In-ground irrigation

Install an in-ground irrigation system and you'll never have to turn the sprinkler on again

By Deanna Dority


Photo by Christopher Campbell

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Tired of always having to run outside, set up the sprinkler, turn on the sprinkler, monitor the watering time, then turn off the sprinkler? I know I would be-if it weren’t for the fact that it’s my husband, Kevin, who’s been doing it. Even for Kevin, though, who’s not the complaining sort, his eureka moment to install the sprinkler system came when his plans for an initially small project to edge our driveway with interlocking bricks turned into a complete tearing up and repaving of the driveway. So, what better time to dig up the lawn as well?

There are several advantages to in-ground sprinkler systems: saving time and money are two prime benefits. Because you control exactly where, when and how water is applied-without needing to be physically present-you conserve water and have more free time. Also, there’s no need to drag around a hose or leave it lying about, so there’s less chance of tripping over one, plus your lawn will look neater.

Of the many DIY in-ground irrigation systems available, we chose the Orbit WaterMaster (see Sprinkler sources). Orbit’s website, offers in-depth advice on installation, step-by-step instructions and a custom-designing program. Note: before starting, check your local bylaws and codes regarding permits and any requirements for backflow prevention devices. (In Markham, Ont., for instance, we needed a testable backflow valve.) Also, always arrange for utility companies to locate underground hazards before you dig.

Gauging your success

To ensure your system is a source of irrigation-not irritation-of prime consideration is your home’s water capacity, i.e., the available flow of water. According to John Mytroen of Canada Rainmakers (distributors of Orbit), you need to know the gallons per minute for each unregulated outside faucet you intend to use. This will determine the number of sprinkler heads you can optimally run at the same time (each nozzle has a gallons per minute rating-see “Head Start” on last page). “The most common mistake people make,” says Mytroen, “is too many heads.”

To measure your static water pressure (no toilets flushing, washing machines running, and so forth), the bucket method is best. With the tap on full, if it takes 20 seconds to fill a two-gallon pail, for example, then your flow is six gallons per minute (gpm). For the faucets we tested, readings ranged from six gpm to nine gpm.

The diameter of your supply line also affects water capacity. To increase your gallons per minute, consider upsizing your water supply line. For example, if your supply line is 1/2″and your water flow is seven gpm, a 3/4″ pipe will raise it to 13 gpm. In our case, the flow was very good, so the 1/2″ line was sufficient.

The design plan we received from Orbit’s Web site included sprinkler head placement and spray patterns, the number of watering zones required and a comprehensive shopping list of components and materials.


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