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.
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…
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.
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.
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!