Lawn Irrigation 101: Learn the Basics and How to Properly Set up One

lawn irrigation

Having a beautiful house is one thing but having a wonderful looking garden is a perfect addition to your wonderful home.  The only problem with owning a lawn has to do with the maintenance involved. Think about the time you have to spend just to maintain the grass alone.  

Now think about the other plants that bring about the overall look of your garden. It surely will give you headaches especially with your time management. And one of the most time-consuming aspects of maintaining your garden lawn is irrigation. We all know how essential water is for the plant to grow properly. This is especially important during hot weather.

So how would you handle such a tedious task? Considering that modern lifestyle requires more time in office than your lawn, the daily grind that involved in maintaining lawn becomes a problem. But the thing is, the beauty of a properly maintained lawn is priceless. This brings us to the proper solution of going around this problem and that is to install an efficient lawn irrigation system that suits your needs.

Lawn irrigation system? These words sound very complex for most people. But the truth is, it’s not really that difficult. But first, you must ask yourself several questions. One very important question is what kind of plants are you dealing with? What is the proper amount of water does it need every day? Or do your plants need to be watered every day or just every other day? These small details will make or break your lawn irrigation system and you need to check your requirements before you choose the approach you need. Take note that there are several approaches to building your lawn irrigation system and utilizing one approach may not work very efficiently for all the plants you have in your lawn.

Of course, you also need to consider the size of your lawn. Wider lawns will surely require a huge amount of water but there are lawn irrigation techniques that work well in minimizing water wastage. And yes, different techniques differ in price and this will be affected by the amount you are willing to spend. If you wanted to have an efficient irrigation system for your lawn you have to consider the needs of different plants and from there choose the proper approach not just to maximize the used water but also maximize the money you’re going to spend for your system.

Now let these things sink in you for a moment. Think about your garden design. And know that this it is much safer and easier if you start from scratch than to install an lawn irrigation system over an already existing one. Thus it is a good idea to plan out your approach, know your requirements and build your system from it.

lawn sprinkler

Types of Irrigation Systems for Your Lawn and Garden

Now that you have answered some of the critical questions, let’s head to what the appropriate type that would suit your garden’s needs.

Surface irrigation.

This is the simplest type of irrigation system. Basically what you have is a system which is composed of a waterway. Small trenches are built around the plots. Then water is sent through these waterways. So the idea is to soak the surrounding soil with water. This method, in turn, delivers the water into the plant roots. This quite effective when you need a fast and simple way to deliver water to your plants. As simple as it sounds, this method requires a lot of water.

Take note that the trenches have nothing on its bed than the soil itself. This then consumes water as well. So if you are concerned with water waste, this method may not be for you. But because it pretty much needs nothing other than building trenches/water canals, you can have it up and running with minimal cost and effort. This method is effective if you have vegetables plot in your garden.


This method makes use of a sprinkler to deliver water to your lawn. Basically, you have a hose or tube with a sprinkler at its end. These sprinkler ends incorporate small holes which in turn pressurizes the escaping water. This then delivers water with further distance and spreads it in a fine, almost mist-like form. Lawn sprinklers are a good choice and are effective for large lawns with multiple plants and grasses. As these sprinklers spread water evenly, water wastes are quite minimal.

Also, this system can be quite flexible as you can move the sprinkler head from one area to the other. This enables you to save on building costs. One downside of this system is the method itself. While it distributes water quite evenly, you have to be careful in calculating how far the water can reach as you might get the dry areas wet which can be a problem for some folks.

Drip irrigation.

Among the irrigation methods, this approach is the most efficient. The idea here is to deliver water exactly where the plant is. This in turn greatly minimizes the wastes associated with irrigation systems. Drip irrigation system makes use of water tubes. And along the lines of the tubes are drip emitters. These emitters are strategically placed over the plant’s root system. The water dripping volume can be controlled by the water valve and the size of the emitter.

The old and simplest method for this is to put holes along the tubes situated under your plants.  But as mentioned above, these days there are tools that can do this. There are complete sets that are composed of tubes and emitters and all you have to do is to choose where to place your emitters.

Subsurface irrigation.

Generally, this is just a drip irrigation system which requires you to bury the tubes. This is effective when your water source is below the soil surface. This can be effective for small shrubs, or any other plants with wider intervals, as it delivers water on the soil’s subsurface thus it minimizes chances of drying like with a conventional drip irrigation system. This further minimizes water loses as it directly delivers the water much nearer to the root system. But this system requires more work as the tubes need to be buried.

How to Calculate Lawn Irrigation Water Usage and Costs

After checking the small details and knowing different methods, you may now see how much it will cost to build a system for your lawn. There are a few things that you need to weigh when dealing with an irrigation system. These things are the variables that must be considered to truly maximize what you spend and the effort involved in it.


This is the most crucial thing that you need to look into. The first thing you need to check is the size. The bigger the area, the higher the costs involved. This will imply that you need longer tubes, longer trenches and of course higher labor cost in general. The distance of your plants from each other must also be considered. If you have greater distances between you plants then longer tubes are necessary.

Also, check the terrain. Yes, most lawns are flat but if you happen to have a not-so-flat lawn, then water distribution must be taken into account. Remember that water always takes the resistive path thus you need to place your water source higher than your lawn if you wanted a gravity fed irrigation system. Yes, the most community water supply system has enough pressure to deliver water into your lawn irrigation system. But larger lawns might require that you have your own gravity-driven water tank so you can have better water distribution overall.


As discussed before, surface irrigation is the least expensive method. But it only works if you have raised plots in your garden. And if your area happens to suffer long dry months, this method might not be very efficient in utilizing every drop of water. For that, you have to use other methods, or even have to use multiple approaches. Do take note that if you have multiple plants in your lawn, it might require different approaches.

Take for instance if you have multiple shrubs along your grass line. The grasses may work with sprinkler system. This works because grasses have shallow root system but most shrubs have a deeper root system thus it needs more water so it can reach the roots. What it needs is either subsurface irrigation or drip irrigation. Yes, this technique will be more expensive but this will deliver water where it is needed thus will save you water and time. Also, take note that sprinkler systems require higher pressure thus you must install other subsystems for this method to work.

Construction cost.

Now that you have spent a good time looking at the approach and the area for your lawn, it’s time to take a look deeper at the details. If there’s one aspect that would greatly affect your expenses, it’s the labor cost. You may find a great deal with your equipment but the labor cost can be quite expansive. Remember the area aspect mentioned above? This will greatly affect the labor cost as the trickier your lawn is, the more labor force could be needed. Yes, you can find a contractor to do this but if your DIY type of guy, you should start planning ahead. Know the small stuff, which is a multitude, and know your plants’ requirements.

5 Ways to Reduce Lawn Irrigation Costs

After knowing the cost it’s time to measure how to save some money on the process. Most people are quite concerned with how much an irrigation system would cost and is a natural reaction really. This investment can cost some fortune and for that, you have to be mindful of your plan for your system. Here are some steps that might help you.


If you’re quite a handyman, you can actually plan and implement a system of your own. Remember that one of the most expensive parts of implementing an irrigation system is labor. Of course, this will depend on what system you will use. But if you wanted to save on cost, and if you can actually do it, building your own system is the way to go. Of course, it will require more than just digging. It will also require your designing skill as creating an efficient system needs some experience.

Also, if you’re into building your own system, it requires plumbing skills. It would also help that you’re quite a problem solver as there will be obstacles that will come with your design. Let’s just say it will take quite a trial and error so it would take some analysis to go around some hurdles.

Find alternative systems.

You now know a different kind of systems that can be applied to your lawn. But it doesn’t mean one system will work on everything you throw at it. We have been discussing how efficient drip irrigation is but if you have lots of grasses all around, it would be faster if you use a sprinkler system. An alternative system is the one that can be implemented which is more cost-efficient than what you have planned. Yes, there will times that you cannot find an alternative system for your lawn but if you have, think about what kind of savings you can gather if ever you opt for an alternative design.


This is another money pit that most homeowners don’t see. Well, one reason for that is the fact that they see this as an integral part of their lawn thus they tend to “agree” to what their contractor throws at them.  Good landscaping adds a nice touch to your lawn but you must be mindful of what you’re dealing with. One thing you can do is to specify your needs and go with the simplest design as possible as this usually is the best and cost-efficient for your budget.

Design your system efficiently.

After you’re done building your irrigation system, one thing that will need additional cost is water. This is especially true during hot weather and in areas where water can be a problem. What you can do here is to design a system that targets the individual needs of your plants. As discussed above some plants do work efficiently with sprinklers but some will work better with drip irrigation. So designing a system that utilizes a combination of different techniques is often times the most efficient. This, in turn, will save you money in the long run not to mention having healthy plants.

Irrigation control.

There is a multitude of a control system that helps your lawn in having the best care possible. This includes a subsystem that helps in turning on your water supply at specified times. There are also controls that help maintain proper water pressure along the tubes. Simply put, the irrigation control adds to the efficiency of your irrigation system. And an efficient system is a cost-effective one.

guy checking lawn irrigation

How To Install Lawn Irrigation

These are the steps that you need to undergo if you plan to do this project on your own.

1. Plan

It can’t be stressed enough how important this phase is. Just before you dig and buy those necessary accessories, you need to know the small details about your lawn. For one, you need to contact your utility companies so you can know where they buried cables in your lawn. This step is important so you can calculate and route your system. Also, this will minimize trial and error as you already know the no-go spots. Marking the good spots is very helpful at this stage. Also, make sure to know the location of your water supply.

2. Do the digging

The trenches you must dig averages from 6-8 inches deep depending on the size of the tubes or the elements you want to bury on the location. A trench with sloping sides of 45 degrees is easy to do and will save you time as compared to digging a square one. Also, if you can rent a trenching device, it will make your work a lot easier.

3. Install the valves

To properly access the water line you have to use proper valve manifolds. This will ensure that you can run water on all your tubes and stop the flow whenever you want. Simply put, this will make turning the water supply on or off way easier. And remember that when installing valves, use quality clamps to eliminate leaks and avoiding redoing your work.

4. Set your pipes

This is the part where you make use of the trenches and valves you’ve already set. Lay down the pipes on in the trenches. Install sprinklers in areas where you need it. Also, if use drip irrigation system or a sub-surface irrigation, be sure to attach appropriate attachments. Do take note about the adhesive that you need to use. Apply a thin layer over your pipes and hold it firmly for at least 10 seconds for it to set. You have to make sure that you attach the right parts as the adhesive for the pipe will glue parts permanently. This means you have to cut tubes if you encounter mistakes. For that, make sure to review your plan as you go.

Final Words

Now that you know the elements of a good lawn irrigation system, it’s time to actually implement it in your lawn.

Meet Kat, a passionate young woman fascinated by home improvement and rental management. With a creative flair and dedication, she curates delightful living experiences for tenants, transforming ordinary spaces into extraordinary homes. Kat's goal is to make a significant impact on the rental property market through her expertise and innovative approach. Twitter | LinkedIn

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