How to Repair a Broken Sprinkler Line

Loss of pressure, geysers, dry spots and overly saturated areas are but a few of the problems associated with broken sprinkler lines. So cast off the yoke of overpriced landscapers, gather together courage and shovel, and fix it yourself. Your wallet will be glad you did.


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    Isolate where the leak is. This might require a little bit of digging, often where the water is coming out of the ground is not always the source of the leak. Once you have isolated the leak, turn off the water to that line, or area. Make sure you buy the correct diameter repair pipe and couplers. PVC pipe often has information about size and test-strength printed up and down the sides.
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    Dig a reasonable work space around and under the break, as you will want a bit of "play" or movement in the PVC in order to achieve a rock-solid tight fit with your repair. Clean out as much water, mud and dirt as possible. Approximately 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) on each side of the break, cut the pipe with a PVC cutter and be sure to wipe both ends clean of any mud (outside and inside). Paper towel can be stuffed into the end of the pipe to prevent dirt/mud from re-entering. If the pipe cracks when trying to cut it, place a small amount of PVC primer to the spot where the blade touches the pipe and let it sit for a couple of seconds before applying pressure to the cutter. This will soften the pipe and make it easier to cut without cracking. Remove the broken pipe but save for future subsequent steps.
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    Using purple primer and the brush that comes with it, prime the outside of both of the remaining sprinkler pipe ends by painting a 1–2 inch (2.5–5.1 cm) wide strip around the outside of each pipe end starting at the lip/edge. Prime the inside of 2 straight couplers. Attach a coupler to each pipe end by applying a coat of glue on outside of the pipe end and also to the inside of a coupler. Working quickly, firmly slide the coupler onto the pipe edge using a twisting motion, pushing hard until the pipe hits the lip inside the center of the coupler. Hold the coupler in place with pressure for 15-20 seconds. The clear glue dries in approximately 10 seconds and the blue glue in approximately 20 seconds so you must work quickly. Repeat for the other pipe end.
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    Cut a piece of repair pipe to fit the length of the cut you made in the sprinkler line, minus approximately 1/2" or more for each straight coupler used (the coupler adds approximately 1/2 inch to the length of the finished pipe). To determine the length of the repair pipe, measure from the middle of one straight coupler to the other using a tape measure. If you don't have a tape measure, lay a piece of pipe down into the trench and measure it by eye, marking with a pen or pencil for your cut.
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    Fit the cut piece into the couplers dry, to be sure that the fit is correct and that the resulting pipe is not bowed,from the replacement piece being too long.
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    Disassemble and make any necessary adjustments, until the resulting fit is perfect.
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    Prime both ends of your cut piece, wait 5 seconds, then apply a light layer of glue to one end of the replacement piece and inside one of the straight couplers. Twist pipe hard into coupler until you feel it stop. Wait at least a full minute for that to dry then apply glue to the remaining pipe-end and coupler. With your final fitting, you may have to pull hard on the sprinkler-line pipe, either to the side or up, in order to get the replacement pipe to slip into the coupler. Don't worry, PVC is strong. Allow all fittings and joints to dry completely (3-5 minutes) before turning water back on in that line.
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    Alternatively, use a "repair" coupling which does not have the inside center ridge; basically an over-sized section of pipe. With a repair coupling you can slide it all the way on the new pipe section, prime & glue the other pipe, and slide the repair coupling onto the old pipe.
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    Alternatively, you can cut a coupling piece in half, lengthwise. Grind down the inside center edge if it's a standard coupling. Then prime and glue one or both halves, depending on length of crack, and prime and glue the old pipe around the crack, and apply the half-piece(s) over the crack. Seals the crack and it's faster than cutting out the cracked section of pipe, especially if the cracked pipe is adjacent to another pipe or if it's simply hard to dig out enough.
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    Watch the area of your repair for a few minutes before you cover your hole back up.


  • An easy alternative to bending the pipe to fit, is to use a "telescoping coupling"(slip fix is the common name) available at any irrigation supply house or Big Box hardware store. As any nearby fitting to the leak can be cracked by bending the pipe, a "telescoping coupling" removes this problem. Instructions on how to use the product will be included. This is how the "pros" do it.
  • Always wear gloves when working with PVC primer and glue.
  • Consider using "wet/dry" PVC solvent (glue) versus primer. Primer can easily be over used and weaken the pipe.
  • Never store PVC in the sun, it degrades and weakens the pipe structure.
  • Make sure the inside of the PVC pipe that remains after you cut out the broken piece is as clean as you can get it. Even a little bit of dirt left inside can end up clogging your sprinkler heads or prevent your system from draining properly.
  • Drying times for PVC glue varies based on humidity and temperature, longer drying may be needed.
  • Don't get lazy when digging around the repair -- as hard as it may be to dig, you will need plenty of elbow room to work and must keep the fittings clean.
  • As some valves will leak even when in the off position.A good little trick is to use a piece of bread inside of the leaking pipe.This will stop the leak long enough for the repair to be made.And the bread will break down and not clog any of the lines or sprinkler heads up.

Things You'll Need

  • PVC pipe cutter
  • PVC pipe primer (usually purple)
  • PVC pipe glue (blue or clear)
  • (2) straight couplers
  • 1–2 feet (0.3–0.6 m) of PVC pipe

Article Info

Categories: Outdoor Water Features