Any suggestion on sprinkler installation?

I'm planning to have a lawn sprinkler installed. Overall property size is 1/3 acre, less house and driveway.
None of my friends have had work of this sort done, so I've called several local nurseries and a lawn service I've had good success with for references. Every one of these places said their primary recommendation was the same company in this area. Interestingly enough, when calling around to businesses in the area, I had the best "vibe" from this place even before seeking references. It's also nice that this business is less than 2 miles from my home.
This is a heavy business time for this work in our area, and so it may be a couple of weeks before someone can come out to look over my property and give me an estimate. A few other businesses in the area gave me a "rough quote" over the phone. A couple of businesses even gave me the specific price they charged for other homes in my neighborhood with yards and systems of similar size to mine. I'm prepared to pay whatever cost would be reasonable to get a high quality system. (We've saved a while to get this put in, and I want to have it done right.)
What kinds of questions should I specifically ask the representative when he comes by? Apart from the overall design of the system, placement of heads, types of heads used, manufacturer and warranty, are there any other good questions to ask?
Since this company is of such excellent reputation, I'd like to rely on their expertise, but at the same time I want to go into this fully informed as to potential pitfalls.
A year or so ago I sent my yard info off to Toro to have them spec out a system if I were to do it myself. The system was so intimidating, I decided a professional install would be the way to go. Is it likely that a local company would install a system very similar to the one Toro spec'd out, or was that system overkill (to sell more Toro heads and equipment)?
I'd really like to have a sophisticated controller since the sytem is likely to be spec'd out with several zones, and there is a difference in the type of grass and amount of sun present in each zone. Any recommendations on this kind of equipment? Is there a difference in the "high end" controllers and the el cheapo versions?
My yard does have a good number of trees in certain areas. They are very mature oak and magnolia trees. I don't think there'd be any reason that sprinkler lines would need to run extremely close to these trees, but I can see the trenching cutting some of the roots that are close to the lawn surface. Is this any great cause for concern?
Tony
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wrote:

I'm no expert in this but if you have a frost depth of soil, I'd be sure to either have it below frost depth or able to withstand the frozen soil. Also, be sure to get a detailed mapping of all the heads, valves, lines so you can find them years later if necessary (I had a system installed and I got one from the installer).
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frank wrote:

Hmmm, Frost line, it is 6 feet here. Burying lines 6 feet deep? My system is not even foot deep. I winterize every fall using work shop compressor. Tony
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Tony,
I installed my system myself, but might suggest a couple of questions to ask. Are they going to use PVC pipe or vinyl hose? I think the PVC is better, it should be less prone to failure. Are they going to use rainbird sprinkler heads? I think these loose the least amount of water to evaporation; this is a big deal in a very dry climate with high water prices. Do they include plumbing in an anti-siphon device for the water supply? This is most important if you are watering up a hill as the water in the pipe will want to drain back into your drinking supply, most plumbing code requires this. Does the controller allow zones to come on and off at different times, with some zones overlapping in time? I had to use two el-cheapo controllers to get the water on the dry parts for 4 hours, while just lightly watering other places for an hour at the same time. Do the attach drains for pop-up heads? Some sprinklers pop up out of a bucket, and can hold water. I just put six inches of gravel under the bucket and left the drain open, but for a professionally installed system I would want the drains installed. Are they going to re-sod or seed the trenches they dig for the pipe? You might want to find out if they are going to leave big patches dirt in your yard. Good luck with the process, DIY sprinklers are more like a hobby than a one time thing - they take a lot of tweaking and adjusting to get just right, having a system installed would be nice.
- James B
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This website will answer everything you need to know for free. I used it when designing my sprinkler system and you can't go wrong.
http://www.irrigationtutorials.com /
-Jeff

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The suggestions to have drains installed, have anti-siphon valves, and to get a map, are good and I would second them. Ask them how to deal with freezing, if you are located where you enjoy that. I think the poly tubing is supposed to be used where freezing is a possibility, as it has some flexibility.
Before they come out, sit down and decide just what you want your yard to look like in the future. For example, if you might be installing a garden or flower beds, or altering them, you should plan your zones to accommodate that. Some plantings don't like to be wet, so you might put a drip watering zone in for them. We even put in a drip watering zone for the potted plants my wife keeps on the porch and patio. We also ran a line to the bird baths.
I have read about fixtures that can mix fertilizer into the water, but I don't know if that is worthwhile.
Tony wrote:

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See if your library has: http://www.taunton.com/store/pages/070327.asp -- it'll help you "speak the language" (and do it yourself, if you care to.
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There are a few things you should keep in mind.
Make sure you have a "vacuum breaker" that is at least a foot higher than your highest head. This will keep water from flowing back into your house.
Get a good timer that can schedule multiple spray and drip zones - you'll probably change at least one zone to drip if you have a flower garden area. Also make sure your timer can handle non-regular watering days and restrictions.
If you're in an area that gets a reasonable amount of rain, consider a rain sensor to avoid watering during a rain storm.
Head placement - every section of your spray zones must be covered by two heads. This means that if you use 15 ft heads, they can't be more than 15 feet apart. Use spray heads and not rotating heads. Spray heads are more efficient. Also, make sure the heads are all level, even on a slope.
Get a map of all piping and head locations - you'll need to dig up something down the road and knowing where your system is physically located makes life a lot easier.
If you have a whole house water softener, tap your water line before the water softener. There's no need to waste the water softener consumables on watering your yard and gardens.
Make sure you know how to drain the system. A lot of companies will do it for you, but sometimes you're watching the evening news and the weather forcast is for a heavy freeze. You need to be able to drain your system in the dark and on short notice. This is especially true if you live in an area that is prone to late spring freezes or early snows followed by indian summer.
Find out where to get replacement parts - they do break, especially if you run over a head.
Finally, don't expect a sprinkler system to cut your water bill that much, unless you habitually over water or forget to turn off the hose. They do save a lot of time, however.
Mike Ober.

was
to
miles
a
systems
he
heads,
informed
decided
likely
controllers
can
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Sorry for piggy-back on your message.
My suggestions on his request are:
- I second another newgroup member's suggestion of making sure that the system can self-drain. Mine isn't. The installer could have installed in a way that it could self-drain (the house is at the highest point of the property); but he didn't and I didn't know any better. Now, every year I must ask him to winterize the sprinkler system, and I will have to get someone to stay home waiting for him -- money and time wasted every year.
- Don't install a sprinkler system until you are sure about the future plan of your garden. I had it installed the same year when I moved to my house. I didn't have a good idea of my gardening plan at that time. Therefore, the sprinking system zoning is just not right. I encountered problem when I tried to convert a lawn area into a vegetable garden because that area happens to be in the same zone as another lawn area. I must stop watering that other lawn area in order to convert the first lawn area into a vegetable garden.
- Flower garden and vegetable garden is better to use drip irrigation system instead of overhead sprinkling system (reduce water consumption and reduce fungi diease). You need to explicitly ask for it; otherwise, the installer will install whatever is easier for him to install.
- Insist on head-to-head coverage according to Toro guide line. The "so-called" Toro-certified installer who installed mine didn't do that. The watering coverage is simply not even. Some areas in my lawn only have one sprinkler that can reach, and those areas are much drier than the rest. If I wanted to keep those areas watered enough, I would have to run that sprinkler much longer than usual, and I would have watered significantly more in other areas that the same sprinkler serves.
Hope this helps.
Jay Chan
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