Finding sprinkler heads and valves with a metal detector – the ultimate guide

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The sprinkler heads can stop working because they can be covered by grass or dirt. It can be also due to a bad valve.

You need to get them to pop up as quickly as possible before the lawn dies. Fixing the damage will cost a lot of money. Moreover, the yard won’t look good with all of this dead grass.

In order to do that, you need to find the overgrown sprinkler heads and valves. This is not an easy task if you don’t have the right tools.

In this article, I will show you how you can locate them using a metal detector. And this can be done without turning the water ON so that you don’t get wet.

Can metal detectors locate sprinkler heads and valves?

Metal detectors can find sprinklers heads and valves without a problem because they have some parts that are made out of metal. But if these metal parts are too small, the detector can’t find them.

Sprinkler heads have springs to move the riser; valves have screws, springs, and solenoids.

And since they buried a few inches underground (barely under the surface), the detector will find them easily.

Quick note: if you are in a hurry and you want a quick fix for your lawn, you can try this products.

In the next paragraph, I will recommend a popular detector among detectorists. It is affordable and easy to use.

Best metal detector for locating sprinklers

The bounty hunter tracker 4 is an affordable metal detector that can do the job. It is capable of detecting metal objects up to a few inches underground.

It has a simplistic interface, which has a target strength and a low battery indicator. Two 9 volts batteries are needed to power this device.

You can lay it on the ground while uncovering the valves because it has a stand below the arm cuff.

The onboard speaker will emit a beep whenever it detects a metal object, you can use headphones as well.

Since we don’t know how much metal there’s in the sprinklers and valves, set the sensitivity as a high as possible to pick the tiniest amount of metal. Keep increasing it and stop right before the machine starts to chatter.

The bounty hunter has the discrimination feature that allows you to tell the device which metals to ignore and which to react to by emitting a beep.

It does so based on the object conductivity. Since we don’t know what type of metal the sprinkler has (stainless-steel, brass or other). Set the discrimination as low as possible and select the all metal mode.

In this mode, the detector will react to any object it detects regardless of its nature.

However, if you find a lot of iron (like nails), you can adjust the machine to ignore them.

When you are done locating the sprinkler heads and valves, you can use it for other things like locating property lines, hunting coins or give it to one of your loved ones.

The stem is adjustable. So it can be used by kids.

How to locate them?

This device is called a metal detector not a sprinkler head detector; this means that it will emit a signal whenever it detects something metal.

And that thing could be a nail, a coin, a pull-tab… or a valve. So to avoid frustration and digging your whole lawn, Scan areas where it’s more likely to find what you are looking for.

Use the discrimination feature. This will tell the metal detector to ignore ferrous targets (like nails). This means that the detector will NOT beep if it detects a nail. But it will beep of it detects brass which is used to make irrigation tools.

After finding the sprinkler heads, mark them with flags with any color you choose. If they are shallow, you can use a screwdriver to pop the sprinkler out of the ground.

If they are buried under mud, use a trowel to move it out of the way. You can also use a shovel, but it too big and the hole may be too large.

Few more tips

  • If you recently moved to a new house, contact the previous owner and ask him if he could help you find them. Even if he doesn’t know the exact location, he may have a rough idea where they are. This way you shrink the search area. Bring the metal detector and find them.
  • Test the detector on working heads to check if they are visible and to know what sound will be emitted when you locate them.
  • Look for the sprinkler plans from the company that installed them. The diagram will help find them. The main line starts from the house and branches out to smaller pipes. These pipes feed the sprinkler heads and the valves. Follow the plans and the detector will help you pinpoint the sprinklers.
  • Open the valves, Some of the sprinklers will pop up, measure the distance between them with a tape then deduce the location of the rest. They are usually equidistant from one another. For example, if you find that the distance between two consecutive working sprinklers is double the distance between the rest, then there is a broken one buried in the middle.
  • The malfunctioning sprinklers are located in brown dry spots of your lawn. So focus on these areas. If you turn the water ON, you may find pools of water around the malfunctioning heads.
  • Use valves and wires locators. They look similar to metal detectors and they work in a slightly different way. They are more expensive. So weigh your options, which one is better: buy this device or hire a professional to do it for you.
  • Use a chatterbox. It will cause the valves to start buzzing. The tone will be audible from a couple of feet. As far as I know, this works only with valves if they are electrical wires are not cut. If they are, you cannot find them with a chatterbox.
  • If everything fails and you couldn’t locate the buried sprinklers, then hire a professional to do the job for you. This can be more expensive than finding them yourself with the help of a metal detector.

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