How To Turn Off Individual Sprinkler Heads

Turning off individual sprinkler heads instead of the whole system is a super useful way of adjusting the saturation of a given area to suit different seasons, weather conditions, and needs. There are two ways to do this: screw-turning off the sprinkler heads, or capping them. 

Screw-turning off sprinkler heads keeps them accessible and is more of a temporary change. Capping sprinkler heads, however, buries them underground and is much more permanent.

To learn how to turn off individual sprinkler heads using either method, follow our step-by-step tutorials below. For all other information, or if you have more questions for us, please direct your attention to our FAQ section at the end of this article.

How to turn off individual sprinkler heads (above ground – temporary)

metal keys
  1. Some sprinkler systems come with specific plastic or metal keys to allow you to adjust the flow of (or turn off) individual sprinkler heads. Others require the use of a flathead screwdriver. Gather the relevant tool for your sprinkler system.
  2. Ensure that the sprinkler system is turned off at the mains valve so that you don’t get soaked during this process!
  3. Locate the individual sprinkler head(s) you wish to turn off and locate the adjustment keyhole/notch on top the of the head
  4. Using your key or screwdriver, insert it into the keyhole or groove, and twist counter-clockwise until you cannot twist any further
    1. Note: Some sprinkler makes, such as the I-20, require you to turn the key clockwise to turn the sprinkler head off, so you may need to repeat this process from steps 1-4 if counter-clockwise doesn’t work
  5. Turn your sprinkler system back on to test if you have successfully turned off the individual sprinkler head(s)
  6. Repeat as necessary for any remaining sprinkler heads you need turned off

How to cap individual sprinkler heads (below ground – permanent)

  1. Ensure you have purchased the right size and number of sprinkler head caps to cap the individual sprinkler heads you wish to turn off.
  2. Ensure that the sprinkler system is turned off at the mains valve so that you don’t get soaked during this process!
  3. Locate the sprinkler heads you wish to cap and dig the earth around them until you reach the base of each sprinkler head
  4. Twist the whole sprinkler head piece counter-clockwise until it comes free and put it to one side
  5. Onto the exposed pipe of the sprinkler system, twist your sprinkler head cap on clockwise by hand until tight, then use a set of pliers to ensure it is secured as tightly as possible
  6. Finally, cover the whole system back-up by filling the holes you’ve dug back in with earth

And that’s how you either temporarily turn off individual sprinkler heads, or cap them for good. If you have any further questions, or need more information on the subject, check out our FAQs below.


What’s the difference between capping and turning off sprinkler heads?

When looking to control the flow of your home or work garden sprinkler system, sometimes it’s necessary to turn off one or more individual sprinkler heads at a time. There are two options for doing so, as we’ve discussed above. You can either cap the sprinkler head at the base pipe, or simply turn the sprinkler off.

The difference is that one option (turning the head off) leaves the head of the sprinkler above ground and still accessible, whereas the other option (capping the head) results in burying the sprinkler head below ground and effectively rendering that part of the sprinkler system inaccessible and thus obsolete.

Choosing which method is right for you depends entirely on what your motivation is for turning off the individual sprinkler head. If you want to permanently disable the sprinkler head for whatever reason, without completely removing the underground piping and whole sprinkler system, then you need to cap the sprinkler head. 

On the other hand, if you just want to temporarily disable the sprinkler head (perhaps to stop a certain area from becoming overwatered) then your best option is to just turn the head off.

Can you turn a sprinkler head back on after you’ve turned it off?

If you turn a sprinkler head off by using a screwdriver or specific key for that sprinkler head (like that for the I-20), then yes! You can turn your sprinkler head(s) back on at any time, simply by repeating the process described above, except in reverse.

However, on the other hand, if you cap a sprinkler head below ground, it will be much more difficult for you to turn that head back on. It’s not impossible, of course, provided you can relocate the sprinkler head you’ve buried, but it will require digging the cap back up and reinstalling the sprinkler head.

Why would I want to turn off individual sprinkler heads?

There are myriad reasons why you might want or need to turn off individual sprinkler heads. 

Sometimes, for example, building works or garden renovations require a sprinkler head to be built over or covered with concrete. For this to happen, the sprinkler head first has to be capped. 

Alternatively, your garden might be receiving unequal amounts of sunlight, meaning that one part of it requires greater saturation with water than another. In this situation, it may behoove you to turn off the sprinkler head(s) located in the shadier, and thus damper area, to avoid that area becoming overwatered.

Whatever your reasoning, turning off individual sprinkler heads allows you to address certain issues without removing or shutting off an entire sprinkler system. And, luckily for you, we’re here to help. To learn how to turn off individual sprinkler heads, just follow our tutorials above.

Where can I purchase sprinkler head caps?

If you need to cap your sprinkler head(s), then you’ll need to first purchase the right size caps. It’s worth working out what the size (diameter) of your sprinkler head piping is, or indeed what the make of the sprinkler system is.

Once you’ve ascertained this information, you can head to your local hardware store, or a big hardware chain such as Home Depot (in the USA) or B&Q (in the UK).

There, you can speak to an assistant and ask them to help you find the right sized (female) cap for your piping/sprinkler system.