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Everything You Need To Know About Installing Your Own Sprinkler System (Part 2: Installing)

Thinking about installing your own sprinklers? You definitely want to read this helpful guide on how to install sprinklers.

Last week I shared all about how to plan for installing your own sprinklers. We left off with mapping your sprinkler system. Planning is a VERY important step if you are going to be installing sprinklers, so don’t skip it. If you missed last week’s post, go check it out first before finishing this one about how to install sprinklers, definitely got back and check it out. Last week we talked about why you should install an in-ground sprinkler system vs an above-ground one, what a zone is, how to figure out your home’s PSI and GPM and, how to map your irrigation system and zones. Today, we’re moving on the 2nd part in this series and talking all about the actual installation of sprinklers. This is your guide on how to install sprinklers. Let’s jump right in!

This How To Install Sprinklers post contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend anyway! Read my full disclosure here.

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How to install sprinklers

Buy your supplies

Here’s a basic list of the major items that you’ll need to install sprinklers.

  • Timer & Sprinkler Wire – Once you figure out the number of zones you need, you will buy a timer and the correct sprinkler wire to meet those specific needs. Not sure how to figure out the number of zones you need?… head on back to Part 1 in this series to figure it out. 
    • Don’t a buy cheap timer, spend your money on a good timer. Be sure it has ability to apply a watering schedule, different zone settings, odd vs even days, rainy days, etc.
  • Valve Manifold – You can buy premade valves or make your own (we’ll talk more about that later).
  • Tubing – You can use either flexible tubing or PVC tubing. We opted for Schedule 40 PVC.
  • Swing Pipe – This is to connect the sprinkler heads to your tubing.
  • Backflow Preventer – Remember last week when I said you need to check with your city to check for rules and regulations? One thing that our city required was a blackflow preventer, which prevents water from flowing back into the water supply.
  • Sprinkler Heads – Refer back to Part 1 if you need help figuring out what kind & how many sprinkler heads you need.

Why you should make your own valve manifold for sprinklers

For some silly reason that I cannot begin to understand, the major manufacturers for the valves do not put unions (which is a twist off) on both sides of the valve manifolds. This means that if your valves break later down the road, you will not be able to remove them easily. Let’s just assume Murphy’s law here…your valves will break. You will have to cut pipe later and it is not going to be easy to replace your valves if you don’t have unions.

Here’s a picture of the manifold we…and by that I totally mean HE built. This was right after we put it in, so after this you’d want to wash it all off and put a gravel bed there for drainage. I labeled where the unions are.

Valve manifold with unions | Why sprinkler valve manifolds need unions | Why you should build your own sprinkler valve manifold

Digging…lots of digging

Digging is, obviously, the most time consuming part of the whole sprinkler install. To make things a little easier for yourselves, you can also rent a trencher (aka ditch witch). We unfortunately couldn’t do this because we have a septic system in our backyard and we were worried about ruining any septic pipes. We also have a lot of lava rocks in the soil of Central Oregon and our backyard had a lot of debris in the soil, so we didn’t wan to ruin a machine that was rented.

So it was digging…

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…and digging…

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…and digging…

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How deep should you bury sprinkler lines?

This is a very good questions if you are learning how to install sprinklers. We chose to bury our sprinklers about 8 inches down. We will need to winterize our sprinkler system every winter. Depending on where you live, you may be able to avoid having to winterize if your bury the lines below the freezing line in your area. The freezing line in Bend is over 2 feet, so there’s no way we were going to do all the digging 2 feet down! We already had enough digging on our hands.

Set your irrigation wire

Refer back to your irrigation plan (check out Part 1 if you need help planning) to see where your timer will be. You will need to run sprinkler wire from the valve box to the timer. If you can plan your digging right, you maybe lucky to run the wire for your timer in some of the same trenches as the pipes. Be sure that you are placing the wire underneath the sprinkler tubing though, so you don’t ruin the wire.

Pro Tip: Put the wire its own PVC pipe. This way it will be protected when you’re digging later. If anything does ever happen (like a broken wire), you will be able to pull new wire through the PVC to the timer.

Lay out & glue your pipes

Once your digging is done, it’s important to layout all of your pipes near the trenches and start gluing! You definitely want to apply the glue heavily. Buy more than you think you will need!

Here’s a quick video that does a great job showing you how to glue PVC pipe & fittings.

Place your sprinklers

While you are working on installing your sprinklers, it’s great to use flags to map out where the sprinklers belong. You will then use swing pipe to connect the PVC pipe with the sprinkler head. Your PVC should be within 2 feet of the sprinkler head. Once you’re done laying in the pipe and the sprinklers heads, don’t backfill all of the dirt in your trenches quite yet. Just put enough to secure the sprinkler heads.

Clean sprinklers & check for leaks

To clean your sprinklers, you need:

  • Pull the popup sprinkler up manually
  • Thread off sprinkler tips
  • Go to supply and turn on (not full blast)
  • Let it run a couple minutes while you check everything. Make sure that every sprinkler head has water coming out. Check all tubing for any leaks. This also clears out any dirt or glue from your tubing and heads.

Before you start backfilling the sprinkler trenches, set and test your timer as well.

Backfill trenches

If you don’t have any leaks, you’re good to go! Go ahead and put your sprinkler tips back on and backfill all of your trenches.


Can you install your own sprinklers?

Well, you’re at the tail end of my little series of how to install sprinklers and you may be asking yourself this question. Can we really do this? The answer is yes. Yes, you can DIY your sprinklers. There are SO many resources out there for you to learn how to install sprinklers. You can educate yourself, put in the sweat equity (aka digging for DAYS), and come away with a sprinkler system that you set and forget.

Here are the facts…If you install your own sprinklers:

  • You will save thousands of dollars.
  • You will learn something new.
  • You will probably feel overwhelmed at some point during the process (or the whole process, haha). Hopefully my guide on how to install sprinklers will help ease some of that anxiety.
  • You will step away and be able to say “I did that”.

But installing your own sprinklers is not for everyone. This level of DIY may be way over your head and that’s ok. Your specific irrigation needs may be very complicated and call for a professional. Maybe you even think we’re crazy for doing something like this ourselves, truth be told I thought we were pretty crazy too.

Whatever you decide, make an educated and informed decision that works for YOU.

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