Sprinkler System Problems: How To Find Tree Roots That Damage Your Sprinkler Lines

by Jenny Banks

Sometimes, tree roots wrap around the lines that attach to your sprinklers. Over time, the roots break through the lines' encasing to find water. Eventually, the lines collapse under the intense pressure placed on them and water seeps out into the soil. There are things you can do to remedy the problem yourself. But first, you need to find the source of the leaks:

How Do Tree Roots Affect Your Sprinkler System?

Tree roots can travel away from their trees as they look for water sources. Your sprinklers' lines makes the perfect place to find them. Once the roots find the lines, they gradually wrap around them. After a while, the roots tighten their grips and break through the lines to absorb the water inside them.

The water flowing the lines doesn't travel to the sprinkler system's heads when you turn on the system. Instead, it pours out into the soil.

How Do You Locate the Tree Roots' Origin?

The most important thing to do first is locate the origin of the tree roots. Since you don't know exactly where the roots are, you need to inspect the trees on your property and examine their roots. Here's what you look for:

  • Long tree roots — When tree roots find the right water source away from their trees, they grow longer to reach it.
  • Healthy tree roots — If the roots find enough water, they grow healthier and stronger. Look for roots that are white or light in color.
  • Multiple roots — If you find a group of roots in one location on your property, it most likely means that more than one root is wrapped around your a single sprinkler line.

Now, examine the location of the roots you find. The roots described above should be close to or completely surrounding a sprinkler head. If they are, you can repair the damage yourself.

How Do You Repair the Damaged Water Line?

If you feel comfortable enough, you can dig up the soil around your damage sprinkler line, remove the roots and repair the line. You'll need a shovel with a small head to avoid hitting the line below the earth. Also, buy several slip couplings and a clamp to repair the damaged line, as well as a handsaw to cut the water line.

Now, just a few more steps are left:

  • Turn off your sprinkler system.
  • Use the shovel to dig a large hole around the sprinkler.
  • Stop once you see the water line. 
  • Remove any tree roots you find with a sharp cutter or knife. 
  • Cut and remove the damaged water line with the handsaw.
  • Use the couplings to connect the lines together. You'll need to place one coupling on the cut end, then insert the uncut end into it. Place a clamp over the coupled end and tighten it.
  • Replace the soil over around the sprinkler.

Turn on the system and examine the sprinkler to see if water comes out of it correctly. If not, contact a sprinkler system contractor for additional help. You may have more than one blocked sprinkler line.

If you have questions about your sprinkler system or tree roots, schedule an appointment with your contractor as soon as you can. To learn more, contact a company like Krupske Sprinkler Systems.