7 Basic Steps to Designing Your Residential Sprinkler System
There are seven necessary steps you need to include when you draw up your irrigation system’s design. They include:
1. Measure and prepare the area for the sprinkler system: For this job, you’ll need graph paper, a pencil and a tape measure. Measure the length and width of your property. Then draw it to scale, for example, by using one inch to equal 10 ft. In your drawing, you need to include all landscape and hardscapes as well as other barriers, such as walkways, your driveway, your house, outdoor sheds.
2. Determine your water supply: Ask your local water authority to send you your property’s water pressure report. It’s also wise to check your water’s pressure throughout your house because it can vary from one spot to another. For example, you can determine your outdoor water pressure by using a water gauge:
Turn off all the water inside your home
Next, hook up the water gauge to your outdoor spigot
Then, turn on your outdoor spigot to full blast to measure your water’s output.
You also need to measure your gallons per minute (GPM). You can measure your GPM by putting a one-gallon bucket and turning on your outdoor spigot full blast. Measure the time it takes to fill that one-gallon container. Take the time, in seconds, divide it by 60 and then you have your GPM.
3. Break up your property into hydrozones: You don’t want to over- or underwater your plants. So, it’s vital to plant your turfgrass and landscapes according to their watering needs called hydrozones. Hydrozones include these four variables:
Area size and shape: Hydrozones can be large or small as well as along the side of the house and the front yard. Hydrozones include the turf strips along your sidewalk and the ground cover in your backyard.
Sunlight and water: Shady areas of your property don’t need as much water as an area that gets full sun throughout the day.
Type of plants: Some plants need a lot of water, such as your lawn, and others, including native plants, don’t need a lot of water. Group plants together based on their watering needs.
Soil type: You can have clay, loam or sandy soils. Clay soils hold their shapes when wet. Loam is the perfect soil and breaks apart when it’s wet, and sandy soil is unable to hold water. Water drains right through it.
4. Pick your sprinkler heads: Make sure you stick to one sprinkler brand. You don’t want to mix brands because not all sprinkler systems are designed the same.
Additionally, there are different sprinkler heads to meet the watering needs of your various hydrozones:
Rotors: Choose your rotor head based on the radius and the reach it needs to make. You don’t want to mix rotor sizes and sprays per hydrozone. Instead, you want to keep the same size and spray per zone.
Fixed sprays: A fixed spray has a radius of 6-18 ft. Fixed sprays deliver water to the same area. One spray should end where the next one starts to evenly water a particular area.
Spray heads with rotary nozzles: These spray heads deliver consistent water up to 13-30 ft. radius.
Specialty patterns and bubblers: These sprinklers are designed to solve particular landscape problems, such as a side or lawn end strips. Spray nozzles deliver water to areas that are up to five feet wide and 15 feet long. Bubblers provide water to specific landscape areas, such as trees or shrubs.
Micro- or drip irrigation: These sprinklers work best on ground covers, landscape beds or other planted areas. Many small emitters deliver water directly to the plant’s roots.
5. Design your sprinkler’s layout: On your design, draw out the spraying circles and sprinkler head locations on your map. Make sure your entire lawn gets watered by adding the areas where nozzles start and stop on your property.
6. Measure and layout piping: Break up the smaller sprinkler heads into clusters of different circuits each controlled by one valve. For larger areas, group valves together with a manifold that you can then attach to an irrigation controller. Then organize the pipes, fittings, sprinkler heads and valves so they work together.
Sketch your irrigation system on your graph paper including the exact distance between the various parts of the sprinkler system, such as valves, controllers, piping and manifolds.
7. Finishing up your plan: In order to make sure you remember everything you need to build your lawn sprinkler, make a list including all sprinkler parts, such as piping, fittings, controllers, valves, sprinkler heads and manifolds.