Sprinkler Head Won't Pop Up? (Possible Causes & Fixes)

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

If you want a lush, green, gorgeous lawn, you need plenty of water to fuel it. For those who love their yard, there isn’t much worse than turning on your sprinkler system in the middle of the summer only to discover that there is no water coming out.

Although there are many different types of irrigation systems, pop-up sprinklers are very popular in residential areas. This is due to the fact that, the majority of the time, they rest flush against the ground and do not distract from the visual appeal of your beloved lawn. With these types of sprinkler heads, the nozzle on top pops up from a piston when your system is in use and retracts when shut off.

Whether it’s a broken sprinkler head, leak in the water line, or low water pressure, there are a number of reasons why your sprinkler head may not pop up. We’ll explore each possible cause, along with the solutions to return your pop-up sprinkler heads to their full functioning capacity.

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Why Won’t My Sprinkler Head Pop Up?

When you have one or more sprinkler heads that won’t properly pop up, you may need to examine more than one component of your entire irrigation system. The following are some of the possible reasons that your sprinkler head won’t pop up:

  • Dirty or clogged sprinkler head
  • Low water pressure in the zone
  • Leak or break in the water line
  • Cracked or broken sprinkler head
  • New construction or water supply issues in your area

1. Dirty Sprinkler Head

When you turn on your sprinkler system and one or more won’t pop up, the first thing to check is the easiest to resolve. Your sprinklers could simply be clogged with dirt or debris that is preventing it from successfully rising out of the ground. To resolve this problem, clean both the sprinkler head and the plastic screen basket.

An effective way to clear the blockage is to press the sprinkler head down using your foot while it is on. Make sure that you force it all the way down into the body of the sprinkler. Then, manually pull up the pop-up riser. Repeat this process several times to loosen and flush out any debris that may be trapped in the sprinkler head. Keep in mind that this solution can get pretty messy and you will get wet – plan accordingly.

2. Low Water Pressure

Another possible cause for your sprinkler head not popping up completely is that there is not enough water pressure in the zone with the faulty head. In general, low water pressure can be a nuisance and it can also keep sprinkler heads buried in the ground. If one of the valves in your sprinkler system is either partially or completely closed, this can lead to low pressure in a particular zone.

Fortunately, this issue is reasonably easy to check. Simply look at all the valves to verify that they are fully open – including the valves on the backflow device and the main shutoff valve. Turn the valves counterclockwise to ensure that they are completely open. Valves that are open all the way will provide the highest level of water pressure.

3. Leak in Water Line

A leak or break in your sprinkler’s water line can also result in low water pressure in the system and prevent one or more of the heads from popping up. Put simply, if enough water doesn’t reach the sprinkler head, they will not be able to rise from the ground.

One tell-tale sign that there is a leak somewhere along the water line is that you have low, wet, or muddy areas on your lawn that persists even in dry weather. Also, a prominently greener section in a seemingly random area of the lawn and a sudden increase in your water bill can also indicate a leak or break in your sprinkler’s water line.

While you can certainly attempt to repair this issue yourself, you will likely find it to be incredibly difficult to locate the sprinkler leak. Since most of your irrigation system is buried underground, it can be exceptionally hard to find the exact spot where the water line is broken or cracked.

Once you find the leak, you’ll need to carefully dig out the area until you have exposed the problematic pipe. Then, you must use a hand saw to remove the broken spot and replace it with a new PVC pipe.

4. Broken Sprinkler Head

A broken or cracked sprinkler head is one of the most common reasons why your pop-up sprinkler heads may not function properly. Even if the water is turned on full blast and you have adequate water pressure, a broken sprinkler head simply won’t pop up. If this is the issue, your sprinkler heads may seep water even when they are shut off.

Broken sprinkler heads are very easy to identify. Simply inspect your sprinklers for broken plastic pieces, cracked housings, or heads that refuse to rise from the ground. Sprinkler heads that are cracked or broken typically cannot be replaced, they must be replaced with a new model.

5. New Construction or Water Supply Issues

Although less common, another possible reason for your sprinkler heads not popping up could be due to new construction in your area. In this case, water may be diverted you’re your home because of an increased demand on the water system to service more homes or buildings. Alternatively, there may be a problem with your local water supply.

In either of these instances, your home won’t generally be the only one experiencing water issues. Your neighbors will most likely be having the same issue. A quick call to your water company should help you diagnose and resolve the problem.

How to Increase Sprinkler System Water Pressure

If you suspect the low water pressure is the culprit, the first thing you should consider is how long your sprinkler system has been having this issue. If it has never worked properly, the problem may lie with the system itself. In this case, your irrigation system may need to be completely repaired by a certified professional. Or, if you’ve recently expanded the sprinkler heads in your system, the zone may require more water than what it is getting.

If the issue is relatively new and isn’t caused by the addition to your irrigation system, it’s likely that some part of your system is malfunctioning and needs to cleaned, repaired, or replaced. If you want to attempt to increase your sprinkler system’s water pressure on your own, follow these steps for troubleshooting:

  • Start by checking the pressure vacuum breaker valve located outside of your home, above the control box. If the valve is even partially closed, turn it clockwise to increase the water flow to the system.
  • If the pressure vacuum breaker valve is already fully open, check that the sprinkler solenoid valves inside the control box aren’t close and both the fittings and connections are intact.
  • If your valves are open and working properly, look for signs that you may have a broken or leaking connection or pipe somewhere along the waterline.

If you discover that your valves are completely open and there are no leaks in your sprinkler system, you may need to consult the help of a certified professional to diagnose and fix the issue.

How to Find a Leak in Your Sprinkler System

If you believe that the reason your sprinkler head won’t pop up is because of a leak in your sprinkler system’s water line, you need to locate the issue. Unfortunately, finding a leak in your irrigation system can be an incredibly tricky process. A great tool for diagnosing a water leak somewhere on your property is the water meter.

The water meter is generally located near the street and is what your local meter reader uses every month to determine your property’s monthly water usage to calculate your bill. As a homeowner, you can use this meter to confirm the existence of a leak after you’ve turned off every water supply in and around your house. Once you’ve shut everything, lift the cover on the water meter and look for the dial with a sweep-hand. When all the water is turned off, the water meter’s sweep-hand should be still. If it’s still moving, this indicates a leak somewhere along the waterline.

Although handy homeowners may be able to locate and repair a leak in their irrigation system, others prefer to contact a certified irrigation specialist to tackle the job. Experts in sprinkler repair will be able to ensure that all leaks are identified and repaired quickly, appropriately, and thoroughly.

Do You Need to Hire a Sprinkler System Contractor?

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Wrapping It Up

Sprinklers that are not functioning properly can quickly lead to a variety of issues. You should try to immediately identify and find a solution for why your sprinkler heads won’t pop up. That way you can prevent your lawn from dying and your water bills from skyrocketing.

Whether it’s a broken sprinkler head, leak in your water line, low water pressure, or a dirty sprinkler head, most problems can be easily resolved by the average homeowner, without the need to call in a professional.

Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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