How To Find A Buried Sprinkler Head (Step-by-Step Guide)

Patricia Oelze
by Patricia Oelze

Having a sprinkler system makes it easier to keep your lawn beautiful. But, when they go underground and do not come back up, they are not doing much good. What happens when you cannot find a sprinkler head that has gone underground?

To find a buried sprinkler head you can turn the water on and watch for a pool of water in the ground that will indicate where your sprinkler head is sitting. Or, check the diagram you got with your sprinkler system. Also, you can measure the distance between the others.

These are all good ways to start. But there are others that can help you find that elusive sprinkler. Let’s take a look at some of these (and others) ideas in detail.

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Checking the Diagram

When you got your sprinkler system, you should have gotten a diagram of how the system is set up in your yard. The mainline should start at your home and then spread out into smaller lines that then go to the sprinkler heads and valves. Follow the diagram and you should be able to find the missing valve.

Quick Tip: If you don’t have your diagram and had to get a permit to put in the system, your city officials should have a copy of the diagram.

The Measuring System

If you cannot find the diagram from your sprinkler system, you can try measurement instead. It is pretty easy and all you need is a measuring tape and some flags or markers.

  • Step One: Put a bright flag or marker near each sprinkler head so you do not have to keep looking for them.
  • Step Two: Get a measuring tape and measure the distance between a few of the sprinkler heads you can see.
  • Step Three: Then go to the area where there is a large gap between two and measure out that distance between the other sprinkler heads. The missing one should be in that area.
  • Step Four: Make sure you remove the flags or markers.

Turning it On

If your system is working okay, go ahead and turn it on for a few minutes. Then go and see where there is a big gap between two of the heads. In between those, you should be able to see a pool of water where the head is buried. Just push aside the dirt and you should see it.

Turning them Off

This tip may take a bit more time but if you are still searching, go ahead and try it. It is pretty easy to do.

  • Step One: Turn off each sprinkler head near the one you are missing. All you have to do is put a flathead screwdriver into the top of the sprinkler head and turn clockwise until it is tight.
  • Step Two: Turn the sprinkler system back on. Wait a little while for the pressure to build up.
  • Step Three: The pressure should push the sprinkler head up from the ground so you can find it. If that does not happen, look for the wet spot as in the idea above.

Got a Metal Detector?

First of all, metal detectors are a lot of fun. And they can be very useful too. But before you go searching your yard with it, scan it over one of the other sprinkler heads first to make sure your detector can find that metal. Sometimes you may have to adjust the sensitivity or metal settings on your detector to get the proper reading.

Look for Dead Spots in Your Lawn

Has it been a while since your sprinkler head has been missing? If the water has not been coming out in one spot in your yard for some time, there should be spots of brown grass. The grass will be drying up and dying because it has not been getting any water. As long as it has not rained lately, that is.

What to Do After You Find the Head

You have probably uncovered the head with your shovel or spade. Be careful not to damage it. After you find the buried sprinkler head, you need to fix it so it will start working again. This is pretty simple. Just pull it out with your hand. Be gentle but firm. Then clean the dirt away from the spigot and test it to make sure it works.

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Related Questions

Why Is There No Water Coming Out?

If you turn on the system and the sprinkler head does not work, try cleaning it out. It may just be dirty from being buried. It may also be turned off. Use a screwdriver to turn the valve on top counterclockwise as far as it will go. Check the fuse on the transformer. If it is blown, replace it and it should work.If it is more than just that one that is not working, check to make sure it is a water day. If your system is set to go off every other day, maybe it is an off day. Do you have a rain sensor? This is a system that will turn off the water for that day if it senses that it has rained recently. It may be faulty. You can bypass it to find out.

How Do I Test My Sprinkler Solenoids?

If none of that works, test the solenoid. Each sprinkler has a solenoid that makes it rise and open up, so the water comes out. This is not difficult to check.

  • Step One: Turn off the water and electricity to the sprinkler system.
  • Step Two: Open the top of the sprinkler valve. Remove the solenoid by turning it counterclockwise. The solenoid is a small black tube that is located right next to the head.

Important Tip: Be sure you do not lose the spring and the plunger inside the solenoid.

  • Step Three: Check the plunger. This is the small metal piece with rubber on it. Clean it off or replace it.
  • Step Four: Put the solenoid back in. Turn everything back on and see if it works. If it does not work, replace it.
  • Step Five: Be sure to turn the power back off before continuing. Disconnect the wires from the old solenoid and attach them to the new solenoid. Be sure to use a waterproof connector.
  • Step Six: Put everything back together. Turn the power back on and make sure it all works.
  • Step Seven: Make sure the sprinkler head is back where it belongs and replace the dirt and sod covering the area around it.
What if My Sprinkler Will Not Shut Off?

Sometimes, a single sprinkler head or a whole zone will not shut down like it is supposed to. If it is just one head, it probably just needs a good cleaning. It could also be a bad solenoid. You can replace it by following the steps outlined above.

Some sprinkler systems have bleeder screws on the sprinkler heads. Check to see if it is stuck in the open position. If so, turn it to the off position. Yes, it is that simple.

If that does not work, you may have to take the valve box off and clean the inside. To do this, just remove the four screws holding the box on and carefully clean any dirt or debris from inside. If it still won’t work, it is time to call in the professionals.

Patricia Oelze
Patricia Oelze

I am a DIYer who loves writing about anything home-related. When I am not writing, you can find me studying for my PhD in Psychology, photographing nature, and swimming at the lake with my grandkids.

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