Introduction: Automated Sprinkler System Anyone Can Do!

Picture of Automated Sprinkler System Anyone Can Do!

I hate watering my yard and did not want to drop thousands on a permanent sprinkler system. So, I came up with this solution using regular garden sprinklers and faucet timers.

I use regular lawn sprinklers and make custom-length garden hoses. I "permanently" place the sprinklers and hoses in areas that are out of sight and set them on timers. Once the system is in place a set on the timer, I can leave it and forget about it. The system is completely modular and can grow with your needs. The best part is, if you ever move, you can take it all with you and use it at your next place.

Step 1: Plan

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So, the idea is to place regular lawn sprinklers in "permanent" locations. Ask yourself the following questions:

How much of your yard do you want to water?
Where can you put a sprinkler to reach the maximum amount of area, yet remain out of sight?
Where are your outdoor faucets located, and if needed, can you add another one? (that's an instructable for another day)
Where will hoses need to be run, and can they be hidden in flower beds, under a deck, etc.?

Browse your Home Depot or Lowe's to figure out what sprinklers will best fit your needs. Sketch out your yard. Get creative! This is the most fun part.

Step 2: Split Faucet

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Purchase a 2, 4, or 5-way hose manifold for your faucet to allow multiple hoses to be hooked up. Get one of the good brass ones- don't go for zinc or plastic. Connect the manifold to your faucet. Leave the faucet in the "on" position. You then use the levers on the splitter to turn the water on/off.

Usually the 4 and 5-way manifold come with a metal brace, which attaches under the manifold and then screws against the wall (if you have a wall mounted faucet). Use this brace if you can. If your faucet comes right out of the ground, pound a wooden stake into the ground and attach the brace to it. You're going to be adding some weight to the faucet, and the brace reduces some of the pressure you are putting on your plumbing fittings.

Step 3: Position Sprinklers

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For the yard, I use an adjustable impact sprinkler. I like the Gilmour Pattern Master impact sprinkler. It is fully adjustable- the throw pattern can be customized to meet your yard's shape. I put the sprinkler just in front of my flower bed so that it is out of sight. Then I spray-painted it black to make it less visible. Finally, I used metal tent stakes to hold the sprinkler in place (water pressure tends to make them wander).

Flower Beds:
For the flower beds, I used adjustable shrub misters that are normally used for in-ground sprinkler systems. They are adjustable in height and in pattern. They can be used with regular garden hoses by connecting them to a flow-thru spike base. You just push them into the ground and connect them in a series. I've connected 5 in a series without losing much water pressure.

Step 4: Make Custom Length Hoses

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Run a garden hose to each sprinkler. I prefer black hose because the dark color makes it less visible. Goodyear makes a great heavy-duty black rubber garden hose that will last for years. I run the hoses through my flower beds to keep them even more out sight.

To make custom length hoses, use female and male hose mending pieces. You can buy plastic or brass mending pieces, but I prefer the brass ones because the plastic ones will break after a few years. You simply cut the hose, jam the mending piece into the hose (some dish soap will help here), and tighten with the included clamp.

Hose guides will help keep the hoses in place and out of sight. My Home Depot stopped selling the inexpensive ones, so I purchased a whole box online for about ten bucks.

Step 5: Install Timers

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Melnor makes automated water timers. You simply hook it up to your faucet, then hook your hose to it. You leave the faucet in the "on" position. Then you set the timer to go off every 12hrs, 24hrs, every 2 days, 3 days, etc.. The newer models have digital displays and can be programmed in greater detail than the "dial" electronic version pictured here, but I prefer the old "dial" version because it is less bulky. Some can even control 2 or more separate sprinklers.

Step 6: Finished Product

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Here you see my 4 way splitter, with 4 connections broken down as follows:

Main Sprinkler: Gilmour Pattern Master adjustable impact sprinkler on a timer to water the grass. Timer set for 30 minutes every 3 days.

Flower Beds: 2 shrub mister sprinklers in a series with a timer. Timer set for 30 minutes every 2 days.

Soaker Hose: Soaker hose which runs around half the house six inches from the foundation (I cover the other half of the house from a different faucet). We live in Texas, and you've got to keep the ground moist around the foundation to prevent movement. I don't have this on a timer, I just turn it on once a week for about an hour.

Hose Reel: Hose reel connected with 50 feet of hose to use for misc stuff.

Step 7: Maintenance & Winterization

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In the winter, remove the sprinklers, timers, and 4-way manifolds and keep them indoors, or in a garage or shed. Remove the batteries from the timers. I leave the hoses in place and attach everything back together in the spring. If your part of the world gets really cold, you may want to roll the hoses back up and store in a shed or garage.

Every couple of years a sprinkler may break or you may need to replace a timer. Hoses sometimes fail, but now that you know how to mend them, that's no problem either. I've had a permanent underground system before and it is no different. Parts fail. We fix them. It gives us an excuse to go to Home Depot.

Step 8: The Final Talley

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I'm watering both sides of my front yard, my back yard, and flower beds in the front and sides of the house. To accomplish this, I am using the following:

3 4-way splitters@ $12.99.................................................. $38.97
3 Gilmor Adjustable Impact Sprinklers@ $19.99............$59.97
7 Shrub Sprinklers & Flow-Thru Spikes@$10.99............$76.93
2 50ft Goodyear Black Heavy Duty Hose@$24.99...........$49.98
3 Melnor Single Faucet Timers@$24.99...........................$74.97
1 Melnor Double Timer..........................................................$39.99
15 Misc Hose Menders Male/Female @$2.99..................$44.85
1 Box Hose Guide Spikes.....................................................$12.99
6 Tent Stakes@$0.50.............................................................$3.00
TOTAL $401.65
Wow, I can't believe I spent that much!!

Actually, my system has expanded over the years, and I used some of the sprinklers and timers in my previous house. So, it really didn't hit my wallet all at once. When you take into consideration that I've been able to avoid buying a permanent sprinkler system at two different homes, it really isn't that expensive.

So there you have it. That's my first instructable. I hope you liked it.


ShawnR46 (author)2016-06-27

Might I recommend using soaker hoses intertwined with your bushes instead of mister heads? The soaker hose can be hidden under the gravel or mulch and will water the bushes very nicely.

stechtips (author)2016-06-22

What is the easiest and cleanest way to cut the hose?

shepnstein (author)stechtips2016-06-23

I used a serrated kitchen knife and sawed at it.

blueflag (author)2015-12-17

Live in NC, on county water in sub with insufficient outdoor faucet pressure to use 2,3,or4 split manifold effectively. Is there a small booster pump available to buy that can be added pre-manifold to step up pressure to use multiple hoses? Excellent concept. Thank u.

shepnstein (author)blueflag2015-12-17

You wouldn't run 2 or 3 at once. You set the timers so that they go off at different times. That way you aren't splitting pressure.
I don't think anyone's public water is highly pressured enough to run more than one sprinkler effectively.

element3213 (author)2015-10-16

Brilliant concept easy to install and cost effective as well. i have installed the same system in my garden but with a slight difference where you used timers i have instead used a Bluetooth receiver module which i am able to control via my cell phone allowing me to choose when i want the system on or off, my reason for doing this is due to rain if it rains i don't want the system to come on if i used timers its a mission to program.

NewShockerGuy (author)2014-06-17


I don't want to say I am being cheap but I am doing this SAME method.

I can't see spending $2k to an in ground sprinkler system when I can do this method and hide everything as far as the hoses are concerned under the mulch! (They only need to spray the front lawn and not that big of one at that...)

I was going to ask about the hose and custom length and glad I saw how you did it. I couldn't find anything under 25' in the stores, making custom length run of hoses would be ideal for this!

I was initially going to use the spike lawn sprinklers and hide them behind or beside a bush so you wouldn't see them... now I am thinking of buying two in ground units and then simply attaching them like the above and turning on the water manually... It's only for the front yard, nothing huge and only needs to go to the front and sides.

This has given me so many ideas!!


kentg443 (author)2012-07-12

i would use the lawnbelt system i just found.

jgomezvi (author)2012-06-26

Can I use that same type of HOSE while burying it under ground? I want to use your concept but to install pop-up sprinklers

ebenitez (author)2011-07-22

I have been thinking about how to water my front and back yard without incurring in big expenses (I can't afford it) and I thought about doing what you did (right now I have something similar above ground) but I notice there is not enough psi in one faucet to connect more than two sprinklers. Would a manifold solve my problem? or would I need more faucets? I moved to Texas from Florida five years ago and I it worries me the separation of the soil from the foundation thus watering more often is urgent. Any advice will be appreciated.

shepnstein (author)ebenitez2012-01-20

stagger the times, I agree with jchlimoun.
Sorry for the late reply. These replys go to an old email address

jchlimoun (author)ebenitez2011-08-03

Your best bet is to use multiple timers at the outlets of a manifold and stagger the times so that no more than two are on a time. The manifold alone will do nothing for you, and adding more faucets doesn't give your house's water supply more pressure... it's like you're trying to drive a 10A load with a 2A power supply... running more wires doesn't change anything.

Commercial sprinkler systems do this using zones. The installer is supposed to size the zones and partition them off, and set up the timers in such a way that no more than X number of zones operate at a time, based on how much pressure each zone requires and how much is available.

shepnstein (author)2011-10-19

Here's an update. After a few years, none of the timers work anymore. The system is still convenient as I don't have to drag sprinklers everywhere and hook/unhook hoses, but the timers are not made to last more than a few seasons. What a disappointment there.

bonfire817 (author)2010-07-11

Very cool Instructible! Thanks for sharing. I love the idea for my lawn, but I like to hand-water the garden since I only have a few warm months up here in North Dakota and I like to check on all my veggies and flowers constantly!

shepnstein (author)2010-07-07

thanks for the comments. @cookiemonster- you wouldn't want to put the timer in the middle of a hose, because you would be leaving the garden hose under constant pressure up to the timer, and the hose would eventually burst. Garden hoses aren't designed for constant pressure. I've had one burst on me before. thanks for the other tips everyone.

greeen (author)2010-06-16


Cookie-Monster (author)2010-05-23

Hey; I like your instructable; I have one question though: My garden will only require one sprinkler (it's very small), do I still need a faucet to set up my system; or can I just split the hose and install the timer in the middle?

swechsler (author)2009-10-09

Orbit already makes a device for this, so you don't have to play around with using multiple timers.

Utahtabby (author)2009-04-24

I've done something similar, using a quiet-type rotating sprinkler that throws water way across my lawn, but very quietly. It's yellow, about 10 inches tall, the top half can spin 360 degrees and Bob Vila advertised it on TV years ago. I don't know what it's called and the labeling is all worn off, but I like the fact that it is quiet because my neighbor's watering system wakes me up before dawn when it comes on. The only thing I can add to your instructable is to test how long you can get your hoses before you lose too much pressure to water the area you're trying to water. I can only get 3 of those sprinkler heads that go so far and then 'snap back', on one hose, and sometimes the snap-back part gets stuck and I get one area flooded if I am not watching. So use any other kind of sprinkler head than that kind and test how it will all work before you make any 'permanent decisions' involving cutting hoses, glue or nailing supports-- ha

tlenker (author)2008-10-16

One improvement would be to add a water hammer arrester (shock absorber) to your system. It will help with the pressure being placed on your splitter and even hoses that maintain pressure when sprinklers are not on.

servant74 (author)2008-07-19

I did something like this years ago at a couple of different houses.

I put the inground sprinklers, and made sure the farthest one was the lowest.
In the bottom of the sprinkler, you can remove a plug and replace it with a automatic drain plug (it lets water out when there is no pressure). Put a good layer (3 to 6 inches) of gravel or shells under it, and every time you turn your sprinkler off, it will drain the lines automatically. This way I did not have to worry about winterizing. The plugs cost a buck or so a piece. One for each of the lowest spots is GREAT!

In many locations if you are going to attach something to a spigot 'permanently' you are supposed to put in a back flow preventer. It keeps possibly contaminated water from coming back into your house. It is needed only on the spigot at the house/ground before it goes into the manifold where you attach timers/hoses.

PVC Pipe, I used 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe, and found it easy to work with especially for permanent installation. I had it come out of the ground near the water spigot on the house. I put hose fittings on the end of the pipe, and 'quick change' fittings (good ones are cheap at Harbor Freight and other discount places, I like the brass ones!). Having an old hose I ran over with a lawn mower, I cut a part down to about 6' and it worked well to 'swap' between circuits.

At my first house, I set it up so I could put on a fancy automatic timer, etc, but never did.

At the next house I used it as an 'in ground water hose with sprinklers attached'.

At both places, I even ran PVC under a (single wide) driveway to be able to water there. In all cases, it was a GREAT and CHEAP investment. It takes a couple of days of planning, installing, and 'changing'. But it was fun to do and saved a lot of hauling hoses and changing sprinkler setups!

Do watch putting sprinklers next to driveways. Somehow they are 'tire attractors'. And replacing physically broken sprinklers is a nuisance. There are ways folks say you can protect them (concrete donuts, etc) but the best bet is to keep them WAY away from the edge of a driveway.

At one place I put bubblers in the flower bed. But in my last place we put in 'leaky hose' and covered it with mulch. It makes for a poor mans drip irrigation system.

I hope this helps someone!

bkosley (author)2008-07-13

Very cool. I like that you can take it with you.

Derin (author)2008-07-09

I think using a pump to pull out the residual water from the hose,my 75mm pipes store a ton of water

awoodcarver (author)2008-07-07

Very NIce , I have in ground system and over the years it has buckled from tree roots and such ....with this I think just maybe I can use the old valves and just run hoses instead of digging up the yard again...I would have never thought to try with hose without reading this

codongolev (author)2008-07-06


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