Adding an Irrigation System

Considering an irrigation system for your lawn? Check out this overview of what to consider.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Adding an Irrigation System

If you ask lawn experts they'll tell you the most common mistake homeowners make is watering their lawns, either too often or not enough. To irrigate your yard with the right amount of water, install an in-ground sprinkling system to water the lawn and a drip-type system to water specific trees and plants.

The most efficient way to irrigate individual plants is a drip system that directs a measured amount of water to the roots instead of sprinkling it on top of the soil. These systems were first designed for hot house growers to keep their flowers and vegetable plants consistently moist and growing. A system of feeder hoses connected to the outdoor spigot runs throughout the yard bringing water to wherever it's needed. A controller set with a timer turns on and off and runs water through a maze of hoses, elbow and t-shape connectors to emitters. There's also a filter, anti-siphon valves and a pressure regulator to keep water flowing at the correct pressure.

The large expanse of a lawn is best irrigated with a sprinkler system. If your yard is large, you'll probably need several branches and zones, so it's best to hire a professional installer to design the system. They will also make any necessary modifications to the water supply system to feed water to the far points of the yard. The pressure and flow capabilities of your water source is determined by using a pressure gauge to test the water pressure at the outdoor spigots.

Planning the Plumbing System

The many elements of a landscape require different amounts of moisture and a custom irrigation systems is the ideal way to get the right amount of water to the right plants. An in-ground system is basically a plumbing system that runs through the yard. To determine where the feeder hoses should run, make a sketch of your property noting the location of everything that grows there. If you have a survey plot of your property, use it as a starting point to get the approximate dimensions. Include flower beds, shrubbery, vegetables and trees as well as the expanse of lawn. Use an online tool or graph paper to prepare an accurate scaled drawing of your property. Include buildings, patios, walks and driveway areas, fences and other obstacles. Designate lawn, garden, shrubs and other types of plantings. Indicate the location of water lines, water meter and outdoor spigots and where you want to locate the control valves.

What's Involved

Basically the installation is divided into three phases. First, consider where the water is needed in the yard, and make a dry run laying out the feeder hoses to make sure there's enough hose and connectors. Next, trenches are dug and the hoses and connectors are buried beneath the soil. The final phase is adjusting and programming the system to fit your landscape and climate.

More Things to Consider
  • Find out about watering frequency in your area from the local county extension agent. You'll find the listing in the blue pages of your phone book under the county where you live under "Cooperative Extension Service."
  • Check with your local building department and water authority to determine if there are code and permit requirements.

Don't want to do this job yourself? Find a contractor in your area to do the job at Home Advisor, a free referral service connecting homeowners with pre-screened contractors.

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