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The riser is a vertical pipe that connects the underground water supply line to the sprinkler head, or in the case of a popup, to the canister. Risers are made of metal, plastic (PVC), or polyethylene, with plastic and polyethylene being the most common. Both types of material are inexpensive and easy to work with.

Because risers are located near the surface or above the ground, and because they are commonly plastic, they're pretty easy to break. Shoveling, roto-tilling, and raking take their toll on risers. Lawn tractors and misguided automobiles don't help either. If water comes gushing up from beneath the ground more often than not, the problem is a broken riser.

Risers should always be installed into a threaded fitting so they can be removed.

To access the riser, you need to remove the soil from around it. We remove only enough dirt to completely expose the riser and the supply line to which it is connected. You only need a little bit of room to work. Dig carefully, so that you don't damage the supply pipe. Use a damp cloth to clean the fitting so that dirt and foliage don't fall into the supply line as the riser is being removed.

To remove the riser, simply use a pair of pliers to unscrew it from the supply line. If the riser is broken off inside the supply line, you won't be able to grip it with a pair of pliers. Here, you need a special tool known as an easy-out to remove the riser. Unlike pliers, an easy-out removes pipe by gripping it from the inside. An easy-out is a tapered tool that is inserted into the inside of a piece of threaded pipe allowing the pipe to be gripped from within. Turning the tool unscrews the broken riser from the fitting.

To install a new riser, wrap Teflon tape around the threads and screw it in hand tight. Then give it another half-turn or so with pliers until the connection begins to feel snug. Don't overtighten.

Sometimes you can't get a riser to stand straight. Here's a neat trick that will definitely solve the problem. First, you'll need to purchase two plastic street 90's (90-degree street-elbow or ell). A street 90 is nothing more than a 90-degree connector with female threads on one end and male threads on the opposite end. With the riser removed and the 90's in hand, follow this procedure:

  • Screw the two 90's together.

This can be done only one way (the male end of one into the female end of the other). This leaves one male end and one female end.

  • Screw the male end of the pair of 90's into the female supply line fitting.

With the 90's in place, the female end of one of the 90's will be unused.

  • Screw your riser into the female end that's left.

You end up with is a hinge joint that turns laterally on the threaded connections in two directions (forward to backward and left to right). With this kind of versatility, you can radically tilt the riser in whatever direction needed to get it absolutely straight -- without breaking the pipe.