Green Grass In the Sand: Installing A Phoenix Lawn Sprinkler System- Part 2

Posted by on Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yesterday  we discussed having a lawn sprinkler installed your humble Phoenix home. Today we’ll try to work our way through the installation itself.  The installation process described here can be used anywhere, but keep in mind that different localities have different standards and restrictions- a home on the shores of Superior has more water access than one on the banks of the Sonoran.


Spinkler Installation

Installing a sprinkler in harsh conditions. Image from

This is not a do-it-yourself project for the faint of heart, but it can be done if you’re willing to be a little patient. If you get cold feet, you can have a contractor do the work for you, or you can go with individual sprinklers that will be buried in the ground, but will require you to connect a garden hose to use them. It’s not automatic but it’s still buried, and you can brag to your friends about having a lawn sprinkler system.  You don’t even have to tell them how much money you saved, or how easy it was to install.

Getting Started

If you’re still with us, then you’re either committed to the project or looking for more reasons not to do it.  By now, you should have definite plans finalized.  Before you start to dig you need to contact your municipality about any building permits required, as well as getting dig permits.

Your city or town’s building official, or permit office, will be able to direct you to a service that will do research on your property to find out where any underground utilities may be buried. It is unlawful to dig trenches without getting a dig permit.  

Once you’ve gotten all of your parts and permits, you need to make a layout of the entire system.  Laying pipe all over your yard will probably become annoying when you start to dig, so lay it out with string. Use tent stakes and flags to keep the string in place, and show where the sprinkler heads will be.


Dig your trenches between six inches and twelve inches deep, keeping in mind that your sprinkler heads will need to fully retract into the ground so they don’t interfere with the lawn mower (that you’re going to need more than ever, now that your grass will be watered regularly). It is also important to dig your trenches so the pipes lie level in the trenches.  This will help to ensure that you’re not losing the water pressure your system needs, based on the plan you developed and the sprinkler heads you’re using.

Sprinkler trenches

Planning first is the only way to dig sprinkler trenches. Image

Laying Pipe

When you’ve gotten your trenches dug and leveled, you can start laying in pipe. PVC is the most commonly used pipe. Dry fit as best as you can, and when everything looks good you can start gluing joints.  If you use the purple primer, you will be able to know which joints are complete so you’ll be less likely to miss any.  Refer to the Plumbing Circle Blog concerning gluing plastic pipes, and also follow the glue and primer manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines to glue your joints properly. Make sure you use the proper glue for your pipe and fitting material, and make sure your fittings and pipe are all the same material.


Make sure the pipes are deep enough to be buried, but not so deep you can’t access them. Image from

After you’ve laid the pipe and let the glue set up, but, before you attach any sprinkler heads, give your system—or systems as the case may be—good flushes to ensure any debris left over from cutting the pipe and laying it in the ground gets pushed out before it can foul up your sprinkler heads. Also check the system for leaks.

Setting The System Up

Now that the piping system is in place and doesn’t leak, attach the sprinkler heads per the manufacturer’s instructions and bury the system. You can connect the control and zone valves to the system, and install the timer as well. You will need to install a backflow preventer on the system to ensure that if you develop an underground leak no dirt or other underground debris can enter your—or your town’s—drinking water system in the event of a loss of water pressure. Once you have everything connected, you can place a cup in each zone to see how much water you’re getting per watering cycle, and adjust as necessary.

The planning and digging of level trenches are the hardest parts of the job—not including expense, of course—but if you are able to handle that properly, and use patience and caution during work, the job will not be beyond a typical handy person’s ability to accomplish.

Do you have plumbing work that needs to be done? Confused about a job? Want to know how to do it yourself, or how you can find a reliable plumber?

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