I realize that I'm asking a question that has a thousand variable answers,
but I'd like to get some general idea of the cost of an automatic sprinkler
system for our front lawn which is about "average" size.
Basically I'd just like to hear what some others might have paid for
installing a system.
There is no such thing as an "average" size lawn. Price for auto
sprinkers is a product of square footage and configuration... a small
lawn with many twists, turns, and separate areas can cost a lot more
than a large lawn configured in a simple box shape... a lot of cost
differential is based on the quality level of controls and sprinkler
heads. And then there is the issue of water pressure/volume. Your
best route is to get a few estimates... and ask about
Okay, let's narrow the question a bit -- Let's say it's a 2,500 square foot
lawn, 100 by 25 feet, and we want a basic sprinkler configuration.
I'm only trying to get a ballpark figure for the installation (not operation
and maintenance) of such a system. I don't want to put anyone to the trouble
of giving estimates until we know there's a realistic possibility to install
Most of all, I'd just like to hear from anyone who has recently installed
sprinklers. How much did it cost?
If you cannot work out how to measure your lawn or look at house plans or
any other means of estimating its size then you have no chance of being able
to install this system so knowing the price will not help at all.
Where do you get the idea that idly asking a nonsensical question of
strangers a world away is a substitute for thought?
The pros don't dig, they use a machine that cuts a knife slit and
simultaneoulsy buries the piping to the proper depth in a way that
leaves the soil undisturbed so that the excavation is invisable....
paying someone to dig that kind of trenching by hand will cost more,
and create a huge mess that will require many years to heal. Most of
the cost is indoors, in the control parts, the electricals and
plumbing. No one here can give you an estimate anymore than any
honest contractor will give you an estimate over the phone, they need
to see your property and discusss options. I'd not suggest DIY, there
is much to know about designing a system and in many municipalities
auto sprinkler systems require a permit and code inspection. I would
also strongly suggest taking the extended warranty and contract for
ongoing maintanence... there is lot that goes wrong with these
systems, especially vandalism when in front yards.
With that information, it is much easier to give some answers, but it is
difficult to give you accurate answers.
Start with a scale drawing, and lots of places will gather the parts you
need from it, and clue you in to any places where you can save, or are doing
Test your water pressure, and test to see if it drops when you are using the
washer, dishwasher, shower, etc, so that you can time your watering so you
don't get scalded when it kicks on.
First of all, DO NOT BUY ANYTHING BUT SCHEDULE 40 PVC. They sell lighter
stuff, but it cracks and crushes easily, and is a waste of time and money.
Buy the best of everything you can afford without going to the gold plated
Timers are another area where the price goes from here to yonder.
Good ones last a long time. Get the battery backups.
If you are on agricultural water, you might want to put in a filter so that
your little orifices do not clog up repeatedly. $50-$100
If you are going to use drip emitters or low pressure lines, you will have
to buy pressure reducers, and those are also all over the map, but you get
what you pay for on those, and the good ones last longer, and some even have
a changeable/cleanable/disposable filter on them, so you might combine two
purchases into one. If you don't put a pressure reducer, you will have more
instances of small lines just blowing off when the burst of water hits it on
start, and you have a geyser. If you aren't going to have many spouts or
emitters, you can get by with the cheapies.
Actuator valves are also priced in stages. The better ones are rebuildable,
and just last longer.
Drains are essential. A drain is a one way valve you put at the lowest
point so that after a line is through watering, the water flows out so that
it will not freeze in the line. If this is in the lawn, dig a hole 1 foot
by 3 foot deep, put weed cloth on it, and you have a French drain so the
water won't make a soggy spot on your lawn. Simple to install while the
lines are in the layout stage.
Heads, again, are all over the map. There are the huge Rainbird Maxipaws,
which I like, but only for a very large area, and then you need to be sure
you have enough pressure to run them, and be aware that you will hit the
limit on how many will run on any line. Heads can be anything from a simple
screw top bubbler to gear driven very accurate sprinklers. You get what you
pay for, but it's up to you how much overkill you want to do the job when
the choice between popups range 2x to 3x the cost on some models. The guy
who looks at your layout can probably suggest what's best.
Realize that even good water has sediment in it, and your heads can get
clogged up with good water and a filter. This particularly happens when
there is a break in the line anywhere, and on the repair, dirt gets in
there. It will then be necessary to go to all the heads downstream and take
the heads off and blow them off. For some, this will be easy, but for the
ones that are under the level of the grass, it is difficult because dirt
falls back in about as fast as you get it out. You will always have to go
around with a paper clip and pry out chips while the water is running, or
remove just the top cap so that dirt can't get back in there. This will be
a never ending chore.
Get a pressure tester gauge to help you pressure test, and install a couple
of places where you can put it in your line, so you know if your problem is
in your supply, or after it reaches your property.
Lastly, Toro, Orbit, Rainbird, and probably a couple of others make quality
goods. Some are better than others, though. If you are saving money by
DIYing with paid labor, it would be a good investment to buy quality parts
from the start.
LASTLY, when you build your manifolds, put TWO unions in them so that if a
whole actuator solenoid goes bad, it can be changed without a lot of cutting
and gluing. Make your manifolds where they are easy to access, and put them
in big boxes so you have room to work on them when you need to. Those
little ones are cute, but three years down the line, after it gets full of
sand, spiders, roots, and crud, they are a booger bear to work on, and it
usually involves digging up the entire box.
Pay attention to your zone and the freeze/thaw temperatures. Make the
system so that it can be winterized with a combination of gravity and
compressed air. It will make a HUGE difference at start up. Buy pipe
insulation, and wrap any pipes that will be subjected to freezing.
It ain't rocket surgery, but there are some things that you need to know
ahead of time that will save you time and money from having to do it more
than once. Or twice. Or three times.
Make a lot of drawings so you can go back a couple of years from now and
know where to dig to fix or scab on to this or that. Take pictures. Lay it
out on top of the ground to see if you can economize anywhere. When you
make your ditches, go buy a bundle of 2' 1x2's. Lay them crosswise
horizontal and perpendicular to the ditch, and use them for supports while
gluing to keep everything out of the dirt. It makes it more accurate, as
you can look down the row and see if your risers are sticking straight up.
LET YOUR GLUE DRY FOR A WHOLE DAY AND KEEP EVERYONE AWAY FROM IT WITH
THREATS OF DEATH OR DISMEMBERMENT. Then, just pull the stakes from their
horizontal position, and lay the pipe right down in the trench. By then,
you should have elbows, tees, risers, heads, etc, all on there, and you
shouldn't get much dirt in it.
Don't forget to install a ball 90 here and there so you can shut down the
entire system, or just parts of it to do repairs or additions.
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You do realize that usenet is an international forum, don't you? So you
could get prices in dollars, euro, pounds, yen, whatever.
Even within the US, prices can vary dramatically. If you have clear
subsoil, you will get one price; if you have rocky subsoil you will get
another. If you find someone who is not busy, you may get a deal.
Your best option, I think, would be to find some local contractors and
get estimates. The components are cheap; it is the skill and knowledge
that costs. When I had my back yard and garden done, so long ago that
the price is meaningless today, the installer put in a couple of extra
control valves, in case I wanted to add some zones. It was easy and
cheap to add the zones (a low pressure system in the flower beds that
needed no ditching), so I guess I was lucky with getting a good installer.
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