Posted by: Luis Vasquez | July 23, 2008

Didn’t You See It the First Time Around?

Irrigation repairs can be a bit tricky sometimes. There’s been many a time where we make a repair and once we’re done, we find another repair that needs to be made. Sometimes our customers can’t understand why there are additional repairs; they’ll tell us “didn’t you see it the first time around?”. It’s sort of like going to the mechanic. You pay to get your car fixed and you expect everything to be ok. But how many times have you driven away and a just a few hours later another problem arises? Well, I can’t speak for the mechanic, but I can help explain why this can happen when it comes to irrigation repairs.

Example #1 – Certain Problems Can Mask Others
Broken pipe lines often cause a severe loss of pressure. If there is not enough pressure, the sprinkler heads will not work properly; sometimes they won’t work at all. If there’s a broken or leaking head, we might not notice it until we have repaired the line and have full pressure again. There is also the potential for a second broken line, which is even more difficult to find because they’re usually buried below ground. If it’s buried low enough and has not had time to push through to the surface, or if it’s broken below asphalt or concrete, we might not notice it until our next visit. Problems with a valve or multiple broken sprinklers on a line can also cause a severe pressure loss.

Example #2 – Parts Fail
Just like the parts in your vehicle can fail, the same can happen to the parts in your irrigation system. You never know when it’s going to happen. We might make a visit out to make some repairs, and the following week the controller drops dead. I’ve seen a few times where we made a repair to a broken line, and because of the increase in pressure, older heads will blow out. The older the part, the more likely it is to fail. It makes sense that if one part fails on the system, other parts of the same age are likely to fail at the same time.

Example #3 – Debris in the Line
Sometimes dirt, sand, rocks, or other debris will find it’s way into the line. Usually it’s after a pipe breaks. We do our best to keep debris out of the line, but if it’s sitting in a hole and water is running, something is going to work it’s way in. If debris gets into the line, it can clog valves and sprinklers. We usually flush the system after a repair, but occasionally it still becomes a problem. Of course it only happens after we’ve left the site! The most common result of debris in the line is a stuck open valve which won’t shut off.

There are hundreds of reasons why we might have missed it “the first time around”. The above are just a few examples. When we provide estimates for irrigation repairs, we often note at the bottom that “additional problems may be found after the initial repairs are made”. Mostly we’ll note that on the larger jobs where we’re making many repairs and are unsure of exactly what the damage is. When 90% of the irrigation system sits below ground, and with every job being completely different, it sure doesn’t make it easy to find everything, every time.


  1. Great article!

    I’ve been using the same analogy equating car repair to irrigation repair for many years. For some reason people understand that a car starter can fail after 5 years, but are suspicious that a sprinkler valve can fail after 20.

    I have also heard “you worked on the system only three months ago and the controller was functioning fine before you got here”.

    Nice blog. I’ll add it to my RSS.

  2. […] can’t always see every sprinkler problem at first. Check out the article here written by a Southern California landscaper. Subscribe to […]

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