Sprinkler Systems for Lawns: The Complete Guide

green grass field

For any homeowner with a lush, green lawn, installing an in-ground sprinkler system may seem like a worthwhile investment. With the ability to customize watering schedules, target specific areas, and automate the entire process, sprinkler systems make it easy to keep your grass hydrated and healthy with minimal effort.

But with so many options available, where do you start? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about choosing, designing, and installing the ideal sprinkler system for your yard and landscaping. Read on for tips from irrigation experts!

Why Invest in an Inground Sprinkler System?

There are several key benefits that make underground sprinkler systems a popular choice for irrigating lawns and gardens:

Consistent, Even Watering

Unlike manual sprinklers or hoses, in-ground systems apply water slowly and uniformly across the entire lawn. This encourages deeper roots and reduces dry spots or overwatered patches. The result is a lush, green carpet of grass.

Targeted Watering

With programmable schedules and zones, you can customize sprinklers to meet the specific needs of different plants and grass areas. Tailor watering times and volumes to supply adequate moisture without runoff or waste.

Automatic Operation

Once installed and programmed, an underground system practically runs itself with minimal effort. Just set the schedule and let the sprinklers water for you at optimal times.

Water Savings

Sprinkler systems apply water more efficiently than sprinklers or hoses. Less water is lost to evaporation, runoff, or wind. This saves money on your water bill.

Aesthetic Appeal

With all the pipes and sprinkler heads buried underground, in-ground systems provide unobstructed lawn views without visible hoses or sprinklers.

For beautifully manicured lawns and gardens with minimal work, a professionally designed irrigation system is worth the investment.

Choosing the Right Sprinkler System

Several key considerations will help you select the ideal sprinkler system for your yard and landscaping needs:

Type of System

The two main types of in-ground sprinkler systems are:

  • Fixed Spray Heads – These stationary sprinkler heads screw into the piping and pop up when activated to spray water in a set pattern. They work well for rectangular or symmetric yards.
  • Rotary Sprinkler Heads – Rotary sprinkler heads sit flush with the ground and rotate when spraying water. They can cover irregularly shaped lawns more efficiently.

Size of Yard

Measure your total lawn size as well as the shape and different zones to determine how much coverage you need from the system. This affects choices like piping, sprinkler head placement, and flow rate.

Water Pressure

Verify that your home’s water pressure and flow rate will sufficiently power multiple sprinkler heads running at once. Low pressure may require adjustments.

Sprinkler Head Types

Pick heads suited for each area’s size, shape, and plants. For example, use stationary spray heads for small zones and rotary heads for larger irregular areas.


Divide your yard into zones based on plant watering needs and sunlight exposure. Program each zone independently for customized watering schedules.

With these factors in mind, you can select components that will optimize coverage, convenience, and efficiency.

Designing Your Inground Sprinkler System

Careful planning and design are key to installing an effective sprinkler system tailored to your yard. Follow these steps:

Map Your Yard

Draw out plot plans indicating dimensions, shapes, zones, and obstacles like trees and sidewalks. This will assist placement.

Conduct a Site Inspection

Note details like sunny/shady areas, sloped zones, soil type, and locations of existing pipes or wires.

Determine Needs and Zones

Divide your yard into zones based on plant types, sun exposure, and water needs. Assign sprinkler heads per zone.

Select System Components

Choose piping, valves, sprinkler heads, backflow preventer, and controller timer based on your map and zones.

Lay Out the System

Following manufacturer instructions, sketch out the piping layout and placement of all components and sprinkler heads.

Adjust and Test

Try a temporary above-ground setup to test coverage and make adjustments before burying system components.

With some careful planning and testing, you can create the optimal system design for watering your yard efficiently.

Installing an Inground Sprinkler System

Once you have a working system plan, it’s time to start the installation. Dedicating a full weekend to the project is a must. Here are the key steps involved:

Gather Materials and Tools

Having all required materials and tools on hand will make installation much smoother. You’ll need piping, heads, valves, fittings, glue, wire, and more. Rent a trencher to bury pipes.

Lay Out Components

Place all sprinkler heads, valves, timer, pipes, and other components in their positions based on the system design.

Dig trenches

Dig trenches at least 6 inches deep to hold lateral pipes leading to sprinkler heads. Dig deeper for the main line. Add sand for drainage.

Assemble System

Glue all pipes and fittings together. Wire the valves and timer. Confirm the backflow preventer is installed properly.

Connect to Water Supply

Hook up the main line to the water source and timer. Test for leaks and proper pressure.

Bury Piping and Heads

Carefully place piping into trenches, positioning heads correctly. Backfill trenches and pack down dirt.

Program Timer

Set the schedule with watering times and frequency for each zone based on plant needs.

Test and Adjust

Run through a full cycle to check coverage, leaks, or any issues. Make any final tweaks.

With attention to detail during installation, your sprinkler system will run effectively for years to come. Now let the automatic watering begin!

Top Tips for Maintaining Your Sprinkler System

Routine maintenance will keep your sprinkler system operating at peak efficiency for a lush lawn. Follow these expert tips:

  • Inspect sprinkler heads twice yearly and clear any blocked ones to maintain spray patterns.
  • Check pipes and fittings annually for cracks or leaks and patch as needed to prevent water loss.
  • Drain and blow out pipes before winter to avoid freeze damage.
  • Adjust the timer seasonally to provide less frequent watering in cool weather.
  • Monitor lawn health and tweak schedules to supply adequate moisture without overwatering.
  • Winterize the backflow preventer valve according to the manufacturer’s instructions each fall.
  • Test the rain sensor regularly and adjust as needed to shut off during rainstorms.
  • Update old sprinkler heads periodically for more efficient watering technology.
  • Fix broken or damaged heads immediately to prevent wasteful water loss.

With proactive system monitoring and maintenance, you’ll keep your sprinklers operating smoothly for years of reliable service.

Finding the Right Sprinkler System Installer

Trying to DIY an entire sprinkler system installation can be complicated and risky. For best results, consider hiring a professional irrigation company for the job. Here’s what to look for:

💡 Insider Tip: When comparing bids, don’t just look at the upfront cost. A higher bid from an experienced pro who does the job right can save you money, time, and headaches down the road.

Relevant Experience

Look for an installer with extensive experience designing and installing sprinkler systems similar to yours. Avoid general landscapers. Specialization is key.


The installer should understand important considerations like zoning, optimal placement, and programming. They can then tailor the system to your lawn’s unique needs.

Use of Proper Materials

Reputable installers use only high-quality commercial-grade components that last, not cheap residential-use parts that require frequent repairs or replacement.


From the bidding process through post-installation follow-up, timely communication and quick service demonstrate professionalism.

Licensing and Insurance

Verify required state licensing for irrigation work. Make sure the company carries liability insurance protecting your property if damages occur.

While a quality sprinkler system may require an upfront investment, the long-term benefits of a professionally installed and maintained system make it a worthwhile improvement for your perfect lawn.

Frequently Asked Questions About Inground Sprinkler Systems

How much do sprinkler systems cost?

Expect to invest $3000 to $6000 for a professionally installed system covering an average half-acre lot with 6 to 12 zones. Cost varies based on size, components, and labor rates.

When is the best time to install a sprinkler system?

Schedule installation early in spring or fall when the ground is softer and easier to dig trenches. Avoid very hot summer months.

How long does installation take?

A typical installation takes 2 to 3 days: one day for layout and trenching, a second day to assemble components and connect to the water supply, and a final day to backfill and test.

What size / type of pipe should I use?

PVC is the most common plastic piping used. Main lines are typically 3/4” to 1” diameter. 5/8” or 1/2” pipes feed individual sprinkler heads. Schedule 40 is preferred.

What PSI do sprinklers require?

Most sprinklers perform best between 30 and 80 PSI. Static water pressure under 40 PSI may need a booster pump. Above 80 PSI risks damage and requires a regulator.

How deep should sprinkler pipes be buried?

For protection from freezing, lateral lines to heads should be buried at least 6” deep. Mainlines and pipes under driveways need around 18” of cover.

How often will the system need maintenance?

Inspect all components at least twice per year. Perform seasonal blowouts and winterizations. Schedule professional check-ups every 2 to 3 years.


A professionally designed and installed inground sprinkler system is one of the best investments you can make for a lush, vibrant lawn and garden. With customized programming and components tailored to your yard, it will provide efficient, automated watering for healthy grass and plants for years to come. Just be sure to budget accordingly and hire an experienced irrigation specialist. A quality sprinkler system requires an initial outlay, but the benefits and convenience are immense. Your new hassle-free watering system will quickly pay for itself in time and money saved.