How To Protect Sprinkler Heads

When stopping at the local hardware store for replacement sprinkler heads is becoming more of a weekend pastime than standard maintenance, it is time to pull on your DIY shirt and save yourself the ongoing expense. So, what’s there to do to protect your sprinkler heads? 

Sprinkler heads installed on lawn edges can be damaged by string trimmers, lawnmowers, gardening tools, or bored dogs and must be protected with PVC pipe cuts. In addition, a lack of routine inspection and maintenance may cause your sprinkler heads to deteriorate over time. 

With so many incidents that can cause damage to your sprinkler heads, a generic how-to guide won’t be of much use. Specific problems need specific solutions; let’s explore all the ways you can care for your sprinklers – and your wallet. 

Protecting Sprinkler Heads From Daily Life

A damaged sprinkler head is a common problem that many people have to deal with, but it doesn’t have to remain a constant nuisance; with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be a happy irrigation owner once more. 

Protecting Sprinkler Heads From Grass Cutters 

String trimmers and lawnmowers are the leading sources of sprinkler head damage. Sure, you can avoid this by edging around the heads with a pair of hand clippers, but who has time for that? The solution is quite simple and will save you time – and the weekend trips to the hardware store. 

What you’ll need: 

  • PVC pipe 
  • Hand saw
  • A small herb shovel 
  • Rubber hammer 
  • Tape measure
  • Some free time

The steps are pretty straightforward: 

  1. Wet the ground around the heads; this will make the next step easier
  2. With the small shovel, edge around the head to create a narrow space for the pipe to be installed
  3. Cut the PVC pipe with the handsaw into 6-inch lengths
  4. Push the pipe into the narrow lining you created and gently hit it into the ground with the rubber hammer, but stop at about half an inch before the pipe is level with the sprinkler head 

Tip: Before you head out to buy the PVC pipe, remember to measure your sprinkler heads to ensure you get the correct diameter for your needs. If the irrigation system was installed before you moved in, you might not know that the heads are different sizes. As the saying goes, measure twice, cut – or buy – once. 

Protecting Sprinkler Heads From Pavement Parkers 

If you have irrigation installed on your front lawn and have no boundary wall, pick up a roll of reflective tape while you’re at the hardware shop stocking up on PVC pipes. Pavement parkers rarely think about possibly crushing your sprinkler’s heads with the wheel of their vehicle if they park to the side of the road – and partially on your front lawn. 

By applying the same PVC method from above, you can add additional reassurance by sticking the reflective tape on the PVC pipes, making them more visible to motorists, especially at nighttime. 

Suppose the reflective tape is too industrial-looking for your liking. In that case, you can always arrange some medium-sized decorative rocks in front of the sprinklers to prevent people from using your grass as a parking spot and destroying your irrigation nozzles in the process. 

Protecting Sprinkler Heads With Maintenance

Irrigation systems cost a pretty penny, and you’ll want them to last for as long as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t control or prevent exposure to extreme weather conditions, but you can extend the longevity of your sprinklers heads by doing routine maintenance. 

Many people entrust the task of irrigation maintenance to professionals, but sometimes you just cannot justify the expense. Luckily, with some guidance, you can do most of the maintenance over the weekend. 

Protect Sprinkler Heads With Regular Cleaning

Take a look at this YouTube video where the process is demonstrated for visual aid. And when you just need a quick reminder, here are the step-by-step instructions to follow if you want to save it for later use. 

To clean your sprinkler heads, you’ll need the following tools: 

  • Adjustable vice grips
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Clean towel, rag, or a soft-bristle paintbrush 

Steps:

  1. Pull the sprinkler head up by gripping the very top and pulling up slowly
  2. Apply and fasten the grips at the base to keep it from sliding back down
  3. Unscrew the top part of the sprinkler head, and keep it save
  4. Use the needle-nose pliers to pull the filter out
  5. Clean off any sand from the filter using the towel, rag, or brush
  6. Before putting the filter back, run the water for a second or two to flush out any sand that may have accumulated
  7. After the quick flush, you can place the filter in the line, screw the head back on and release the clamp

Protect Sprinkler Heads By Doing Routine Checks 

Apart from the regular maintenance, stand outside now and again when the system is running to spot any heads that might be leaking, not working, or have insufficient pressure. Usually, cleaning the heads will do the job, but sometimes they need to be replaced. 

This is also an excellent opportunity to ensure that there aren’t any issues with the lines below ground; if the sprinkler heads are clean or new but the water is not spraying as desired, you might have another problem. In this instance, it might be a good idea to inspect the entire line. 

Protecting Sprinkler Heads From Bored Dogs

A common and frustrating situation for most owners is bored dogs and chewed off sprinkler heads. You might be lucky, and your canine is not much interested in your sprinkler system, but if you’re not so fortunate, there are a few things you can do to prevent replacement heads from becoming a regular item on your monthly shopping list. 

  • The PVC pipe solution we suggested for string trimmers and lawnmowers should be enough to prevent your dog from getting to the sprinkler heads. Remember, the pipe should not be level with the sprinkler head but around half an inch longer. 
  • Sometimes PVC pipes don’t work because clever dogs pull the pipe from the ground and get a two-for-one deal. In this case, you can try water, vinegar, and cayenne pepper mixture and spray it around the PVC pipe. There are some bitter-tasting sprays at the pet shops you can give a go. 

While the prevention tips should be enough to deter your dog from using your sprinkler heads as chew toys, keep in mind that dogs with high intelligence and energy levels tend to become bored quite quickly.

Ensure they get enough daily exercise to release all the pent-up energy and invest in some durable chew toys to keep their minds and mouths occupied when you’re not at home to keep an eye on your pet. 

For more tips on how to keep a healthy lawn as a dog owner, see our article How to Grow Grass With Dogs.

Conclusion

To protect your sprinkler heads from grass-cutting implements and inconsiderate motorists, head down to the local plumbing store and invest in a length or two of PVC pipe. Remember to get reflective tape if you have sprinkler heads on your front lawn.

The last thing is to set up a schedule for inspecting and maintaining your irrigation system and sprinkler heads to prevent deterioration and clear out any debris from the filters. 

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