Adventures in Irrigation

April 11, 2019

As I talked about during my first blog post last summer, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years troubleshooting irrigation issues in my yard. Before moving into my home six years ago, I had no idea what could, and often does go wrong with sprinkler systems. All I can say is I’ve learned a lot.

Need to Replace a Sprinkler Head? No Problem!

It all started when a helpful family member offered to mow my lawn for the summer. Like me, he’d never had a yard before. So he didn’t know to look for protruding sprinkler heads as he happily mowed away. When he left after a couple of months and I started mowing again, I realized that he’d accidentally broken several sprinkler heads. Having lived in a townhouse most of my life, I didn’t know the first thing about doing yard work, let alone replacing a sprinkler head. But after watching just one online video, I was relieved to know that this was going to be an easy task. By the end of the summer, I’d replaced 10 sprinkler heads in my yard.

What’s a Valve Box?

Last summer, I learned what a sprinkler valve box was after I looked into why some of my sprinklers weren’t putting out much water. There are many reasons why some sprinkler heads in an irrigation system can output a low flow of water – everything from drainage issues in your yard to a leak in a sprinkler line, to a worn-out part.

Because I didn’t have a clue about what was going on, I went to Jeremiah, our resident expert here at Syncta, who suggested the mostly likely culprit, which was an easy fix. As I’ve learned with troubleshooting other home repairs, it’s best to rule out the smaller issues first before moving on to fixes that might require the help of a professional.

Following Jeremiah’s advice, I decided to first check for a worn-out part in the valve assembly, which is usually inside of a plastic box called a valve box. Often underground in states like Oregon, the valve box keeps the valve assembly that controls water flow to different zones (areas) of your yard safe and dry. If a part in the assembly fails, it can cause low pressure issues with your sprinklers. Here are two valve assemblies inside one of my valve boxes.


I learned the first thing that often wears out in a valve assembly is a rubber seal called a diaphragm. Because the rubber expands and contracts with the weather, it’s likely at some point that the diaphragm will wear out or tear. And when this happens, the sprinklers connected to that valve will output a lower amount of water than the sprinklers connected to other valves in your yard.


Let's Get to Work

The process to replace the diaphragm was pretty easy. I removed the valve cover, unscrewed the solenoid, which sits above the diaphragm, and then removed the torn diaphragm and replaced it with a new one. The best part? Not only was this an easy fix, but a diaphragm replacement kit only cost about $6 at my local home improvement store.


After I put in the new diaphragm, I replaced the solenoid, and then fully tightened the screws that hold it in place. I learned this is the most important part when putting the assembly back together – if the screws aren’t completely tightened, water will leak out between the solenoid and the diaphragm. My advice is to give this a few tries before giving up and moving on to the next troubleshooting issue.

Let it Flow

Next it was time for the real test – to see if what I’d done fixed my issue. I anxiously turned on my sprinklers, and to my great surprise, everything worked!

Here’s what I learned from all of this. It never hurts to ask questions or look for answers wherever you can – whether it’s from a friend, someone at your home improvement store, or by watching online videos. If you feel comfortable trying to fix smaller issues like I did, you’ll not only save yourself money, but you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment. While none of my friends really cared about my new found do-it-yourselfer bravado, I was thrilled to share my success with my co-workers at Syncta, who very kindly humored me.


I wish I could say that I haven’t had any more irrigation issues. I fixed another one late last summer, and had a new one crop up just a few weeks ago. I’m still looking into that and hope to report good news in my next blog post. Until then, I’ll look forward to warmer weather and sunnier skies here in Oregon soon!