Updated: November 2017

Irrigation and Sprinkler Systems Repairs:

If you have a big yard with lots of grass, bushes, and plants to water, then getting an automatic sprinkler system is the way to go. Watering by hand is way to time consuming and you waste quite a bit of water. Irrigation and sprinkler systems are designed to save you time, money and water by setting up various zones around your yard that can be watered daily, every other day, weekly, etc. You pick the times and zones that you want to run and the system does all the work. Sprinkler systems are not foolproof and they can have problems that arise. Most common are sprinkler heads that either don't come up when all the others do in that zone or they come up with little or no water pressure. The tops of the sprinkler heads can get run over by lawn mowers and become damaged by the blades on the mower which means they will not function properly. I've had several that come out of the ground but the water sprays all over the place without a set direction. This means the head is probably cracked and no longer useful.
irrigation systems

Sprinkler heads are the least of your concerns since replacing those are a DIY project that most homeowners can tackle by themselves. Just go to your local Lowes or Home Depot for replacement parts and your done in about 30 minutes or less. Bigger issues involve the replacement of a broken irrigation clock which sits inside your main control box (probably in your garage or on the side of your house). These are expensive and will require a complete reset of your system and an initial setup of zones and times. Probably better left for a professional landscaper to install. Another very common repair is having to replace sprinkler lines that have been cut or damaged and now the water is leaking out underground. Finding these leaks is not always easy, but the thing to look for are sprinkler heads that have zero water coming out or a reduced amount compared to normal. You may also be tipped off to a problem knowing that you have been recently digging in a particular zone that currently has water pressure problems. Eventhough I have been careful while digging in my yard, twice I have sliced open the irrigation lines below the surface and had to replace them. The lines are inexpensive, but it's a hassle to have to dig up the entire length of the line that needs replacing and secure it properly. You are better off making sure you dig with the upmost caution around sprinkler heads and irrigation lines so you don't have to worry about cutting through a line by accident. Like all home projects, some things can be done with a little effort on your part while others require more expertise and know-how and a professional should be called in to do the job. Parts are readily available at most hardware stores and sprinkler heads and irrigation lines are not that expensive. It's the labor that costs the majority of any fix it job. Most contractors or landscaping professionals will charge at least $40/hr and some are closer to $80/hr just to fix the most basic things.

Replacing an Irrigation Clock:

We recently had a power surge rip through our garage and it knocked out the refrigerator plug in and it completely fried our irrigation controller and clock. The controller was about 13 years old and probably could have gone out anyways, but it was an unexpected expense that is probably the costliest you will come across with irrigation systems besides have to redo all your underground piping. The good news is that the irrigation controller is only about $50 to $100 (depending on the brand) and can be done without having to hire a contractor. You do need to be a little handy with wiring as you need to unhook the old controller box from the wall and attach the wires to the new box. Each wire usually represents a particular zone of sprinkler heads and that way the new controller will be able to send out the message to turn them on during the proper cycle. I had my landscape guy come and install the new irrigation control box but soon after realized how easy it is. It took about 30 minutes to get it up and running and the programming on these new controllers is really simple. My old box was a bit more confusing, but technology in the last decade has simplified the on screen directions immensely. The controller can go in your garage or on an outside wall of your house. The newer models have rain sensors so they shut down when they sense enough moisture in the air. The top brands are Hunter, Rain Bird, Weathermatic, Irritol, and VirtualRain.

Sprinkler Head Replacements:

With the amount of DIY websites on the Internet today, repairing a broken sprinkler head is not that hard anymore. We found several sites that give you some simple instructions on how to repair or replace a sprinkler head that is no longer working properly. Many sprinkler heads get cracked or split by blades from lawn mowers mowing overhead and eventually they stop working. I've had multiple sprinkler heads that didn't popup properly anymore and some that popped up and actually sprang out of their containers. The best sites for do it yourself sprinkler head replacements and repairs are Toro, Wiki How, and Gardenweb.com Forums. You need to determine which brand of sprinkler head you have and then go to a store like Home Depot or Lowes to see if they carry replacement parts. Sometimes you may have to go to a landscaping store to get specific models or brands. The cost of sprinkler heads is pretty cheap, most run between $2 and $10. You may have to dig around the base of the connection to get the new sprinkler head in properly, but it's something that most homeowners can do on their own.

Troubleshooting and Fixing Irrigation Systems:

Each year as spring roles around I test my irrigation system to make sure all the sprinkler heads are popping up like they should and putting out the right flow of water. It takes only a few minutes to turn on each zone and see that all sprinklers are functioning properly. Sometimes dirt has covered the heads during winter and I have to do a quick cleaning of the sprinkler head, but otherwise they should all come up out of the ground ok. I also make sure they are pointed in the right direction. It's inevitable that at least a few of the heads need adjusting to get the water going on the proper direction. If you have any drip systems, turn those on as well to make sure the irrigation lines are not cracked or broken as this is a common issue with drip systems. If you find sprinkler heads that aren't working properly, mark them with a stick or metal spike so you can quickly locate them when you are ready to repair or replace them later. I have owned my house for nearly 8 years now and have had minimal sprinkler head issues over the years. Perhaps 2 or 3 have had to be replaced and a couple have been repaired quite easily. The biggest issue was my main irrigation controller going out and that was a bigger bill. I expect my drip system will eventually fail before the undergound pipes and lines do. In terms of general troubleshooting, I found the Rain Bird website offers up great technical support and answers to the most common questions and problems HERE. If you can't find a solution to your problem, go to Gardenweb.com and login to their "Forums" and post a question. Usually within a few days you will have dozens of responses by qualified landscapers with potential solutions.