irrigation pro tip...

Never use that black flex tube (1/2"). That stuff WILL fail. Granted, I installed this maybe 15 years ago. But the past five (or so) years, I’ve had to fix multiple leaks each year. Within the past week I had three. In every case, the tubing split lengthwise. Two were under pavers.

The first under-paver leak, I dug up the line just outside of the pavers, cut it, and capped it. No more water under the pavers, but now some plants have to be watered by hand. Long-term I will address this (within the next few weeks), but for now at least those pavers aren’t being undermined.

The second under-paver leak is requiring me to reroute the water. Lots of digging. The tubing was installed prior to the pavers, and I didn’t realize until later that one paver path ran right along the tube…all the way. I thought it was just a short run under the pavers perpendicular. Nope. I’m not digging up 25’ of pavers to replace that line. So I’m in the process of digging out the source and rerouting it around the pavers.

All rerouting and replacing will be done with schedule 40 PVC. That black flex tubing is a nightmare. Really easy to install, but a PITA when it eventually fails. PVC will last longer than I will live, so that should be the last time I have to deal with it. (As the black crap fails, I dig it out and replace with PVC. Maybe I’ll get proactive and start replacing stuff that hasn’t yet failed.)

Just as a counter example, my PVC irrigation has also failed. I did lots of patching for a while, but have given up and returned to hand watering.

The typical failure is at joints. Most commonly, the long pieces of PVC crack near the joints, which are thicker and stiffer. So any movement, from things like tree roots or settling, causes a failure.

Given the drought problems and resulting watering restrictions here in So Cal, I’m probably not going to replace the system. I’ve started to like getting outside in the early evening to water things. It’s a nice, peaceful way to wind down at the end of the day. Gives me time to think and reflect.


I haven’t had those problems (and I installed some PVC for sprinklers at the same time, and so far no fails). The only sprinkler fails I have had is when the actual sprinkler connected to the riser split. Never quite figured out what they happened since we haven’t been below freezing in several years. Had to replace the sprinkler head. Underlying PVC was fine.

Haven’t had a problem with roots yet, but I could see how that might cause a failure. We have expansive soil, and so far it hasn’t broken anything. Schedule 40 appears to be pretty robust.

We plan to travel more, so hand-watering wouldn’t be reliable. Anything not on the system would be in danger of dying. For house plants we bought an automatic watering reservoir. Put all the plants in the master shower, run the tubing, fill the reservoir, and set the watering frequency. There are some outdoor plants I am concerned about. I’m in the process of adapting drips to be able to water in the pots. Several are now “safe”, but she keeps moving things around, and then her plants won’t get water.

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Well, perhaps the tubing has improved in 15 years.

Here in the Kansas City area, I’ve had a couple of thousand feet in service for seven years. Never a failure so far. Granted, anything going under something that sees traffic or weight, I’ve run it through 3/4 inch PVC to protect it.

1/4 tubing fails. 1) Rodent attack (why doesn’t the manufacturer offer tubing with a bittering agent?) 2) UV (black or brown, I’ve seen no difference). Still not a big deal other than the rodents which hover around the perimeters where the dog and cat don’t play. Sometimes you have to get clever to protect the lines.

Pressure compensating drippers seldom fail. 2 g/h is most useful; perhaps 1 g/h for large pots.

Variable flow drippers are crap. They do not maintain a set flow and usually quit altogether.

By the time shrubs outgrow the 2 g/hr they should be on their own, otherwise, you are just surface watering which is not good for root development. I’m experimenting with placing the drippers into short pieces (8 inches) of perforated 3/4 inch PVC driven down into the root zone to promote root growth. Too soon to tell.

Sprinklers and misters work well and seldom fail; they are easily visible when they fail during weekly inspection tours.

Timers are crap. Melnor is about the only game in town. I replace one about every year, but in between that time I constantly have to rearrange irrigation ‘legs’ as individual ‘ports’ on the timers fail to actuate. I have about twelve legs with a lot of drippers, sprinklers, and misters running off each leg of half-inch line. I have six timers, most 4-port ones, but the older two-port ones operate without fail. Spent a lot of time on the phone discussing and there seems to be no solution; occasionally the tech throws me a new timer as a courtesy. Even ‘off-brand’ timers are often made by Melnor…

Installation tips: 1) use a BIC lighter to heat the 1/4 inch tubing slightly and fittings and drippers slide all the way on like butter. Don’t pop off or leak. 2) you’ll use those silly goof plugs more than you think, so have some around. 3) don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. When needs change, cut the line and route it where it needs to go now. Those cheap compression hose connectors, elbows, and tees work and they don’t leak. You can reuse all, but why spend the time pulling connectors for reuse and plugging old holes?

Happy dripping. During this current heat wave, installing drip irrigation was one thing I did right.

That 1/4" tubing is a pain, literally, I couldn’t find a lighter, a heat gun I’d have to drag out a long extension cord, but eventually forced in some shutoff valves in places they needed to be used again someday, but I wanted to shut off, for now…

Then I fount this tool… Not perfect, but it gets at least one side of a double poked fully into place……

And I’ve had this system going for many years, never had the 1/2" split… Under walkways, pavers, I ran whoever I had, ti use as chases to get droppers or low voltage wiring where it was wanted… Old leftover electrical conduit, white, gray, black, no matter… Just have to remember where they are, I took pics when we had the drives paver’d… Same when we did Mark & Locate, more pics…

That looks like an interesting tool. I use vice grips to hold the center bit of the barb, and push it into the 1/4". Doesn’t hurt my fingers at all. I also use them to insert the barb into the pilot hole of the 1/2" tube. Easy peasy.

The install of the poly pipe was a breeze. But these recurrent failures a nightmare. If I had it to do again, I’d have used PVC. It’s pretty easy (though I didn’t know it at the time) to adapt PVC for drips. There are several options, including using risers. Reopening the trenches is some serious digging, and I have to be careful not to damage anything else.

I take lots of pictures, but the ones from the original install are lacking.

Well, the day I was fighting it, I began looking for a tool… Ordered one of those from another supplier, ended up getting the wrong tool, the hole puncher, it was mislabeled, so rather than gamble I ordered another from a different vendor and got the right one… Be nice if it was double sided, but it’s still a help… Yes, I also used a small ViseGrips, but thought I might split it, but so far it’s OK… Added that tool to the drip kit case… One of the double sided storage boxes… Never know what’s needed…

For house plants we bought an automatic watering reservoir. Put all the plants in the master shower, run the tubing, fill the reservoir, and set the watering frequency. - 1pg


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Never use that black flex tube (1/2"). That stuff WILL fail.

Depends on what you use. Different brands are different thicknesses, I find “Mister Landscaper” the thinnest but easiest to work with. I’ve had others, mostly without problems.

I’ve not buried them, but have run them around the perimeter of the house and the perimeter of 3 decks and they’ve never failed. I also ran some through the woods to a remote garden and those got chewed on by critters and I had to replace sections rarely but occasionally. But I didn’t want to bury them because of the roots of all the trees I would have to go through.

I also installed a PVC irrigation (lawn sprinkler) system and had a couple of breaks over 20 years. Those were down about a foot in the lawn and there was no “cause” that I could see, but it happened. I’m too rusty to handle a Ditch Witch myself anymore, but I had 4 additional zones installed at the new house and they’ve been fine, so far.

A neighbor had a system put in and they didn’t dig ditches, they used the underground tunnel borer to install poly pipe and the only digging was where the sprinkler heads had to be located. Very slick. The pipe was flexible, but thick wall. And we had to have our water line re-run here, and they did the same (underground tunneling) but with 1.5” pex, and then threaded 1” pex inside for the actual line.

The shower has a window. Indirect light, but then most houseplants will wither and die in direct Arizona sun (even indoors).

Here’s my Pro tip.

Use the cheapest materials and bury most of it so no one knows.
Yeah, that’s what my pro did.
In my first house I installed everything and 40 years later it probably still good.
In my second house we had some concrete work that was beyond what I was willing to try so we had it all done by the pro’s.
4 circuits in front done by the builder and 6 circuits in the backyard we hired out.
For the first 2 or 3 years I was constantly repairing drip tubing that popped off and/or sprayed too much, suddenly. Then after 10-12 years I had 1/2 PVC split by roots. All routed poorly to save 5 ft of pipe.
The 1/2" drip tubing in front is all routed poorly as well based on the landscaping they put in and “someone” in the family is constantly cutting it with a shovel while putting in new plants.

My real pro tip is to DIY the right way. Else you’ll just be DIY to repair it over and over.



My real pro tip is to DIY the right way. Else you’ll just be DIY to repair it over and over.

I think that is true in general. Learn the code, learn the tools/materials, do it right.

I thought I had. Turns out my coworker was very prescient when he said “you’ll probably have trouble with that poly tube later” when I was describing my “accomplishment” at lunch one day. Invariably, I end up with 1/2"-1" splits lengthwise. Never cross-wise.

I have all zones active at the moment. A few plants are not getting water, but most are. We’re doing manually until I finish fixing the two zones. I bought some supplies yesterday to enable drip lines from PVC (I had run out). I need to do a final evaluation before I dig-out PVC and put in Ts and risers to be sure I have a good plan. Then I shouldn’t ever need to re-do it. And I got a few drip manifolds, so if a plant is added I have additional drip nozzles I can tap. The manifolds support up to 6 drip lines.



Woke up early when it was only about 87F. Dug out the PVC, spliced in the two Ts I needed (already had the drip adapter attached to the base of each T). My glue was old. Hopefully that won’t be a problem. I used it on the first one, but bought new glue (quick run to HD) to use for the second one when I realized the old glue might be problematic. If I have to cut that one T out and redo it, I can. I left it exposed so I can pressure test it this evening. Hopefully no leaks. Finished up when it was 101F.

Observed a new wet spot in the dirt this morning. Right above another poly tube, about 10’ from where I was working. Looks like another segment is leaking. I suspect I’ll have to dig that tube out, and extend the PVC at least that far. It’s not a jet of water yet, so not urgent yet. But it will get bad if I let it. Fortunately, I have about 40’ of schedule 40 PVC on-hand. Just a question of digging it up, pulling the tube out, and putting the PVC in. I have the necessary coupling already. And new glue.

Another pro tip: get your adapters from irrigation supply stores. Not as convenient as HD, but they have some nifty bits that HD doesn’t have. For example, they have an orange disk/plug with a 1/4" hole in it that is the drip adapter. You use the 3/4" to 1/2" T, glue that little orange plug into the 1/2" part of the T, glue the T into the 3/4" PVC, and then jam the spaghetti tube into the hole. So simple. No threading to cross-thread, no riser to break. I used those today (and have used them in the past). I’ll still have to use a manifold when there are several plants that need water in the same vicinity, but those little orange plugs are so cool when you just need to feed one. This is it:…


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