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Clearing many sandy/dirty lines, likely collapsed/cracked.

roody2333

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
nj
I'm dealing with an old sprinkler system from around the early 80s in New Jersey, it's never been winterized/blown out with a compressor. The lines are only like 6-8 inches below grade, the valves are only like 5-6" and they buried the valves with mostly sand (water and cold just seeps through sand). Surprisingly the steel manifold hasn't cracked from freezing because the line going to there usually wasn't bled either. Some people swear they don't even have to be winterized? 'They're deep enough that it won't freeze'.

I had to replace a head years ago and found the line was packed with sand and dirt. All the heads are pop up kind that aren't rotary, most of them don't spray far or evenly, it ends up flooding around the head and missing the far areas thus killing the grass near the head from too much water and the areas that aren't reached die from no water. I gave up trying to thicken up the lawn after few attempts with these sprinklers. I think all the lines are full of sand and cracked from freezing.

I've replaced many heads with minimal if any improvement, and need a better way to flush them out. If I just unscrew the head and run them, the hole fills back up with sandy water that gets into the line, so I need like a riser with a rubber hose on it to direct the flushed water away from the hole? Need one on every head per zone and run them all at once with rubber hoses routed away from the holes, or start from the end and cap it and work back towards the first head? The normal way of opening the head and screen doesn't seem to do anything.


Am hoping to clear these lines and cap/omit some heads and use rotary heads instead. Some other lawns have rotary heads that give good coverage and only need about half the amount of heads to water everything.

I just replaced all 7 valves that were leaking and instead of dealing with these F'd lines, I'd rather just trench out new lines and use rotary heads (and attach drip line possibly). The manifold does have a port for a compressor too, that should be done yearly, no? I have just a small pancake compressor though.

Sprinkler line is cheap and it would be much easier for me to just run new pipes and heads but am trying to be convinced as if the lines are still good but just need to be flushed out.

Can't you also use PEX now and not even need to winterize it since it'll expand quite a bit without cracking?

Don't even need the sprinkler system though that much anyway, just happy I fixed the flooding caused by the valves. The full sun areas I'd rather just spray it all dead and plant Zoysia would be the thickest weed free low-maintenance lawn and never have to worry about it anyway, and the shady spots where zoysia won't do well already stay healthy using Tall Fescue non irrigated, but I am being convinced to try and flush these current lines and need some advice, thank you.
 

mitchgo

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Redmond, WA
What is the water source ? city water, well, lake?

A remote is very handy for flushing out heads . Sounds like the nozzles need to be swapped out

If you use a 18” or 24” riser while flushing out a removed head you won’t flood out your hole

pex is not recommended to be used

You probably don’t need to replace the lines

Winterizing is a nice fail safe and peace of mind to prevent freeze damage . Everyone has a level or risk in life they are willing to accept. Perhaps they think it’s worth the risk to not winterize
 

frumdig

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
The Midsouth
One of the best uses of those 6" spray head extensions. Kinda handy as a pull up tool too when you drop the head without a nozzle.
Its arguably the only use for those extensions. Haha
 

Michael - Toronto

LawnSite Member
...I've replaced many heads with minimal if any improvement, and need a better way to flush them out. If I just unscrew the head and run them, the hole fills back up with sandy water that gets into the line...
I encountered a similar problem in the past. What I did was purchase a whole bunch of two-foot long solid risers with male iron pipe threads (MIPT) on each end and a whole bunch of caps to block off the top of each riser.

Removed all the sprays/rotors on each lateral, installed the riser pipes with the caps installed, then turned on the system and blew out each pipe one at a time by removing the screw-on cap. By using two-foot risers, I could tilt the pipe a bit so that the water that blew out of it landed away from the hole the pipe was installed in.
The manifold does have a port for a compressor too, that should be done yearly, no? I have just a small pancake compressor though.
Forget about using any compressor smaller than one that gets towed behind a pickup truck. Call a local irrigation professional and make an appointment to have them blow out your system. Best to make that appointment early - like, in August, for an October blow-out.
Can't you also use PEX now and not even need to winterize it since it'll expand quite a bit without cracking?
If it freezes in New Jersey in the wintertime, which I think it still does, global warming notwithstanding, then you need to blow out the system every fall. It will cost you more in time and labour to fix problems every spring than it will cost you to blow it out every fall.

Michael
 
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roody2333

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
nj
thanks, guy.

toronto, that's what I was thinking. frost line is 3 ft, 6-8" is nothing and will easily freeze there.

Also surprised the steel manifold isn't rusted at all, water runs right through the sand to it, must be hot dipped galvanized or something, I doubt it's copper, seems to be some type of steel.

True I've heard before and that's what I tell people is you need a tow-behind sized compressor to really blow them out. I Guess that's to be extra safe and a mid sized would do ok though


I didn't realize they have what I think I need in 12" extensions:


I guess I'll buy a bunch of these 12" extensions, some cut-by-the foot rubber hose (connect over riser extension using hose clamps for free that I have plenty of for line repair), and then find some sort of cork-shape cap that fits in the rubber hose and hose clamp the caps, Or fold the rubber hose end and put some small C clamps on them I have. There's 6 heads per zone. Then I'll flush each in a row and alternate etc, and hopefully it works well.


I'd like to replace some heads with rotaries and I think I can get away with needing half the amount of heads, less chance of running back into this same problem of water pooling around the heads and not reaching the farther areas, and getting better coverage overall, but I'm not sure if that's the case. The water is city and has good pressure. But changing out to rotary is besides the point. I'd like to customize a bunch of it, get lawn areas full coverage, mostly-permanent drip line for tree line, and a port of an attachable store-bought common drip line(s) for garden area and also regular over-the-top spraying heads for garden area.

Anyway, thanks, I'll try flushing the lines like this and hopefully it works out and no lines are cracked. I think some are collapsed actually though, also probably leaking joints where head risers attach to the black poly pipe lines (they just used a clamp style thing and a hole reamed into the poly pipe), IDK without digging it up but I've replaced some line area and it was stuffed with sand, other lines were decent though.
 

mitchgo

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Redmond, WA
Those are all horrible connections, please don't buy those. You would be better off with Rigid nipples/risers and or digging up the sprinkler head to reset the height
 

Michael - Toronto

LawnSite Member
True I've heard before and that's what I tell people is you need a tow-behind sized compressor to really blow them out. I Guess that's to be extra safe and a mid sized would do ok though...
No, a mid-size won't do the job right. You'll just be wasting your time & money.

Think of it this way: If you were to add up all the wetted area (area inside the pipes) inside the main lines and the laterals in your system, you would probably have the same amount of space as is inside the rear tire of a farm tractor. When you are blowing the system out, you want to push enough air through all the lines, fast enough & forcefully enough, that you blow all the water out. There's two variables that control that: cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air, and the pressure of that air. You need a compressor that can move at least 150 CFM while maintaining a pressure of about 70 PSI.

If you blew through a straw at the top of a glass of beer, you'd probably succeed in blowing the foam off it, but you wouldn't disturb the liquid very much. If you aimed an air jet from a shop compressor at the top of a glass of beer, you'd be able to blow all the liquid out without problems. Now, multiply the side of that glass of beer by (for example) 500 or 1,000, and you have the capacity of your irrigation system.

I didn't realize they have what I think I need in 12" extensions... I guess I'll buy a bunch of these 12" extensions, some cut-by-the foot rubber hose (connect over riser extension using hose clamps for free that I have plenty of for line repair), and then find some sort of cork-shape cap that fits in the rubber hose and hose clamp the caps,
No, don't fart around with 12 inch extensions. Get 4 foot ones, with a MIPT (Male Iron Pipe Thread) on each end. You can buy hard plastic caps with a FIPT (Female Iron Pipe Thread) for 50¢ each. With a 4 foot riser, you won't have to fool around attaching hose, you just tilt the riser a wee bit off vertical and it will blow the water out of the way.

I'd like to replace some heads with rotaries and I think I can get away with needing half the amount of heads...
You'll be the first person in the history of irrigation to ever reduce the number of sprays or rotors. Remember, if you want even precipitation over the whole lawn area, the spray from one rotor needs to reach the next nearest and vice-versa. In other words, your coverage patterns need to overlap.

If the water is presently spraying too far, you control that by changing the size of the nozzle on the rotor. Or, if you have a higher-end rotor such as a Hunter PGP or I-20, you reduce the flow out of that specific rotor using the built-in flow control cutoff at the top center of the rotor.

Michael
 

Outlawn

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
San Angelo, TX
You may just buy a bunch of flush nozzles that come on new heads and install them. If the height needs adjusted then do that prior to flushing them but those flush nozzles work great.
 
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roody2333

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
nj
thanks again

just finding some of these heads is a PITA... Roots of shrubs etc have grown over a few. Even if I close off the rest of that zone I can't find a puddle.

I'm still very doubtful that these lines are not cracked. I found one so far is cracked.

And they used some saddle tee clamps to connect heads and I'm doubtful those connections are still leak proof.

I'd rather call 811 to mark the gas line and rent the trencher for $150 I can run all new lines like nothing and the pipe doesn't cost much. And the rotary heads spray much farther than the little popup ones.

What I meant about changing to rotary heads is, the pop up ones are not getting good coverage even if swapped out with brand new ones, they mostly flood near the head (kills grass from too much water there) and doesn't reach the far spots (kills grass in Summer from no water), I've re seeded this lawn several times trying to use the Sprinkler system but when hot weather comes the lawn goes.

But I'm being convinced to try and keep the old lines. I don't think the sprinklers are really needed that much and they never get winterized and will crack/damage anyway even if I did replace all the lines anyway so I'm just gonna get it done with. At least the valves are not leaking and flooding yard anymore though.


Those are all horrible connections, please don't buy those. You would be better off with Rigid nipples/risers and or digging up the sprinkler head to reset the height
You mean the plastic cut off risers? These?

It's the old saddle clamps I'm worried about, but just want to finalize it and the valves don't leak is ok.

You'll be the first person in the history of irrigation to ever reduce the number of sprays or rotors. Remember, if you want even precipitation over the whole lawn area, the spray from one rotor needs to reach the next nearest and vice-versa. In other words, your coverage patterns need to overlap.
True, the system was installed for full coverage using popup heads, but there's sand in the lines and some are cracked I think without digging up the entire yard to confirm, if there's sand in the lines and to think that rotary ones will spray farther where the pop up ones no longer reach (and without flooding around the head like the popup ones do now) then there's still sand in the lines and those rotary ones will likely start to go bad too, if it even works to start with after a flushing out cracked lines that'll re-clog later.

You may just buy a bunch of flush nozzles that come on new heads and install them. If the height needs adjusted then do that prior to flushing them but those flush nozzles work great.
They have these flex risers in 12", maybe longer. I Didn't have the part with me to make sure thread matched but will pick some of these up and should be able to find a matching cap for 50cents and then bend these over so that when I try and flush the lines the sandy water doesn't go back into the hole and back into the lines when I remove whatever rod/tube I connect top flush them out with.
 
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