How to Change Sprinkler Heads

A damaged sprinkler head sticks diagonally out of green sod
  • 1-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Hand trowel
Replacement sprinkler heads
Plumber's tape
What You'll Need
Hand trowel
Replacement sprinkler heads
Plumber's tape

Lawn mowers, snowplows, dirt, sand, grass clippings, debris, and freezing weather can all damage sprinkler heads. Fortunately, replacing a damaged sprinkler head is an easy project to complete when you follow these five steps.

Step 1 - Determine Which Sprinkler Heads to Buy

First, find the manufacturer of the sprinkler heads you need to replace, as well as the model number. That information should be printed on top of the head. Also, note the size of the nozzle as listed on the head. If the head is so damaged that you can't read it, choose another sprinkler head in your yard to get the information from, as all heads in your yard should be the same.

Rotor Heads

If you have rotor heads, make sure you get the information from a head that rotates the same direction as the broken one. If your broken head is a full or half circle, get the appropriate nozzle size and model number from one that has the same spray rotation.

Purchasing Parts

To purchase the replacement parts, check major home-improvement chains. If you can’t find them there, you can find them on the Internet.

Step 2 - Dig out the Broken Sprinkler

broken sprinkler head

Use a shovel to cut into the top layer of ground about one foot around your sprinkler head. Be careful not to cut too deep, as you can cut through a water line.

Once you've cut a one-foot round or square patch, carefully remove the sod layer, lifting it straight up. Then, use a hand trowel to carefully scoop out the dirt around the sprinkler head. Remove enough dirt so you can get both hands around the head.

Step 3 - Unscrew the Old Head

Using a counterclockwise turn, unscrew the sprinkler head. Be careful no dirt drops into the connection once you have the head removed. Once it's removed, screw the replacement head in place.

If you did get dirt into the connection, flush the head by letting water run through it until it runs clear.

Step 4 - Screw on the New Head

sprinkler head spraying water

Once you're sure the connection is completely free of dirt, screw the new head onto the threaded end of the sprinkler line. Replace the dirt and sod. If your sprinkler head was damaged by a snowplow or a lawn mower, dig the hole a little deeper and make sure the top of the head sits no more than 1/2 inch above the ground to prevent it from becoming frequently clogged with dirt or grass or leaking from low drainage.

Tip: "Try plumber's tape around the male part for a tight fit. Be sure to check for leaks before you fill the hole back up,” our expert gardening advisor Kathy Bosin adds.

Step 5 - Set the Nozzle

Finally, lift the cap and grasp the stem carefully with your fingers. You can also use the special tool that came with the rotor head. Thread the nozzle onto the stem and screw it in place.

To keep your new sprinkler heads working properly and prevent damage, clean them often.