The Ups and Downs of Starting Your Own Lawn Sprinkler System

Sprinkler system start up is an annual ritual in areas of the country that experience freezing temperatures in the winter.  To perhaps 50% or more of homeowners,  sprinkler system start up seems like a simple proposition.  Turn on the supply valve and fill the mainline, then set the clock.   Maybe some will even inspect their irrigation systems by running through each sprinkler zone and giving it a quick look to be sure there are no geysers or gurgling floods.

To the experienced eye of a skilled irrigation technichian, there is much more to do. The knowledgeable lawn sprinkler technician will walk through the sprinklers as they run, inspecting it zone by zone and head by head for a close up view. found lawn sprinkler headIrrigation technicians look for heads that are crooked, too low in the soil, obstructed by shrubs growing ever larger, unseen leaks, missing heads and more. The 2 pictures demonstrate how heads become lost by turf over growth. This growth can simply stop the head from from fully popping up resulting in a localized wet spot wasting water dollars and not irrigating the site. In other cases, the head can be held down and sealed so tightly almost no water escapes.

The irrigation tech’s knowledge of irrigation design cause them to question why there is a gap in coverage or irregular sprinkler head spacing. So there are ups and downs to starting a lawn sprinkler system. Professionals will use their design knowledge to hunt for a potentially lost head where one should be in a good design. Great techs with highly reputable irrigation companies even know the short cuts of lesser contractors in their area, and how they position heads. They also know based on the flow available water supply and the flow of the heads appearing in a zone, whether all heads are most likely presenting themselves.

Every one of those items a tech looks for effects the effectiveness and efficiency of a lawn sprinkler system. Crooked sprinkler heads do not apply water evenly in all directions as the spray is cut short on the side the head leans towards. On the opposite side water discharges further because of a higher trajectory. Tilted, crooked sprinkler heads result in grossly uneven watering because of the difference in area covered with the same amount of water. That is not good for your wallet or landscape.

The same can be said for heads obstructed because they are too low in the ground or blocked by plants. The area close to these sprinkler heads becomes over saturated leading to ruts from mowing, poor performing or dead plants, and maybe ruts from mowers.

OK, the dedicated DIY’er that cares to learn about irrigation systems can overcome all the above. Unfortunately they represent a tiny percentage of those that do their own lawn sprinkler start up. And even smaller is the group that really knows irrigation design, engineering and hydraulics. And there in lies the rub.

Viewing a lawn sprinkler start up as a simple DIY procedure can wind up costing wasted water expenses, and frequently additional lawn and landscape maintenance costs that don’t appear on water bills. leaking lawn sprinkler head Landscape elements needing repair, replacement, and additional services such as insect or disease controls add to the cost of DIY in ways that can not be determined. Problems get misdiagnosed, even guessed and treated, when a well designed and professionally maintained, properly used irrigations system can keep a landscape healthy and thriving.


The picture above looks like a properly working sprinkler head. Skilled technicians know to look deeper.


and this is what can be going on below the surface of the lawn with the same sprinkler head. Don’t be fooled into thinking that even if heads are not blocked, crooked or low and spray normally, that hidden problems don’t exist.