DIY sprinkler zones


Staff member
Has anyone ever built an above ground sprinkler system, which can be controlled by the computer? I really need to work something out before it gets too hot, and I can't afford an underground zoned sprinkler system.
I haven't built one But I'm about to build a in ground system. I sent off for the free desgin service by rainbird yeaterday.

I've done plumbing before so it should be much of a problem.

I really don't think it would be that much of a price difference between in ground or above. Mainly just more work.
Yes I have installed many "mulch" based sprinkler systems. Depending on the dimensions of your lawn you can do a pretty good job of coverage from the landscape area in front of the house. The PVC can be covered up with mulch and the heads either slightly buried or not. List the dimensions of your area you desire to water and I can help with suggestions. The computer control part is as easy as using an appliance module and a rain bird controller ($12-15) and 24V (if I remember correctly) Rain Bird power supply attached to a short length of hose on one side and screwed into PVC on the other. I use this for a flower bed this way I can remove the controller in the winter.
I was thinking even cheaper, and just use few garden hosts to do the important areas. How much is the PVC piping, and how much are the heads?

Brian, it would be great if you could share how much the project will end up costing you. I don't mind a lot of work, it's just not something I can put a lot of money in it.

I have an acre, and probably about 50-75% needs to be watered.
I put in an in-ground sprinkler system in my last house. 3/4 acres - 10 zones, about 100 sprinklers ranging from big impulse sprayers (open grassy areas) to tiny garden and flower sprayers to popups for shrubs, etc.

It was not hard to do - took me a 4 day weekend (Memorial Weekend) start to finish. Costs were under $1000 (don't remember exactly). Biggest expenses were the Controllers (2 stand-alone units that kept track of when to water and how much, etc), and the Valves (10 of them around $50 apiece I think). Piping and sprinkler heads were pretty reasonable.

I was very satisified with the results - and it wasn't hard (other than digging the trenches). I used to love to turn on the sprinklers and watch them work! I used Rainbird to help with the designs but in the end I used my own (a derivative of theirs).
under $1000? That sounds pretty good. Did you happen to take any pictures during the construction process? How deep/wide did you dig the trenches? How did you connect the system to your house? Thanks guys!
electron said:
under $1000? That sounds pretty good. Did you happen to take any pictures during the construction process? How deep/wide did you dig the trenches? How did you connect the system to your house? Thanks guys!
unfortunately I didn't take any pictures - sorry! :(

trenches were dug about 6-8 inches wide, and about 1 foot deep. (I live in NC and freezing is not a big issue. Check where you live how deep you should go. Remember to use bleed valves (to drain the lines - these are cheap (~$1)). I rented a trencher to dig the trenches. Remember to get your buried wires marked!

I connected it to the main water line into the house. Now they have seperate meters/connections here you can purchase (from the water company) just for sprinklers so you don't pay sewage on the water. These seperate connections aren't cheap - break even is about 3-4 years.

Great website Brian! (I have a couple sprinklers in my new house I have to go replace. That's one advantage of putting one in before, I know how to do it now! ;) )

I bought all my stuff from the local Home Depot.
Great site, thanks!

One more question I guess, I am on a well, would this be a problem?

It looks like I am still going to have to go the cheap route for now, but I am definitely bookmarking these sites. Thanks for the tips so far.

PVC pipes are very cheap. Depending on the diameter you need, they are about a buck or a little more for a 10 foot section. If you need sprinkler heads, I have a basket full of them in my garage that I bought for a project I never finished........
e, you will want to understand how much water you will use fromyour well for the sprinklers, and how much the well can supply. If you don't need too much for the lawn, you might be ok. Some people put in a second well just for the sprinklers.

And freezing ground is a concern where you are, so you'll have to go down deeper with the pipes. You might be better off just putting together a relay-controlled manifold for garden hoses... probably wouldn't be much more than $200-$300 for everything...

Good luck!
Not sure I understand the issue about freezing weather requiring deeper trenches. The system will be blown out with air before the first frost, so why deeper trenches? The frost goes down to 42 inches in the winter, so the pipes have to be blown out.

Electron, the labor is at least half the cost of an underground. If you have the time, the parts cost isn't all that bad:

Rain8Net serial controller: $120

1 1/2 inch galvanized manifold (Home Depot plumbing parts) 8 zones about $50 in parts. Don't forget a threaded reducer to screw in an air fitting for blowing out the lines with an air compressor.

1 inch poly pipe (no need for PVC) $20 / 100 feet.

Lots of T fittings - about $1.50 each sprinkler head

bags of 1 1/4 inch hose clamps $2.00 per spray head (a couple needed per)

Close threaded connectors $1 each spray head

One 1 inch solenoid valve per zone - $14

Spray heads - $14 each

You can put about 6 - 8 heads per zone (dependent on how much water supply you have)

7 strand sprinkler wire $14 / 50 feet

anti siphon valve (for connection to domestic water supply) $25

If lake fed supply: pump (1 1/2 hp) $150
low voltage to 220 volt relay $35
High pressure cutoff switch $22
Intake filter - $80
Check valve - $30

Various other plumbing - $40
I used to live in Maine, near a golf course. I can tell you that every spring the maintenance crew had to go around fixing underground sprinkler piping and the heads that had been blown out the previous fall and yet still froze over the winter. Blowing out the pipes doesn't get all the water out of them. It gets most of it out. It can still collect in low spots and freeze, causing the pipes to burst, split, or break joints.

In some cases, water can leak back into the system through puddling at the heads during a winter rainstorm/early thaw and refreeze. It may not be worth the effort and expense to install underground sprinklers in his area if this will happen. I suggest you check with a neighbor or the local golf course and see what their installaiton and experiences have shown.

Heck, I live in south Florida (no freezing here), but keeping the head on the pipes around here is the most annoying part of the underground system. If anyone trips or kicks one, a car or lawn tractor runs over one, they usually pop right off their plastic threads and then you have a fountain... ;-)
Depends on the sprinklers you use. Most do pop back under ground. Some don't (usually used in beds where cars won't be).

General wear and tear usually requires replacement of a couple heads every couple years. Nothing too major (my last house, I went 4 years without replacing anything). However, every spring you need to turn'em on and see what happens. Usually have to unbury a couple, and lubricate a couple more.

However, what huggy said is right - between a car and a sprinkler head - the car will always win. I've never had a problem with mowers or people accidentally stepping on them causing them to break.