Introduction: How to Repair Sprinkler PVC Pipe When You Don't Have Much Room.

Sometimes, I need to repair a PVC pipe in my sprinkler system and the ground is either too hard, or there's something in the way. Usually, you need to dig out enough dirt so your PVC pipe can bend to accept the coupling during repairs, but I got this idea a while ago from someone who knew a great shortcut that doesn't require exposing more PVC than you need to.

In this example, my PVC is very thin and brittle [I believe it's original to the 44 year old house]. There is also a concrete fence post footing that encapsulates one end of the PVC which prevents me from freeing up any pipe from that end. Regardless, whatever your reasoning, here's how to replace or repair a break in your pipes or add a sprinkler head without digging up more than you need.


PVC pipe at the diameter of your main line
4 x 90 degree elbows
PVC cutter [you can use other tools, but once you use a new pair of PVC cutters, you'll never go back]
PVC glue

Optional items:
Nylon thread tape
Sprinkler head
Other various PVC shapes

Step 1: Cut Out the Bad PVC and Dry Fit Your Solution

Cut out the section of PVC that you wish to replace. If you're repairing a split pipe, ensure you remove enough pipe to include the entire split. In this instance, I only wanted to remove a small bit of pipe, but ended up removing about 4-5" in order to accommodate the elbows.

Once you've cut into the PVC for the first time, allow some time for the line to drain. Depending on weather, this could take a few minutes, or even overnight.

Cut short straight PVC sections that will fit into the elbows with almost no pipe showing. Dry fit the finished product you see in the last picture and DON'T GLUE ANYTHING YET! :-)

Once you've dry fit everything, you'll know where to cut the rest of the PVC that's still in the ground. When you've cut the PVC (allowing enough space for the pipe to enter the elbows), clean the ends of the exposed pipe with water, a light cleaner and a rag. There should be no dirt on the ends of the pipe for at least 1 inch.

Step 2: Step 2: Install the First 2 Elbows and Dry Fit the Other Two.

Once you're happy with the dry fit, you can glue the first 2 elbows into the existing line. In the picture, you can see that I've glued an elbow on each of the exposed underground pipe parallel to the existing line. You can do it this way or angle the elbows up or down, as long as they are parallel to each other.

You can see that we haven't removed much dirt at all; just enough to get at the pipe and a little more to accommodate the new angled pipes.

Step 3: Step 3: Dry Fit the Other Two Elbows

With the first two elbows secured, you can then dry fit the other two elbows that will complete the curve. Now, if you glue them up right away without paying attention to the point of this Instructable, you're going to be frustrated because you will have just moved the problem and not solved it. :-)

You can see in the picture that I've roughed in and dry fit the other two elbows to complete the curve, BUT here's the point of the tutorial...

Step 4: Step 4: Dry Fit the Last Straight PVC Pipe [Important Step]

Now, here's where you need to be careful with measuring. Dry fit the length of straight PVC that will connect the two sets of elbows from each end of the underground pipe. You may have to cut off a sliver or restart with a new section if you cut too far. In the last picture on this page, you can see how I will be inserting the PVC "U" to the underground elbows that are already glued in place.

That's the trick, really. You create a method for inserting a new pipe section without needing to remove any extra dirt, bend the PVC and ensure you get enough PVC-to-PVC overlap so the glue can hold strong.

Step 5: Step 5: Finish the Job

Finally, glue the "U" shape that you created onto the two PVC elbows that are already connected to the underground pipe. In the pictured example, I decided that this area could use a sprinkler head, so I included an sprinkler head adapted elbow.

Once the glue dried, test the line and you're just repaired/replaced a bit of old PVC without a lot of headache and without breaking more PVC. :-)