Backyard Sprinkler Park

July 19, 2008 at 10:01 pm 53 comments

Most of you know that I generally fill my summer up with construction projects around the house and for hire. This summer has been no different. I apologize for being absent from the blogosphere for a while, but I’ve just been enjoying my summer too much to sit and type. So far the for hire projects have included some sheetrock repair, hanging a new exterior door, fixing some rotten entry ways, enlarging some closets, new bathroom faucets, new kitchen plumbing, and a full bathroom remodel that had the room down to the studs and included new tile, shower, and walls. Pretty much every Friday through Monday I’ve been somewhere fixing something. It’s been great as I love doing this type of work, and it’s a nice way to supplement the teacher salary. On the home front it’s been all about the backyard. I’ll write about the pergola project in the next few days, but by far the most fun project of the summer is the sprinkler park. Being a stay at home dad (Tuesday through Thursday), this summer has been a blast, but unlike the previous years I now have a baby to take care of as well as an almost 4-year old. Needless to say this puts a damper on how much time I can spend playing with Annelise. As soon as we start something, Julianna needs her diaper changed or a bottle. Adding to this is the fact that the normal outlets for stay-at-home-moms are not available to a stay at home dad. She can’t have any of her girl friends over and we can’t go to any play dates. To make her summer a little bit more fun (and because I like cool projects) I told her we would build a sprinkler park right in our own back yard. So if you like totally pointless projects, or you just like the smell of PVC glue here is how to get started…

I didn’t really start with much of a plan. I had some ideas, but I really work best by going to Lowes or Home Depot and just playing with the stuff they have and seeing what I can come up with. I was in Home Depot with an assortment of 2″ PVC fittings stuck together in a configuration that should never occur in nature trying to spark some ideas when a man in a “Jon’s Plumbing” shirt looked over and said, “I don’t know what it is but it’s the most complicated thing I’ve ever seen.” The point is that there are a lot of things that can be used for other than their intended purpose…just be creative. I settled for lots of PVC, some small and large foam noodles, a sheet of pink high density foam house wrap, and lots of spray paint (the kind that is made for plastic).

Below you can see the basic core of each sprinkler. The basic idea is that water flows in on the left and can go into the sprinkler or out the other side to the next sprinkler. The whole point is that the sprinklers are all chained together and can be used separately or all together. The only issue with the design when this picture was made is that a second sprinkler hooked up to the right hand output side won’t have water pressure unless this sprinkler is on. My final design placed a T-fitting before the valve and just capped off the output side. Now all the sprinklers have water pressure all the time regardless of which ones are actually on. The valve I choose is a brass ball valve meant for gas. It was the easiest to turn on and off for kids.

You want the water to flow up into the sprinkler not down into the support tube (and the ground) so before gluing the lower tube in place I put a 2″ knockout plug on the top of the pipe.

After gluing the lower pipe in place you can see that the knock out plug has blocked the lower leg of the assembly.

I also painted on a nice layer of silicone caulk to the top of the knock out plug.

The lower pre-assembly is the same for all the sprinklers. Below you can see a basic pre-assembly attached to the “Dueling Noodles” sprinkler body. The top small pipe is capped and does not carry water…It’s just there to support the duck (you’ll have to look at the pictures at the end)

If you are going to use a noodle to carry water it must be one of the large noodles. The smaller ones just split under pressure. To attach a noodle to the PVC core you need an 8″ length of ½” PVC. I taped off ¾” at the end to protect it and coated the other end with plumber’s goop (actual name) and just pushed it into the noodle and let it dry for a few days.

Once it’s dry you can pull off the tape and attach any fitting you need.

If water is not supposed to come out of the other side you can glue a PVC plug to the ½” pipe. I used this technique on the “Tunnel” (again…see the pictures at the end)

For the “Dueling Noodles” station, I wanted to use small diameter noodles so I had to thread a length of ½” flexible hose through the noodle to bear the pressure.

For the “Flower Shower”, I bought the cheapest shower head I could find and broke it apart to remove the shower disc.

I filed the disc down until it would fit in a 2″ PVC compression ring fitting.

Then I screwed the fitting together to make the shower head. The flared out piece in the picture below (the one with the bar code) is not actually glued on anything. The 2″ PVC pipe carrying the water is passing right through it. The piece is a 2″ to 3″ adapter with the 2″ side cut off and just slipped over the pipe before the compression fitting was glued in place.

The flower head is just a piece of pink foam house wrap cut into a flower shape.

Using the basic ideas and techniques described above, I built the following four sprinklers.

Bucket Dump

This sprinkler, while being the most popular with the kids, is the most complicated to build as you must design a pivot mechanism for the bucket. I welded mine out of ½” square tubing and rolled a length of1/4″ round bar into a ring that the bucket could sit in. If you don’t have a welding machine (get one)…or you could probably create something out of wood. It may be a bit bulkier but it could be made to work. You can attach your pivot mechanism to the body of the sprinkler with 2″ pipe hangers. These are heavy clamps that fit around the pipe and have bolt holes for attaching your bucket contraption. I did a ton of math (finally a use for my otherwise useless Physics degree) to find the point on the bucket where the bottom of the bucket is heavier empty but the top is heaver at the moment the water reached the top, so it will dump automatically. Turns out the kids just want to dump it themselves, so I attached a string…

Dueling Noodles

This sprinkler is the most dangerous to the dry adults in the vicinity as it is capable of spraying close to 60 feet. The top decoration is just a silly duck noodle that I found at Wal-Mart and cut shorter and stuck on the top of the sprinkler body. The two noodles on the side can be picked up and sprayed at each other or any other moving targets within the neighborhood.

Flower Shower

This is the simplest and (according to Monique) the cutest sprinkler in the collection. We’ve even let Annie bathe out here. This is the sprinkler that first gave us the idea for putting little one ring pools at the bottom to protect the yard from turning into a mud pit.

The Tunnel

I couldn’t really come up with a cool name for this one, but it’s one of my favorites. Its two large diameter noodles attached together (using a 12″ length of ½” PVC and the goop described above) and have holes poked along the length. I actually used some 1/8″ tubing in the holes to get the spray to aim better. The tubing is attached to the PVC base with a threaded connection, so you can take the noodle off for storage.

The only part I don’t have pictures of is the actual anchor into the ground. I just used a 4-foot piece of ½” galvanized iron pipe hammered 2 feet into the ground. Into the lower leg of the sprinklers, I screwed in a 1 ¾” PVC cap with a ½” hole bored into the center. This fitting slips nicely into the 2″ PVC, and a simple wood screw from the outside holds it in place. With one of these at the top and the bottom of the lower support leg, the sprinklers can be slipped over the galvanized pipe. This makes the sprinklers stable enough to be left out all summer but portable enough to be stored in the winter. Come by and let your kids play sometime…the park is always open!

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53 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Erin  |  July 21, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    “The Tunnel” reminded me more of a car wash! This was super and certainly a home run for our summer! Way to put your skills to good use for once! (J/K, of course!)

    Reply
  • 2. Phil  |  July 22, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Chris this is incredible. I really wish we still lived close so we could being Ethan by when he’s older. I’m thinking road-trip for sure though.

    Reply
  • 3. Tim Barosh  |  July 28, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Thanks for having us over. It was great to watch my girls splashing all around! Then there was the weight I felt the entire time that I was only half the man you are. Sometimes, I can’t even get my water hose to work right. Thanks for that too.

    Reply
  • 4. eventhorizons  |  July 28, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Tim…I’m sorry to hear about your um…water hose…

    Reply
  • 5. Jasmine  |  April 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Wow! This is my dream! I’ve thought of so many different ways to pull this same idea off, but this is fantastic! I just knew it could be done. :) Husband might be busy very soon lol :) You really should get a patent on this. I know a kit like this would be a hot item! Those of us with lots of little ones can’t safely have a pool but a sprinkler park in your own backyard would be a dream come true for me!

    Reply
    • 6. Anonymous  |  July 16, 2013 at 8:07 am

      I would buy the kit! You should definitely do that!

      Reply
  • 7. amanda  |  June 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

    awww my girls need this, wish my husband was this creative great job

    Reply
  • 8. ToddB  |  July 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    My back yard is being demolished as I type – and in the new back yard, they’re putting in a grass area with extra drainage and an extra water line just for this… in fact, later this week I’ll be making a trip to Lowes to make several water features based on your ideas here – thanks for sharing! Very creative work!

    Reply
  • 9. Karl K.  |  August 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I know you wrote this a while ago, but I hope you still check the comments. This is a neat idea. You inspired me to make some of these for my kids as they love sprinklers but I have a couple questions. Why did you choose 2″ pipe versus 1-/2″ or 1-1/4″ pipe? What did you use to hold the pipe in the ground?

    Thanks,

    Reply
  • 10. Niki  |  April 10, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Is there anyway to tell us the cost and time frame for this project, thanks!

    Reply
    • 11. Chris  |  April 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Niki, each sprinkler cost between $40-$60 depending on the complexity…and I’d guess I spent about 3-4 hours each if you take out the time I spent wondering around Home Depot trying to figure out what I was doing!

      Reply
      • 12. Jimmy  |  June 10, 2013 at 8:04 pm

        Could you tell a huge increase in water bill .. I am looking at a splashpad but just dont want to do the whole recirculate thing but when I get a 400 a month increase in water … I will die

  • 13. Renee  |  April 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I am always looking for neat ideas like this, I love them.

    Reply
  • 14. bethany1980  |  May 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Super cute!
    Bethany
    followmyjourneyofchange.wordpress.com

    Reply
  • 15. Chris S.  |  June 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I was wondering if anyone could give me a suplly list of what exactly they bouught, I know I’m asking a lot but I work for a camp during the summer and my kids would love this!! If anyone could please help me out I would be very greatful!

    Reply
    • 16. Anonymous  |  July 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm

      I just made some of these and could provide you a take off if you wish.

      Reply
      • 17. Anonymous  |  July 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm

        That’d be great if you could!

      • 18. Anonymous  |  July 13, 2012 at 8:20 am

        It is my intention not to cloud up Chris’ blog so send me an email jwright0074@gmail.com and I will help you out. These are great ideas and I appreciate his detailed instructions.

    • 19. Anonymous  |  July 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      I think the point is that these require some creativity. There are so many things you can come up with as the poster showed – you probably won’t be able to duplicate anyone’s setup 100% but you can pull some ideas and improvise!

      Reply
  • 20. Stay at home mom  |  July 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Please check out your local MOMS club, although most groups discourage having male members attend activities in private homes, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to attend public activities, such as park plays. Check out MOMSClub.org. Great sprinklers btw.

    Reply
  • 21. eventhorizons  |  July 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Wow…Pinterest has really driven some traffic here! I haven’t taken care of my blog in a very long time but I’d be happy to provide more details about the sprinklers…Look for a post update in the next few weeks! Thanks for reading everybody.

    Reply
  • 22. Anonymous  |  October 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Chris, Very creative work! I love it! My husband will hate me for giving him another project, but the kids will love him after he’s done. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  • 23. http://tinyurl.com/tmcegiles41750  |  January 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

    “Backyard Sprinkler Park Event Horizon” ended up being a wonderful posting, can’t help but wait
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  • 24. Norela Gomez  |  March 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Hi this is an awesome idea, just wondering if a drainage system would be needed I don’t think the ring pools would be enough so my son wont’ make a mud pool…. thnx

    Reply
  • 25. Annonymous  |  March 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Not sure if you still check this, but how are the sprinklers anchored into the grass? Also, pool noodles disintegrate…did you have problems with this? How did you connect the sprinklers to each other? Sorry, really want my husband to make this, it looks so awesome! And we could use some water here in Arizona :)

    Reply
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