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Replacing A Sprinkler Head

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Sprinkler head
Aaron Stickley
Replacing a sprinkler head is an easy project that is often necessary if you have an irrigation system installed. There may be a small amount of digging and bending involved when replacing a sprinkler head so keep that in mind before you begin. Most sprinkler heads can be changed out with no tools required since they can often be unscrewed by hand. Here is what you can do if you want to replace a sprinkler head.
  1. Identify: Check to see what type of sprinkler head you have and what spray pattern it is. Is it a gear driven sprinkler, a spray head, or maybe even an impact sprinkler? How far does the sprinkler head have to shoot because you may be able to get something that works better for the area. If you are planning to replace the sprinkler with the same type the easiest way to do this is to remove the sprinkler head and take it with you when you buy the replacement. By removing the sprinkler head you can easily match up the type, pipe size, and width that you will need to get.

  2. Remove your old sprinkler head: Sometimes, if you are careful and you have clay style dirt that stays in place you can remove the sprinkler head without getting any dirt into the pipe. This can save you from having to dig. But, it is always safer and usually less work overall to just sod the grass deeply around the sprinkler head and remove it. Then expose the pipe low enough so that when you remove the sprinkler head no dirt can get back into the pipe. Once the sprinkler head is exposed just unscrew the it counter clockwise to remove it.

  3. Buying a new sprinkler head: If you have a spray type sprinkler head then stay with a spray type. It is not a good idea to mix sprinkler types because the amount of water they deliver changes from with each type. You can, however, mix and match brands. So if you did have a Rainbird sprinkler head then you can change the hole sprinkler out for a different brand. Bring the old sprinkler head in to your local hardware or home improvement store and they can show you some options. Get any new risers you might need in case the height of the sprinkler head changes.

  4. Install your new sprinkler head: Make sure no dirt got in the pipe before you install the new riser or sprinkler head. Vacuum out any dirt or turn the water on and flush it out if anything is in the pipe. You do not want any dirt or debris going into the new sprinkler head.

    Next you can install the new sprinkler head by screwing it into place and tighten it hand tight. Test the new sprinkler head by turning on the water. It’s always a good idea to test it before you backfill the hole and put the grass back just in case there are any problems. Backfill the hole and replace the sod. Finally, make adjustments to the spray as necessary to ensure you get the necessary coverage.

If you are replacing a sprinkler head that keeps breaking because it gets run over by a lawnmower you may want to consider installing a swing joint before installing the new sprinkler head. A swing joint sprinkler will give the sprinkler head some flexibility so that it will move down rather than snap if it gets run over.

Watch a video about how to replacing a sprinkler head here.

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