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Installing Lawn Sprinkler Systems

Updated on June 11, 2013

Having operated a landscaping business in San Diego, I've done a lot of work installing lawn sprinkler systems. They're a lot easier than you might think. They can get complex in a hurry, but if you're simply interested in putting in a basic residential sprinkler system for your yard, you'll be amazed at how simple it is. There are two components for a sprinkler system:

  1. Pipes
  2. Sprinklers


Pipes lay underground in a grid pattern, carrying water from your main line to each of your various sprinklers. Most residential PVC lines are 3/4 inch schedule 40 pipes. Schedule 40 refers to the thickness of the pipe wall and the durability of the pipes. Schedule 40 PVC pipe is very durable and should last multiple decades underground without breaking or leaking. When installing a lawn sprinkler system for your yard, you'll need to do two things:

  1. Dig trenches 18 inches deep to install an underground PVC pipe grid
  2. Determine the position of your sprinklers

When determining where your sprinklers are going to lay, you'll want to watch the video below. But in the majority of yards, most of the sprinklers are going to wrap around the outside of the lawn, with a few sprinklers placed strategically on the inside of the lawn spraying water in a 360 degree pattern. Building a PVC pipe grid is surprisingly simple. PVC pipe is made to be glued together, and there are various types of joints, which we'll discuss later. Watch the first video.

Installing Lawn Sprinkler Systems -- The Basics

Sprinkler Design

A 20 x 30 Foot rectangular lawn.  Some of the sprinklers are placed 10 feet apart, while others are placed 15 feet apart for maximum simplicity and efficiency.
A 20 x 30 Foot rectangular lawn. Some of the sprinklers are placed 10 feet apart, while others are placed 15 feet apart for maximum simplicity and efficiency.
An irregular large backyard lawn with sprinklers placed between 10 and 15 feet from one another for best possible coverage.
An irregular large backyard lawn with sprinklers placed between 10 and 15 feet from one another for best possible coverage.

Easy to Install Lawn Sprinkler Systems

In the above video, we talked about the basics of installing lawn sprinklers, and how different sprinklers work. The video below will actually show you how to install sprinklers into your PVC pipe grid in the most effective and simple way possible. After that video, we'll have another one, showing you a very basic way of creating a PVC pipe grid for your lawn sprinkler system. If you're planning on laying sod down after you've installed your sprinklers, your sprinkler heads will want to be placed 1/2 inch above your dirt, because the sod you're laying down will be about 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick. The ground will compact a little bit after the sod is laid, so your sprinkler heads should end up right at the level of your grass.

Installing Sprinklers into your PVC Pipe Grid

Creating a Basic PVC Pipe Grid

PVC Pipes

Installing lawn sprinkler systems involves laying pipes down into trenches in order to bring water from one sprinkler to the next. In the majority of yards, most of your sprinklers are going to be situated around the perimeter, or outer edge of the lawn. Installing the outer edge of sprinklers is very basic. It only involves using the threaded T section that we talked about in one of the prior videos. To the right are a number of pictures of common PVC pipe joints that you'll be using in order to create your PVC pipe grid. The first is called an Elbow, for obvious reasons. It's used when you need to change directions, like when you hit the corner of your lawn and need to go the other way. The next is called a T, for obvious reasons. This is used when you want to send water off to two different sprinkler heads. You'll notice that it's different than the T section we talked about in the video. The T Section to the right doesn't have threads, and doesn't reduce down to 1/2 inches. It's 3/4 inch on all three sides. Other than that, you have a 45 degree joint, which can be used for irregular shaped yards. When gluing PVC pipe together, remember to do a quarter to half turn to spread out the glue over both surfacing, providing the greatest contact.

Best Lawn Sprinkler -- Most Reliable

With sprinklers, the best lawn sprinkler is going to be the simplest one. Why is that? Because the most reliable sprinkler will be the one with the least amount of moving parts. Fancy sprinklers that rotate left and right, or ones that are adjustable this way and that, these will break on you faster because they have more working parts. In my mind, the best lawn sprinkler is one that is already preset to a specific pattern, has a brass tip, an easy to access filter, and as few moving parts as possible. This kind of sprinkler will not only be very cheap and effective. Watch the video below to see more.

Best Lawn Sprinkler -- Most Reliable Sprinkler

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