What To Do If Your Sprinklers Won’t Turn Off – 2021
Almost everyday we get calls from frantic homeowners who wake up and see their sprinklers running when they aren’t supposed to be. Confused, they go to the timer in the garage and turn the switch to off. They are surprised to see the sprinklers still running. With money literally washing down the street you need to act quickly. This guide will show you how to shut off sprinklers that won’t turn off without shutting off water to your home.
This blog is written by licensed professionals in the Dallas metroplex. These tips are based off of what we see in the field for our area.
Handling sprinklers that won’t turn off is a job that can be done without any tools if your backflow device is visible and in good condition. If not, these tools may be necessary.
- Shovel possibly
- Pliers possibly
- Hand water pump possibly
Find the backflow box
The first step to fixing sprinklers that won’t shut off is knowing what type of backflow device you have. You can read more about backflow types and what they are used for here.
Generally in a regular neighborhood lot you’ll have what is called a double check backflow device. These are located in a big rectangular box in the ground. Typically, the box is located within 10′ of the city water meter. It could be on the other side of the sidewalk as well if you have one. In some instances we have seen backflow devices located in the flowerbeds near the house.
If you are having trouble finding the box, it’s probably covered with grass. Once you’ve found it you can move on to the next step. If you still haven’t found it read the next paragraph.
Locating a buried backflow can be a pain but here is how we approach it. We look at your neighbors house and see if we can locate their backflow easily. Chances are yours is in a similar spot. From there use your shovel to poke around in the yard. You’ll want to look first in a similar spot as your neighbors, then all around the water meter within a 10′ radius, lastly in the flowerbeds. When the shovel hits the plastic box you’ll feel it and hear it.
Gain access to your backflow
The next step to handling your sprinklers that won’t shut off is to gain access to the device. With a properly maintained backflow you’ll be able to skip this step. Unless, the box is full of water.
If you open the lid and it’s full of water you can use a hand pump as shown above to pump the water out quickly. You can purchase this tool at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Often, when we open up the lid the backflow is surrounded by mud. You’ll have to clean out around the backflow to gain access to the handles. Ideally, there should be no dirt touching the backflow while it’s in the box. You’re almost ready to fix your sprinklers that won’t turn off.
Turn off the backflow
Now that the backflow is cleared and accessible you’re ready to get your sprinklers turned off. Again, with a properly maintained backflow this step can be easy. When the water is on the handles will be parallel to the pipe. If the water is off the handle will be perpendicular to the pipe. To shut off the backflow turn one of the handles 90 degrees. Now, these handles only turn one direction. If you look at the base of the handle you’ll see metal stoppers that will indicate which way it turns.
Note: Don’t mess with the test ports on the top of the backflow device.
You may experience stuck handles or even missing handles if they are rusted. This is where the pliers come in. Before you use the pliers be sure you are turning the handle in the right direction. If you use pliers grab onto the nut in the middle and turn that instead of the handle.
Now you’re done
Once you have the handle turned fully perpendicular the water should be off. To confirm this make sure the metal stoppers are touching. You should only have to turn off one handle to accomplish this. However, we have seen where one valve doesn’t close all the way letting water pass through. If this happens, turn off the other handle. We recommend replacing your backflow every 10 years as well as regularly cleaning out the box to keep the device from rusting. Yearly testing is also required by most cities which ensures this device still works internally.