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In each description I've seen for the installation of popup sprinklers, the pipe is being dug deep into the ground, below the lowest point of the sprinklers. I was thinking of making a pretty shallow trench - let's say enough to cover the pipe + 5cm. For each sprinkler I'd add a T, with a pipe going down and back into the sprinkler. Explained in ascii-art:

Popular:

           |x| sprinkler
           |x|
           |x|
pipe -------^----

Proposed:

           |x|
pipe ----+-|x|----------
         | |x|
         +--^

Main reasons: less ground to dig up / repair afterwards, easier access for the future maintenance. In terms of temperatures, we go down to maybe -1°C on a few nights in the winter, but otherwise nothing extreme.

I suspect there's a good reason why people don't do this - why is that?

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Going deeper is only to avoid breaking the pipe then. If it is your garden (lawn) you may remember where the pipes are - and may be able to repair if they do get broken.

Apart from the depth (my pipe was deeper) I was doing this today. The pipe had a tee with an internal thread going to the side, with an elbow, a short length of pipe, then two elbows, then the popup.

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    If you do any gardening , it is surprising how often you will hit a pipe that is only 5 cm ( 2 in.) deep. – blacksmith37 May 19 at 14:36
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It depends on where you live, and how much do you use the sprinklers.

Doing on regular way is the best solution for all cases. Your solution works on some cases, but has limitations:

  • emptying lines: you will never be able to completely empty the pipes

  • frost: because of the above reason, you should never have deep frost. Think at lowest temperature in 10-15 year period.

  • deposits: dirt/rust will deposit on bottom parts, and you will have many point to check (maybe after 5 or 10 years), instead of just the termination point (or last sprinkler)

So your solution may work for your case/climate, but I would always recommend the usual way: you will not get surprises.

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Another reason for installing the pipes deeper is because it's possible to break a shallow pipe when aerating the lawn, especially if the turf is very compacted and you use deep-tine aeration.

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