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How to Easily Replace Sprinkler Heads Yourself

A broken sprinkler head can ruin your beautiful landscape.

Uneven gushes of water, low water pressure and leaks can leave unsightly patches that undo all the hard work you’ve put into maintaining your cherished lawn.

The good news is, replacing a sprinkler head is an easy fix, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. We'll walk you through the process of how to replace sprinkler heads on your irrigation system.

Let's get right into it. 

Tools You’ll Need 

Before you start, you’ll need to get the tools ready. Here’s what you’ll need to use to change your broken spray head:

Now that you have your tools ready let’s get started. 

Step 1: Expose the Broken Sprinkler Head

Underground sprinkler heads sit just below ground level, so you'll need to expose it first to pull it out.

  1. Cut into the grass around the sprinkler. Use a trowel or knife to cut a circle about 8 inches in diameter and 2 to 8 inches deep. 
  2. Carefully pry out the sod, making sure to keep the roots of the grass intact.

    excess space on the same zone to fix easily
    Image courtesy

  3. Once the soil is exposed, dig and scoop out the earth surrounding the head until the supply line that connects the head to the water line is exposed. Put the soil in a container or on a plastic paper to make it easier to replace when you're done.

    removed dirt to expose water line
    Image courtesy

Note: Ensure you’ve switched off the main water supply and be careful to avoid hitting the water line when digging out the soil. 

Step 2: Remove the Broken Spray Head

unscrew spray head
Image courtesy

Sprinkler heads are connected to the water line by a pipe known as a riser. You will need to unscrew the head from the riser to remove it.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Screw the head in a counterclockwise direction to loosen it using your sprinkler adjustment tool.

    adjustment tool to repair sprinkler heads
    Hunter - 172000 - Rotor Adjustment Tool, Fits All Hunter Rotors

  2. Guide the old head out by twisting it anti-clockwise and pull it out.

    Pro tip: This is an opportunity to check if the riser is in good shape. To do this, carefully pull it out together with the sprinkler head. 

    Remove the seal tape from both ends of the pipe and inspect the threads. If they look worn or cracked, you will need to replace the riser too.

    To do this, simply unscrew the old riser and replace it with a new PVC pipe riser of the exact same length.

  3. Flush the line

    Dirt will inevitably fall into the waterline when you extract the head or the riser. 

    Soil may clog your sprinkler heads and cause more damage if you leave it in, so you’ll need to flush out any particles before you screw on the new spray head.

    Put a flexible hose or small pipe into the opening on the waterline, turn on the sprinkler’s water supply, and let it run for about 30 seconds. 

    Make sure the hose is facing away from where you are working to avoid pouring dirt into the new sprinkler fittings.

Step 4: Fit the New Sprinkler Head

new spray head
Image courtesy

It’s time to put in the new sprinkler head now that you’re sure the line is rid of dirt.

  1. Put the female end of the sprinkler spray head (tapered side) into the riser and screw it in clockwise. Make sure it’s firmly secured—jiggle it a few times to check if it’s firm. 
  2. With the new head firmly secured, rotate the nozzle and adjust the sprinkler head using the sprinkler adjustment tool to match the spray direction and pattern of the rest of your sprinkler system.

    sprinkler spray nozzle for sprinkler system repair
    Hunter - 17-A - 17' Radius Adjustable Arc Nozzle

  3. Seal the joint between the spray head and the riser with seal tape to prevent leakages.

Step 5: Test the New Spray Head

  1. Ensure the sprinkler head sits at the correct height—on the same level as the other heads.
  2. Now, turn the water on slowly and observe the spray pattern and direction of water from the new head. 
  3. Look out for leaks and check to see if the head is rotating correctly. Switch off the water and add more seal tape over the joints if you observe any leaks. 
  4. Increase the water pressure and let it run for about 2 to 3 minutes to observe the throwing distance and make sure the new head is functioning properly. 

If there are no leaks and the head looks firmly in place, you’re done replacing the head. 

Step 6: Fill the Hole

Once you’re sure the new head is working properly, the final step is to close the hole.

  1. Put all the soil back into the hole around the sprinkler. Use the back of your trowel or shovel to ensure that you press it down and make it as compact as possible. 
  2. Place the sod back onto the patch and press it gently into the ground. Water it immediately after replacing it so the grass can start growing again.

And that’s it. Your sprinkler system is back in tip-top shape.

How to Replace Sprinkler Heads: FAQs 

How Do I Choose a Replacement Sprinkler Head?

Sprinkler heads come in different shapes, sizes and functionalities. If you choose the wrong replacement head, your irrigation system won't function properly.

To get a suitable replacement, you will have to check the type of sprinkler heads on your system.

Sprinkler heads come in three main types: 

  • Pop up sprinkler heads
  • Impact sprinkler heads
  • Rotor or gear driven heads

Sprinkler Heads - Rotors
Sprinkler Heads - Rotors

Each type of sprinkler head functions differently, so you will need to replace it with the same type of sprinkler head as the broken one.

For example, if your system uses rotor-driven heads, you will have to buy rotor-driven replacement heads. 

Do I Have To Buy the Same Brand?

All brands stick to the same mechanism for each sprinkler head.

This means it's not important to buy the same brand as your broken sprinkler heads. As long as it is the same type, you should be good to go.

However, you have to match the specs on the heads. Make sure to get an exact match for features such as:

  • Delivery rate (read the inches per hour or gallons per minute specification on the head)
  • Spray pattern
  • Spray distance

You can find these specs printed on the top of the sprinkler head or on a label on the body of the sprinkler head after you remove it.

If you need help reading the specs on your old sprinkler head to find the right sprinkler head replacement, ask the experts at the Sprinkler Supply Store. They are always happy to give you the best advice when it comes to your sprinkler replacement parts.

Plus, you'll find a wide range of replacement parts on the website, so you can easily cross-reference the specs on your broken head to the new sprinkler heads in the store until you find an exact match. 

Get the Best Quality for Your Sprinklers

When your sprinkler head needs replacement, only the highest quality replacement parts will do.

If you skimp on quality, you risk creating water flow problems which can damage the whole sprinkler system, your lawn and flower beds along with it.

To get the best quality sprinkler replacement parts and repair tools at affordable prices, go to the Sprinkler Supply Store.

We stock all the best brands, plus we have a wide variety of parts in stock. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, we’ll make a special order just for you.

Douglas Schloss and John Nobile customer review
Douglas Schloss and John Nobile | Customer review

Get in touch with us today for the highest quality equipment for your sprinkler system. 

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