Tracing sprinkler lines

Is there any simple/cheap but effective device for tracing underground water lines?
I want to check whether our sprinklers are fed from a manifold for each zone or simply "daisy chained," and I may add another sprinkler.
Perce
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Two pieces of baling wire 16" long, bent at 4" to give you an L. Hold loosely in both hands at elbow level, fists touching your sides. Hold loose enough so they swing. Tip very slightly down so they droop in front of you. When you walk over a line, they swing towards each other. Holding them loose and almost flat is the trick. If you can't master that, use two tabasco bottles to put them in.
I have been poo pooed on this, but anyone who has used it know it works.
Steve
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SteveB wrote:

Do you need to have water in the sprinkler lines, or will it work when they are dry?
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It is impossible to get the water out unless you blow it out. I think it can stay in there for years, what with rain adding to it.
I tell ya, I have used it for decades. It's free, isn't it?
Steve
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SteveB wrote:

My sprinkler system drains to the lowest part, and the lines are usually empty.
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And I would imagine that some ( a little to a lot ) remains inside there.
And, I think I could find the pipe by dowsing.
Steve
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Percival P. Cassidy wrote:

Got a timer? How many zones? How large yard? Pretty simple to trace, starting at main and going by line of sight to next head. Did I miss something?
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I know that each of the 4 zones is separate, but if there is a manifold for each zone, it is not where the valves are: from each valve, one pipe disappears into the ground, and from that point I do not know whether each runs to a manifold to which each sprinkler is connected directly, or whether a single pipe runs to each sprinkler in turn.
The sprinklers in each zone are not all the same (maybe a bad thing), and in the case where I have dug down, I have found an "end"; i.e., the pipe does not continue from that sprinkler to another, but I would like to "map" the system and -- *most important* -- locate whatever manifolds exist so that I can connect a new line at that point rather than extend an existing "daisy chain."
The whole thing is complicated by the fact that some sprinklers are fed by a 1/2" pipe and some by a 3/4" pipe. Moreover, there are automatic drain valves *somewhere* in the system, so simply noting the sequence in which sprinklers "fire" does not seem to me to be a reliable way of figuring out the connections.
Perce
On 07/14/05 06:02 pm Norminn tossed the following ingredients into the ever-growing pot of cybersoup:

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Each zone should be a separate piping system. From zone to sprinkler to sprinkler and so on. If you want to add a sprinkler just find the pipe by the closes sprinkler to were want to add. It doesn't have to come off the end of the line, T in anywhere.
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I know that each of the 4 zones is separate, but if there is a manifold for each zone, it is not where the valves are: from each valve, one pipe disappears into the ground, and from that point I do not know whether each runs to a manifold to which each sprinkler is connected directly, or whether a single pipe runs to each sprinkler in turn -- which, according to all that I have read, is *not* the way to do it.
The sprinklers in each zone are not all the same (maybe a bad thing), and in the case where I have dug down, I have found an "end"; i.e., the pipe does not continue from that sprinkler to another, but I would like to "map" the system and -- *most important* -- locate whatever manifolds exist so that I can connect a new line at that point rather than extend an existing "daisy chain."
The whole thing is complicated by the fact that some sprinklers are fed by a 1/2" pipe and some by a 3/4" pipe. Moreover, there are automatic drain valves *somewhere* in the system, so simply noting the sequence in which sprinklers "fire" does not seem to me to be a reliable way of figuring out the connections.
Perce
On 07/14/05 06:30 pm Sacramento Dave tossed the following ingredients into the ever-growing pot of cybersoup:

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I think there is no standard that applies, and without knowing who installed your system, it could be routed any way. Mine has a main line from the valve down the middle of the zone, with smaller lines running off that to where the heads are located. The drain is at the end of the main line.
I don't know any good way to trace the lines, which is why it is important to get a map drawn when the system is installed. Dowsing is a hoax. I suppose one could get a stethoscope and try to trace by sound, if you don't mind getting wet.
Adding another head may not be a good idea. If done right, zones are established based on the amount of water available (considering pressure and volume) so if you add another head to a zone, its likely that the existing heads won't function fully; just as if you were to replace the existing heads with larger heads, you would likely find that none of them would be fully functional.
If you have an unserved area, your best bet would be to add another zone.
Percival P. Cassidy wrote:

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On 07/15/05 10:11 am William Brown tossed the following ingredients into the ever-growing pot of cybersoup:

That is how it should be done, according to what I have read.

This is a pre-owned house, and I'm not sure that it was even the immediately preceding owners who had the sprinkler system installed.

When we looked at this house prior to purchasing it, the municipality was in the process of redoing the water main, and our water pressure now runs at 70-80psi, probably way higher than when the system was installed. Some of our neighbors have suffered major plumbing problems as a result of the increased water pressure.
So I don't think that adding one more sprinkler to a zone will hurt too much. But I now think that relocating a couple of the existing sprinklers and putting in larger nozzles may well do the trick.

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Here's an interesting method I tried just recently - and it worked! I called this a "nerd project" and owe the idea to my nerdy dad. haha
I was actually trying to locate the valves in my system, since the previous owner sodded over them. (doh) I realize you're wanting to trace the PVC, but this method will at least trace out the PVC going to each valve (that is, if they're not grouped in the same location) because standard procedure is to bury the wires in the same trench that was dug for the pipes.
1) Disconnect all wires at controller. 2) Take an old extension cord and cut one of the wires (only one!) 3) Splice in the zone you want to trace (if they're chained, one will cover the whole system) by attaching the extension cord wire, outlet side, to the color-coded valve wire. 4) Connect the ground wire for that valve circuit to the other extension cable wire (the one that leads on to the end of the cord). 5) Connect some sort of small, "noisy" appliance to the cord. I used a dremel tool, but other things should work too. just make sure it's a low-amperage device. You don't want to pull lots of amperage through this tiny circuit. 6) Plug in that sucker (but not to a ground-fault circuit as it will immediately trip). 7) Turn on the appliance to introduce noise into the custom circuit. 8) Hold a portable AM radio near the valve wiring and tune the dial until the noise is most audible. 9) Run the radio along the ground from the known point where the wires are buried, tracing their location. (I used some spray paint on the grass.)
Crazy huh? Hey, it works! Just try not to electrocute yourself. Also, make sure you disconnect all the wires from the controller or you'll burn it up in the process.
The valve servos normally run on only 24v, but the 110V won't hurt them as long as you don't try to pull lots of current through them.

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Unfortunately, the only wires we have go as far as the four valves that are all in a group at the front of the house -- one valve each for back yard, front yard, and each side yard.
Perce
On 07/15/05 12:28 pm MrC1 tossed the following ingredients into the ever-growing pot of cybersoup:

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