Questions to Ask Your Irrigation Contractor
There are plenty of questions to ask your irrigation contractor before making a purchase. In our Interview with an Expert series, we talk to Ron Robbins about irrigation systems.
Fleet, Building & Grounds Manager. Before that, I served as the Landscape Supervisor here at Tomlinson Bomberger for a number of years.
How long have you been in the industry?
I’ve been in the Green Industry over 20 years.
When did you first become interested in irrigation?
I started working on irrigation systems at the age of 16. I had a summer job for a landscaper at that time working on irrigation installations, and I thought it was pretty cool.
How long have you been working on these systems?
Over the course of my working career, I’ve probably got about 15 years working specifically with irrigation systems.
What factors make a significant difference in the cost of installing an irrigation system?
The materials the installer is using make a difference. For example, PVC is more expensive than poly piping, but it lasts longer.
Other factors include whether it’s a new home or an existing home. It’s easier to install a system on a property that doesn’t have established turf.
Depth of the install is also important due to the freezing of the soil in the winter and turf maintenance requirements, like core aeration. You want it deep enough that it wouldn’t be damaged by aerating the lawn, which is important to turf health.
What are questions that consumers who are considering an irrigation system should ask?
What is the benefit to me, the homeowner? If you plant annuals each year or are fussy about your turf, an irrigation system might be a good idea.
I would also ask the contractor several other questions: What products are you using? What materials are you using? Are you trenching or pulling the pipe (trenching generally avoids cracked pipes in our area)? How deep are you burying main lines? Are you sure my water pressure is sufficient for a system, or do I need a booster pump? Are you installing off the main water line from my house for the irrigation? What is the installation code for my municipality? Does my municipality require a permit? Are you going to pull that permit, or am I responsible for it?
The answers to these questions might play a factor in the contractor you select to work with.
What other features should consumers ask their contractor about?
Wireless capabilities! Can I use my smartphone (an app) to control the system? This is a pretty new feature that lots of our clients like.
How efficient is the system? How many gallons/minute is each zone putting down? This helps you calculate how much water you’re using so you’re not surprised by your water bill. This also helps you recognize if you have a breakage in a line, because your bill would spike. (For tips on reducing water usage on your landscape, see this article about efficient irrigation system considerations.)
Is it a smart system? Does have a rain sensor, so my irrigation doesn’t run in the rain? Obviously you don’t want to pay for water you don’t need to use, plus too much water can cause turf diseases.
What makes installing and maintaining an irrigation system fun?
Working with clients that have children! Teaching a client how to use their system to turn on system to use a sprinkler to play in during the heat of the summer is always fun!
Also, clients that want to learn about the system and how to use it most effectively are enjoyable. Teaching a client what the benefits are from their irrigation system is always great. Partnering with clients who are invested enough in their property to install an irrigation system is always a highlight.
Troubleshooting to suit a client’s needs is nice, too. For example, we had a client with a very small lawn, about 400 square feet in total. He wanted to have a nice looking lawn, but didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on the plumbing for a full system. I was able to put together a system that is retrofitted to his hose bib on the house! This accomplished his watering needs, and runs off a battery-powered timer. That type of challenge is super fun!
Basically, working with clients to achieve their goals is the most rewarding part.
What makes it a headache?
The biggest headache is trying to explain problems with an existing irrigation system to a client.
Occasionally, we get called in to troubleshoot problems that a client is having with a system that might have been installed several years ago by a different contractor. When those situations arise, and require a decent amount of repair, the client is understandably frustrated.
What should a consumer budget to maintain their system in subsequent years?
A common misconception is that once an irrigation system is installed, it’s kind of “set it and forget it.” Nothing could be further from the truth!
Generally, there will be costs associated with opening the system at the beginning of each growing season, “winterizing” (blowing out any excess water to avoid pipes bursting) the system in the fall before freezing temperatures hit to avoid breaks in the line, and adjustments that need to happen during the season.
All in all, I would recommend that a client budget around $500 annually to have the system opened and closed each season, plus minor maintenance and repair.
Any final thoughts?
Our goal is to make sure the property looks like we were never there when we’re done. If we can get the job done properly, and restore the property to it’s condition before we arrived, that’s a job well done.
If you have questions about installing an irrigation system on your property, we’d be happy to speak with you! Please Contact Us for more information.