Kevin O’Connor meets plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey back at the shop to discuss irrigation repairs. Kevin admits to having three irrigation punctures of his own, so Richard shows him the difference between standard plumbing connections and irrigation fittings. Then, Richard demonstrates how to make repairs using basic irrigation parts and tools.
Potable Water vs. Irrigation Water
Despite coming from the same source, there are some significant differences between the water system in the home (the potable water) and the irrigation system feeding the sprinklers or garden.
House water systems typically have high water pressures in the 40 to 50 PSI range. This requires heavy-duty secure fittings on either copper or PEX tubing. Options include soldered fittings, push-on fittings, compression fittings, and barbed fittings with high-strength stainless steel clamps installed by a specialized machine.
Irrigation systems have far lower pressure ratings. These systems don’t require the same heavy-duty connections or fittings. And the flexible tubing used for irrigation systems has thinner side walls than typical PEX. This makes these parts less expensive than potable water parts, but they’re also much easier to damage.
How Irrigation Damage Happens
It doesn’t take much to damage an irrigation tube. The most common instance is typically when digging holes for planting or landscaping projects and not knowing the tubing is underneath.
Other instances can occur when driving tent stakes into the ground for parties or backyard camping trips, or during the tree removal process. All it takes is a relatively sharp object to touch the tubing with very little force to slice a hole, causing a leak.
What to Do if a Leak Occurs
If a leak occurs, do not panic. Simply shut off the irrigation system at the main control valve to stop the water flow. Then, excavate around the breakage to gain access to the damaged area. Next, cut the tubing a few inches on either side of the slice to remove the damaged section of tubing. Take this piece of tubing to the hardware store to match up the fittings, clamps, and another length of tubing (hint: get at least one foot more than you need).
How to Repair the Tubing
After matching up the damaged tubing with fittings and a piece of replacement tubing, repairing the pipe is simple.
You will need:
- Start by making fresh, square cuts on the existing tubing and slipping the ring clamps over the tubing.
- Working on one side at a time, use the heat gun to warm the tubing and, once warm, push the barbed fitting into the tubing.
- Stretch the repair pipe between the fittings to measure it and then cut the tubing to length.
- Place a clamp over the tubing and warm the end with a heat gun and, once warm, push it onto one of the barbed fittings on the existing tubing.
- Repeat on the other side before using the hose clamp pliers to tighten all the clamps.
Richard explains connectors for irrigation repairs, how to choose the correct size, and how to install it.
Barbed Fittings—Available for tubing sizes from ¼-inch up to 1-inch. The sharp barbs of the connection hold the fitting in place. Stainless steel locking clamps can be used to make the connections even tighter.
Compression Fittings—These are low-cost fittings very popular because of their full-flow characteristics and they are easy to install.
Threaded Fitting—Often used to connect components like threaded risers so they don’t leak.