Everything You Need to Know About Installing a Lawn Sprinkler System

by Team eLocal
Automatic sprinkler system watering the lawn at sunrise. Close-up. Gardening and law care.

Still watering your lawn with a hose? Now might be the time to upgrade to a sprinkler system. A home sprinkler system is an integral part of a well-kept, lush landscape. If you’re thinking about installing a sprinkler system, knowing as much as possible about the process is important.

Let’s take a look at sprinkler system installation in greater depth.

Can You Install a Sprinkler System Yourself?

Sprinkler system installation isn’t that complicated, but it does require a lot of effort. Some homeowners with mediocre DIY skills can tackle sprinkler system installation with minimal fuss. Whether you have the chops to do it yourself or you need to hire a pro for the job depends on your level of confidence in your abilities and the time you have available to devote to the installation. Some of the steps involved in installing a sprinkler system can be labor-intensive, so it is important to know if you are up for the job prior to getting started.

How Much Does It Cost for a DIY Sprinkler System?

The cost of a DIY sprinkler system varies, largely depending on what type of system you install and how big the area is that you’re watering. A total sprinkler system for a DIY install on a quarter-acre lot runs roughly $1,500 (CAD 1,900). A drip system with buried tubes runs around $3,000 (CAD 3,800) per acre, according to Fixr, while an above-ground tube drip system costs about $2,150 (CAD 2,725) per acre.

Do You Need Any Permits to Install a Sprinkler System?

Whether you need permits to install a sprinkler system depends on where you live and the codes governing your area. Check with your homeowner's association or local building authority to find out if any restrictions or laws apply to your sprinkler system installation plans. It’s possible you may need a permit, and in some locations, DIY installations may be prohibited altogether.

What Is Flow Rate and How Do You Measure It?

The flow rate is an indicator of how many gallons per minute flow through your sprinkler system. A simple way to determine flow rate is by using a timer and a 5-gallon bucket. To test the flow rate, just turn on the hose’s spigot at its fastest rate. Take a note of the number of seconds that it takes to fill the bucket. Next, multiply the capacity (in gallons) by 60. Divide the result by how many seconds it took the bucket to fill. Using this method, if your bucket fills up in 20 seconds, the flow rate is 15 GPM.

How Do You Figure Out Water Pressure?

To determine water pressure, connect a test gauge made specifically for water pressure tests to an exterior hose spigot. Connection is simple; just thread the gauge onto the hose spigot, and then open the tap. The gauge should display the reading. Keep in mind that most sprinkler systems are equipped with heads that operate at roughly 30 to 40 pounds per square inch. If the reading falls below 30 psi, the spray distance on the sprinkler’s head is restricted. If it’s above 40 psi, the sprinkler head may become damaged or may emit an inefficient spray.

What Are the Different Parts You'll Need to Buy for a Sprinkler System?

In addition to sprinkler heads — the main components of a sprinkler system — you will also need:

  • Backflow preventer: This part prevents the backflow of water from the system. This keeps the water supply in the home from becoming contaminated.
  • Controller: The controller is sometimes called a timer. The job of the controller is to control how long the system will run and when it will run. Typically, the timer is hardwired into the home’s electrical system.
  • Pipe fittings: The pipe fittings are used to connect two pipes together.
  • Risers: A riser allows the head of a sprinkler to rise above or be installed below ground, depending on the installation.
  • Sprinkler lines: Lines connect to the sprinkler heads and deliver water to the heads. Most are made from flexible polyethylene and rigid PVC pipe.
  • Zone valves: These valves work in each zone to turn the heads of the sprinklers on and off. They can be powered automatically using a controller, or they can be turned with a screw on the top of the valve, depending on your setup.
  • Zone valve box: This box is simply a cover that prevents the zone valves from being damaged.

How Do You Map Out Where the Sprinkler Heads Should Go?

Creating a schematic or map of where you want the sprinkler system’s heads to go makes it easier to determine the materials you will need for your DIY install. To map your system, use a measuring reel to measure features such as large sections of grass or sod, irregularly shaped grass sections and the location of shrubs, trees or other landscape markers. Once measured, you can transfer your measurements to a paper graph to create a scaled-down map of your lawn. A good scale that you might want to consider implementing is one in which every inch equals 10 feet — or every centimeter equals a meter.

How Much Does It Cost to Have a Professional Install a Sprinkler System?

A professionally installed sprinkler system can cost twice as much as a DIY-installed system — and sometimes even more. According to House Logic, the price range for an installed sprinkler system on a quarter-acre lot runs from $3,000 to $4,000 (CAD 3,800 to CAD 5,075) on the low end and can be as much as $7,000 (CAD 8,900) on the high end.

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