How To Replace A Broken Sprinkler Head: Quick And Easy Guide

Replacing a broken sprinkler head is a quick and easy task that anyone with basic knowledge of home repairs can do. With just a few tools and a little time, your sprinkler system can work like new again.

Replace a broken sprinkler head by digging near the head with a trowel and unscrewing it from its riser connecting it to the water supply line. Inspect the riser and water line and repair any damage. Install the new sprinkler head, adjust the height, spray pattern, and angle, then check for leaks.

Let’s look at how to find out which replacement head to purchase and step-by-step instructions for replacing the head. You’ll also find out some likely causes of a broken sprinkler head, so you can take steps to prevent future damage.

How to Replace a Broken Sprinkler Head

Handle sprinkler head used to place water systems in agricultural gardens

Before you begin, have the following tools and materials on hand:

  • New sprinkler head
  • Trowel
  • Riser extractor
  • Thread seal tape
  • Expandable garden hose

Knowing What Replacement Sprinkler Head to Purchase

Finding the replacement head you need isn’t too hard. All you need is the brand and part number of your old head. You can then look up those specs on the manufacturer’s website.

If you can’t find those details, take the broken sprinkler head to your local hardware store and ask for a replacement that matches those specs.

You don’t need to purchase the same brand as your old head, but it does need to be the same type (pop-up, impact, etc.) and have the exact inches per hour or gallons per minute flow rate. It’s also crucial that the new head has the same spray pattern and throwing distance.

If the specifications of the new head do not match the old one, it can lead to inefficient watering that can damage your lawn.

Step One: Remove the Broken Head

The first step is to remove the broken sprinkler head from the ground. To do this, you will need a sturdy trowel (on Amazon).

  1. First, locate the broken sprinkler head. It is usually located right beneath or level with the ground. Once you have found it, remove the grass and soil in the area around it carefully because you will need to replace this later.
  1. Next, use your trowel to dig a hole about 6 inches deep and a foot around it. Be careful not to puncture the water supply line with your trowel while digging. Put the soil in a container or on plastic sheeting to replace it later and avoid spilling it into the supply line.
  1. Now you can unscrew the broken sprinkler head from the riser, which connects the head to the water line. If the riser is attached to the sprinkler head instead of the supply line, carefully detach it.
  1. You should see sealant or tape on the riser, which minimizes leaks. Remove it and inspect the threads for damage. If the riser is broken and stuck in the water line, you can remove it with a pair of pliers or a riser removal tool, like this one from LASCO (on Amazon)
    • You will need to replace the riser if it is damaged, which is easy to do by purchasing a new one that matches the length and diameter of the old one.
    • If the threads are in good condition, apply new sealant or tape and screw the riser back onto the water supply line.
  1. Last, inspect the water line for any leaks or ruptures. If there is damage to the line, it may have caused the sprinkler head to break. You will need to repair the damage before continuing.

You may have to call a professional, but ensuring that your sprinkler system works properly is necessary.

Step Two: Replace with the New Head 

Now that you’ve removed the old sprinkler head, inspected the riser and water line, and replaced or repaired any damage, you’re ready to install the new one.

  1. First, turn the water to the system on to flush out any dirt or debris that may have gotten into the pipe. During this process, you may need to redirect the water flow with a flexible garden hose.
  1. Turn the water off and attach the new sprinkler head to the riser. Make sure it is screwed on tightly but not over-tightened, which could damage the threads.
  1. Adjust the sprinkler head until it points in the right direction. Some sprinklers, such as impact or rotary, can be adjusted to spray in different directions or patterns.

Now you’re ready to test the new sprinkler head.

Step Three: Test and Fill the Hole

Once the new sprinkler head is installed and pointing in the right direction, you’re ready to test it.

  1. First, turn on the water and check for leaks at the connection between the riser and sprinkler head. Turn off the water before tightening the connection or reapplying thread tape, like this Teflon tape (on Amazon), if you find any leaks. Then test the system again. Repeat until there are no leaks.
  1. Next, check the spray pattern to ensure it is consistent with the other sprinkler heads on your lawn. The new head should be the same height as the others to provide an accurate spray pattern and minimize the risk of damage from mower blades.
  1. Tighten the new head if it is not aligned correctly. Check the riser to see if it’s shorter or longer than the old one if that doesn’t work. If it is, replace it with a new one that matches the length of the old one.
  1. Then, turn on the water and recheck the direction of the spray to ensure it’s pointing in the right direction. If it’s not, adjust it until it is.
  1. Last, replace the grass and soil you removed earlier. Use the trowel to fill the hole, pack the dirt firmly, and water the area well to help the grass reestablish its roots.
  1. If there was any damage to the turf, spread new grass seed on the ground around the sprinkler head and apply fertilizer to help it grow. Avoid walking on the fresh grass for a few weeks to give it time to take root.

Now you’ve successfully replaced a broken sprinkler head. Regular maintenance and timely repairs will keep your sprinkler system operating efficiently for years to come.

What Caused My Sprinkler Head to Break?

Lawn sprinkler head in grass

There are several reasons a sprinkler head might break. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Impact – A lawnmower, soccer ball, or other object striking the head can break it. This damage is usually visible, as the head will be cracked or dented.
  • Clogs – Dirt, sand, and other debris can build up in the head and prevent water from flowing through it properly. That can cause the head to break under the pressure of the water.
  • Corrosion – Over time, the metal components of the head can rust and break, which is more likely to happen in areas with high water hardness or where the water has a high concentration of chlorine.
  • Freeze-Thaw Cycle – Water expands when it freezes, which can cause the head to crack or break, which is more likely to happen in areas that experience severe winters.
  • Poor Installation – An improperly installed sprinkler head can break under water pressure. Plastic heads are prone to this damage because they are more fragile than metal ones.
  • Age – Like all materials, sprinkler heads degrade over time and are more likely to break as they age, especially if they are made of plastic, which becomes brittle over time.
  • Manufacturing Defects – Occasionally, a sprinkler head will break because it was defective from the factory. This type of breakage is most likely to happen with heads mass-produced overseas.

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