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How to Install a Lawn Sprinkler System


Underground Irrigation Saves Water, Time, and Money

© 2013 by Vicky Hyde; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

A lawn sprinkler; photo courtesy Vicky Hyde


It takes some patience and the proper preparation to install your own sprinkler system. It will save homeowners a lot of money to do the work on their own, and it is possible with the proper equipment.

Before you start, be sure to check with your local building code to determine whether you need to pull a permit or need to hire a licensed plumber. Follow this guide to installing a sprinkler system in your yard.

Locate Underground Utilities

You should have a map of how your system needs to be laid out. Before you start, call 811 from anywhere in the country. This will connect you to your local One Call Center.

As their site explains the process, “In a few days, they’ll send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground lines, pipes and cables, so you’ll know what’s below—and be able to dig safely.”

Lay Out Your Sprinkler Lines

You may need to make a few revisions to your map. Now, using it as a guide, the first step is to plant a flag at each spot where there will be a sprinkler head.

Using a string to make a straight line between each sprinkler head, spray paint the path that you will need to dig up to lay out the pipe.

Dig the Trenches

Once the system is mapped out on the yard, it is time to dig the irrigating trenches. These trenches should be somewhere between six inches to one foot in depth. Keep an eye out for random underground equipment such as mining pumps.

To trench by hand or to rent a rotary trencher; that is the question. The answer depends on your budget, the scope of your project, and how much time you want to save.

Once the trenches have been dug, then you will lay out the PVC pipe that transports the water through the system. This material is easy to work with. You cut it with a hack saw and then use plenty of PVC primer and glue on the joints.

Make sure to fit the pipes snugly at each juncture. Any leaks in the system can lead to flooding, forcing you to come back later to dig up the yard at the spot of the leak.

Complete the System and Test for Water Leaks

Once you have all the PVC piping laid out, you can install the sprinkler heads at the designated areas. This is another step in which you will want to ensure that there are no leaks. Make sure to attach the sprinkler heads to the system securely to ensure the best water pressure and reduce the chances of a leak.

One thing to keep in mind is that city water pressure is a constant that you cannot control. What you can control is distribution. Larger systems may be divided into discrete circuits. Each is equipped with a control valve.

Control valves are operated by an electronic controller that turns each circuit on and off according to the schedule you set.

Once the system has been laid out throughout the yard, it is time to hook it up to the main water supply. You will have to shut the outside water off while you do this.

Once the sprinkler system is hooked up to the main water supply, turn the system on to flush out any air in the lines. Follow the pipes along the path the water flows. Look for leaks or any sprinkler heads that are not putting out a steady flow.

Once every part of the system looks good, it is time to cover up the system. Repack the dirt around the sprinkler heads and the PVC piping. Reseed the dirt with grass to fix the damage caused by digging. You can also accelerate the process by laying out new sod instead.

If you want your sprinkler system to work well, approach each of these steps with attention to detail. This will lead to a well installed system that will keep your yard looking great.

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