A few years back, I had the misfortune of helping my friend install an underground sprinkler system for his front lawn. Neither of us had any experience doing it and that led to a lot of lessons learned the hard way. In retrospect, I can tell you that the 5 Ps, “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance,” should be the focal point in the early stages. Unfortunately, we totally underestimated the project and thought it consisted of digging shallow trenches a foot deep, laying in pipe, tap the pipe for sprinkler heads and then hooking up to the water supply. Not quite that easy. I will try to help you avoid the pitfalls that we fell into, but seriously consider this to be an advanced DIY project and calling a professional.
Contact the Local Utility Companies BEFORE starting your project
We didn’t realize that the local utility companies should have been called for them to survey the property to avoid any damage to their pipes and wires. Big mistake! We used a trencher we rented at a local nursery to trench the lawn and came upon a sewer pipe right in the way. Had we called them, we could have run parallel to the pipe, not try to cross it. We had to totally reroute our planned trench which left a gaping scar across the lawn and needed additional sod to fix. Lucky we didn’t hit a water or electrical pipe, could have been a nightmare costing thousands.
Proper measuring of square footage and mapping property
Who knew there was math involved? We didn’t but there is. You have to figure out water flow capacity of the house. Easy enough if we knew it was required to figure out. Quick lesson on Gallons per Minute or GPMs. Take a 5 gallon bucket, time how long it takes to fill the bucket. So 5 gallons in 15 seconds would be 5/15*60=GPMs in this case 5/15 is .333 times 60 equals 20 GPMs. Now you match GPMs with a chart showing what max flow is for each size and class PVC pipe, bingo, that’s the pipe to use. You also have to map out the square footage, estimate how many sprinkler heads and also how many valves will be required to run a set of heads. Are ya kidding. We were drinking. Not happening.
The Other Lesson Learned before we called a professional
Okay, well, let me be honest. We quit the job, called a pro but made a deal that we would do the bull work and dig the trenches to save money, he just had to tell us where to dig. So, the job was put on hold for two weekends until the sprinkler contractor fit us in. The lawn remained torn up and the house looked like a wreck. So much for improving the value of the house. So to make a long story short, he marks where we should dig with spray paint and leaves and we start digging. I notice that we have to go under a sidewalk leading to the front steps and the sidewalk leading to the side yard. Uh Oh!! We tried everything possible to get under but the angle was so steep to lay the pipe we had to dig down maybe 3 foot and couldn’t use the trencher we rented. Stupid us, because he returns and sees what we did and asked, “why didn’t we just take a garden house and a smaller diameter PVC pipe and use the water pressure to make a hole in the dirt under the sidewalk and slide the pipe thru the hole.” Really??? Duh!!! Tricks of the trade. Who knew.
Well, That’s my month spent losing a battle to the lawn sprinkler system. Tony has an awesome lawn and we do sit on it and laugh as we drink our Heinekens. His wife doesn’t think it that funny but you know the saying, “Boys will be Boys and Cavemen will be Cavemen.”
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