If you’re adding a new garden bed or pool to the yard, or if your sprinkler system has sprung a leak, you’ll want to find your sprinkler lines. Unfortunately, they are usually buried in your lawn, and there’s no way to be sure where they are without digging unless you can find your sprinkler system map.
Sprinkler System Maps
Your sprinkler system installation team may have given you a map of the system. If you can find it, and you haven’t made any changes to the system since it was installed, you’re in luck.
Find your sprinkler heads and mark them. They should match the pattern indicated on the map. The map should indicate where the underground sprinkler lines are laid between those heads. Mark along their path with flags so that when you’re digging, you can steer clear of the line. Avoid the flag line by six inches on each side, just in case.
If the system was installed some time ago, and you’re not sure if the map is still correct, you should confirm that it is by digging out a small spot on a handful of lines. After all, if the map is off by a few feet your shovel or other digging equipment can cause costly damage to your sprinkler system.
Confirm the lines that are closest to your new dig spot. Start a sprinkler head and carefully dig around where the line should be, with a hand trowel. Once you confirm the direction the line runs, that should be enough to know whether or not the map is correct.
Or, if your goal is to find a leak, the line closest to the wet spot is the likely culprit. Dig carefully with a hand trowel so that you don’t cause further damage to your line. Or, you could use a high pressured hose to wash away the dirt. It makes quite a mess, but the hose can’t damage the PVC pipe (just don’t use a pressure washer).
Make Your Own Map
If you can’t find your map, you’ll have to make one of your own. Mark out the sprinkler heads on your lawn and make a copy of their pattern on paper. The lines must run between the heads and usually run in the same direction. There’s also a mainline running from your home to the first sprinkler head.
Start near the sprinkler heads and dig, with a hand trowel, carefully. You don’t want to damage the pipes by scraping them with a shovel. The lines should be at least 3 inches deep, but sometimes they are as deep as 8 inches.
Once you find which direction the line heads there’s no reason to dig up the whole line unless you’re looking for a leak. Instead, mark out the direction of the line on your map. After you find a few lines, you’ll start to see a pattern that will give you more confidence that you have the line’s direction right. Now all you have to do is plan your new garden bed around the map.
Finding underground sprinkler lines in your yard can be a pain, but it’s much easier than trying to fix a leak caused by heavy digging equipment. One short dig to confirm a line’s location can save you a lot of digging later on.