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Inspecting Your Irrigation System

The charm of winter is wearing off, yet the snow continues to fall in many areas and it seems that spring is a hopeless anticipation. While the green season may seem distant to some of us, it truly is just around the corner. As the snow begins to melt, the damage caused by winter weather will become apparent in your landscaping. Unfortunately, damage to your irrigation system may go unnoticed; causing additional headaches further into the spring as the moisture in the soil disappears and your curb appeal rapidly deteriorates without proper irrigation. This spring, be sure to have your irrigation system inspected and repaired in order to ensure a green landscape as spring turns to summer and soil moisture reduces.

First things first
While examining for damage and restoring your irrigation is a fundamental step for spring, the primary means to protect your irrigation is with fall prevention measures. Winterizing your irrigation is perhaps the best method of preventing injury to your system during the cold season. In regions prone to freeze, removing all water from the irrigation system is crucial. Any water that is left inside the pipes or sprinklers is likely to freeze as the temperature drops. As the water freezes, it expands and subjects your system to the risk of broken pipes and frozen sprinkler heads. The following steps should be conducted by an irrigation professional to ensure the best protection of your system:

  • Water supply to the irrigation system is disabled
  • Backflow preventers are drained and tagged
  • All valves are drained and left partially open
  • Water is removed from the pipes and sprinkler heads by blowing out the system or utilizing previously installed automatic drain valves
  • Automatic controllers and power are turned off

While temperatures in the Southern regions of the United States typically do not dip to freezing levels, a slight variation of the winterization process is still recommended. These precautions do not affect the underground pipes, but rather, the irrigation components that are exposed to the elements. A trained professional will perform the following actions:

  • Reduce watering times by adjusting the system’s controller
  • Run the system each month to prevent dry-cracks in rubber parts
  • Conduct monthly inspections of above-ground components
  • Drain the system should a freeze situation arise

While many of these steps seem relatively simple, it is always wise to consult a professional as complications are bound to surface.

Preparation isn’t guaranteed perfection
Even the best winterization process isn’t foolproof. The winter weather can take its toll on your system even if you are fully prepared. Small amounts of water left in pipes, valves or heads can cause damage that will need to be repaired come spring. Furthermore, deep freezes can cause cracking and shifting regardless of precautions taken. Areas prone to heavy snowfall face another common risk. Snow plows tend to pile snow accumulation onto banks, obscuring irrigation heads and increasing the risk of plow damage to your system. Moreover, the company responsible for your snow plowing is often separate from the company that manages your irrigation system. Therefore, plow operators may not feel the need or responsibility to exercise caution in your system’s vicinity, even if the area is well-marked. This problem can potentially be avoided by consulting an Exterior Services Maintenance (ESM) company. An accomplished ESM employs trained experts in each area of exterior services, guaranteeing responsible performance of facility maintenance.

Spring Clean-Up
Depending on the weather in your area, the optimal time to begin inspecting and repairing your irrigation system is at the first sign of spring. Regions with an increased risk of damage as a result of heavy snowfall and freezes should begin the process as soon as possible, since repairing severe damage to the system may take additional time. The same holds true for any system that may have been winterized improperly or not at all.

Inspecting for winter damage is best handled by a professional with the proper knowledge and experience to recognize problems in the system. Here are the basic steps an expert will perform in the re-activation process:

  • Inspection of motors, engines and control boxes for wiring damage
  • Removal of end caps to flush system of debris, insects or small animals that may have accumulated during the winter and could potentially clog sprinkler heads
  • Replenishment of water into irrigation system
  • Examination of sprinklers for signs of leakage in pipes and drains
  • Replacement or repair of any needed accessible parts
  • System adjustment for proper coverage and time
  • Pressure assessment
  • Final inspection for breaks or leaks and lubrication of all specified areas

Once the inspection process is completed and necessary repairs are made, your irrigation system should be equipped to handle all your irrigation needs until you winterize next fall.

If at any point, you feel there may be a problem with your irrigation system, contact a professional immediately. As with most complications, small trouble areas can intensify when left unattended, causing additional time, money and headaches when finally addressed. Your irrigation system is the backbone of your landscape and your curb appeal. Without proper care, your exteriors, and your bottom line, may suffer the consequences.

Ready to Evaluate Your Exterior Maintenance Services?
If your retail stores or facilities are struggling with curb appeal, quality assurance issues, or simply have trouble completing landscaping specifications for national formats, you might want to consider calling a national ESM company. A management program could improve your current landscaping and customer appeal, reduce your overall expenses, eliminate the worries of liability and provide fluid service to the exteriors of all your facilities and stores.

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