Protecting Your Sprinkler Heads

Your sprinkler heads are easily the most vulnerable part of your sprinkler system — prone to sprinkler head damage from lawnmowers, your trimmer, freezing cold air and anything else that hits this part of the sprinkler that sits above ground. Here is what you need to know about protecting your sprinkler heads.

Sprinkler donuts sound like something delicious, but they are actually a lot less fun than a donut with sprinkles. Sprinkler head donuts are a quick, inexpensive solution to damage from lawnmowers. You can choose between durable concrete donuts or plastic ones — either way, they are designed to prevent broken sprinkler heads.  Keep in mind the concrete donuts may cost a little more, but they are tougher than the plastic ones, and they won’t float away in a heavy rain like the plastic donuts have been known to do.

Your local landscaper may have installers who can put them in for you, but really it’s a DIY home improvement project. Your garden center or home improvement store should have the donuts, and only common garden tools are needed.

Regardless of whether you do it yourself or hire someone, the donuts will save you the headache of replacing those lawn sprinkler heads.  

8 Steps to Install Sprinkler Head Protection

  1. Measure the diameter of your sprinkler heads. 
  2. Buy sprinkler head donuts that are about an inch bigger than your sprinkler head diameter, so you should have about half an inch on either side. 
  3. Put the sprinkler donut over the spray head, centering the spray head.
  4. Using a spade or trowel, cut about an inch and a half deep around the sprinkler donut.
  5. Remove the plug of dirt and grass with a trowel. 
  6. Push the donut into the dirt with your hands, packing it in. It should be flush with the grass, and there should be no extra space between the donut and the soil outside the donut. Step on the donut to pack it in firmly.
  7. You should be able to mow over the sprinkler heads and donuts after it’s done, without sprinkler head damage. 
  8. If you are using sprinkler risers to get your sprinkler heads to pop up higher, you will have to make that adjustment to the sprinkler head donut as well.

The pop-up sprinkler is actually a solution to the problems caused by permanent sprinkler heads. “Mowing around permanent sprinklers in the landscape was quite a chore. Grass had to be manually trimmed near the sprinklers and occasionally one of the sprinklers was the victim of an inattentive worker on a mower. The ‘pop-up’ sprinkler was developed to alleviate this problem,” says the Clemson Cooperative Extension Home And Garden Information Center website. 

The other big threat to your pop-up sprinkler — or any watering method, like drip irrigation or even a faucet — is freezing temperatures. If water is left in the spray head when a hard freeze comes along, you could be looking at several broken sprinkler heads. The cardinal lawn care rule when frigid temperatures come along is to drain the water out of anything vulnerable. 

What to Do to Winterize Sprinklers

Here are some things to do to prepare for pipe-bursting cold temperatures:

  • Shut off the water to your sprinkler system
  • Shut off power to the controller
  • Drain the water left in the pipes with a manual pipe drain, or a compressed blow-out — which will clear water out of your sprinkler heads. You may consider calling a professional for a compressed air blow-out.
  • Insulate any pipes or valves that are above ground.
  • Pay attention to weather reports. Your local TV meteorologist will almost certainly warn you when a hard freeze is on the way, with an admonition to protect your “pets, pipes and plants”!

A good sprinkler system is a significant and convenient part of lawn care, but it’s also a complicated system with a lot of parts vulnerable to damage. That damage is avoidable if you take the right measures. A few sprinkler head donuts and a good draining in the fall will help keep your sprinkler heads in good working order throughout the growing season.

Main image credit: “Broken,” Daniel R. Blume, CC by-SA 2.0

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Written by Ruma Akter

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

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