irrigation system

I am considering having an irrigation system put in for my lawn and flower beds, either late this fall or next spring.
What should I look for in an installer? Does someone need a lot of experience and expertise to do this? Should I insist on a certain brand of materials? I am clueless about this so any advise is greatly appreciated.
Bonnie in NJ
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Bonnie Jean wrote:

Can't advise you on materials, but you need someone with experience to lay out the system and discuss it with you as to types of sprinkler heads and where they should be placed. You should have an idea of what plantings you might do in the future, so you can better place the sprinkler heads. The best bet is to ask for references and to talk with acquaintances to see who they used and how well they like the system.
Second, have a person that uses a machine that pulls the plastic pipe. It actually cuts a slit, pulls it apart, the pipe unrolls into the bottom of the slit (about 6" deep) and the slit is closed. There is essentially no lawn damage except the digging of small holes where each sprinkler head is attached. A trencher, in comparison, digs a 2-3" wide trench and leaves no lawn on those areas, plus a bunch of dirt.
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Ask around. You have some time. Check with neighbors and friends. Call for estimates.
Now, an endless list of small details, should you care to read on:
This ain't rocket surgery, but there are a lot of small fine points that can make the difference in plants making it or not.
Water pressures need to be different. The water pressure going to the plants need to be reduced, or they will just blow the little hoses off the main trunk line when the manifold kicks on and all that pressure hits at once. That is a simple thing to do. If an installer says you don't need them, pass on that installer.
The types of emitters, bubblers, sprayers, and watering terminus needs to be different for each plant. An installer that uses all one type is suspect.
The timer needs to be up to the application.
Filters may be a good idea depending on the water quality.
Placing of sprinklers in the lawn is critical.
Knowing how to place these with the least amount of digging is not something everyone knows.
There are as many different types of sprinklers for lawns as there are for plants. To someone who knows this, selection will be easy. Coverage will be correct with the lawn getting the right amount of water.
Specialty planting areas are easy to do for plants that need special watering different from the rest.
It is all Tinker-Toy easy to someone who has done it a couple of hundred times.
But for a beginner, or an inexperienced person, or just someone sloppy, it can be daunting.
Expect that you will have to change some things even after the system gets going. If you get the one system that works perfectly from the start, I'd like to hear about it.
Usually local nurseries will give you a free list of all you need if you take in a scale drawing. Ours do. It won't make any sense to you, but you will sure know if someone is charging you for too much stuff. Don't tell the bidder about your list, and see how close he figures it. One who hits it close will know what he's doing.
Listen for confidence and straight answers from a bidder. Listen for one who will tell you just how long it will take.
Lots to consider, but not hard. Go around yourself and familiarize yourself with what you can ahead of time. You can then care for the system and do basic simple repairs instead of having $50 service calls three times a month.
Steve
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Bonnie Jean wrote:

Thanks guys
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Around here there appear to be a lot of people who are in this business for a few months, then disappear. I would make sure you find someone who has been in the business a few years, at least.
My suggestion would be to find an irrigation supply store (not Home Depot, etc.) and ask them for a list of good established contractors who handle residential work (some only do farms, golf courses, etc.) and pick someone from that list.
In addition to what has already been mentioned, I would ask the installer for 1. Drains built into the system so you don't need to have it blown out each year. 2. A map showing where the lines run, in case you will be doing some digging later, or lose a head (my grass grows over some heads during the winter, and they can be hard to find in the spring, even if you know about where they are. 3. A spare control valve or two on the manifold, in case you want to add, for instance, a drip watering system later, or another zone. 4. Sufficient filtering to protect the valves and heads. 5. Some people like installing a device that injects fertilizer into the water; personally, I think that is overkill.
Bonnie Jean wrote:

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"Bonnie Jean" wrote

appreciated.
Hunter & Rain Bird are two of the most widely used systems.
Go here, type in your zip. Visit a JDL store, JDL just sells wholesale only, but they will provide you a list of professionals who install for a living. Have a few out to find their install procedures. http://www.johndeerelandscapes.com/storelocator/BullseyePro/search.asp
As George said, I would stay away from trenching. I was on a job site, and the crew was installing as George said, minimal damage was done.
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There is a Rain Bird store in the next town. I plan on going there this weekend.
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Bonnie: One detail is the system used to advance through the irrigation system watering zones. One type is an indexer which uses water pressure to move the control from the first zone to the second, then to the third, etc. The other type uses solenoids to open and close valves to each zone. I've had both, and the solenoids are by far the preferred solution. The reason is that you will at times want to run a specific zone, test a new sprinkler head installation, etc. If you use the sequential, water-powered valve control, it's more trouble to get to the right zone during your test, and then it's easy to forget that you have to cycle through all of them so that the system starts again at zone 1.
Second, if you're using solenoids, try to have the system designed so that they are all lined up, side-by-side in a single location, even if it means all of the zones originate from a central point (uses more pipe, but any problems are all in one place). (My last installation the contractor put the solenoids at the start of each zone, in the lawn, and scattered all around the property. I've got seven zones, and I no longer know where all of the solenoids are located.)
Third, consider whether you may want micro-irrigation systems in your gardens. Preplan the micro-irrigation and then make it a separate zone (or zones) in your systems.
Fourth, make sure you get a digitally programmable controller that will give you great flexibility in setting up the days and duration for each zone.
Fifth, consider the source of your water. If you're going to have a well, or use water from a lake/river, your considerations will be different than if you have to use city metered water. It may be that using city metered water will run up your utility bill quickly, so beware.
Sixth, if you are going to get your water source for irrigation from your household supply and have a water softener installed, try to get your irrigation water from a line prior to the softener. You don't need the extra expense of softening water that then is just going into your shrubbery.
Seventh, if you keep any flowers in pots, consider having a nearby micro-irrigation zone which you can tap into and put a micro-irrigation head in each of the pots. What I've done, to keep the spray contained, is install the micro-irrigation spray head (a mist-er) upside down so that it mists only into the pot, not the adjacent windows or walls.
FWIW, my last-installed system used Hunter components, all based on 3//4" diameter pipe. These are a higher quality component than you'll find at the BORGs, which in my experience have sprinkler heads suitable for 1/2" pipe. My present Hunter system is the best of several that I've had, except for the contractor's decision on where to put the solenoids.
Once you get a good system installed, you'll really appreciate it. Good luck and regards --

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