Step-by-Step Guide: How to Cap a Sprinkler Head

Kenneth Wilson

Suppose your sprinkler heads are too close together, and they end up overwatering your lawn. In that case, you may want to consider capping your sprinkler head.

But, the question is– how does one exactly do that? To start, capping a sprinkler head begins in removing the previous sprinkler cap to replace it with a flat cap– which will prevent the water from flowing into the head.

Some homeowners also opt for the total removal of the sprinkler head before capping it with a PVC pipe cap. Now, let’s discuss the step-by-step process of installing a cap on your sprinkler head.

Seven Steps to Cap a Sprinkler Head

Step 1: Gather the Right Tools and Supplies

First off, you'll need to gather the right tools and supplies required for this project.

  • Trowel or shovel
  • Pliers
  • A cap for your sprinkler head
  • Teflon tape or plumber’s tape
  • PVC cutters and primer

Start by finding a cap that’s compatible with your existing sprinkler system. You’ll also need a small trowel or shovel for digging away the dirt. Most systems have caps or plugs, so chances are you may have spare parts lying around at home. But, if you can't find one– you may want to make a trip to the nearest hardware store.

Another thing you’ll need is a good pair of pliers, especially if the sprinkler head is quite challenging to remove. You’ll also want to grab some PVC cutters and primer to make the process a breeze. It's also best to apply Teflon tape (or plumber's tape) to the threads, as it will provide good sealing to avoid eventual leaks.

Step 2: Turn Off the Water

One important thing to note: Always turn off the water before proceeding with the next steps. The last thing you’d want is for the sprinkler to accidentally power on while you’re still working on the line. This may leave you all soaked up or even damage other things surrounding you.

Find the main shutoff of your sprinkler system, which is usually on the side of the house near the main water shutoff. Ensure that it is in the OFF position before carrying on with the task at hand.

Step 3: Find the End of the Line

Next, you will need to determine the dead-end of the line to avoid capping it. It would help if you didn't cap off the line's end, as it will only leave the water with nowhere to go. As such, your property's water pressure will be affected.

Capping off the dead-end during the winter months means it may freeze and eventually break the line. Trust us; you wouldn't want to deal with such.

Pro tip: After ensuring the hose is completely dry, you may proceed to wrap a red plumber's tape around it to indicate it's the dead end. Feel free to mark it using other ways you deem fit.

Step 4: Dig Away the Dirt

Grab a small trowel or garden shovel to start digging dirt away from the sprinkler head. Ideally, dig around one to two inches of space surrounding it.

Be careful not to let any dirt get in the system after removing the sprinkler head in place. Better yet, prepare a bucket to put in the soil to separate it. This will also make it easier for you to dump back the dirt once you're done.

Step 5: Remove the Sprinkler Head

Now, it's time to remove the sprinkler head. The good thing is that it is a relatively straightforward process which you can do by hand. But, if the sprinkler head is too tight, you may want to grab a pair of pliers to remove it. It’s best to do this process cautiously, as you wouldn’t want to break the sprinkler head.

Let’s say you need to cap off the spot located at the end of the line. If that’s the case, you can use PVC cutters to trim the line just past the sprinkler head. Don’t forget to leave just enough space for the cap to fit at the end of the pipe.

Next, you’ll need to clean the pipe using PVC primer. Once it’s dry– use PVC cement at the line’s end and the inside of the cap. Before the adhesive dries, twist the cap at the end swiftly.

Step 6: Install the Cap

Before you install the cap in place, ensure the threads of the riser are clean. Then, wrap around two to three layers of Teflon tape. Doing so provides a good sealing so the cap won’t leak. Tighten the cap carefully. In most cases, you won't even need to use pliers to do so. Avoid over-tightening it as it may only lead to cracks.

Step 7: Test the Seal

Lastly, it's crucial to ensure the cap is properly sealed to avoid leaking or letting in the dirt (and other foreign debris) into the lines. Turn on the sprinkler for a few minutes to determine that no water comes out of it. When replacing the dirt over the sprinkler head, ensure that the water is shut off again.

Once all that is taken care of– turn on the water to the sprinkler once more. If you forget to do this step, the sprinkler won’t work.

The Importance of Routine Sprinkler Head Maintenance

After capping your sprinkler head, it's best to follow routine maintenance to ensure it is working correctly. Ideally, check the entire line for blockages or leaks every six months. Keep an eye out for puddles or visibly dry areas. Fortunately, it's not required to dig it up just to do preventative measures.

Suppose you notice that your sprinkler head shoots in the wrong direction or only gives a weak spray. In that case, it's better that you check the head itself. Start by turning off the home's water supply before digging around the head to check for clogs or leaks. Keep in mind that following routine maintenance activities may help you save money eventually. (Related: Causes & Fixes If Your Sprinkler Heads Aren't Popping Up)

Putting a cap on your sprinkler helps avoid any damage to your garden. If you notice a visibly broken sprinkler head, you have two options to consider:

  • Directly put a PVC pipe cap on the sprinkler base
  • Replace the sprinkler head

Note that a sprinkler pipe provides support to the base– so putting on a cap can spare you from many headaches.

Pro Tip: As you work on this project, it's also essential to ensure no other leaks and related issues to your sprinkler system.

One broken sprinkler head may waste hundreds of gallons of water in just a single cycle. As such, a leaky sprinkler head/pipe may cost you hundreds of dollars in a year. Make it a habit to always pay attention to your sprinkler's current efficiency. Regular checking can go a long way– as it will help you save on water and cash in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I cap off a sprinkler head?

Yes, capping the sprinkler head has its benefits because it saves gallons of water from loss and some money. The method to use for capping off all depends on you. You may choose to put a cap only on the sprinkler or the head; another way is to place a lid on the base of the sprinkler. It is safe to use both methods. However, you must check the sprinkler head's condition before placing a cap on it. It should be replaced if it is broken.

How much does it cost to cap off a sprinkler head?

The cost to cap off a sprinkler head mainly depends on its quality. On average, it may range from $131 to $380. Sprinkler head replacement, labor fee, valve replacement, and head cost are other factors you need to consider.

Kenneth Wilson
February 12, 2022
Contractor Tips, Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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