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
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.
Ask around. You have some time. Check with neighbors and friends. Call
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
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
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
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
1. Drains built into the system so you don't need to have it blown out
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:
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.
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.
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
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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