When installing an in-ground sprinkler system, you must choose between digging trenches for each length of underground pipe or using a pipe puller to slice through the ground with the pipe. Depending upon your willingness to use a shovel and restrictions of time and money, this choice may be easy. On the other hand, both methods of installing underground pipe have distinct advantages and disadvantages that should be considered if you are not sure which method to employ.
Ease of Use
The primary benefit of using a mechanized pipe puller is that the machine does all of the hard work. By pressing its blade into the ground and dragging a pipe behind it, a pipe puller completely does away with the need to dig trenches for the pipes. Not only does this lessen the amount of manual labor, it lessens the damage to your turf, which will be minimal.
Speed of Use
While the average front lawn may require up to a full day's work for four men to install pipe, a two man crew with a pipe puller can complete the job in an hour or two. Not only does this speed up the installation of the system as a whole, but it also lessens the stress on the lawn. Your lawn will recover much more quickly from the installation of your underground system.
Difficult Depth Control
It is more difficult to maintain proper depth of the pipe when using a pipe puller. Very slight ascending or descending grades in the lawn can have large effects on the pipe puller, which angles its blade higher or lower as it angles up or down. When this happens, repairing the mistake is difficult. You will have to dig up the trouble area and bypass the pipe if it is too shallow or deep.
The most important and serious drawback of using a pipe puller is that its strength allows it to cut through nearly every underground obstacle, often causing massive damage to unmarked electrical, telephone or gas lines. These lines are sometimes guarded by rubber insulation which can be detected and avoided when using a shovel, but a pipe puller offers no warning of impending damage. You may have to pay huge fines when these lines are struck and damaged.