Blog & Journal


A Watertight Guide to Installing an Automatic Sprinkler System

Philip Piletic August 25, 2015


There’s never been a better time to install an automated sprinkler system. As droughts wrack the driest regions and water prices continue to climb, ensuring optimal irrigation is becoming a necessity of suburban life.

Your new sprinkler system will enhance the value of your property, too. Not only does a well-watered lawn enhance curb appeal, but a pre-installed system will also attract savvy buyers looking for upgrades that they won’t have to install themselves.
You can have an automated sprinkler system installed professionally, but it may be worth your while to turn it into a DIY project. Follow this simple, step-by-step guide and you can save up to 40 percent on professional installation costs.

Plan Ahead

There are lots of considerations involved in a new sprinkler system, not least of which involve local laws and safety ordinances. If your location requires a building permit for this type of work, make sure you’re covered. At the very least, it’s wise to consult your local plumbing codes for information about materials and equipment.
Next, call to request that the underground utilities on your property be carefully marked. Listen carefully to see if you’ll need to make any additional calls to have additional lines marked – not all services include markings for things like telecommunications lines.

Be Prepared

Detailed planning is a vital part of a project like this. Having the right parts and tools on hand when you need them will ensure that everything goes smoothly, and the only way to know exactly which supplies you’ll need is to draw up a complete irrigation plan for your property.
Fortunately, you won’t have to do it alone. Many manufacturers offer sprinkler design services for free, and they even provide detailed instructions for taking the precise flow and pressure measurements you’ll need for the plan.

Choosing the Right Materials

The supplies you’ll need will depend upon both your location and the design you’ve chosen, but there are a few areas where you can make educated decisions about the type of equipment you’ll employ. Even if your local plumbing codes allow the use of PVC pipe, you may want to consider the more flexible polyethylene for added durability.
It doesn’t hurt to make sure that the rest of your equipment is up to the job, too, and it’s okay to make some improvements when it comes to the plan created by the manufacturer. For example, adding a ball valve to each line will let you manually shut off various parts of the system if there’s trouble.

Dig In

With your plan in hand, head out to the yard and mark the locations of the various lines with stakes and string. Add some flags to mark the sprinkler heads and you’ll be ready to dig. Don’t get too carried away, though – only dig the trenches you can install during each work session.
You can dig the trenches by hand, or you can rent a trencher to save some time. Going from about 6 – 12 inches deep is a safe bet, but double check the size of the sprinklers to ensure that they’ll be able to fully retract underground.

Lay Out the Lines

Laying out the pieces with which you’ll be working – and preassembling whenever possible – will make your work easy. Working outward from the location of the manifold, insert each piece into its fitting, mark it for reference, clean the area with a solvent primer and brush it with cement.
Insert the pipe back into the fitting with the reference marks about a quarter turn apart, then twist them together to help spread the cement. It should make an even bead around the pipe at the fitting, but if you have any doubts, separate them quickly – the adhesive sets in about 30 seconds.

Connect the Heads, Tap the Line and Watch Your Back

The installation of your sprinkler heads will vary depending upon their manufacturer, so be sure to follow their instructions carefully. A general rule to keep in mind, though, is to flush all of the debris from the line before making any final connections – it’s quite difficult to find blockages after everything’s connected.
The most common way of connecting your system to the water supply is to simply connect it to your outdoor faucet. Tapping into the main line leading to your home is another popular method. You can call in a professional for this part of the job, or carefully follow a solid set of instructions.
It’s important to keep in mind that most locales will require the installation of backflow preventers in order to keep the system’s pressure from reversing. This also ensures that water from your lawn – water that’s potentially contaminated with chemicals – doesn’t re-enter the local supply.

Timing is Everything

Finally, you’ll need to install the control system that will make your whole irrigation operation tick. The water from your main line will run to a manifold that groups all of the zones’ valves in one area, all controlled by a timer that determines when each zone is watered.
The cost and complexity of the timer you choose to use will depend upon the size and complexity of your system. These can run from simple timer boxes to elaborate WiFi-enabled controllers, and the one for you depends entirely upon the needs of your system and the limitations of your budget.
The costs adjusts accordingly, of course, and the difficulty of installation will depend upon where you want to put it. Placing a small timer near the manifold is a great deal easier than running a large system through the walls of your home.


This may all sound like a bit of hard work – and some of it is – but the potential benefits in terms of efficiency and convenience are well worth the time and effort. If you’ve taken your time, used quality equipment and installed everything properly, you won’t have to touch another sprinkler for years to come.  
Better still, the costs associated with the project are well worth the value that you’ll be bringing to your property. The convenience of having such a system installed will be almost as enticing as the curb appeal of your well cared-for lawn.

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