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Step by Step Drip Irrigation System Installation Guide

Sprinkler System And Irrigation Basics

Step by Step Drip Irrigation System Installation Guide Splash

Welcome to Sprinkler Warehouse's Drip Irrigation installation school. This guide is layed out in easy to follow steps with colorful illustrations and cutting edge animations.

Compared to conventional sprinkler systems, drip irrigation systems are simple to design, inexpensive, and easy to install. Traditional high volume, high pressure sprinkler systems require careful planning, extensive trenching, and special tools and glues. These efficient systems deliver water measured in Gallons Per Hour (GPH), and apply water only where it is needed. This can improve plant health, conserve water, and reduce the growth of weeds all at the same time.

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Free Drip Irrigation Installation Guide
Planning and Designing A Drip Irrigation System

When designing an irrigation system consider the various areas and plants to be watered. We suggest using a drip irrigation application on trees, shrubs, vines, vegetables, flowerbeds, plant containers, pots, any individual plant and narrow planting areas.


Note the list and locations of small and large trees, shrubs, groundcover, flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. Then divide the plants into groups with similar watering needs and plants that are in full sun or in shaded areas.

Drip Irrigation System Layout

About The Soil

Soil is like a storage room for plant nutrients. It is the medium through which water and nutrients move. It anchors plants and is a reservoir of water for plant growth. There are various types of soil with different characteristics which determine what types of drippers or micro sprinklers should be used. To determine which type of soil you have in a given area, take a handful of dry soi, grip tightly and release. To determine which type of soil you have in a given area, take a handful of dry soi, grip tightly and release.

  • SANDY SOIL - Sandy soil will crumble and fall apart when relased. Water will tend to go straight down in this type of soil.. Use closely spaced 2GPH drippers 10-12" apart or micro sprinklers in a wider spacing configuration.

  • LOAMY SOIL - Loam soil will hold together but then easily break apart. Water will move slowly and will spread evenly. Use 1GPH drippers with 16-18" spacing.

  • CLAY SOIL - Soil containing clay will hold together without breaking and water will be absorbed very slowly. Use .5GPH or 1GPH drippers with a 18-24" spacing.


Determining how to start a system and what products to select are important decisions that should be made carefully. The correct choice will depend on the size of the area, the availability of water outlets, the garden design and the type of plant material to be irrigated. From the following three methods, you can choose the start method that is appropriate for your drip application.

Method 1 - Faucet Connection

One of the easiest ways to install a drip application above ground is starting from an outdoor faucet using 1/2" poly tubing as the main lateral line. It can be set for automation by using a hose-end-timer. Attach one of the kits below to the faucet and the 1/2" poly tubing to the swivel adapter.

Method 2 - Connect To An Irrigation Vavle

Another way to connect your drip application is to connect it to an above ground anti-siphon valve or a below ground valve. An anti-siphon valve is a combination valve and atmospheric backflow preventor. An in-line valve requires the use of a backflow prevention device. Remember to check local codes for either application.

Below ground In-line installation using a pressure regulator, mesh filter, 1/2" riser and adapter tee.Below ground In-line installation using a pressure regulator, mesh filter, 1/2" riser and adapter tee.
Above ground anti-siphon installation using a pressure regulator, mesh filter, 1/2" riser and adapter tee.Above ground anti-siphon installation using a pressure regulator, mesh filter, 1/2" riser and adapter tee.

Method 3 - Retrofit A Sprinkler System Riser

conversion elbow, pressure reuglator and swivel adapter

You can also use a conversion elbow, pressure reuglator and swivel adapter to convert a 1/2" sprinkler head riser directly to poly tubing.


Now that you have selected a way to connect your drip irrigation application to a water source, it is time to roll out the hose and lay down a path for the water to travel to your plants. Three simple steps is all it takes to distribute the water.

Roll Out The Hose

After connecting to your water source, unroll hose or dripline. Position the hose in your garden or flowerbed.

Example of Drip Irrigation Tubing Layout

Here is a small example of how you can lay the tubing out in your flower bed.

Cut The Hose To Length

Now that you have laid out your hose, double check to make sure layout is correct and you are satisfied with the length. Use Poly Pipe Cutters to make clean precise cuts.

Punch Holes For Emitters

Using a punch tool, make a hole in the 1/2" hose wherever you want to place an emitter or a 1/4" barbed fitting for connection to distribution tubing. If you punch a hole in the wrong spot, you can seal it using a goof plug. Use 1/2" tubing stakes to secure the 1/2" tubing to the ground. Use 1/4" fittings to snap directly into the holes created in the 1/2" tubing to connect 1/4" distribution tubing. This type of connection can be used to reach individual plants.

NOTE: Make sure to flush out any debris before closing the line with a 1/2" hose end.

A small Drip Irrigation Pipe Punch
Use a Small Punch or a Pro Punch to pierce 1/2" Poly Tubing.
Staking pipe for drip irrgiation
Use 1/2" Tubing Stakes or Stainless Steel Stakes to secure the 1/2" Poly Tubing to the ground.
Using a goofplug to fix a hold in drip irrigaiton tubing
If you make a hole by mistake, simply seal it with a Goof Plug. It's Easy!
Inserting a Button Dripper into a Drip Irrigation pipe
Insert Button Drippers, PC Drip Emiiters, Flag Emitters or Adjustable Drip Emitters to distribute water to plants close to the tubing.
Example of Distributing Water to Plants Via a Drip Irrigation System
Use 1/4" barbed fittings, 1/4" distribution tubing and your choice of emitters to deliver water to plants.
Example of clamping the end of a drip irrigation pipe
Once you have flushed the line of all debris use a 1/2" Hose End to stop the flow at the end of the line.


Here are some of the possibilities when setting up your drip irrigation application. The following examples will help you better understand layout concepts and decide which application is right for you.

Trees, Shrubs and Flower beds

After connecting to your water source:

Drip Irrigation Tubing Layout
  1. Layout the 1/2" tubing and secure it with 1/2" tubing stakes.

  2. For hard-to-reach trees or shrubs, connect 1/4" distribution tubing to 1/2" hose using 1/4" barb fittings.

  3. Use 1/4" drip line to loop around trees. Connect the drip line to the 1/2" hose using a 1/4" barbed tee.

  4. Use Jet Sprays or Microsprinkler on spike with 12" spike for flowers or ground cover.

Distributing water via tubing to hard to reach plants

Use 1/4" barbed fittings to connect 1/4" distribution tubing and emitters for hard to reach plants.

Example of where to put a Drip Irrigation Emitter

Place emitters half way between the base of
the plant and edge
of its canopy.

Picture of a Micro Sprayer for flowers and ground cover

and jet sprays on spikes are great for flowers and ground cover.

Vegetable Garden, Flower Beds & Ground Cover

After connecting to your water source:

  1. Roll out the 1/2" Drip Line in rows spaced approximately 12" apart.

  2. Use 1/2" Nut Lock Elbows and Tees to connect hose pieces. (bottom left)

  3. Use 1/2" tubing stakes or stainless steel stakes to anchor the drip line to the ground.

Example one of laying out Drip Irrigation Tubing
Example two of laying out Drip Irrigation Tubing

Roses and Shrubs

Using a Drip Irrigation emitter, example

After connecting to your water source:

  1. Thread the Drip Head Outlet Manifold onto the 1/2" riser.

  2. Connect 1/4" tubing to the outlet manifold. Layout the tubing to the base of the plants and cut it to the desired length.

  3. Connect emitters, drip line (tubing with emitters), jet sprays or microsprinklers as shown to the right.

Patio Containers

After connecting to your water source:

  1. Run 1/2" hose to the patio from the water source. If needed, run the tubing up or along beams. Secure in place. Use an elbow fitting to get around corners. Secure the end of the hose using a 1/2" hose end clamp as shown in diagram.

  2. Connect 1/4" tubing to the 1/2" tubing hose using a coupler or elbow and run it to container plants. Thread a 1/4" stake onto tubing and insert an emitter into the end. Push the stake down into the container.

  3. If using foggers, install them directly into 1/2" hose above each hanging container to mist the plants.

Using foggers in Drip irrigation.

Foggers are great for irrigating hanging baskets or simply cooling patios.

Don't forget to clamp off the end of the hose after flushing the system of debris!

Example Layout of Drip irrigation System
Initial System Start-Up

Example of Clamping off a Drip Irrigation Tube

Before turning the system on the first time, leave all 1/2" poly tubing ends open and turn the water on and allow it to run freely for a few minutes. This will flush out any dirt or other debris that may be in the system. Close the end of the line using either hose end clamp or end cap.

Check to see that the drippers and micro sprinklers are operating correctly and that there are no leaks in the system. If leakage accurs on 1/2" poly tubing at the base of a dripper or micro sprinkler, remove that dripper / micro sprinkler and insert a goof plug to close the hole. Reinsert the dripper or micro sprinkler in another area.

Potential Cause
Wrong valve size, flow too low Replace with correct size valve
Diaphragm orifice is plugged Clean or replace diaphragm
Solenoid faulty Check wiring or replace solenoid

Potential Cause
9-Volt battery is low or no longer good Replace with a new 9-volt battery

Potential Cause
Puppet is missing "O" ring is missing, lever is open.
Diaphragm is torn or worn out Replace diaphragm
Valve is installed backwards Turn valve around

Potential Cause
Dirt inside the pressure regulator Remove from line, remove the washer and clean.
Regulator is installed on mainline Move to downstream side of control valve

Potential Cause
Line broken Fix broken line
Filter or dripper clogged Clean dripper nozzel - Clean or replace filter
Pressure to low Check pressure regulator

Potential Cause
Too many drippers on the line Make sure you did not exceed the total maximum recommended flow fate (220 GPH)
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