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Need to fix sprinkler system
Old 05-08-2011, 09:29 PM   #1
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Need to fix sprinkler system

OK... did a quick search and did not find what I was looking for....

I did find Nords post on sharkbites for copper... but could not find the one about the putty that fixes a leak...


Here is my problem... the neighbor had a new fence installed... and it APPEARS that someone with a spade pushed the shovel into our sprinkler system pipe and made a nice 2 inch cut or break... Now, there is no way to prove this, so I will just fix it myself and be done with it...

However, it is a bit more difficult that I anticipated... there are two pipes (PVC 1/2 inch) next to each other and both are next to some concrete something or other (do not know where there is anything there... maybe the old homeowner had a dog that dug)... and the broken pipe is the one that is in the middle... so, it would be hard to get a cutting blade in there to cut out the bad section and replace.. and just thinking trying to get the glue etc down there with the other pipe is not appealing...


SOOOO, I remembered there was some thread here that talked about that miracle putty or whatever it is called that is supposed to seal any leak...

Does anybody know what this is called and does it work? I really do not care that much on looks since it will be buried once the leak is stopped...
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:24 PM   #2
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I think it's called mighty putty but have no idea if it works or not.
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Old 05-08-2011, 10:25 PM   #3
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You can cut it with almost no clearance at all with a thread:



I've heard that JB-Weld products are good adhesives. Might be the thing to use for a repair, but I bet you can get a PVC piece in there with solvent OK.

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Old 05-08-2011, 10:43 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
SOOOO, I remembered there was some thread here that talked about that miracle putty or whatever it is called that is supposed to seal any leak...

Does anybody know what this is called and does it work? I really do not care that much on looks since it will be buried once the leak is stopped...
I don't think any magic putty will work very well. About the best you'd probably do of that type would be the two-part epoxy "clay" that you kneed together for about 30 seconds and then mold onto the pipe. It might work. But if this is on the sprinkler water supply pipe (before the shut-off valves) I wouldn't try it, because once you bury this pipe you've got no way to know if it's leaking. You could easily lose a few hundred gallons every month--expensive, especially if you get billed for the sewer use by the amount of water you consume.

I think you'll have to cut the pipe to make a long lasting repair. Use a cable saw and you'll only need a little bit of clearance to cut out a section. Then, the problem is getting a new piece to make the repair in the middle of the pipe (all regular PVC fittings are made to go on the end of a pipe with enough clearance to push them on and seat them). They don't make hubless PVC couplers (at least that I've been able to find). Fortunately, they make a specialty fitting just for your kind of repair. I can't recall the name of it, but you cut out a section, glue this thing on one end, and it then telescopes out to engage the other end. The telescoping part seals with an O-ring). Done. My local Lowe's stocks them.

Option B: (I've never tried this) If it's really impossible to cut out a section of this pipe, you might try making your own PVC scab patch. This will be a bit of a science project and it won't work if your pipe is cut more than a little. See if any of the PVC pipe (white or grey) or CPVC pipe in your hardware store is a close friction-fit around the outside of your 1/2" pipe (maybe 3/4" schedule 40 or thinwall might work?). Buy a short length. Cut a 4-6" long piece, then cut it lengthwise so that you've got one piece that is slightly more than 1/2 of the circle. The idea is to snap this down over the section of the pipe with the gash and use a LOT of PVC solvent (aka "pipe cement"). I think this might work if the cut is not raised and if you can get everything clean. No guarantees. But if it doesn't leak when you finish, it will probably hold well for many years.

If you have to cut the other pipe and then repair it, that might be easier than trying to work around it (provided you can get the water turned off in that second pipe).

Another tip: If you've got a shopvac, it can be a big help in these types of close-quarters excavations. Pour a puddle with the garden hose, use a length of pipe or a garden trowel to loosen up the soil and turn it into mud, slurp it out, and repeat. Sometimes you don't even need the water, depending on your soil type.

Good luck.
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Old 05-08-2011, 11:16 PM   #5
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I tried to plug a hole in an iron water pipe with the epoxy putty. Lots of it, plus tape. Didn't work -- under pressure, the water kept finding new channels, somehow.
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:00 AM   #6
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Samclem has clearly fixed way too many sprinklers and knows all the tricks. A nice addition to the Shopvac is excavating with the solid-stream spray of a garden hose. Unbelievably messy but you can stand back and hit the surrounding dirt with the water without worrying about accidentally crushing more PVC with a root digger or a trowel.

Good luck with the magic putty. I've used epoxy around a leaking solder joint but it took several applications and then the slow drip didn't stop for several more weeks.

You might be able to get away with patching a hairline crack using JB Weld or RTV. It'll certainly look pretty-- but every time the sprinklers come on, the water hammer in the piping will flex the repair a little bit and eventually break through again.

Two inches may be too big a break for this next idea, but you can buy a clamp-on PVC pipe sleeve. Unfortunately I think it's only 3-4 inches long. It's two half-pipes with interlocking joints. You slather PVC cement liberally on the broken pipe, slide one piece of half-pipe down one side and rotate it underneath, slather more PVC cement on the broken pipe, lay the second piece on top, and clamp them together until the glue sets. The problem is having the clearance to slather the broken pipe, to manipulate the half-pipes, and to clamp the assembled result. Another problem is making sure that you got all the shards of the broken PVC out of the pipe. You can flush out dirt & small gravel, but PVC shards don't go around bends very well and will eventually block up the flow again.

What's the concrete thing? Can you dig it out or cut away around the broken pipe with a cold chisel? If all else fails then you're going to be thinking that a cold chisel and a five-pound sledge isn't so bad after all. Unless, of course, that's a septic-tank cover.

You can get the PVC cut started with a fine-toothed pointy drywall saw or, if you're really lucky, a Dremel tool. If you're Vegas-jackpot lucky then you might be able to slide a jigsaw blade in there. Once you get a quarter-inch of room then you can follow up with a frameless hacksaw-- one that has the blade sticking out in front of the handle. You know, the kind where the extended blade breaks off the minute it touches the dirt on the other side of the cut. Have a spare blade or two on hand. Another option is a tiny PVC saw that's formed into a handle out of quarter-inch metal rod with an even tinier hacksaw blade across its gap. The hacksaw blade looks like a piece of wire with teeth on one side. It's hard to hold and the quarter-inch metal tends to bang into the dirt and get stuck.

The slipjoint that Samclem mentions glues onto one end of the piping. You then apply glue to the other side, expand the other end, and glue that second joint. The challenge with this piece of PVC is that the slip joint in the middle (with its o-ring) may require you to screw down a cap to get the o-ring to seal tightly. (Don't break the PVC joints you just glued!!) A Ford wrench or a pair of vise grips can help grab onto the cap but it's a challenge to get it tight enough. And then the water hammer will flex this joint, too, so you have to leave the excavation open for a couple weeks and keep re-tightening the cap until it's finally seated.

I wouldn't recommend the double-ended version of the slip joint (see the photo below). They're very hard to position. Even if you get the cap on one end tight you'll almost never get the cap on the other end tight enough. Both ends have enough remaining flex that the water hammer shakes them loose, no matter how many times you re-tighten them.

If the adjacent pipe and the concrete give you an inch on each side of the broken pipe then you could try a PVC union. After you glue everything together then the two faces of the union will butt up against each other (including an o-ring) for you to screw down the coupler. (Provided, of course, that you remembered to slide the coupler onto the PVC pipe in the correct orientation before you glued in the two faces of the union.) The challenge with this connector is the same as the slip joint-- being able to tighten the coupler with a wrench or vice grips. Without torquing and breaking the PVC joints that you just glued.

If THAT doesn't work (I don't want to get into how I learned all of this) then try excavating the PVC pipe for three or four feet on both sides. (Hopefully you have enough room for this.) Now you'll have plenty of flex on the broken ends. Wedge them up out of the hole (using a root digger or a short piece of PVC jammed across the pipe and lifting from underneath), cut the ends square and clean them up, lay them back down in the hole, and carefully measure the gap. Cut your repair PVC a half-inch shorter than the gap. Glue one end of the repair pipe on to one of the excavated pipes with a butt joint and seat it firmly, which should leave you a gap of about 3/8" at the other end. Raise the end of the other pipe out of the trench and glue on another butt joint, seating it firmly also. If you've got everything seated tightly (and the PVC joints didn't push apart before the cement set) then when you lay everything back down into the trench your repair pipe will overlap that second butt joint by about half an inch... barely enough to seal the leak. Now lift the repair pipe out of the trench and carefully file 1/8" off the lower half of the exposed pipe. You're trying to turn the end from a squared-off joint to one that's been filed down slightly on the bottom. Take it easy-- it's better to go 3/32" than it would be to go 3/16".

This next step takes patience and confidence. When I said "three or four feet on both sides", that's where you get the necessary flex. Coat the butt joint and the last end of the repair pipe liberally with PVC cement, lift both ends of pipe out of the trench, and rest the repair gently against the butt joint. Note that you've neatly filed off the lip of the repair pipe which would normally interfere with the next step. Then try to torque both pieces of pipe to align with each other as you lower them slowly back into the trench. You have about 30 seconds before the PVC cement starts to set up-- "plenty of time". You'll feel the repair pipe pop into the butt joint and slide home. Once you have the pipe back in the trench, liberally goop more PVC cement onto the joints (PVC cement is cheaper than the alternative) and let it all set up for 24 hours.

As TromboneAl says, we want photos...
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Which repair works better and costs less.JPG (433.9 KB, 5 views)
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Old 05-09-2011, 09:01 AM   #7
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Can you get at it with a hose clamp? if so, a piece of rubber over the hole and a hose clamp might work.
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Old 05-09-2011, 09:49 AM   #8
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Are you sure you don't want to have a little talk with your neighbor about how this happened?
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Old 05-09-2011, 11:24 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies... I can see that some here have had the same problem...

Right now I only have about a 1 foot wide hole, so the pipes do not flex that much... I had thought abouts Nords suggestion of digging along the pipe for a few feet to get some flex... this would help in two way as I would be able to flex the one pipe out of the way of the other for a cut..

I have not tried to figure out what the concrete is.. but I do know it is not part of a septic as we are in a utility district with sewer... I think from what I see and where it is located that an old homeowner put it there under his fence... probably had dogs that dug out and this stopped it... if so, it runs the whole length of the fence... if not, a chisel will help.. but I am thinking digging is easier...

Now, since posting, I have thought that I could drill the pipe to get the cut started... but I still think that I will have to get a lot more pipe exposed to get some movement ability...
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Old 05-09-2011, 11:31 AM   #10
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Are you sure you don't want to have a little talk with your neighbor about how this happened?

Well, since my wife complained about the fence to them when we foudn their dog in our back yard... and since they replaced the fence on their dime and did not ask us to help in the cost... AND they put the good side toward our lawn I am going to pass on bringing this up...

Also, I heard the husband is in Afghanistan... not sure if military or some other reason (they moved in a few months ago so have not really met them)... but good enough for me to give them a break...
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Old 05-09-2011, 11:51 AM   #11
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Saddle sounds easiest - like Sam suggested - here's a link - note they have to be drilled to open up the tap joint, so if you don't drill it's just a repair saddle.

1"x1/2" Snap-On Tee - PVC Fittings - IRRIGATION

Or Sam's slip coupling repair, as used by the plumbing pros up north:

Note that this type fitting allows motion and has an Oring seal, not like the older fixed length screw end Oring repair fittings Nords and I have used. I've some of those that have held for 20 years or so underground BTW, though they could be seeping - no puddles though....
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:13 PM   #12
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Thanks for the video calmloki....

except that my pipe is not broken, but has a two inch 'tear' in it, it looks like what I am up against (well, not including the second pipe and the concrete)....

I have been looking at some place with the various posts and I found this:

PlumbingSupply.com - pipe repair tools, clamps, and accessories to fix your broken schedule 40 pipes


This looks a bit more promissing if I buy a saddle or sleeve that is designed for the size of pipe I have.... I now think it is 3/4"... but will check...


Well, just looked and this does not look like the option.... they are not permanent and the saddle is only supposed to be 20 psi... look like the slip fix is the way to go....
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:50 PM   #13
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Thanks for the video calmloki....

except that my pipe is not broken, but has a two inch 'tear' in it, it looks like what I am up against (well, not including the second pipe and the concrete)....

I have been looking at some place with the various posts and I found this:

PlumbingSupply.com - pipe repair tools, clamps, and accessories to fix your broken schedule 40 pipes


This looks a bit more promissing if I buy a saddle or sleeve that is designed for the size of pipe I have.... I now think it is 3/4"... but will check...


Well, just looked and this does not look like the option.... they are not permanent and the saddle is only supposed to be 20 psi... look like the slip fix is the way to go....
Have used the clamp saddles on iron pipe - never felt good about them, though they are holding... the irrigation riser tap saddles are about 3 1/2" - 4" long, so if you only have a 2" split they should work great - and they are wayyyyy easy and grip the repaired pipe just right - I've used the 3/4" riser saddles down here in La Quinta and they are eye-opening easy..
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Old 05-16-2011, 09:48 PM   #14
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OK... just an update in case anybody really cares...

After digging around a bit more... I came to the conclusion that if I were going to use the slip joint that samclem suggested I needed more room...

So, tonight I was out there with the cold chisel breaking off chucks of concrete. Lucky for me it was an outcropping from the main part and some chunks came off with not a lot of difficulty.... still, was a bit of work to get about 8 inches knocked off... (OK... saw the joke in here after I wrote it )

I then took a pry bar and separated the pipes so I could use this tool to cut the pipe:

Shop Kobalt KOBALT 1-1/2 IN. POLY PIPE CUTTER at Lowes.com


Glued it all back together and removed the pry bar... you can tell that the slip joint is pressing on the other pipe more than I would like, but I think it can stand the pressure...

We will try it out tomorrow to see if there are any leaks...


Thanks for all your help.... if left to my own, I probably would have used the 4 90 method, but I think this is a better fix...
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Old 05-17-2011, 12:08 AM   #15
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If you have to do this again, there is an easy (well, relatively easy) method.

Cut the PVC pipe using a new hacksaw blade in a hacksaw-blade holder. A hacksaw blade holder is a tool that provides a handle that one end of the blade goes into, and has a short arm that reaches out partway down the top of the blade. It is, in effect, a single-ended hacksaw.

Put the blade in reversed from the usual orientation, ie. insert the blade into the holder so it cuts on the PULL STROKE, not the push stroke like a regular hacksaw. Putting the blade in so it cuts on the pull stroke reduces the chances of bending the unsupported potion of the blade into an "S".

With this tool, you can easily cut the pipe, and if the blade overshoots and saws the ground below, no problem. Just clean the cut edge with some sandpaper to get any burr off, and wash any dirt off with a wet paper towel.

When dry, prime and solvent weld using a simple repair coupling. A repair coupling looks like a regular pipe coupling, but it does not have a ridge on the inside center to stop the pipe.

Make pencil marks of where the ends of the coupling should end up on each pipe end, prime, put solvent all around the pipe ends and through the coupling, then, pull up one pipe a bit and quickly slide coupling on fully, line pipe up with other pipe, and quickly slide the coupler back to the marks.

Since you would need to add a section of pipe, the first coupling can be a regular coupling (with an internal stop ridge), the second one (last one in) is the repair coupling.

Most sprinkler pipe is class 200, which is a thinwall, nothing like Schedule 40 pipe, so it saws fast... and breaks easier. But it's cheaper, and with the thin wall, allows more water flow. It has a larger internal cross-section as compared to SCH 40, but has the same outside diameter so it can use the same fittings.
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Old 05-17-2011, 04:31 PM   #16
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I then took a pry bar and separated the pipes so I could use this tool to cut the pipe:

Shop Kobalt KOBALT 1-1/2 IN. POLY PIPE CUTTER at Lowes.com
Let's see how shameless you are: Did you clean up the $13 pipe cutter, tape it back into the package, and return it to Lowes? ("Um, I didn't like it . . .")
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Old 05-17-2011, 04:41 PM   #17
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Let's see how shameless you are: Did you clean up the $13 pipe cutter, tape it back into the package, and return it to Lowes? ("Um, I didn't like it . . .")

LOL... it never occured to me.... thanks for the suggestion


But.... no, I do not do that even on more expensive items... I would rent it first....


Now that I think about it... that was a downfall of Woolco (does anybody remember them?).... I worked for them back when I was 15 to 18.... they used to have a no question asked return policy and we used to get back lawn mowers and weed whackers in the fall that you knew were used all summer long....
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Old 05-17-2011, 10:08 PM   #18
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I recently had to cut a sprinkler pipe when I was cutting a root which grew over it. I needed to get rid of the root to fix a drain clean out.
I had to repair the cut line and it was in a tight area next to the concrete driveway.
I found a flexible PVC pipe product which glues just like the standard PVC but is more like a hose and is flexible. I got it at Lowes.

There are also many pipe mending products some are just rubber with hose clamps. They might work well enough for a sprinkler where there is no constant pressure.
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Old 05-18-2011, 09:47 AM   #19
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OK.... the leak was fixed


But then I went to look at the sprinkler head and nothing was coming out... and I heard water gurgling below

Started digging and there is water coming out... so I have another leak to fix... lucky for me it is on the end of the pipe so it will be easy... asking the wife is she wants it moved since it is not in the best place for her flowers...


Still have another two heads that are not working at all and two that are bad... the last two are easy replacements... but have to do some work on the first two...
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Old 05-18-2011, 04:42 PM   #20
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Make pencil marks of where the ends of the coupling should end up on each pipe end, prime, put solvent all around the pipe ends and through the coupling, then, pull up one pipe a bit and quickly slide coupling on fully, line pipe up with other pipe, and quickly slide the coupler back to the marks.
Whew-- talk about performance pressure. I'd be terrified of getting interrupted or distracted just before the solvent turned into adhesive...
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