Adjusting Sprinkler Spray Pattern for Optimal Coverage

As you get your irrigation system up and running this spring, it’s important to check that your heads are providing proper coverage (i.e. adjusting your sprinkler spray pattern).

Misaligned or clogged nozzles can lead to brown spots in some areas and overwatering in others. Here are some tips from Scott Ingalls, irrigation manager at Top Choice Lawn Care in Austin, for identifying and fixing common sprinkler spray pattern issues.

adjusting irrigation head sprinkler spray pattern

What to Look for in Sprinkler Spray Patterns

When evaluating your system’s coverage, here are the key things we look for:

  1. Head-to-head coverage – The spray from one head should reach the adjacent heads within about 2 feet. This ensures even watering across the entire zone.
  2. Consistent spray distance – All the heads in a zone should be spraying roughly the same distance. If some are overshooting while others fall short, you’ll end up with wet and dry spots.
  3. Matched precipitation rates – Different types of nozzles put out water at different rates. Mixing nozzles with varying precip rates in the same zone will result in uneven watering.
  4. Proper arc adjustment – The spray pattern should be aligned with the shape of the area being watered. Avoid spraying onto hardscapes, buildings, or other non-landscaped areas.
  5. Straight vertical spray – Nozzles that are spraying at an angle, misting, or sputtering indicate a problem with the nozzle or pressure regulation that needs to be addressed.
Top Choice Lawn Care irrigation in Austin, Texas

Adjusting and Cleaning Sprinkler Nozzles

If you notice issues with the spray pattern, the first step is to try cleaning and adjusting the nozzle. Here’s how:

  1. Turn off the irrigation system and let the heads pop down.
  2. Unscrew the nozzle from the head and check for any debris clogging it. Clean out any dirt or scale buildup.
  3. If the nozzle is damaged, replace it with the same type to maintain matched precipitation rates.
  4. Screw the nozzle back on and adjust the arc and radius screws as needed to dial in the spray pattern. The arc screw controls the width of the spray, while the radius screw controls the distance.
  5. Turn the system on and observe the spray pattern. Fine-tune the adjustments as needed.

When to Consider Bigger Changes

Sometimes, nozzle adjustments aren’t enough to achieve optimal coverage. Here are some situations where more extensive modifications may be needed:

  • Pressure issues—If the nozzles are still not spraying properly after cleaning, there may be a problem with the pressure. Installing pressure-regulating heads or adjusting the system pressure may help.
  • Inadequate head placement – If you can’t achieve head-to-head coverage no matter how you adjust the nozzles, you may need to add or relocate heads to fill in the gaps.
  • Outdated nozzles – Switching to more efficient multi-stream nozzles can improve coverage while saving water. These nozzles use multiple rotating streams to provide even coverage over a range of distances.

Get Help from a Pro

Evaluating and optimizing sprinkler coverage can be tricky, especially on larger or more complex properties. If you’re not sure how to get the most out of your system, contact Top Choice Lawn Care to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed irrigation technicians.

We’ll analyze your system’s performance, make any needed adjustments, and provide recommendations for improving coverage and efficiency. Call (512) 291-7050 or contact us to book your appointment and enjoy a healthier, greener lawn all season long!

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