Maintaining Your Irrigation System And Yard Fencing

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By David E. MacLellan

sunIt has been a tough winter! This year’s polar plunge has had crippling effects all over the country. But there is hope; Spring has arrived.

Ah, spring the time to take stock of the ravages of winter. Whether you’re getting ready to plant your new seasonal garden or you’re still keeping the snow shovel handy, it won’t be long before green shoots assert their presence in your lawn and garden.

Two of the most important spring maintenance tasks involve your yard fencing and irrigation system.

Wooden fencing will warp, twist, split, rot and may need early replacement. By taking a few simple steps each spring, you can extend the life of your fencing to 20 years or more. On an annual or as-needed basis, do the following:

* look for warped or split boards and replace them

* look for top and bottom rails that have pulled away from the posts

* re-nail the rails with a one size larger galvanized nail, or if the gap is too big, tie the post and rail together with a galvanized framing strap

* replace rotted posts with a post replacement kit found at any home improvement store

* dig out posts leaning more than 10 degrees, and re-level or replace.

The other important maintenance item is your irrigation system. Each Spring, check the sprinkler heads and the system for leaks and breakage.

Whether or not you live in an area that is subject to freezing, an important precaution to take before winter begins is to turn off your irrigation water at the main supply valve. Leaving the water on and only turning off the controller could lead to a very surprising and expensive water bill.

Here’s why: electric irrigation valves are notorious for sticking open, sticking closed, and/or leaking at the main body gasket. Valves are usually housed in an underground box where small leaks can go undetected for weeks or months. Turning off the controller just turns off the power to the valves, and if the irrigation water supply is still on, the valves remain under pressure. If a valve is stuck slightly open, it will allow water to flow to the sprinkler heads. If the main body gasket is loose, water will drip out between the two valve parts. Fixing a valve that sticks open or closed usually involves replacement of the solenoid, a simple task that runs about $25 in parts. Fixing a valve that leaks at the main body gasket involves tightening the screws that hold the two parts together. If that doesn’t work, then the entire valve will need to be replaced at a cost of about $45 in parts.

When the irrigation system is determined to be free of leaks, it should be tested. Although most controllers have a test mode, it is often too short a time span to adequately observe the sprinkler heads at each station. Set each station to “manual” and allow enough time to walk around and observe the water flow. Look for excessive leakage at the sprinkler head, misdirected spray patterns, and leaking or broken risers. Remember, the time to make the repairs is during the cooler spring days, and not the scorching days of summer.

Following these tips for routine, seasonal inspection of your fencing and irrigation system will save you money and extend the life of their components.

Note: There is a FREE Home Maintenance Checklist available at that will help homeowners determine which tasks to perform throughout the year. Adapted with permission from The Home Book: A Complete Guide to Homeowner and Homebuilder Responsibilities by David E. MacLellan, George E. Wolfson, AIA, and Douglas Hansen © 2014,

– David E. MacLellan is a nationally recognized expert in homebuilding related litigation and an author of three books on homebuilding standards and home maintenance. He has 25 years of experience as a builder in home construction. In 2011, MacLellan was inducted into the California Homebuilding Foundation Hall of Fame.