View Full Version : Tracing existing routes

02-10-2002, 01:15 PM
I have an irrigation system at my home that was installed by a rank incompetent (end-caps have popped off, sprays have little to do with where grass is, timing is random), and there's nobody up here in this rural community I've found whom I can trust to do good work. So, it appears I'm on my own.

I need to trace the existing runs to determine where they're routed, without digging up the whole acre. Is there equipment I can rent that will let me turn on the water and follow the flows underground so I know where to dig (and where to expect future problems)?

By way of introduction: While new to irrigation, I've spent over 40 years being a design engineer. I'm capable of rational thought and purposeful action. So, while I may not grasp some of the more arcane jargon (to me a "zone controller" is a microprocessor--a field I know well--with some specialized circuitry for controlling valves), I think I can follow general advice, and I'd appreciate what you experts have to offer.

--Carol Anne

02-10-2002, 04:06 PM
1. shovel
2. witching equipment

I make my own witching equipment out of what ever heavy wire is available. Steel or copper will do, just so it is reasonably stiff. Straightened coat hanger is ok. You'll need 2 pieces 18"-24" long. Bend the wire into an "L" shape so that the "foot" of the el is about a palms width to 6" long.

Hold a "foot" loosely in each hand. Hold the wire parallel to each other and the the ground. Best position is fists near your belly with wires pointing straight ahead. Remember wires parallel about 6"-12" apart and also parallel to the ground.

Walk slowly across a suspect area. When in the vicinity of the buried pipe, wire or whatever, the loosely held wires will begin to turn towards each other and will turn a ful 90 degrees towards each other, parallel to your stomach and parallel with the buried object.

This is more useful when you don't really know where something is. We usually just dig up the heads to see where the pipe is running.

Why do you want to track this stuff down?

02-10-2002, 04:30 PM
You do have somebody up your way, but I would email him. He is a member of this forum and a liscensed contractor. His name is Chuck Sinclair. I would help you but SFO a little to far to "Hangtown"

02-10-2002, 08:19 PM

Thanks for the "witching" advice, but I'm looking for a more repeatable method, perhaps injecting traces of something into the water stream that I can detect with resonance (e.g., ferrite) or radiation (e.g., low-dose radium, etc.). Witching might be fun, but all the experience I've had with it suggests results are no better than chance...and chance in finding a pipe underground in a wide area is pretty slim, even if you know where one end is.

The reason I want to trace the route now is so I have a map of the piping in the event of freezes, blockages, etc. in the future. It's the engineer in me that wants to know . Also, I plan to expand the system down the back hill to the (future) garden, and I'd like to know what lines run from the source, and which go through the sprinkler control system.


I'd love a reference to someone up here who can do good work.

And for our friends who read this..."Hangtown" is the original name of Placerville (Placer rhymes with Platter, and is a kind of gold mining). You can guess the fate of the three claim-jumpers that gave the place it's first and unofficial name. The City seal, however, still says "Old Hangtown" on it.

Chuck Sinclair
02-10-2002, 10:42 PM
Originally posted by CAOgdin


I'd love a reference to someone up here who can do good work.

Chuck Sinclair
Willow Brooke Landscape Contractor License #798016
Sacramento, CA

We have no problem with traveling to Placerville


02-11-2002, 08:50 AM
No offense but...who cares where the pipes are. When they break they will leak and you will then know where they are.

We get asked for this all the time and as far as I'm concerned it is a real waste of money. Find the valves and forget about the rest. It really doesn't matter.

As for injecting something into the water....yeah right. No guy in this business has that technology........we can hardly get anyone to pay for the wire tracing technology that we do have.

PS: No offense intended......but what kind of train do you drive?

02-11-2002, 11:29 AM
I certainly AM offended...by your tonality and your presupposition. You presume to know more about what's important to me than I do. You may know landscaping, but you surely don't know how to foster more communications among people in an on-line forum.

Go harass your customers, and tell them they don't need what they want to pay for, "SprinklerGuy." But, I won't waste time responding to this kind of rude and unhelpful post in the future. You've gained an honored place on my "bozolist."

02-11-2002, 08:07 PM

sorry, but I just got home and when I read the last one, I really got a good laugh.....its like the work day never ends!


02-11-2002, 11:07 PM
The funniest thing is that the 'ENGINE...EERS' always think they know so damn much about everything. Have yet to work with one that I got along with.

Maybe if all of us dumb sprinkler guys went to college or something than maybe we would be

capable of rational thought and purposeful action.

toot! toot!

02-17-2002, 05:08 PM
When I have to deal with a customer that frequently ask me technical questions and then proceeds to argue with me over the answer I give them, I flat out ask them if they are an engineer. Working in the Detroit Michigan area I have to deal with a large number of automotive engineers most of who presume to know more about what it is that I'm doing even though they have never done it before. I often feel inclined to tell them that I'll worry about keeping the grass green and they should worry about building cars and trucks that don't fall apart, roll over and explode so much.....


02-17-2002, 05:16 PM
My, aren't some of us superior to customers here! Clearly, the customer with money to spend is--according to some of you--just a jerk to be dealt with through insults.

I'll take the response as given: You didn't have a clue how to solve my problem, and there's just too must testosterone poisoning evident to admit you don't know.

I won't be back, I promise. I found my solution...but not through any help from "the experts" who are so sure they know it all. Wow, and I glad I'm not in your service areas!

Chuck Sinclair
02-17-2002, 06:06 PM
Sounds to me like you are just a PITA female to me!!! i'm in your service area and would NOT waste my time on customers like you.

02-17-2002, 06:07 PM
This is my first time visiting the irrigation forum......you guys are bonkers !

Hey Jersy guys......do you know anybody in Bergen County to recommend ? I have a couple of customers that I am trying to push irrigation on but nobody to refer them too.


jeffyr :jester:

02-17-2002, 06:50 PM
I try not to be mean to people who i don't agree with or who I find to be execptionally out of touch or unintelligent, but sometimes.......

Seriously, when CAOgdin told us that she wanted to make a map of her sprinkler system lines, it became obvious to me that she was not really thinking. Sprinkler Guy said it..."When they break they will leak and you will then know where they are." Until then who cares where they are? As far as knowing the location of pipes for the purposes of expansion, if you know where the valves are, you know where the main line is. It's been my experience that pipes can usually be found near heads too.

The heads, valves and tap are the "critical points" everything in between (location wise) does not make a huge difference and was put where it was because that was the easiest way for the installer to do it.


02-17-2002, 10:24 PM
And they wonder why we're cranky! How did a person who is capable of rational thought and purposeful action make the purchasing decision?

My experience in similar cases is that they invited price contractors to the proposed project and then shopped for price again. No one educated themselves or listened and believed a legitimate, knowledgeable guy when he spoke.

Actually engineers have been very good clients for me because I can talk in terms they understand. Doctors and lawyers are good to me. If there are any problems where we don't see eye to eye and their way will adversly impact the project they want done or tarnish my reputation, I simply tell them that we do it my way or no way and why and that in this area I'm the professional. Haven't had one walk yet.