Living landscapes need water to survive and flourish, but relying completely on natural rainfall isn't always a reliable way to supply water. An underground sprinkler system offers the convenience of spraying water directly where it needs to go and the opportunity to automate your watering schedule according to your needs. DIY sprinkler system installation can save you money.
The first step is the most critical. Without planning and the right preparation, things can and most likely will go wrong. The key to successfully installing a lawn sprinkler system is planning and purchasing the right components. The good news is that most manufacturers of home irrigation systems provide comprehensive planning and design guides.
It's also important to determine the specific details of your home so that you buy the right components:
What is your home's water pressure (PSI)?
Size of the water meter (for a municipal system) or size of a well pump (for a private well)
Size of the water service line
Gallons of water per minute (GPM)
Requirements for backflow prevention
Map the Sprinkler System
Once you have completed all your preliminary research, you will need to start preparing your plan. When designing an irrigation system for a yard, a variety of factors must be considered:
Shrubs or other foundation plantings
Flower beds or mulched areas
Fences and other installed features
Areas of sun and shade
To establish watering zones, a map is necessary. Measure your property and map it on graph paper to scale. We recommend a scale of one inch per ten feet. The map should include the house and any permanent features in the landscape. Indicate where the water meter is located on the map.
Plan the Coverage Area
Ensure 100% coverage of the sprinkler system when installing it to prevent dry spots. Overlap the spray patterns to achieve this. A sprinkler head layout with head-to-head coverage ensures that spray from each sprinkler head reaches the adjacent sprinkler head, ensuring overlap.
Decide how many sprinkler heads to use based on the coverage needed. Tree, shrub, lawn, and sidewalk location will determine the sprinkler head size, number, and style. Sprinkler heads must be sized differently for large areas, corners, and shrubbery areas. A sprinkler head list should accompany your irrigation planning guide.
In this video I show you the steps and considerations you need to take into account when tackling your own DIY sprinkler system installation for your yard.
Now that the sprinkler system design is complete and the parts have been selected, you can learn how to install it. Place stakes and string where the sprinkler lines will go. The sprinkler heads should be marked with a flag or other marker. Depending on your region's freeze cycles and frost severity, the trenches will usually be quite shallow, 8 to 12 inches deep. Also, the trench needs to be deep enough for the sprinklers to retract underground so they will not be damaged by lawnmowers.
The trenches can be dug by hand or with a trencher (time-saving). When digging by hand, the best tool to use is a garden spade with a square edge. When working in a tight space, a ditch spade comes in handy as well. Avoid damaging flowers and shrubs by digging by hand in flower beds.
Make sure the trenches are level. Gravity will tend to reduce the efficiency of the digging process if some heads are lower than others. Ideally, only dig as much as you can install in the time that you have available. Keep some sod on hand to use as a cover for the trench.
Assemble the Sprinkler System
When all the planning has been done, the assembly will be a breeze. First, layout all the pieces. If possible, assemble parts before inserting them into the trench. When connecting the components, it is best to start at the manifold and work outward.
Connect the Heads
The heads are usually threaded onto the risers. Follow the instructions carefully for your model, as each manufacturer's system differs.
Before the final connection of sprinkler heads, it is extremely important to flush debris from the line. Blockages are difficult to locate after everything has been installed. Final flushes allow you to inspect the pipeline for leaks as well.
Connect the System to the Service Line
A water supply can be connected to an irrigation system in two ways:
- It is usually located directly outside the house and can be connected to an existing outdoor faucet (like a garden hose).
- You can also connect the system directly to the service line. Shut off the water to the system first. Cut a 1-inch section of the service line between the main shut-off and the house. To control the system's water supply independently of the house, add a compression tee fitting and an additional valve.
Backflow can lead to the introduction of lawn chemicals into the water supply and can cause serious damage. Water can leak back into the water supply when it is siphoned back in or when there is reverse pressure in the system.
Backflow preventers are required by most municipalities. They close the water system when it isn't in use. Double-check the installation. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Control the System
It is planned that each zone will have its own controlling valve (there will only be one valve per zone). The valve used in each zone should be noted for future maintenance and repair purposes.
Using the manifold, all zones of the pipeline can be controlled by one control. This will allow you to maximize water pressure by running a zone at a time
The timer controls which zone gets watered. Choose the appropriate timer for the number of zones you have. Keeping a copy of the timer/zone assignments is a good idea (much like keeping a copy of electrical circuits in a breaker box). Programmable timers can operate for a specified amount of time and then automatically stop. You can put a rain/moisture sensor on your sprinkler to detect water levels and turn it on/off when necessary - so you can water when you're away from home.
Installing a sprinkler system in your yard can be a daunting and intimidating job if you've never undertaken a project like this before. There are many resources available online if you plan to do this yourself. But if after reading this you've decided that installing a lawn irrigation system is too much work a local sprinkler installation contractor may be the right choice. Contact our team of lawn sprinkler professionals for help with installation and repairs.