With the plethora of options available, there is a dripline or drip tape for almost every occasion; but what happens when a project requires a drip line that does not exist? Perhaps it’s strict spacing requirements, odd spacings, skip spacings, or even variable emitter flow rates that are needed, there is not always a dripline that’s a perfect match to a project. When this happens, rather than settle for a less than optimal dripline, it is better to create a custom run of dripline. Custom dripline can have nearly any spacing, from an emitter every 3”, to odd spacings such as an emitter at 4”, then one at 7”, then another at 5”. Custom dripline can even have emitters of different flow rates in the same line. Suppose the start of the line is irrigating plants that only need 0.5 GPH, whereas the end of the line is irrigating plants that require 1.0 GPH; rather than pay exorbitant fees for custom manufactured dripline, it’s nearly always more economical and just as effective to custom make your own drip line. 

Custom dripline is made from ¼” or larger poly tubing and inline or barbed drippers. Inline drippers are perfect for customizing ¼” dripline, button drippers are perfect for customizing ½” or larger dripline. Because you choose the emitter spacing and flow rate, you are not limited to traditional spacings or emitter flow rates. Note, the material costs between custom dripline made in this way are not much different than purchasing pre-assembled dripline, in fact in many cases the material costs will be lower. This is balanced by the increased amount of labor hours necessary to assemble it. Assembling custom dripline isn’t a particularly arduous task, but one that cannot be skipped. If this is for a system that will be using paid labor, labor costs will have to be considered in addition to material costs.


Custom ¼” Dripline

To make custom ¼” dripline, all that is needed is ¼” poly tubing and inline barbed drippers. Unlike standard button drippers, inline drippers have a barb at both the inlet and the outlet and the emission orifice on the side. This allows them to be connected inline in a series at any spacing option desired. Note, it's acceptable to use either side of the dripper as the inlet or outlet.

The inline drippers are available in flow rates of 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 GPH. It is possible to use emitters of different flow rates in the same run, meaning you could have 10 0.5 GPH drippers and 10 1.0 GPH drippers on the same line. The ability of the ¼” tubing to handle flow still has to be accounted for, as do length limitations, but those are limitations more of the ¼” size than they are of the tubing or drippers.  

Another type of inline emitter that can be used to create custom dripline is Antelco’s inline shrubbler. The inline shrubbler is an adjustable emitter with flow rates of 0-13 GPH. 

As with the inline drippers above, the limits of ¼” tubing still have to be respected. It’s particularly important to account for that with these shrubblers as they can quickly create a heavy flow demand when used at higher adjustment settings. ¼” tubing should, as a general rule, be kept to flow rates of 30 GPH or less and lengths of 30’ or less. 

Custom ½” and Larger Dripline

When the lengths of dripline need to be longer than 30’ or deliver more than 30 GPH, a tubing size larger than ¼” will be necessary. Fortunately it’s just as easy to create custom dripline from barbed drippers and ½” or larger poly tubing as it is to create custom ¼” dripline. The method is very similar, however instead of inline drippers, button drippers are used. Like the above, the end result is a run of dripline that can feature virtually any emitter spacing and a variety of emitter flow rates on the same run.  

To create custom ½” or larger dripline, all that’s needed is ½” or larger poly tubing, a ¼” punch and barbed emitters. You simply punch a hole in the ½” or larger tubing run and then insert the barbed end of the dripper into that hole.  

One advantage in going this route is in the selection of drippers available. Not only can drippers of differing flow rates be used on the same run, but pressure compensating drippers can be used. Pressure compensating drippers are a great match to systems that have elevation changes or pressure spikes in the system. The pressure compensating feature can compensate for higher pressure to keep the drippers emitting uniformly across the system. Many dripline and drip tapes do not have pressure compensating options, this is one route to get around that.  

DrippersPoly TubingPunches
Fixed1/4"Punches and Cutters
Pressure Compensating3/4"
Inline Dripper / Inline Shrubbler1"