Your sprinkler system can help save your yard and keep your plants alive, especially in warmer climates. If you are planning to add concrete to your yard, whether it be a driveway, patio, or different build, laying concrete on your sprinkler system can pose some challenges.
Laying concrete over sprinkler lines is possible but requires homeowners to do extra steps beyond concrete preparation. Sprinkler pipes will need to be recessed into trenches in the ground and sprinkler heads will need to be sealed if they are no longer used. Any sprinkler systems left active will need to be leak free to avoid concrete damage.
If you do need to add concrete over sprinkler lines, you want to ensure you are adding the extra costs into your budget. For many, adding trenches can actually protect your lines from freezing even further and be very beneficial. However, we will further jump into how you can add concrete over sprinkler lines effectively.
Can Sprinklers Cause Issues with Concrete?
When it comes to installing concrete, many wonder if they should remove their sprinkler lines or reroute them entirely. This is entirely up to preference and for most homeowners, it is not a necessity. In fact, this can take a lot of unnecessary time and effort on your part.
One reason that you may want to remove the sprinkler lines from the area you are laying concretes is because leaks can cause damage. If concrete is continuously subjected to water, it can cause pitting and damage. During normal rains, the water evaporates before any damage can be caused but leaking sprinkler systems can cause water to stay on the concrete and damage to occur.
Most often, extended water exposure on concrete can lead to something called pitting, which is a dark and deep hole that can resemble a small star pockmark. Along with these holes, you will find discoloration, or a whitish substance called efflorescence. Of course, a sprinkler system does not always equate to damaged concrete.
- When to Move Your Sprinkler System – If you have had multiple leaks in the past, have an outdated system, or are worried about leaking, it may be best to remove or move your sprinkler system. You also do not want any active sprinkler heads to be close to your new concrete, where water can build up.
- When to Keep Your System – If you have a reliable system that does not have issues with leaking, you can often do a few extra steps and safely lay the concrete on top.
How to Safely Lay Concrete on a Sprinkler System
The best way to ensure that your sprinkler system continues working properly is to lay your system in trenches. This will help your system stay protected from the concrete and keep things in place while laying your concrete. Of course, this does add some extra materials to your list and can add to your overall costs.
You can lay these trenches on your own if you have a trenching machine or trenching shovel. However, if you do not have the proper time or gear, you will want to pay someone to handle this step properly. To do this work on your own, some basic steps you should follow are:
- ALWAYS check your sprinkler lines before doing any work, especially if they are being covered in concrete. Look for any leaks and check joints and washers. Repair any sections that may be showing signs of wear, making sure everything is leak free before starting.
- To make digging your trenches easier, you can water the soil around your system thoroughly, softer soil is simply easier to dig. You will then begin digging the trenches needed to accommodate your lines or pipes, these will need to be about 10 to 12 inches deep.
- You will want to make the bottom of the trench as smooth as possible, removing any dirt or rocks on the bottom. You will then position your sprinkler lines in the trench and cover them with loose soil. You will want to fill the trenches with soil and compact it as much as possible, this helps avoid later damage from concrete.
Laying Your Concrete
At this point, your sprinkler lines should be properly protected, and you can begin the concrete process. This can either be by a professional company or you can do the work yourself if you are up for the task. Start this process by cleaning up the area and removing any rocks or debris.
You want to ensure that any area being concreted in should be raked smooth and compacted with a pressure roller, this further helps to ensure your sprinkler system is covered properly. At this point, there are several steps that you can take, but the most common is just to cover the area in gravel and then add concrete on top.
One important thing you will want to note when laying your concrete or having it laid is where the sprinkler lines go underneath the concrete. You can mark the edge of the concrete on all sides where the sprinkler lines enter underneath. If you suspect a leak later on down the road, having these points of entry marked will be very beneficial.
What to do with Sprinkler Heads You Do Not Need
Of course, when you add new concrete you may not need to have as many sprinkler heads as you did before. If the area where a sprinkler head was is now covered in concrete, it is clearly no longer needed. Before adding your concrete, you will want to cap or remove the sprinkler that is no longer needed so that water does not come out of this area.
You may need to take a few extra steps if you are in an area that gets severely cold but capping a sprinkler head is a fairly easy process. To cap off a sprinkler head, follow these steps:
- Start by digging up the dirt around the head that you want to remove. This will expose the pipe and fittings below.
- Unscrew the sprinkler head. Make sure that you remove any piping that connects it to the fitting below the head.
- Purchase caps or plugs that fit your sprinkler system and install them. It is important that you choose the right size and thread to stop the water from flowing out of this area.
- Make sure to turn on the system and look for leaking around the plug. If you notice leaking, you will probably want to replace the plug. If you do not see any leaks, you can feel free to move on with the concreting process.
Removing No Longer Needed Sprinkler Sections
If you find that a large section of your sprinkler system is no longer needed due to your new concrete area, it is often best to remove the section entirely. There is no need to allow the water to still flow into these sections if you have capped all of the sprinkler heads in this area. Instead, you can cap off an area upstream and remove any unneeded tubing.
You can easily remove the section of no longer needed piping an area upstream of the area you want to remove. Just cut the pipe just past the tee fitting, capping off the pipe. You can then simply remove any pipe past this area or leave it if desired as water will no longer go here and it is essentially unneeded.
This is a great way to avoid water filling pipes that are no longer needed. Of course, always check your piping again for leakage and ensure you have no issues before concreting.
If you are adding new concrete to your yard, you do not have to remove your sprinkler system to do so. You do want to take extra precautions to ensure that your system is protected properly, such as adding trenches and capping off sprinkler heads or sections that will no longer be needed. As long as you do not have a system that often leaks, you should be safe to concrete over your system easily.