Monday, October 30, 2006

DIY madness Part I : I Fuck Up A Drip Irrigation Controller So You Don't Have To

Did you ever think to yourself :
"Self. I sure would like to go down to HomeDepot, buy a bunch of stuff and then come home and turn all that stuff into a really slick home improvement project."
Only to have your DIY dreams thwarted by your better judgment and or wife who pointed out that the combination of you, HomeDepot, and anything more complicated than a light bulb is a well document recipe for disaster?

Did this leave you wishing that :
"Some other fool would go to HomeDepot, buy a bunch of stuff to create a realy slick home improvment project, totaly fuck the whole thing up, but just keep on trying until he finaly got it right." ?
How cool would it be if that fool blogged about the whole sorted affair complete with parts lists and pictures?

That would be pretty damned cool. Right? Then you could tell your better judgment/wife that some fool with a blog layed all the do's and don't out for you, documented all the pitfalls, and posted detailed pictures and diagrams of the whole project.

Well it's time to head for HomeDepot faithfull readers, because today I am that fool!

We put in a lot of plants over the summer. Banana trees, palm trees, cacti, flowers, herbs... hell we even have a coconut tree. All of this stuff needs to be watered, but at different intervals and for different lengths of time. I decided a drip irrigation system was in order.

I went to HomeDepot.

HomeDepot did not disappoint. They had bins and bins and bins of drip irrigation goodies made by a company named Dig. All I had to do was rummage through the bins, find all the parts I needed, put them all together, and Presto! My watering problems were solved!

Except not so much really, because what is the point of an irrigation system if you have to remember to turn it on and off yourself?

Exactly "zero".

Back to HomeDepot.

I found what looked like the perfect solution. Orbit made a nifty little timer with multiple valves that you could attach directly to your backyard faucet. I bought the timer kit with 2 valves and a 4 way splitter for my faucet and then I had to buy a pack of two more valves because I needed three.

Since it didn't seem right to go the HomeDepot and only visit one isle, I went to the plumbing department and bought a T junction and a 3/4" mpt (that's Male Pipe Thread for all you HomeDepot n00b5) to 3/4" mht (Male Hose Thread you n00b!)converter and some Teflon tape for good measure.

I went home, turned off the water, took the old faucet off the side of the house, and attached the T junction to the water pipe. The I re-attached the faucet to the T junction and used the 3/4" mpt to mht converter to attach the 4 way splitter that came with my watering controller to the other outlet on the T junction. I hooked the controller valves up to the 4 way splitter, hooked my irrigation lines to the valves and plugged in the battery operated timer.

It was a thing of beauty:
or not, but since it was going to solve all my watering issues I was willing to let the aesthetics slide.

Next I sat down to read the programming instructions for my new irrigation control system. 15 minutes later I realize I am fucked. My perfect solution can only be programmed to water everything on the same day. I need to water my Banana trees every 3 days, my palms and cactii every 7 days and my herbs and flowers every other day. I need three programs, I have one. I am fucked. Fucked fucked fucked fucked fucked fucked fucked.

In my defense, Orbit packages all their stuff in sealed, hard plastic packaging so that you can't read the instruction's before you buy. Because of this incidents, I never go to HomeDepot without one of these. It's great for opening overly packaged merchandise in the store so that you can read the instructions before you buy. Plus it also works well to keep the HomeDepot employees at bay when they complain about you cutting open their merchandise. You could also look stuff up online and read the directions there befor you buy. Personaly I don't do this because I enjoy threatening the HomeDepot employees with sharp pointy objects.

So its back to HomeDepot. This time with pen and paper. I spend 2 hours in the sprinkler system isle and come to the following conclusions:

  1. I need a professional grade sprinkler controller that will support 3 stations (valves) and three programs. HomeDepot has one I like for $41.99

  2. I will need to buy the controller valves separately. HomeDepot has some I like for $12.87 each.

  3. I will need to make a controller manifold out of schedule 40 PVC pipe to connect my values to the water source (i.e. my back yard faucet).

  4. All this stuff will need to be buried underground but in a way where I can still get to all the parts should I need to work on something.

I sit down in the sprinkler isle and I draw up a plan. Behold my mad planning sk11z!
I walk out of HomeDepot with:

  • 3 RainBird 3/4" inline sprinkler controller valves

  • 2 Five foot sections of 3/4" schedule 40 pvc pipe

  • 1 manual cut off valve

  • 1 Eight oz HandiPak of Purple Primer and Clear Pipe Epoxy

  • 3 Dig drip irrigation filters

  • 3 Three quarter inch mpt to 3/4" mht converters

  • 1 Three quarter inch junction - basicaly a treaded joint to attach the manifold to the pipe running from the faucet so that don't have to glue the above ground and below ground stuff together.
  • handfuls of 3/4" schedule 40 pvc pile tees, elbows, and mpt adapters

  • 1 Three quarter inch end cap - to drain the system before a freeze.
  • 1 12" X 17" underground valve box to put everything in.

  • Sandpaper and Teflon pipe thread tape

Back home on the back porch I connect the controller valves to the filters with the 3/4" mpt to mht converters (be sure to use some Teflon tape here) and lay all the parts out so it looks just like the picture I drew earlier.
I measure and cut some pieces of pvc pipe to connect everything togather and then I am ready to start gluing.

First I read the instructions :
Sounds simple enough.

I open the Purple Primer and, being very careful not to drip any on my porch, immediately drip two drops of Purple Primer onto the porch.

Crap. It's purple and it stains!
I am such an idiot!

I go to the garage and get some cardboard to use as a work surface. Since I am being careful now I take the time to trace the outline of the control valve box I bought onto the piece of cardboard so that I can be sure everything is going to fit.

I glue everything together and it looks great!
I spend a few minutes floating in the euphoria of a job well done. When all the epoxy fumes I have inhaled wear off I try putting the controle valve box over the whole assembly.

Due to the great care I took in planning and assembling, everything just barely does not fit...


I'll be at HomeDepot if anyone needs me.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right about these projects going in wrong direction. The good news is Home Depot takes things back for refund and I always take things that I do not need back for refund. Other stores give me hard time.

Meanwhile, make sure you check with a qualified landscaper to find out if the battery in your box goes out, will the FUCKING valve close or remains open while you are in Cancun drinking 99 cents drinks. It happens all the time.

I am in the middle of a huge project at home and need about 30 valves installed. So wish me luck.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Cornywebb said...

You're awesome! I'm going through the same thing right now ... First House, first irrigation system, first manifold ... still in the planning and you're really helping me out here.
Problems you've helped me avoid:
1. What if I need to tak it apart?
2. Box size (grrr. gotta build one so it's off to HD ... again
3. plan, layout, play, layout
4. gloves and protection against purple primer
5. proper usage of the 'F' word

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Cornywebb said...

I forgot:
6. Self-Deprecation
7. Accurate Records
8. Lots of pictures
9. humble attitude when I have to start over

12:06 PM  
Blogger zuanine said...

Well its been 5 years since this blog of yours, and believe me when I say its the most interesting one I've seen for today...I haven't giggled this much in a long time, you just made my day!! Its been very helpful,my husband is one of those guys that does everything for every one except for me-so I've decided I'm going to do it my self... Thank you again

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Jim C said...

I appreciate your drawings and pictures with the commentary. I have the same thought as you, why not go the HD store and buy a bunch of parts and pipe and put them together for a drip irrigation project. It is nice to see that others are as crazy as me.

8:12 AM  

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