Top 5 Outdoor Plumbing Problems and How to Solve Them

Plumbing runs through your home, carrying water and gas to your bathroom, kitchen, laundry and living space. But many elements of your backyard living area rely on well-designed, high quality plumbing. Consider these top five outdoor plumbing problems that all homeowners face and find out how to solve them quickly and affordably.

Broken or Leaky Hose Bib

Hose bibs provide the water source for your outdoor hoses. These well-used plumbing connections can break, burst, or fall apart due to age and general wear. Hose bibs are also susceptible to frost damage.

Replacing or repairing a broken hose bib requires some basic plumbing skills. The water source will need to be shut off before old plumbing is cut out and replaced with new pipes. Hose bib replacement is not a DIY job unless you have extensive experience with plumbing installation, including soldering.

Some plumbers install “drop-eared” fittings for simple, fast hose bib replacement. This might be something you consider when replacing an older, soldered design. Always remember to remove your hoses and shut off the water source over winter to avoid frost damage and leaks.

Leaky Sprinkler Pipes or Broken Sprinkler Heads

Sprinkler systems provide worry-free irrigation for urban, suburban and rural properties. But most of these residential systems are quite easy to break or damage. Landscapers often have trouble with sprinkler lines and any digging in the yard could end up cutting a line or breaking a sprinkler head.

With some motivation and hard work homeowners can replace broken lines. Dig up a stretch of the existing line, detach the broken section and replace with a new piece. Test the system and bury the line again, possibly marked to avoid future mishaps.

Broken sprinkler heads are not as simple to repair. Talk to your irrigation specialist and have them quote you a replacement cost. It may make sense to wait until your semi-annual inspection and service to replace the heads, saving you money on labor charges. Otherwise, be sure to avoid using the irrigation system until broken heads can be repaired or replaced.

Avoid broken or leaky irrigation systems by scheduling regular maintenance and inspections with your sprinkler installers. These professionals know how to service your specific system, what type of problems to look for and how to maintain peak performance.

Leaky Natural Gas Line to BBQ or Fire Pit

Natural gas lines provide fuel for your gas grill or outdoor fireplace. These lines are connected to the main gas valve inside your home and must be maintained in top-notch condition for your safety.

Gas leaks present the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and can turn into serious fire hazards. Contact a gas fitter or licensed plumber immediately if you suspect a problem with the gas line, fittings or any other components related to natural gas.

Running a new gas line or extending an existing line should also be trusted to a licensed professional. Although DIY enthusiasts may be able to install and support the plumbing adhering to all applicable building codes, only a licensed gas fitter should handle the final connection or termination.

Unable to Locate Plumbing Lines for Future Work

Landscaping plans typically evolve over time with new features being added or changed every few seasons. But your outdoor plumbing may be vulnerable when these evolutions involve major changes and excavation.

Are you planning for a new patio, privacy fence or swimming pool? Any project that involves digging, excavation or removal should also involve an inspection of the outdoor plumbing system.

Ensure that sprinkler lines are adequately marked and that cable, telephone, gas and utility lines have been located and marked. It takes just one careless or uninformed move with a shovel or auger to destroy an important part of your property. Whether that part powers your home, fuels your appliances and devices, or feeds water to your irrigation system, repairs are inevitably messy and expensive.

It makes sense to have a sketch or diagram of your outdoor plumbing handy. When you add, change or remove a plumbing element (replace your propane BBQ with a gas grill or add an outdoor tap to your garden shed), mark the appropriate changes to your diagram to keep it accurate and up to date. This drawing can help you avoid problems later on, and also serves as a design tool when making alterations to the landscape.

Roots Interfering With Existing Outdoor Plumbing

Shallow tree and shrub roots can cause problems with plumbing lines running through your yard or along the house. Any location where tree roots and plumbing lines mingle has the potential for disaster. Aggressive and strong, roots move to water sources and can quickly wind around joints and straight runs. As the roots grow and search for moisture these joints and piping crack, bend and break under the stress.

Plastic plumbing is especially vulnerable, and yet remains the most popular choice for sprinkler lines and outdoor plumbing. Attack the problem before it begins by installing root guards when planting trees. These plastic cylinders force roots to delve deeper into the soil, far below any plumbing and well out of harm s way.

The best way to avoid problems with existing roots is to steer clear of them altogether. Whenever possible design your outdoor plumbing to run around trees and shrubs, or use heavy duty plumbing and fewer joints to make the system durable and resistant to breakage.

Issues with your outdoor plumbing can quickly ruin your enjoyment of the season. Avoid leaky hose bibs, broken sprinkler heads and leaky gas lines by ensuring these systems are well maintained, handled by a professional and inspected regularly. It s also a good idea to draw out the plumbing in your backyard and keep that sketch up to date when changes occur. This simple map will help you avoid problems in the future, as will avoiding tree roots or installing root guards to protect your underground plumbing.