Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another Project - Fixing a Broken Garden Pipe

How to fix a broken irrigation pipe

It wasn't enough that the deer, raccoon's and turkeys have stripped my garden to just stems again, one of them broke the pipe that connected the water lines to the trees and raised beds.

This is all that is left of a 15 pound pumpkin that wasn't even ripe ~ just the stem!

It is a standard PVC pipe with 2 hose faucets that I connected the drip lines to and run it on a timer. When “whomever” snapped it in half the water just gushed out everywhere for 90 mins when the timer went off every other day. Nice water bill I got… They also broke my fence but that isn't hard to do since it is a wire fence that was beaten down by the Boer goats a few years ago.

The big hole in my fence, most likely from a fat raccoon too lazy to climb it.
Fixing PVC pipes that are at or near the surface like this is really easy to do - and cheap! It can also be fun when you are fitting the pieces together and coming up with more creative ways to do it. A couple hints to make it easier;
  1. DRY FIT - before you rush ahead and glue stuff together and get it wrong, put all the parts together without glue and see if it works in the hole.
  2. Glue everything you can on "dry land" leaving only the connection to the water line to glue while you are in the hole.
My pipe was snapped off - I think a deer must have kicked it pretty hard or tripped over it!

Step 1 - Dig out the area and determine the extent of the damage
First - dig out around the pipe until you get to the broken section. Be careful you don't break more pipe in the process. You need to have some room under  the pipe as well for the saw blade. You want to be able to clearly see the connections and figure out what pieces you need to buy. 
This is what it looks like after digging it out
 After digging it up I can see that I need to cut the old elbow joint off and put on a new one along with a short length of straight pipe up, and attach the faucet to that. In order to get the right parts, bring your old ones with you. The pipes are different widths and you want to only make one trip if possible.(Trust me this is from experience - I have a bucket of pvc fittings that are the wrong size.. finally got smart enough to know I needed to bring some of the old pipe.)

To fix this I needed 1-1/2 inch pipe - so here is what I got for supplies:

  • 90 degree elbow
  • 2 ft section of straight pipe (I only used about 18 inches of it - more for the spares bucket)
  • Connector for the faucet that had one side to be glued to the pipe and the other threaded to take the brass faucet. (Test it in the store!)
  • Faucet that fit into the threaded section of the pipe connection 
  • Teflon tape
  • Small hacksaw (works good in the tight spots)
  • PVC "blue" (waterproof) glue
  • Sandpaper

Supplies  laid out on my garage floor

You need a small hacksaw like this to cut the PVC pipe - notice the warning message on the bottom right of the package. "Caution! Saw blades are sharp!"

Step 2 - Cut off the broken piece
To make this work again I will need to glue a new elbow to the straight water pipe that is still in the ground. First cut off the elbow using your hacksaw as close as you can to the straight pipe. When you have done that, take a rag and wipe the pipe off on the outside so the glue will adhere correctly.
The elbow connection is cut off - this is the pipe before it is cleaned.
 Step 3 - Assemble the new section
After you have dry-fitted the new parts and have made sure the length is correct and the position of the elbows are right, it is time to glue!
Using the sandpaper rough up the inside of the connecting joints and the outside of the straight pipe. Then working carefully and quickly, take some of the glue and put it around the outside of the straight pipe and the inside of the joint. Push the parts together and twist into the correct angle and position. You have to do this really fast because the glue dries in 30 seconds. Hold the parts there with some pressure for a minute and move on to the next connection.  For this repair, I put it all together in the garage (below) - and used teflon tape on the threads before connecting the faucet to prevent leaking.

All ready to go into the ground and hook up to the other pipe

Step 4 - Attach the new section to the existing pipe
After getting the faucet assembly done, you need to connect the whole thing to the water pipe that is in the ground. After cleaning the pipe section, do a "dry-run" without the glue first to get the mechanics of how you are connecting the two sections together. Work quickly and glue the 2 ends of the pipe and push them together and hold for a minute.
Step 5 - Leave it alone
You have to let the glue cure and become waterproof but it should only take an hour before you can lightly test it. After that leave it alone for a day or so.. then you can use it!

This whole thing cost me about $10 in parts and I went on to put together a couple of others at the same time. This is a totally doable project for even the novice "DIY-er" so give it a try next time you get a broken pipe... you can always call the professionals later if you can't get it done.


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