Lawn Sprinkler Types

Lawn Sprinkler Types (how to choose the best sprinkler)

Having a sprinkler system that fits your needs is key to having the most beautiful lawn on the block. But you don’t need an expensive in-ground system to water your lawn effectively. In this article, I’ll introduce you to 7 different lawn sprinkler types and explain how to choose the best type of sprinkler for your lawn. Learn the pros and cons of each type of sprinkler so you make the best choice and save some money when shopping for a lawn sprinkler.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

7 Popular Lawn Sprinkler Types

Let’s get right into the 7 most popular types of lawn sprinklers you may encounter when shopping for lawn irrigation.

Below I’ll introduce you to:

  • Oscillating Sprinklers,
  • Stationary Sprinklers,
  • Pulsating Sprinklers,
  • Impact Sprinklers,
  • In-Ground Sprinklers,
  • Sprinkler Hoses, and
  • Traveling Sprinklers.

Each type of sprinkler does some things well and some things less well, so I’ll share the pros and cons of each type of lawn sprinkler to help you choose the best option for your yard.

Let’s get started!

Oscillating Sprinkler

An oscillating sprinkler involves a metal or plastic tube that moves back in forth, sort of like a metronome.

Oscillating Sprinkler

Generally speaking, higher priced oscillating sprinklers are higher quality. That’s because you usually get greater ability to adjust the spray pattern with more expensive models. Oscillating sprinkler models generally have a cost of between $10 and $30.

The oscillating sprinkler is one of the lawn sprinkler types that most of us think of when we think of a “sprinkler.” Oscillating sprinklers feature a long tube with numerous sprinkler holes. Water sprays from the holes once enough pressure has built up. It’s the force of the water that causes the tube to move back and forth.


Oscillating sprinklers are very effective at watering rectangular areas of grass, such as conventional lawns.

Depending on the model, they can water up to about 4,000 square feet.

This type of sprinkler often works well with both low and high levels of water pressure.


An oscillating sprinkler won’t be appropriate for watering irregularly shaped, rounded, or curved lawn areas. This is because a lot of the water won’t hit the right areas.

If you have a less expensive model of oscillating sprinkler, you will probably end up with puddles. Some oscillating sprinklers are unable to work well with low water pressure.

Conversely, if the water pressure is excessively high, you might find that the sprinkler reaches too far. They’re effective sprinklers, but don’t offer as much control as other types.

What to look for in an oscillating sprinkler:

You should look for a minimum of 15 jets in order to ensure even coverage.

To cut down on puddling, it’s best to find a model that moves back and forth rapidly.

It’s best if there is a metal filter within the hose connector, as this will help to make clogging less likely.

Stationary Sprinkler

If you only need to water a small lawn or area of grass, then a stationary sprinkler (sometimes called a spot sprinkler) may be one of the more suitable lawn sprinkler types.

Stationary Sprinkler
This Nelson Eight-Pattern Stationary Sprinkler is available on Amazon

When you have a stationary sprinkler, you usually need to use just one pre-set pattern. This can be either square, rectangular, or circular.


The pros of stationary sprinklers are the fact that they’re inexpensive and they’re unlikely to break, as they don’t have any moving parts. Stationary sprinklers are also able to perform well under low water pressure.


Some of the drawbacks of stationary sprinklers are the fact that they’re only able to water in a single pattern and they cannot be used in large areas.

Also, if you leave them in one place, then you’ll end up with puddles.

What to look for in a stationary sprinkler:

When shopping for a stationary sprinkler, it’s best to choose a model that has a metal filter within the hose connector. This will help to prevent clogging.

A metal frame is also best. It will be more durable than a plastic one.

It’s great to have multiple spray turrets that can create a number of different watering patterns, but this can only be found in quite expensive models.

Pulsating Sprinkler

A pulsating or rotating sprinkler has a rotating head that allows for water to be projected in a pulsating jet. This allows the sprinkler to cover an area that is circular in shape. It can also cover a part of such an area.

Rotating Sprinkler or Pulsating Sprinkler

Less expensive types of pulsating sprinkler generally comprise a sprinkler head set atop a metal spike. Personally, I own this Melnor Model that I bought on Amazon, and thanks to its telescoping head I can raise the height of it and water a huge area gently and evenly. I use it when re-seeding and over-seeding sections of my lawn.

This is another one of the most common lawn sprinkler types that might come to mind when you think of a sprinkler system.


Pulsating sprinklers can water quite an extensive area and can cover almost 10,000 square feet in area when supplied with water at high pressure.

They are an excellent choice when you’re watering a space that is curved or rounded, or even other types of irregularly shaped spaces.

A pulsating sprinkler can be set to water an area of any size when it has a circular shape. Pulsating sprinklers are known for watering in a gentle and beneficially slow manner, so it’s rare for them to cause puddles.


There aren’t many drawbacks to using a pulsating sprinkler, unless you’re using it at the wrong time of day. In the heat of mid-day you’ll lose a lot of water to evaporation with this type of sprinkler, so make sure you water in mid-morning if you choose this variety.

What to look for in a pulsating sprinkler

Try to choose a pulsating sprinkler with non-corroding metal parts over plastic.

While it may be tempting to go for a cheap, plastic pulsating sprinkler head I don’t recommend it as these often don’t last for more than a season since they can take abuse from a high-pressure stream of water.

Impact Sprinkler

If you’ve ever seen (or heard) a sprinkler that makes sort of a clicking sound, it was probably an impact sprinkler.

Impact Sprinkler

This sound is made by the system’s impact hammer hitting back on a fixed plate. Impact sprinklers were first produced by the RainBird company.

After the hammer is pushed out of the way, water bursts in a jet, and this sprays across your grass. You can set an impact sprinkler to either do a partial or full circle, and you’ll find impact sprinklers in both stationary and fixed varieties. You will often find this kind of sprinkler in parks and other settings with large areas of grass.


Impact sprinklers tend to work well for large areas of grass, which is why they’re often used in public parks to keep grass green.


You’ll have difficulty using an impact sprinkler if you have low water pressure.

Impact sprinklers also create a much more forceful spray of water than other kinds of sprinkler might, and this can be a problem if your lawn has recently been seeded. You’ll only want to use this type of lawn sprinkler on established lawns.

In-Ground Sprinkler

In-ground sprinkler systems are a viable option for people who are living somewhere they plan to stay for a very long time.

In-Ground Sprinkler

The heads are buried in the ground and pop up when watering is to take place. In-ground sprinklers can be a component of a standalone mode to which you have to attach a hose or a full irrigation system. For this reason, they can also be one of the most expensive lawn sprinkler types, however they make irrigation extremely convenient.


An advantage of in-ground sprinklers is how useful they are in an irrigation system. They’re also convenient for people who plan to remain where they live permanently or at least for the long term.


A significant con of in-ground sprinklers is that it’s extremely difficult to move them. A result of this is that you will probably need several zones, and you’ll want to be sure your coverage is right during initial set up.

If you’re using them as part of an irrigation system, they can be an excellent option. They’re also viable if you’re watering a smaller area and hope to conserve water.

Sprinkler Hose

The sprinkler hose isn’t a sprinkler per-se, but it can be used as one in some ways. That’s because sprinkler hoses are designed in a way such that if you make sure the striped side is pointed upward, it can function as a low sprinkler.

Sprinkler Hose
This Watex Sprinkler Hose is available on Amazon

Keep in mind that it will function as a soaker hose if you point the hose downward.

A sprinkler hose can be used if you want to water a long garden bed, as long as you’re only using it temporarily.

If you have a roadway or a high-traffic path area that you’re re-seeding with grass, this can be a great gentle way of watering that area as your seedlings germinate and establish themselves.

If you need something more permanent, you’re better off getting an alternative, such as an in-ground irrigation system.

Traveling Sprinkler

Also called travelers, traveling sprinklers have recently been gaining popularity in the lawn and garden equipment market.

Traveling Sprinkler
The Orbit 58322 Traveling Sprinkler has great reviews on Amazon

The sprinkler is able to move as a result of water pressure. The way you place your garden hose will guide the sprinkler. It rides along it. The way a traveling sprinkler acts is a bit like a rotary sprinkler. It’s able to water longer stretches of grass than a rotary can, though.

Higher water pressure is necessary to operate a traveling sprinkler.


Traveling sprinklers are an innovative solution for large spaces. They’re beloved by kids, and will get the neighbors talking about how cool you are.


If you have a small lawn, it’s completely unnecessary to get a traveling sprinkler. Traveling sprinklers are best for large spaces.

Also, if you have pets, then this kind of sprinkler might alarm them, or they might attack it and derail your sprinkler, rendering it useless.

Tips for Effective Watering With Any of these Lawn Sprinkler Types

The type of sprinkler you choose will, of course, impact how you plan to effectively water your lawn on a regular basis.

Let’s go over some general tips below for how to keep your lawn appropriately watered:

Types of Lawn Sprinklers
  • Make sure that you don’t overwater. Overwatering can lead to a number of different problems with the health of your lawn.
  • Be aware of the type of soil that you have. Soil type has a significant effect on how much water is necessary. If you have sandy soil, it will require short but frequent watering sessions. Clay soil, on the other hand, needs less watering than sandy types. However, you should have longer watering sessions when you do water. If you have loam soil, you should water for longer periods of time than you do with sandy soil, but shorter than you do with clay.
  • Choosing to water intermittently over several hours helps ensure better root penetration.
  • It’s best water early in the morning. This is important because it will mean that the water won’t evaporate as quickly as it would if you watered during the afternoon, when it might be hot outside.
  • Be aware that you can set an irrigation system to water a specific number of zones. Creating a setting like this will help ensure more even and precise water distribution. In order to do this, you’ll have to get an irrigation system that allows you to control how many zones your lawn has.

Choosing the Best Sprinkler for Your Lawn

As you’ve learned here, there are many different kinds of sprinklers and the one that will be most appropriate for your needs depends a great deal on the size and shape of your lawn.

Choosing the Best Type of Lawn Sprinkler for Your Yard

When shopping for sprinklers, remember to do research on product specifications and read reviews from people who have bought the product. Always look for verified reviews, and be cautious of local hardware stores who import reviews from the brand itself. Some brands will only display positive reviews, and this can mis-characterize the performance of the sprinkler.

I hope that this guide to lawn sprinkler types has been helpful, and that it will set you up for success in purchasing the right sprinkler — one that will see you through many seasons of successful lawn care.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.



Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

4 thoughts on “Lawn Sprinkler Types (how to choose the best sprinkler)

  1. Richard Levada

    The contractor said my system will have 4 zones, 16 heads for my lawn. 12 heads are already used to cover the lawn. I have an area about 10ft wide x 65ft long that is next to my driveway, anything over 10ft will go onto the driveway. Which sprinkler head would you suggest to use for this area?

    • Hey, Richard!

      Admittedly I’m an irrigation hobbyist, not a pro, so I’d probably defer to what your local irrigation pro recommends. That said, if you’re looking to add coverage to a long 10ft deep run alongside your driveway I’d probably go with a series of half-pattern sprinklers on a run installed next to your driveway to spray toward your lawn. This way you’re not watering your driveway and you can select sprinkler heads that are adjustable and set them to the correct depth to offer complete coverage of your 10 foot deep section of lawn along your drive. Personally I use Rain Bird products in my system.

      Hope this helps!

  2. William Tomaselli

    In the northern cold regions, the inground systems can (and do) freeze and crack the plastic lines. On average I’ll replace 3 to 4 heads each year. I do my own “air pressure bleed” every Fall season but still will have residual water to freeze and crack the heads and connectors. In-ground can be, and is, high maintenance.

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