How to Install a Pop up Sprinkler Head

Sprinkler head spraying water onto the lawn
  • 1-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Replacement sprinkler head
Plastic sheeting
Pliers, or pipe wrench
PVC riser

Replacement of a damaged or malfunctioning pop up sprinkler head is typically a challenge most homeowners face each spring. When the property owner finds dry lawn spots or water gushing out of the damaged head and flooding the lawn around it, then, he is faced with the choice of replacing the head or hiring a professional to do the job. To replace your pop up sprinkler heads, follow the directions you will find below.

Step 1 - Locate the Damaged Head

Often, a damaged sprinkler head has broken loose and is missing from the sprinkler system it is attached to. When this happens, you will need to locate the riser it was attached to. The riser is the vertical PCV pipe that connects the sprinkler head to the system. The best way to locate this riser is to turn on the sprinkler system water and look for a geyser, bubbling water, soggy lawn patch, or dry lawn patch.

Step 2 - Choose the Appropriate Sprinkler Head Replacement

sprinkler head spraying water

When replacing your damaged or missing sprinkler head, you'll need the appropriate type. Sprinkler heads are designed to spray water in a specific direction. Typically, water from a sprinkler head is sprayed outward in a radial of 90 degrees, 180 degrees, or sometimes 45 degrees. This is to ensure that sprayed water from the head will only sprinkle the section of lawn the head has been chosen to water. So, you will need to know your desired type of sprinkler head.

Step 3 - Choose the Appropriate Size Riser

Most likely, when the sprinkler head has broken off the riser it was attached to, the riser will also be damaged and you will need to replace it, also. These risers are PVC tubes, usually ½ inch in diameter, with threads on both its ends. One end is screwed into the lateral system pipe, the other end is screwed into the sprinkler head. Not all these risers are the same length, and you won't be able to cut one that is too long, because then the riser will have threads on only one of its ends. You'll need to remove the riser to determine its length. To do this, use pliers or a pipe wrench and detach the riser.

Step 4 - Replace the Sprinkler Head

Close up of a sprinkler head

Spread a sheet of plastic on your lawn near the place where you'll replace your sprinkler head. Use a small, round mouth shovel, or a garden spade, and remove the sod around the riser. Remove enough soil that you'll have enough working space around the damaged riser. This will usually be four to six inches on all sides of the riser.

Place the removed soil and sod on the plastic sheet where you'll be able to keep them without scattering the soil in your grass. Unscrew the riser, replace it with your new one, then screw the new sprinkler head onto the riser. Adjust the head so it sprays in the right direction, then replace the soil and sod around the new head. Finally, turn on your sprinkler system and check the new head.