Knowledge Base

How To Replace A Sprinkler

Sometimes a lawnmower goes over a sprinkler and totally ruins it, or, sometimes they just stop working correctly. Save yourself a bunch of money – don’t call a contractor – and change out the sprinkler yourself. Our easy guide will explain the steps, and, if you follow them, this process should take you less than 15 minutes.

If you have Hunter or Rainbird or Weathermatic sprinklers, replace them with the same model.

We always recommend the path of least resistance – stay in your own lane, so to speak. If you have Hunter or Rainbird or Weathermatic sprinklers, replace them with the same model. You need the same size, so be sure you know the height of the pop-up, and the size of your inlet, down in the ground. We have a handy guide to pop-up size here.  How to Measure your Sprinkler Height. 

As with most home improvement projects, make sure you have the correct tools ready before you begin.

You will need:

  • Flag (or another marker)
  • Spade
  • Trowel or small hand shovel
  • The correct nozzles for your sprinkler
  • The new sprinkler
  • Tray or tarp for the dirt
  • A cell phone, or a helper with one

Taking Out The Old Sprinkler

1) Place a flag to mark exactly where the sprinkler is because when they are down in the ground they can be very hard to find! If you don’t have a flag, use a tennis ball or a rock or a stick – just mark the spot.

2) Once you locate the damaged or non-working head, use your shovel to score a circle into the sod around your sprinkler. Angle the shovel toward the head. Once you have loosened all the sod and dirt, carefully remove the piece of sod all at once and set aside.

3) Then, using your shovel or a garden trowel, clear away as much of the dirt around the sprinkler as you can, making a neat little pile of the dirt off to one side. You can also put this dirt in a tray or a bowl to keep it from messing up another part of your lawn. If that is not enough, a tarp is always handy. This way, you have exactly as much going back in as you did digging it out!

You want to expose the head as much as possible and then tamp down the dirt right around the head before you take the rotor out. Be meticulous about this as it will keep debris from falling down into the area you need for the new sprinkler. If you keep the dirt out of the pipe, you don’t have to flush it out.

4) Then, assess what hardware and installation configuration is below ground and connected to your rotor or spray head. If this is the first time you have dug up your sprinkler, you may be surprised by what you see. There are MANY different ways to put in a sprinkler! It is a good idea for you to know what configuration you have, so, take a photo of it for future reference.

Putting In The New Sprinkler

1) If you are using the exact same sprinkler, you most likely can simply screw out the old one and put in the new – yes, it is THAT easy! Sometimes, if the canister is not damaged in any way, you can just leave that part in the ground. Simply screw off the top and remove the old “guts” of the sprinkler and replace with the guts from the new one.

2) Preparing your new sprinkler for use before putting it in the ground is a very good idea. If you are putting in a new rotor – a pop-up that rotates to throw the stream of water – make sure the nozzle you have chosen has been inserted in the correct opening, and that the set screw has been turned correctly into place, blocking the nozzle and helping to keep it in place.

If you are replacing a spray – a pop-up that sprays in a circle around itself, like a water fountain – insert the correct nozzle onto the top the spray before you put in in the ground. You can reuse a nozzle if it seems like it is still in good working order.

3) Place the new sprinkler head back into the correct place in the lawn, and make sure the nozzle is aligned with where you want it to spray. Also, make sure that the top of the head is exactly even with the top of the sod, NOT the top of the grass, as that line changes. If you have kept the area tidy, you should be able to simply turn the sprinkler body onto the hardware that the old one came off of. Hand tighten the body into place.

4) Begin the process of backfilling with one hand, while you hold the head steady. Once you have some fill around the new sprinkler you can again work with two hands to backfill the dirt. Then, replace the sod section you took out. Some people find that putting the sod back in in a couple of pieces is actually easier and allows you to make it look more natural.

Congratulations! You have just replaced a sprinkler head successfully. It is a good feeling to know that you can take care of the irrigation system that keeps your yard beautiful!

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