearer to your home are another troubling possibility. Depending on the placement and severity of the leak, it can cause water stains, mold growth, or wood rot. 

There are financial ramifications to consider. Failing to resolve a minor problem early on can cause cascading problems that result in expensive repair costs down the line.

In short, a sprinkler inspection is a minor chore that can save you a substantial amount of stress and money. 

Irrigation Inspection Checklist

So, what does a sprinkler or irrigation system inspection entail? You’ll want to check all the component parts of the system, and you’ll also need to monitor potential threats to the system. 

You should conduct your inspection shortly before the onset of the watering season. This might be in the late winter or early spring if you live in lower latitudes or late spring if you live farther north. Let’s break down what to look for with a comprehensive checklist.

1. Examine sprinkler heads for damage.

Start by inspecting all the exposed sprinkler heads on your property. It’s not uncommon for heads to become damaged from lawn equipment or severe weather. They can become clogged with dirt or debris as well.

Look carefully for cracks, dents, broken pieces, and obstructions. If you have an irrigation map of your property, refer to it to ensure you don’t overlook a sprinkler head somewhere.

A damp cloth is usually sufficient to clean mud or debris from a clogged head. If you encounter a broken one, replace it with a head of the same type. This is easy enough for a reasonably handy homeowner to handle, but if you would prefer the help of a professional, this fix is not especially expensive.

2. Check sprinkler system valves.

Checking your sprinkler valves for leaks and general damage is important, but sometimes this is easier said than done. If you’re lucky, your sprinkler valves will be readily marked on your irrigation map, or they will be above ground and exposed. Sometimes the valves will be contained in protective boxes set in the ground, with a visible access panel. 

If you’re not so lucky, the valves will be buried underground. There are a few methods for finding underground valves. You could consult your irrigation map, or you could search for a blueprint on file with your town. You could probe the ground with a thin tool, but beware that this runs a small risk of damaging a valve or line if you’re not careful. Finally, you could rent a specialized locator tool or enlist the help of a professional.

If you discover a faulty valve, ensure that you replace it before using your system for the season.

3. Inspect irrigation lines, drip lines, and emitters.

If you have an in-ground system, follow the path where your lines are buried to look for potential trouble. This could include disturbed ground or localized wetness or mud. 

If you don’t know how to find irrigation lines in your lawn, consult your system map. If a map is not available, you can try to deduce where the lines lay. They usually follow a predictable pattern, starting from the system’s main water source and running in a straight line to the sprinkler heads in a sequence. Power on your system and observe the order in which the heads begin spraying water. This method is often a handy way of discovering the water’s flow pattern.

If you have a drip irrigation system, check the exposed drip lines for ruptures and tears. These can often be patched. Also check the drip emitters for damage or clogs. Clean or replace as needed.

4. Maintain your lawn.

An untidy lawn can invite problems with your sprinkler system. Ensure your grass is appropriately cropped. Carefully trim around sprinkler heads and, if applicable, drip line emitters. Check that rocks, weeds, fallen limbs and twigs, and other debris are not obstructing any exposed components of the system.

5. Determine if your sprinkler requires calibration.

Sprinkler calibration is important. Most homeowners are unaware of the amount of water running through their systems, which can lead or overwatering or underwatering.

You can determine if recalibration is necessary by measuring the amount of water sprayed in each zone and observing where the water lands. Measure the water amount by placing five to ten coffee cans or other receptacles randomly within a zone. Run the system for 15 minutes, then measure the amount of water in each can. It should be equally distributed, so any major discrepancy is a sign that your system needs adjustment.

While performing this test, check that your sprinklers aren’t spraying on your walkway, sidewalk, driveway, or house. You can consult with your system’s documentation or with a professional technician to appropriately recalibrate your sprinklers.

6. Adjust your sprinkler schedule.

Running your sprinkler system at inappropriate times of day can lead to water waste. Check your scheduling to ensure your sprinkler will water your lawn in the morning before the sun becomes too strong.

7. Check rain gauges and sensors.

Rain gauges and sensors ensure your sprinkler system does not turn on after a heavy rainfall. If your system has rain gauges, check that they are operational. You should check your user’s manual for the most reliable information, but most models feature a spindle at the top of the unit that you can manually depress. When you do so, the sprinkler system should shut off.

8. Assess your landscaping needs.

If you redid the landscaping in your yard, it’s a good idea to conduct a sprinkler system test to make sure the water dispersal is appropriate. You don’t want to water a patch of dirt where a plant once was, and you likewise want to confirm the system will water newly planted bushes or shrubs.

Run your sprinkler system for 15 minutes. Observe where the water reaches zone by zone. Update your water dispersal pattern as necessary.

How to Protect Your Home Sprinkler System

Even with attentive care, a sprinkler system can break down in time. Temperature fluctuations, freezes and thaws, precipitation, and general use take their toll. Fortunately, you can swiftly fix any mechanical breakdowns with Liberty Home Guard’s warranty coverage. Obtain a free quote through our site or call (866)-242-6820.


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