Tired of watering your lawn? If you want lush grass and vibrant vegetation, but it’s taking too much time to get out the old watering can every day, an effective sprinkler or irrigation system might be your golden solution. Whether you do the job yourself, or access the help of a professional plumber and landscaper, your result will be a thriving garden that doesn’t cut into your busy schedule.
Designing and installing your own sprinkler system requires a good deal of research, but it’s worth it when you find that watering your lawn is as simple as hitting a switch. Once your sprinkler components are fully set up, you can program them to water your yard whenever is most suitable for you (and your plants). Here’s how you can get started making your life easier, and your garden happier, with a sprinkler system.
Step 1: Examine Your Property
The first step in making any huge landscaping decision — whether it's re-creating your garden or designing a sprinkler system — is to examine your property, and consider your personal requirements and limitations. Evaluating your yard will give you insight into whether your lawn would benefit from the addition of a sprinkler system; some shrubs, grasses, and soils absorb water more readily than others. Analyzing your yard at the start will prevent you from making costly mistakes during the planning process.
Once you've determined that a sprinkler system is right for you, measure down your garden — or create a diagram of the space using online applications. Make sure to note your measurements on grid paper, then contact your utility companies to ask for the locations of cables buried in your yard. This allows you to design a sprinkler path that doesn't damage any existing underground systems.
Step 2: Map Your System Using Quadrants
Every part of your garden is different, and some aspects will require significantly more water than others. Vegetable gardens and lawns need frequent, short intervals of irrigation; while trees and shrubs generally thrive better with infrequent, deep soakings. Examine each part of your landscape, and grouping sectors together according to their hydration needs. This will help you choose the best sprinkler heads for any given zone. For instance, gear-driven heads may be best for larger grassy areas, while shrub heads may be ideal for flowers and shrubs.
Once you've decided how many, and which types of sprinkler you need for each area, draw a schematic over a map of your property, alongside the route you've already laid out for installing underground piping and valves.
Step 3: Determine Water Pressure
The most complex part of designing a sprinkler system is determining how sprinklers should be situated throughout the yard. The key is to figure out your water pressure. You can access that information either by speaking to your utility provider, or using a pressure gauge. Screw the gauge into any available hose faucet and turn it on full, and you'll receive a reading in pounds per square inch (or psi).
Though water pressure requirements change according to your sprinkler choice, most homes need a water pressure reading of around 40 to 50 psi to be effective. While you're measuring water pressure, it's also a good idea to check how much water routinely flows through your pipes (in gallons per minute). You should be able to ask a plumbing expert for additional help, or measure yourself using a single-gallon container placed under a spigot.
Step 4: Address the Red Tape
Before you start digging trenches or contacting professionals, make sure you're not coming into conflict with any rules or regulations surrounding your property. You should do some research to ensure that:
- You don’t need any building permits for your property
- You aren't breaking any local municipal watering ordinances
- You know whether or not you're required to use a licensed professional for installation
- Your system allows for proper backflow prevention according to your local codes
At the same time, double check that you have measured and marked everything properly. The last thing you want is to start digging, and cut straight through a crucial pipe. To properly install sprinklers, you'll need precise measurements between all manifolds, valves, and hookups — as well as an in-depth understanding of which materials are needed, if you decide to do the installation yourself.
Speak to a Professional
Though there are plenty of guides and online tutorials to help you manage a DIY sprinkler system installation, it's often easier and less risky to access the help of a professional — particularly if you don't already have a valve that links to the main water line in the house.
It’s often easiest to do a lot of the measuring yourself, and draw up a plan, then contact a professional to determine the best way to put that plan into action. An expert in plumbing and landscaping will know exactly which (if any) permits you need, can accurately assess the correct water pressure (psi) for you, and will be skilled in how to avoid damaging any pipes or plumbing existing underground.
A professional should be able to help you get the most out of your garden, while still following the design parameters you laid out during the planning stage.
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