How to Find an Underground Sprinkler Valve

Underground Sprinkler Valve

Hide-and-seek is a fun game to play with a kid – but not when it comes to finding the sprinkler valve of your home’s sprinkler system. While some systems have above-ground valves, it’s more common for the valves to be placed below ground. So if your sprinkler system isn’t working properly, you may need to get out a shovel and start hunting for a faulty valve for repair.

What does a sprinkler valve do?

Your sprinkler system likely has a number of valves that control the flow of water to the sprinkler heads. Over time, the valve’s diaphragm or the solenoid can wear out and malfunction. When this happens, the zone for that valve will stop working or won’t turn off when it’s supposed to.

How does a sprinkler valve get lost?

It’s common for homeowners to not know where the sprinkler valves are located, whether it’s because they lost the original system diagram or the sprinklers were installed by a previous homeowner.

There are special tools like a valve locator or solenoid activator that you can rent or buy, but the cheapest way to find the sprinkler valve is a manual search and dig.

How to find an underground sprinkler valve

In most cases, the best strategy for finding an underground sprinkler valve is to locate a nearby part and work your way through the system until you reach the valve. Here are some places to use as a starting point.

  1. Locate the pressure vacuum breaker or the backflow preventer (usually near the water source). From here, dig up the ground following the path of the water line. Be very careful not to dig too deep and puncture the water line.
  2. Go to the sprinkler controller and follow the wires until they hopefully lead to the sprinkler valve. Again, while you’re digging, avoid damaging the wires.
  3. Sometimes you can find the valve by sound. This works best as a two-person job. Have one person turn on just the zone for the sprinkler valve you’re looking to find. Keep your ears open for the clicking sound of the valve activating or the hissing sound from the water pressure in the valve.
  4. Turn on the zone for the valve you’re looking for. Notice which sprinkler head turns on first – the valve is likely nearby.

Once you’ve narrowed down the search and have a better idea where the valve is located, use a screwdriver and poke the ground about 6-12 inched deep until you hit the valve. Again, be careful that you don’t damage any of the system components, water line, or wiring.

After you go through the trouble of locating the sprinkler valve, it’s a good idea to draw a diagram and keep it in a safe place for future use.

Any time you’re dealing with water in your home, whether it’s a water heater, or general plumbing, it’s nice to have a trusted professional you can turn to. At Whitten Plumbing, we’ve been serving the Little Rock area for over a decade. If you have any plumbing questions or concerns, give us a call at 501-607-6596 and we’ll be happy to help.

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