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Lawn Equipment 101

How to replace a sprinkler head

4 min read

A sprinkler head might start failing for several reasons. For instance, it might start malfunctioning after:

How do I replace a broken sprinkler head?

Regardless of the cause of a broken sprinkler head, you typically don't need an expert to fix this issue for you. You can do it yourself and have your sprinkler system functioning like new in no time.

1. Identify the right sprinkler head

Different sprinkler systems come with varying sprinkler heads depending on the size and nozzle type. To fix a broken sprinkler system successfully, you need to ensure that you are buying the right replacement.

To do this, begin by checking the broken head to get an idea of what brand and model number you're looking for, which should be printed on the damaged head. If it’s not there or has become illegible, consider taking it in and asking someone at your local big box retailer so you can be sure to shop for the right parts.

You may not always have to get parts from the same manufacturer as long as the brand you choose is trustworthy and compatible. You could take this opportunity to trade up if you weren’t happy with the performance of your last sprinkler, but always ensure that the parts are compatible. Automated sprinkler systems rely on sensors and timers to work properly, so it’s worth making sure.

Once you have the right sprinkler head, get a trowel or kitchenware like a serrated knife and prepare to get a little dirty.

2. Dig out the broken sprinkler

Use the trowel or serrated knife to dig out the faulty sprinkler head carefully from the ground. Be sure to cut no more than 2 to 3 inches deep to avoid damaging the underlying system’s tubing. Damaging the pipes could cost you extra cash, time, and effort. If you find that the pipes are already damaged, this might be a bigger job for a pro in order to replace the sprinkler system.

Dig the ground up until you can see the connecting metal between the main line and the sprinkler head. Carefully unscrew the sprinkler head (think lefty loosey or counterclockwise, whatever illustration is most helpful for you). Be careful to keep the area clean so that no dirt drops into the connection once you have the head removed.

Once the faulty sprinkler head is out, carefully remove the turf you've lifted with it and set it aside. You'll need it to patch the area once the system is fully repaired.

Take time to inspect the main water line for any leakages or other damages. If there is any, call a professional to make the repairs.

3. Install the new sprinkler head

Before you begin:

  • Make sure you’ve unscrewed the faulty sprinkler head.
  • If the riser came out with the sprinkler head, just unscrew the two pieces and attach the riser back to the main line.
  • Make sure not to allow too much debris and soil to get into the main water line. It could be a major problem if it clogs the tubing. As a precaution, you can cover the main line hole with plastic or fabric/clothing to keep debris and soil out.

Get a thread seal tape like Teflon tape and carefully attach it to the riser end where you'll be installing the new sprinkler head. This will give the connection a snug fit to prevent future leakages since all the air spaces are filled.

If you're using a polyethylene riser, however, you won't need the thread seal tape since it will take the exact shape of the sprinkler head's female end. This makes the fit secure and airtight.

With this set up, you are now ready to install the new sprinkler head into the system. Give it a clockwise twist on the riser's male end until it is as tight as it can get. Then jiggle the sprinkler head a little to make sure you've achieved a nice connection for quality system operability.

Once the newly installed sprinkler system has the desired spray pattern, direct the nozzles towards your lawn to begin watering. However, this will not be necessary for a radial sprinkler head since it's designed to spray at a 360-degree angle. The idea is to keep the lawn evenly irrigated for excellent growth and proper maintenance.

Once the sprinkler head is installed successfully, refill the dugout hole and replace the turf to keep the area tidy. You can now continue watering your lawn using your sprinkler system.

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