Home Projects
Underground Sprinklers

This page is partially about underground sprinklers and what I know about them and also the control system. I don't use a standard electronic timer to turn my sprinklers off and on. I certainly am too lazy to turn each zone on manually. Some people like to have ultimate control over when the system runs, I want to set it and let it run. I have used some previously existing programming examples to build my version of a misterhouse sprinkler control system. More on that later...


Last year (2006), I started the rebuild of my back yard. I didn't want to do as much as I did but as most of the projects that I do, one thing just seems to roll into the next. We wanted to replace our patio with something a little larger and more modern than what the previous owners had. Well as we decided to replace the patio I decided to install the plumbing for sprinklers, wiring for electricity to the yard and I also decided run the eaves troughs drains under the patio as well.


In running the plumbing for the sprinklers I decided go with 3/4" line (as suggested by my sprinkler supply guy). www.waterboy.ca

Although at the time I didn't have 3/4" supply from the city, I knew I would be upgrading, so I ran a 3/4" copper line through the side of the house and down into the ground with plastic. I like the way a separate line looks rather than using some kind of cheesy Y adaptor off the existing 1/2" water spout. At the same time I also ran the electric solenoid valve control wire and some AC for outdoor plugs. At the other end of the 3/4" plastic line, about 20' away, is the in-ground box that houses the valves. I also like the way this looks. I didn't want to have a manifold hanging off the side of my house with four lines running into the ground, too messy. So I used a standard green box with lid that removes for servicing, this is a great way to cover things up and also keep the valves safe from kids or whatever.


So from the in-ground box I ran a 3/4" line to each of the three zones:


1. Grass sprinklers (4 Hunter PGPs)

2. Flowers (14 misters & 4 hanging pot drips)

3. Strawberry patch / patio flowers (3 misters & 2 spray heads)


I would certainly recommend running at least 3/4" lines to each zone, the cost difference from 1/2" is minimal, and if you need to do some upgrading you have some addition volume. Even if you don't have 3/4" coming out of your house you can always change that later, you really don't want to dig up your yard to run more lines cause you cheaped out the first time. That's really how I approach most things, over build it and then you won't have any problems. Yeh I know, I sound like Mike Holmes. www.holmesonhomes.com


You should spend some time laying the whole system out, this will save you time and effort down the road. You will need to do some research on the area that you need to cover and the different types of sprinkler heads. If you have never done this before please talk to someone. Some companies will help you plan your system for free. I went to two different places to get a plan done. The first place did up a plan and told me how much it would cost, but didn't go into any detail about the different parts of the system and they wouldn't let me keep the blueprint. The second place also did a plan and explained why they chose what the did and gave me the blueprint. So I bought all of the stuff from them. If someone helps you with your plan return the favor and support their business. The sprinkler place was the same price and sometimes cheaper than the big stores, plus they know something.

I am not going to get into alot of detail about each sprinkler and specs you will need to figure this out for yourself. When you have your plan go to your favorite sprinkler store and get hooked up. The place that I go to has his stuff on shelves right in the showroom and so once the plan has been confirmed he starts pulling parts. He does this everyday so he rarely misses any details. It's worth the effort, find a sprinkler guy.


Putting the actual lines into the ground is pretty straight forward. Dig a trench and bury the pipe, I think that you should put it at least 6" underground. It would be a shame to puncture when doing basic lawn stuff (aerating or whatever). I decided to go around the perimeter of the yard with my sprinkler lines. I had to go along the fence to install the flower misters so rather than digging two trenches I run my grass sprinklers through there as well and just cut through the flowers to get to the lawn. This made the digging so much easier, I didn't have to cut through the grass (too hard). So once I got my lines run in I started to branch of for sprinkler heads and started to cover the lines up. Don't put any dirt around your sprinkler heads just yet, you will want to purge the system before you put the actual spray nozzle on, there probably is some dirt in the system. You won't know until the lines are connected and manifold is built. So get busy...


When setting up my system I decided to build my manifold from scratch, I got all of the parts from the same guy. If you don't know anything about plumbing, don't sweat it, it is fairly easy. There are some common sense rules to follow. Phone a buddy over for beer and in 30 minutes you will learn everything that you need to know. Like I said I build my manifold from scratch and I am glad that I did, you may want to change the direction a pipe goes as compared to the rest. Or you may decide to add another zone down the road, so basically you just thread another valve on (not quite that simple, but close).

OK so far we have:

Measured our yard and made blueprints
Go to sprinkler guy or do research on what sprinkler heads you want
Purchase parts (hose, heads, couplers, manifold parts, etc...)
Figure out where you are going to put your manifold
Start digging
Put your pipes in the ground
Make required connections and bury pipe (don't bury heads yet)
Assemble and install manifold
Connect supply to manifold and test / purge system (don't need the timer for this)

So now that the lines are clear we can install the sprinkler heads. So go ahead and have some fun, once the heads are on you can adjust the height of the head (don't want to hit it with the lawn mower) and fill in with dirt. If you are feeling energetic you can get some grass seed going. Now that all the lines are complete you need to get your manifold all fixed up and put a box on it. After you fill around the box with dirt you can get your timer wired up and do some finishing touches. You will probably be playing the adjustments for the next two months, that's part of the fun. Here are some pictures of my backyard sprinklers. Lots of action shots. Some of them are hard to see, There are misters, rotory and spray heads.


I took these pictures in late September, minutes later I started the sprinkler blow out software.

Click to Enlarge

Well as of this year (2007), I decided to tackle the front yard sprinklers. This project took about half the amount of time the first one did and is more complex. I spent a fair bit of time planning and talking about some different options. I decided to go with spray heads instead of rotors like I did in the backyard. Once again I did misters in the flowers and I ran small heads to the flower barrels on the side of the house. So once again 3 zones and I plumbed in 3/4 copper to the outside, which convieniently lined up with the backyard copper line (inside the house) so the compressor blow out connection inside the house could be used for all sprinklers. Here are some pictures of the front yard system and the blow out connections inside the house.

So last couple pictures above show the blow out connections and compressor. I own one of those fairly small pancake compressors. It works well but doesn't have a very large tank so it needs to recharge often.


Big thanks goes out to Ska-T (Scot) for helping with the back sprinklers and Kelly for help with the front. It would have easily taken me 3 times as long to do without these guys.


So how do I control my sprinklers? Well with Misterhouse of course.



I will get into the actual electronics in the home automation section, that's a project all on it's own.

When to water?

Misterhouse is the software that controls my sprinklers. I looked at some example of what other guys had done and decided to change some small things. Well as of today I have changed just about everything. I will get more into Misterhouse in the home automation section, here I want to talk about the sprinkler specific software / schedule. So here are some parts of the script.


# August

if ($Month eq '8') {

$sprinkler_zone1_timeout = 45;

$sprinkler_zone2_timeout = 45;

$front_flowers_timeout = 12;

$planters_timeout = 5;

$back_flowers_timeout = 10;

$strawberries_timeout = 10;

$lawn_watering_interval = '1,4';

$flowers_watering_interval = '0,2,4';

$strawberries_watering_interval = '0,2,5';

$planters_watering_interval = '1,3,4,6';

$watering_time = 7;

$minutes_starting_time = 30;



So what the hell does that mean... Well I am not a programmer but this is what I know...

Obviously this is for the month of August, the original script was split into seasons, this didn't give me enough variability. So for all of August the grass zones (1 and 2) will water for 45 minutes, twice a week (Monday - 1 and Thursday - 4), starting at 7:30 am. The rest is pretty straight forward. These values currently are hard coded in the script, I will eventually move them to the front end so I don't have to reload the script every time I want to make a change.



So here is what the front end looks like. There are controls for each zone, here you can water manually if you like or shut one or two zones right off. There is an option for grass seed to keep the soil moist when planting some new green stuff. As you can see here the grass seed settings can be adjusted from the front end, this is so much easier and is my goal for the rest.

I also added the sprinkler blow out settings to this area. I will be using this for the first time in a week or two so I will let you know how that goes.

Click to Enlarge

This script works, there is no doubt that I could have done it better. I am still learning. If someone is interested in taking the script and running with it, let me know.

I ran my sprinkler blow out tonight (Sept 28, 2007) and everything went as planned. I put way more time and effort into setting up sprinkler blow system than most people, but I don't have to pay someone to come and do the the deal. I setup the system to cycle through all valves (6 zones) three times each and run for 1 minute. There is a 4 minute recovery time between zones to let the compressor catch up. So if you do the math on that it is 5 minutes per zone, 6 zones and it runs 3 times, that's an hour and a half to complete. Here is a picture of what I was doing while the blow software was doing it's thing. My buddy Kelly was helping...

I am going to call this project done.

For more information about sprinklers check out Kelly's Sprinkler Web Site.



Please feel free to leave a comment about this page

1 Comment
#1 Kiley Simpson wrote at 02.10.2007 11:47

yo! wanna come to Calgary w/Kelly and set my place up?

(i'm Kiley, one of Kelly's friends. good job on the u/ground sprink's)

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