If you have an underground sprinkler system in Central FL you will also have a combination of buried wires, pipes, and valves in your yard. For a homeowner who is planning to do some serious digging, it would be advantageous to discover where these underground items are.
Locating Sprinkler Valves
Valves can malfunction in various ways so it is not uncommon to need to find them. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find buried irrigation system automatic solenoid valves. Therefore, if you are about to do some extensive searching, here are some basic tips that may help you.
Often, but not always, sprinkler valves are located near either the irrigation controller or the water source to the system, and this is the 1st place you should look. If the sprinkler timer is in the garage, follow the station control wires outside and look where they enter the ground. If you know where your backflow device is, start looking on the upstream side of the unit.
Probing for the Valve
The way you are going to look is to use a long screwdriver. Slowly and gently push the screw driver into the ground. The wires will follow the sprinkler pipes, hence the need for patience. Carelessly stabbing the ground will almost certainly lead to a broken pipe. What we are looking for is a valve box. The tops of these plastic lidded boxes are much closer to the surface than the pipes and wires, and tend to make a hollow “thunk” sound when probed with the screwdriver.
Another place the valves are often located in on the corners of the home, especially the back corners. These areas should be probed as well.
Uncovering the Lawn Sprinkler Valve
Once you have found the valve you will need to dig it up. First “pop” the lid off with a shovel if you can’t remove it by hand. Sometimes you may be fortunate and will find the valve cleanly in the box. Normally however, over time dirt fill the box and the valve will need to be carefully exhumed. Always be prepared to find a critters like spiders and snakes inside the box when you open it. An electric solenoid valve has a wire that is attached to it and it would be very easy to cut through the wire with your shovel. These wires are very hard to repair once they have been cut.
If you are not careful when digging around a valve that has a solenoid you could damage both the valve and the solenoid. Therefore, just dig slowly and easily when searching for a sprinkler system valve. One of the best items to use for this procedure is a hand trowel. Another method is to use a blast of water from your garden hose. The water will loosen the dirt around any wires and valves. Simply scoop up the muddy water with a plastic cup so as not to damage it the wires.
If You Cut the Irrigation Control Wire
If you happen to nick the insulation on a wire you can use a waterproof splice kit especially made for underground wire splices. It is extremely important to make sure that any bare metal is not exposed to water or soil. You will not be able to use only electrical tape to splice a nicked wire. Electrical tape will not make the splice waterproof.
If you only damage the insulation covering of the wire you can use layers of PVC cement. Simply coat the damaged areas with several layers of glue and let it dry. After the glue dries you can wrap the entire area with your electrical tape. Make sure to extend the wrap a few inches beyond the actual damaged area. Finally, coat the electrical tape with PVC cement. This may not be the best solution but it does work. Otherwise, simply take your time and be careful when digging for underground sprinkler system components.
Using a Wire Tracker
If you cannot find the valves after probing, then it is time to use an electrical tracking device called appropriately enough a “valve locator.” These take a little getting used to as there is a bit of skill in using them effectively. Click here for more video tips. In Central FL you can rent valve locators at FIS