How to add a sprinkler system to your lawn

A beautiful lush lawn is the dream of every gardener. Installing a lawn sprinkler system can make your life easier and save you water. Choose between a manual or an automatic system: A manual system is easier and less expensive to install and requires no electrical connections, whereas an automatic sprinkler system allows you to water the lawn at the flick of a switch and can even carry on watering when you're away on vacation. [Photo Credit: istock.com/MariuszBlach]

 

How to add a sprinkler system to your lawn

Time: 2 - 3 days
Frequency: N/A
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Tools: PVC pipe and pipe cutter; tape measure; trenching machine; adjustable pliers; utility knife; tongue and groove pliers; screwdriver; lawn sprinkler system.

These step-by-step instructions are for installing an automatic underground sprinkler system, but the process is similar for both manual and automatic systems.

Step 1: Be prepared

As with any successful home-repair project, preparation is key.

  • Measure the area of the garden where the sprinkler system is to be installed.
  • Make a plan – draw a diagram, to scale if possible.
  • Call the utility companies and find out whether any underground pipes, cables, or wires are located below your garden. Mark these on your diagram to be sure you won't cut through them or damage anything.
  • Locate the water source; this may be at the water meter or buried underground.
  • Mark the location of all the trenches and sprinklers on your lawn with stakes or flags.

Good to know!

Often municipalities require permits for installing underground lawn sprinklers. Check the building and plumbing code regulations for your area.

Step 2: Make the water connection

If possible, connect to an existing spigot for an easier sprinkler installation. However, a professional installer would typically cut into the main water line. If this is your preference, contact your local plumber for assistance.

Either way, you will need to install an anti-siphon, or back-flow valve at the connection to prevent water from the garden that may be carrying chemicals and fertilizers from entering your main water supply system.

Step 3: Install pipes in the trenches

  • Following your path of stakes or flags, dig trenches using a trenching machine.
  • As you dig, consider laying the sod to one side and the excavated dirt to the other. This will make backfilling easier.
  • Install the valve manifold box by digging a hole slightly larger than the box. Place the box in it, and attach one end of the manifold assembly to your main water supply line.
  • Lay your 3/4-inch PVC pipes along the trenches, using T-connectors for any pipes that run off the main line.
  • As you reach the desired location for the lawn sprinklers, attach risers using 90-degree connectors.

Good to know!

Trenching machines can be rented by the day at most hardware or DIY stores. Often, the store will drop the machine off and pick it up.

Step 4: Install the sprinkler heads

  • Turn on the water and flush the system to rid it of any debris or soil that might be in the pipes.
  • Walk the trenches and check for leaks.
  • Turn the water off again and install the sprinkler heads onto the risers.
  • Make sure the sprinkler heads are flush with the grass or soil level to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Fill in the trenches with the dirt and sod you removed in Step 3.

Good to know!

When choosing sprinkler heads, select heads that are appropriate for the irrigation needs of your lawn and garden. Ask at your garden centre or DIY store for assistance.

Step 5: Connect the timer controller

  • The controller regulates the length and frequency of watering. The wires should be connected according to the manufacturer's specifications.
  • Finally, turn on the water and check that sprinkler coverage is ample and where you want it.

Watch out!

Working with water and electrical lines can be dangerous. Consider contacting a professional electrician for this step.

Now that you’ve installed an automatic underground sprinkler system, you can keep your lawn and garden looking lovely all year round – even when you're not there.

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