I bought a house that had a bunch of broken sprinklers, as evidenced by
puddles of water. When I dig down more than a foot for each one, I find
they all have this horribly complicated plumbing arrangement.
It's easy enough to repair, as I can simply match parts at Home Depot,
but I was wondering WHY there are six or seven couplings where just two
or three would work just fine (seems to me).
Maybe I'm missing something important.
Is it normal for typical lawn sprinklers to look like this?
The bunch of odd fittings may just be old repairs using what was in the
workshop, rather than making a trip to the store for "prettier" stuff.
It may also have been rigged to avoid some landscaping feature.
Sometimes longer offsets are installed so that if a head is run over by
the mower the pressure isn't directed straight down onto the line; there
is also flex pipe for that purpose that will help avoid broken lines.
As shown in this picture below, I must agree that all the swing fittings
allow for the final location to be in a wide 1 foot arc around the main
(white) irrigation line output.
Since all the sprinklers appear to be built this way, I'm gonna assume
they did it on purpose.
pipe. I had to unscrew the broken part from the white pipe and screw it
on in the mud (which is amazing that it worked because it can't possibly
have been clean).
Using the keywords Oren provided, I was able to find this tutorial:
Unfortunately, I think that tutorial implies that the white elbow MUST be
pointed UP and not to the side like mine is. I'm not sure why though but
it says so in the diagram titled "Drawing of a Rigid Quadruple Swing
Riser" on that web page.
They might have done it thinking that with all the
elbows it gives more freedom to get the head
located exactly where they wanted it. But it's not
normally done that way. Around here, NJ, they
typically don't install it 12" deep either. About
7 inches is more typical and they use black poly
pipe that can be pulled without trenching and is
easier to work with, no glueing, can curve it, etc.
On Tue, 06 Mar 2012 05:48:22 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
That's interesting because I'm in the Santa Cruz Mountains which never
(almost never) get to freezing whereas you're in NJ where it does freeze
Mine is easily more than a foot deep to the main irrigation line. I'm not
sure why I'm deeper than you in NJ since the weather is so mild here.
Maybe because we never shut off our water in the winter and you probably
Right. If he meant to a new piece of pipe, then yes, he could do that
but I wouldn't. I read his message as if he could just connect to
the old pipe but that was before I had my coffee. Of course that
doesn't make sense.
To provide the possibility of rotation in case the upper part gets whacked.
The original can rotate in two planes; your repair can rotate in only one
If the soil is clay and gets rock hard, the ability to move won't mean much;
if the soil is sandy, it can mean the difference between broken and
Thanks again for helping me out!
That must be what it is, i.e., a home-made Swing Pipe Assembly.
Here's a picture of the final assembly before I covered it in the mucky
clay soil (which will set around it like concrete).
Many of the sprinklers are broken but all that I've dug up used a similar
contraption. The only thing different is the length of the sprinkler
bodies themselves. They all had the same number of elbows.
As Oren suggested, I can see that the Swing Pipe Assembly allows me to
position the head within a foot or so of the pipe in any direction, and
it allows me to level it with the soil.
I guess it also allows some protection (as Oren also stated) since it can
move - but once that clay sets, it won't move much.
I don't at all see how it can do the other things advertised:
a) Allows to minimize overall system depth underground
I have no idea what that means or implies as the pipe is more than a foot
underground at all places whether or not this contraption is attached.
b) Allows easy parallel connection of sprinkler heads to main
I don't see how all the extra fittings make the connection to the main
line any easier or harder?
On Tue, 6 Mar 2012 22:09:56 +0000 (UTC), alpha male
I like the rubber hose that the pros use around here instead. Easier
to manipulate in any direction and easier to dismantle too. I'm in
west Houston and we also bury pvc pipes about a foot below. We do get
an occasion freeze but usually in worst cases, 2 to 3 days but this is
I wonder what pipe material they use in NJ nowadays? When I was a
kid, a neighbor across the street from us had a underground sprinkler
and I believe his was using copper pipe but I can't swear to that. Not
sure if this makes sense tho because this was in Long Island, NY and
there they do have extended freezing temps. Can anyone tell me if
this would make sense in the late 50s or early 60s ? I remember tho
he had a nice lawn <grin>. He was the only one I ever knew in our
area with an underground system (we just lived in a average
neighborhood... not upscale).
It's interesting that the tutorial I found based on Oren's keywords:
Says the following about materials:
"A typical rigid swing riser is constructed using a 12 inch long SCH 80
PVC nipple for the rigid arm (generally SCH 80 is gray colored) and high
density polyethylene street ells (see photo of a street ell above.) High
density polyethylene is typically referred to as "Marlex". Marlex is
black in color, softer than PVC, and works better for swing risers than
PVC because it has a naturally oily surface. Do not use standard threaded
white or gray PVC ells on swing risers! The threads on standard PVC ells
tend to stick to each other and keep the swing riser arm from moving as
it should. I recommend that you use a small amount of Teflon tape on the
male threads, even when using Marlex street ells. By the way, the black
plastic used for the Funny Pipe ® risers mentioned earlier are not Marlex!
If you can't scratch it with your fingernail, it is not Marlex."
I may have misunderstood how to install it.
I exactly replaced, one to one, the elbow that had broken (you can see
the tag on the bottom-most elbow which is the new part in this picture):
I've since filled it with the mucky clay so it's done - but do you think
that last picture has the three planes of rotation still in effect?
If not, I guess the actual position you put the thing can determine the
planes of rotation since you can position it about a foot either way of
the actual location of the main (white) irrigation line.
The soil will be like concrete in just a few weeks!
I also found a video of them being used here, thanks to your keywords:
What scares me though, is the guy in the video is installing one on a
pipe that is above ground as he swings the foot-long thing in a wide
circle to attach it to the white lateral pipe.
Problem is, for a repair, you're not going to have a two-foot diameter
hole to swing the preassembled ones in. So, I guess that's one argument
for the home-made triple swing riser and quadruple swing riser.
BTW, after reading the tutorial I found based on Oren's keywords, I think
mine is properly called the triple swing riser (whereas, for a dollar
more, had I known, I could have created a quadruple swing riser which has
freedom of direction).
It's certainly easier to adjust height ... but I'd have to think how the
triple rigid swing riser makes it easier to repair heads.
I guess it's because the bottom of the sprinkler head is about half a
foot less deep into the ground?
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