Lawn sprinklers and irrigation systems are valuable investments for any property. In fact, a recent Florida State University study of nearly 30,000 home sales over a seven year period reported that homes with a properly installed sprinkler system sold for an average of 8.7% more. That’s one reason why it’s important to choose the right contractor for a sprinkler system installation project. You should be sure to select a contractor that will be a trusted advisor before, during, and after your project. Your contractor should also be concerned with customizing your sprinkler system to your property’s needs, because a one-size-fits-all solution is generally ineffective.
Price is an important consideration for any home improvement project, but it is only one of a number of criteria you must consider when selecting a contractor. With most investments like a sprinkler system, you get what you pay for. The truth is, quality work comes with a price tag, and if a contractor’s quote seems too good to be true, it probably is. A complex hydraulic machine (such as a sprinkler system) that is permanently buried underground should be installed right the first time, so it isn’t something you should scrimp on.
Your contractor should get to know you and your property. They should walk your property with you to see soil conditions, the types of planting materials, shading, slopes, prevailing winds, and any challenges to installation. They should ask about how you maintain your property, any landscape changes you may have planned, and any concerns you might have. Your contractor should investigate the water supply for your sprinkler system, specifically looking at water pressure and volume or flow rate. Special considerations must be made for well-water or non-municipally supplied systems. To ensure your contractor will do a good job installing your sprinkler system and that you get the best value out of your project, you should ask them a number of questions:
Questions About System Components
- Ask what components will be used in the system and why. Your contractor should explain, in detail, the rationale behind your proposed system.
- Ask if all system components are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved. This ensures your contractor will only install quality components.
- Ask if a master safety valve is included with the system. Should something go wrong with your sprinkler system, a safety valve will ensure your system can be serviced and that it doesn’t waste water.
- Ask if a state-of-the-art rain sensor is included with the system. This will ensure your system does not water your lawn when it is naturally watered by rainfall.
- Ask if an approved backflow-prevention device is included. Backflow preventers are an important component of any irrigation system because they ensure the potable water that flows into your home is not contaminated.
- Ask if manuals for all major components are included. Insist on these manuals because they can be invaluable for operating and repairing your system.
- Ask if name-brand components are used. Just like you shouldn’t scrimp on a contractor, your contractor shouldn’t scrimp on components just to cut costs. Three manufacturers dominate the marketplace in North America—Hunter, Rain Bird, and Toro.
- Ask if your contractor uses only factory-tested and inspected components. Your components should be tested to ensure they work well together and will last.
Questions About Follow-Up Services/Warranties
- Ask for a written manufacturer’s warranty. Name-brand manufacturers usually provide a five-year warranty for all parts. Additionally, you should ask your contractor what the repair rate will be for your sprinkler system.
- Ask if a workmanship warranty is included. Your contractor should stand behind their work, and should offer a warranty for repairs should something go wrong.
- Ask if essential first-year services are included in the proposal. Essential first-year services can include winterizing and a spring turn-on service.
- Ask if a formal demonstration/operational training on using and adjusting your system is included. Your contractor should teach you how your system works and about how to use it.
Questions About System Installation
- Ask about the damage you should expect to your lawn and garden. While it’s impossible to install an in-ground sprinkler system without disrupting your lawn and garden, the contractor you choose should work to minimize these disruptions and make you fully aware of any risks the installation carries.
- Ask about your contractor’s post-installation cleanup procedures. There’s simply no excuse for sloppy work and trash on your lawn. When your contractor finishes with your project, it should look as if they were never there.
- Ask for a formal, written contract. This contract should detail: the project start and end date; the details of each project step; who’s responsible for obtaining permits and locates, etc; any and all material requirements; the total quoted price; any inclusions and exclusions; risks, warnings, and cautions; and should provide full warranty details.
Questions About The Contractor’s Qualifications & Reputation
- Ask how long your contractor has been in the sprinkler business. When choosing a contractor, trust experience.
- Ask about your contractor’s permanent business location. Your contractor shouldn’t just be a guy with a truck, in case you need to get in contact with them later.
- Ask if your contractor has sufficient staff to complete the project on time. Don’t choose a contractor that will cause annoying delays to your project by not hiring a sufficiently large and competent team to install your system.
- Ask about your contractor’s sprinkler design and installation qualifications. Good contractors will:
- Employ someone with an Irrigation Association certification
- Be an EPA WaterSense® certified contractor
- Have current worker’s compensation coverage
- Have proof of current and sufficient (a minimum of $3 million) contractor’s liability coverage
- Offer regular and adequate team safety training
- Be in good standing with and a member of the Irrigation Association
- This means your contractor should adhere to the association’s code of ethics and contractor code of conduct.
- Ask your contractor for the names and phone numbers of recent clients. You can ask these people about their experiences with the contractor, but if a contractor is reluctant to provide this information, you should be cautious in choosing them.
Bio Green is a licensed and insured certified irrigation system contractor that employs numerous certified irrigation technicians. We are happy to help with the design and installation of your new irrigation system. Call our office in Sterling, Virginia at (703) 450-0034 or visit our website at www.biogreenva.com.