How to Install a Sprinkler System


Subterranean watering systems are a fantastic way to keep your lawn healthy and avoid wasting water. Read this article for advice on the various kinds of watering systems, planning and installing your own water system, and special advice on connecting plastic water pipes.

Types of Systems

For the most part, the water pressure in home plumbing systems is not strong enough to water the entire lawn at the same time. The work-around is to divide the system into smaller circuit units, each with its own electronic control valve which operates according to how you program it.

PVC pipe which is connected to the main water line comprises the system. Pressure forces the water through a riser and out the sprinkler. You can have the water sprayed 360-degrees, 180-degrees, and 90-degrees, depending upon your unique needs. You also have the choice of either rotary heads, which are permanently above ground, and pop-up heads which rise only when they are in use.

COMPONENTS OF A SPRINKLER SYSTEM - From the Sunset book, Basic Plumbing Illustration, © Sunset Publishing Corporation.

Planning Your Sprinkler System

    Never start a project without having learned the local codes and obtained the appropriate permits. Blue print the project, accounting for the location of every structure, paves area, tree, shrub, and flower bed. Know the location of underground gas and power lines so that you don't cause major damage to one or both.

    Measure the water pressure and rate of water flow for your pipe system. Generally, you need a minimum water pressure level of 20-psi.

    Determine the rate of water flow by placing a 1-gallon bucket under a spigot and fill it. Divide the length of time required to reach the gallon mark by 60 to equate the gallons of water per minute.

    Determine where you want to locate your spray heads. Determine the space between the sprinklers by factoring the spray distance by 1.4.

    The last step of planning your sprinkler system is to break your system into smaller subsections. Do do according to the output information provided by the manufacturer. Equate the dividend of your water system's gallon per minute capacity by the measurement for your spray heads to determine how many heads are needed.

    Most manufacturer's recommend .75-inch PVC pipe for systems that have a total length of less than 100-feet. If the length exceeds 100-feet, use 1-inch pipe.

    To plan your sprinkler system, first draw a base plan of your property, noting all features and locations of buried utility lines. Then draw in the sprinkler system, locating the sprinkler heads and then planning the circuits that will feed them. From the Sunset book, Basic Plumbing Illustration, © Sunset Publishing Corporation.

    Installing Your Sprinkler System

      Before installing the system, you must construct a manifold, which is a set of valves attached to pipe that regulates the flow of water through your sprinkler system.

      Once you have the manifold in place, you must excavate v-ditches that are at least .75-feet deep. When you reach a concrete surface, work around it by spraying water through a galvanized pipe to a garden hose to rinse out the soil. Once the soil has been removed, tape the end of a water pipe to prevent clogging and run it under the concrete surface.

      Connect your sprinkler system to the main water system by installing a tee at either the water meter, anterior to the hose bibb, or on the main line between the meter and the house.

      Tapping into the water system at a hose bibb. From the Sunset book, Basic Plumbing Illustration, © Sunset Publishing Corporation.

      Install and emergency shut off so that the system can be drained of water for the cold season.

      You must also include antisiphon valves so that dirty water doesn't mix with your fresh water.

      Put the pipe along the bottom of the trenches and set the risers to a 90-degree angle.

      Properly secure all of the pipe joints and set all of the risers at the proper height.

      After you have installed the risers, add the spray heads.

      The last part of the system to be applied is the controller. Program the controls according to your needs and fill the ditches around the pipes.

      Connecting the Pipe

          From the Sunset book, Basic Plumbing Illustration, © Sunset Publishing Corporation.Many do-it-yourself homeowners are able to install the system, but find themselves at a loss when it comes to joining the pipes.

          The type of material you use to install your sprinkler system will depend on the manufacturer's recommendations. While some systems use flexible hardware for the plumbing, others rely upon PVC hardware. If that's the case with your system, clean the pipe according to the illustration.

          Once the pipes are clean and connected, form a final bond by applying PC solvent.


          Information in this article has been furnished by the National Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors.