Here in Florida, and I suppose this would be true for other places in the South, where it is never cold enough, cold enough to freeze the water pipes, a very unusual practice takes place. It’s unusual for me at least, because I grew up in Michigan where all the pipes that have some kind of water have to be buried below the freezing line, and that’s 4’6 “from where I’m from, deeper the further north .
The unusual practice I speak of is having the feed for the lawn sprinkler systems exposed above the ground. Let me explain, the feed for this is usually a 1 “PVC pipe rising about 2 ‘above the ground with a 90 degree elbow, then a short piece of PVC with a threaded coupling, this threaded coupling goes into a ball 1 “brass valve, then there is a 1” cast iron backflow preventer with strainers, then again into a 1 “brass ball valve, another short piece of PVC a 90 degree elbow and finally a back to the ground where it will usually go to the garage to a water management timer and from there it feeds the sprinkler system.
Now think about this for a moment. We have these two 1 “PVC tubing sticking out of the ground and supporting around 30 pounds of cast iron and brass components. I don’t know who the genius is who thought of this, but it seems to be the standard for these systems here. first house I lived in when I moved here, this setup was right in the middle of the backyard. Pretty easy to spot when mowing the lawn, but it also looked pretty ugly. The next house I moved to, it was hidden in the back corner of the patio, out of the way behind the shed.
In the spring it rains a lot down here and the vegetation grows very fast, my weed planter broke and it had been a week or so since I cut the garden. So I’m mowing my lawn with my ride-on lawn mower, which I just bought a couple of months ago, because it’s too hot and humid to be trying to push something down here, and I was making my first pass through the backyard. As I passed behind the shed I knew the sprinkler pipe was in this area, but could not see it because the vegetation had grown out of sight. I thought I had left a lot of space and passed by. I don’t think I would move ten feet when I could feel the water hitting my back. I knew immediately what I had done. I raised the tractor another twenty feet to keep it from getting wet and turned it off.
When I turned around I could hardly believe my eyes, the water was rising 15-20 feet into the air. My first thought was to close one of the ball valves, which was a great idea except for the fact that the pipe was broken before the valves and they were lying on the ground. At first the water felt a bit cold, but after a couple of minutes I was getting quite used to it. I was very surprised by the pressure of the water coming out of that pipe. Being a pipe fitter, I looked through my stuff to see if I had something to plug this geyser with, but I work on steel pipes and couldn’t find anything. so I ran to the hardware store and bought a 1 ‘PVC cap and some PVC primer and glue.
So the first thing I wanted to do was square up the end of the pipe that had broken. I pulled out my 1/2 “x 1-1 / 2” pipe cutter and cut it about a foot above the ground. Then I limited the end of the tubing so the cap would slide off nicely and easily. Now, keep in mind that the entire time I do this, a constant stream of water falls on my head, because it shoots up into the air and falls directly on me. Not only that, there is now about 4 inches of water accumulating on the ground.
Alright my pipe is cut and clean so I put the primer on the pipe and then the cap and then the glue on both. Then I force the cap down onto the pipe and hold it with my hand on my crotch and put my full weight on it. The water stops squirting out and I hold this position for about a minute, until my hand can’t take it anymore. Little by little I start to take my weight off the cap and then I walk away, thinking ugh! I’m glad it’s over. I took maybe two steps back and poof, the lid flies open and it flies about 30 feet into the air and the water gushing all over again. Right at that moment, my wife comes out and says “maybe we should call a plumber.” Haha very funny.
After finding the cap, I saw that it had only gone into the pipe about a quarter of an inch. Perhaps the water was disturbing the glue. so I cleaned everything up again and asked him to hold the other pipe, the one that had broken with the 90, so he would shoot the water away from me and the pipe so the glue wouldn’t get wet. At least I’m not the only one getting wet right now. I re-primed and glued the tube and cap on. Once again, I tried to put the plug back on the pipe, but the pressure was too strong and I couldn’t make it stay. Again I heard that little voice “maybe you should call a plumber”. I’m not paying anyone $ 90 an hour to fix this when I know I can do it myself. At that moment, I realize, and think to myself, idiot, you sure wouldn’t fix this like that at work.
So I go back to the hardware store, do my shopping, and rush home. Right now there is probably 6 inches of water on the ground and my wife says, do you need my help? I do not have it. I clean the pipe one last time and apply the primer and glue to the pipe and the PVC ball valve I had just bought from the hardware store. With the valve in the open position, I slide it over the pipe, give it a quarter turn, and hold it in place for about a minute. When I’m sure the glue has set, I just closed the valve and my nightmare was over. I bought a ten foot piece of PVC pipe, three 90s, a straight slip coupling, and a pair of threaded couplings. It only took about half an hour to completely rebuild everything, and needless to say, I don’t let the weeds grow that tall there anymore.
Hope this story helped you. I know I could have told you from the beginning what to do, but I think you will remember it better that way.