Last summer, I decided I wanted to install a sprinkler system in my front yard. How hard could it be, after all? I mean, it was just pipes, sprinkler heads and water flow. All I would have to do is lay the system out, bury the pipes, cement the whole thing together and hook it up to the water faucet. Easy.
To quote the late poet Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes of mice an’ men/ Gang aft agley,” which means “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Or blow up in your face, depending on what you were trying to do in the first place.
Here are the four lessons I learned the hard way; I hope they save you time and money on your installation.
Unless you’re a professional plumber who knows exactly what is needed, what the codes are and all the necessary equipment involved, buy a kit. You will get everything you need in one or two boxes and you won’t have to waste time, gas and additional money buying bits and pieces to try to get it right.
Obtain the necessary permits and find out if there are any limits to your intended system such as the number and type of sprinkler heads, type of pipe needed, depth it should be buried and if inspections are required before you turn it on. Do this before digging any trenches.
I thought I would be slick and dig the trenches first, then go apply for the permit. I purchased all my pipe, sprinkler heads, drew a schematic and went to the permit office and was promptly denied. There were flaws in my “flawless” design.
- My lines were too close to the road.
- I didn’t have the right sprinkler heads for the local water pressure.
- I had no backflow device to prevent contamination of my home’s drinking water or the city’s water supply.
- My system lacked a pressure regulator that would not blow my underrated sprinkler heads off the pipe, resulting in an uncontrolled water fountain (or ten) until I got home from work to shut the water off.
I humbly took a copy of the code home, studied and decided to revamp my plans before trying again, which I did the following week.
I dug my lines deeper, but didn’t learn where my phone line was until I put my shovel through it. I was unwilling to find out what other damage I could do, so after the phone line was repaired, I had the water, gas and phone lines marked and dug gently in the areas. I could go under lines and around them easier than having them repaired.
I then set about assembling my system after a few more trips to the hardware store and a couple of paychecks so I could afford everything.
Know when to call a professional and admit you don’t know everything. I turned my system on only to watch the first few sprinklers blow out of the pipe. After repairing it (about a half dozen times) even with the pressure regulator, I gave in and called a friend who is a professional plumber. He took one look at my system, components and told me it would never work.
He suggested a kit that was roughly half the cost of all that I had spent, and had one on hand. He reduced his labor cost because I had already dug up the yard and I helped him dismantle my system and install the new one. I was fortunate that he bought the items I had purchased for my system. He had a job that called for my components; it was watering a hay field. I had purchased all the wrong things for the size of the area, water pressure, soil and amount of water needed.
There is one good thing that came out of my mistakes. Had I asked his advice in the beginning, I would have nothing to share with you now. By the way, my yard looks great.