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May 06, 2010


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There is nothing like a beautiful lawn when you drive pass a house.
There is nothing like pushing a button to water the lawn.
I have an irrigation system put in 20 years ago and it still works everytime I push the button. I saved money on the system by not having the shrubs irrigated. Shrubs don't need as much water as grass does and you can always drag the hose around every month or so to water the shrubs.

It's no big deal to install your own sprinkler system if you are any kind of a "handy" person. I am an engineer and have always done everything that I possibly can myself - it saves lots of money over a lifetime. I installed a 6 station system back in 1977 and it's still running fine. It does involve things like crawling under your house or in your roof to run electric wires from wherever you have your timing unit (mine is in the garage) out to wherever you have the solenoid valves (close to the house) controlling your sprinklers. There's also quite a big of digging involved to lay the PVC pipes and you also have to draw up a plan and design a system that will do what you need it to do. If you know next to nothing then you would need to get a book that explains how to design and install a sprinkler system. Before you design your sprinkler system you must design your garden plan so that you know exactly what is needed and where.
Other issues might be that if you have a water softener that provides soft water throughout your home you need to ensure that you are not tapping in to it for watering your grass and plants. There's also the issue of "water pressure", it's always best to take your water directly from where the main water pipe enters your home, that way you have the full pressure available. Another tip is to keep your sprinklers out of the lawn itself, it prevents conflicts with lawnmowers.

Bottom line - if you do everything yourself you could install a 6 station system including pipes, control unit, solenoid valves, sprinklers for less than $500. The costs you are being quoted are primarily for labor. In Waco, Texas I would think that you could get it done for about $2K if you shop around. Many small gardening services also install sprinklers. A good brand of sprinklers, valves and control units is Orbitz.

I had a similar size lot (80x100) in NY and paid approx. $1700 for a 4 zone system. this was in 2004. that seems a little high. i would think it should be in the range of $1500-$2500 at most.

you state there are addl rules in TX which may include permits, site visits, etc. I live in CT now and i paid $4500 for a 9 zone system on a .75 acre coverage. we had to get town approval mostly to make sure no cross contamination between the well/septic.

good luck.

I'd get a 3rd estimate. This is >$3000 you're looking at spending so I wouldn't be in any big rush.

The figures you find on the interest are only rough guidelines. There may be various reasons why your system may cost more or less. The rules/regulations in your area may be reason its higher than you'd think. $3500 doesn't seem out of the range. cites $2500 to $3500 for a typical front & back yard. Our front yard sprinkler cost around $2000-$2500 and its not too big and was a simple installation added to our landscaping project.

Whether or not its a "good investment" is a tougher question. It will improve the value of the house but you won't get the full investment back in equity. I'd guess 50-75% value improvement. So if you spend $3500 your home value may go up $1750 to $2625. How much it will save you on water depends on how you use the automatic sprinkler versus manual. You can waste a lot of water with an automatic sprinkler if not used properly.

I would seriously look into doing it yourself. You could do it in stages as you had time. There have been some great advancements in systems. Many now can use flexible hosing instead of piping. And you don't have to bury it below the frost line either.

Check out this episode of "This Old House",,20288565,00.html

@jim's estimation of getting a 50% to 75% return on investment seems to high. Probably 40% to 50%. Of course, what that means is that you will lose an estimated 50% of the money spent on a professionally installed system. So it hardly seems like a good deal. The return on investment could very well be worse -- with Texas rapidly running out of water and gaining population it is likely that there will be much higher water costs or greater lawn sprinkling restrictions in a decade. Such events would render a sprinkling system worthless.

The only question that matters is it worth it to you to save work and have a pretty lawn. Personally, I don't care about a lawn. It is horribly destructive to the environment to maintain a perfect lawn. It boggles my mind that people spend so much effort to make their lawns perfect. But at least I understand watering in Texas--without water you would have a dirt lawn. But here in Michigan people spend $3k+ on in-ground lawn sprinkling systems, and we get rain all the time.

im with you michael, watering a lawn to me really is a waste, especially when i see my neighbors doing it at high noon with the sun at its strongest! and then we get water shortages and everyone asks why. its because my neighbor has a beautiful green lawn at the expense of all of us.

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As you noted, if you are going to water your yard, a sprinkler system can help in controlling the amount of water needed to adequately water the yard (versus just using a hose and sprinkler.

Based on today's prices, the estimate of $3500 could be very reasonable, but it also depends on the equipment and plan. Make sure you are getting a decent brand like Hunter, rainbird, etc. Most installations will also mix the brands depending on the application. My controller is a Hunter and I have Hunter PGP's. However, my pop-ups are rainbird. Cheaper brands can lower the price, but I have had systems like that and had to continually replace items.

Make sure they show you a plan of the lawn that shows that you will have proper coverage. The spray patterns should overlap and not just meet.

Get one more bid just to confirm the price and go with the company that provides the equipment and service that you like. Make sure to also ask for references.

We live in Houston, TX and were quoted $1000 for a front and back yard sprinkler system with 3 heads in each area.

Now, I will tell you, I did not ask about the immigration status of the guys that gave us the quote since they live next door and I'd thought it would be a bad neighborly idea...but I'm guessing they could quote lower for a reason.

We ended up politely declining since a sprinkler head for two hoses and two hoses only cost $30 total...I have one place in the front yard and one place in the backyard for each sprinkler that reaches almost everything. I turn those on for one hour once a week (Saturday morning) from mid-May to mid-August and put them away the rest of the year.

Our yard stays green and looks fine...that's good enough for me (I'll post a pic on my blog with a Fit in a Fun Friday post on gardening on 5/21...). Honestly, I'd have a rock garden like they do in Las Vegas if it would blend in with the neighborhood.

Make sure you have TWO water meters installed before hooking up a sprinkler system. If you just use a single water/sewer meter to supply your sprinklers, you will pay both water and sewer charges. In our area, having a separate meter for just irrigation will prevent you paying additional sewer fees, since the water you use on your lawn is not treated at a plant.

When hiring someone to do a service, you want to make sure they're licensed, bonded and legal citizens. That all costs money. I would say the price you got seems reasonable. Services always cost more than people think they will, but it pays for itself not only in money, but time and stress and convenience. Hot water might not be the first thing you want to spend $1500- $2500 on, but when you want a hot shower you don't want to boil water on the stove and take a bath. The sprinkler system is kind of like that. I'd do it at that price as long as the guy was licensed; especially since you have good vibes from him.

There are a lot of variables in the layout and design of an Irrigation system.

If dong it yourself - prepare yourself on doing a lot of reading. You need to know the size of the pipe that is supplying the house, the water pressure, whether there are any pressure regulators installed. In laying out the system and stations - need to know the amount in gpm that the station can handle, given the chosen sprinklers. The gpm of each sprinkler and its coverage and provide for an overlap. You want to maintain a minimum pressure with the station running. As to spacing of the sprinklers you need to take into account the windspeed that is anticipated when the program is running.

Determine the size of the mainlines and sidelines and the amount of pressure lost in the length, for each elbow used and so on.

I have built several Wholesale Nurseries, each with a well and have self designed all so that the greenhouses receive appropriate coverage and not too much water while maintaining pressure. And this is not taking into account the Field Irrigation.

I have also done several of my own yards and each have taken a lot of tweaking. I first laid out the system above ground to do my testing and to be able to cut pipe and then to adjust.

In all cases I used readily available parts, valves, sprinkler heads and so on.

If you are confident as a DIY, then go for it. Just be prepared for a lot of tweaking.

my $.02

A few more things:

Make sure you get a rain sensor (they should throw this in). No sense in running the system if you have received adequate rain. Have them give you the little tool to adjust the heads. You don't need to pay someone to come out and adjust your sprinkler heads when you can do it yourself with the little tool. Third, have them show you how they install the heads. They will occasionally break and they are not too hard to replace.

Personally I would look into native grasses that do not require watering system you are looking at. All to often people plant grass that is not appropriate for there location. There are buffalo prarie grasses that look like kentuckey blue that are basically for dry conditions like yours.

I have a dwarf fescue that is good for Michigan, looks like kentuckey blue and only requires me to mow once every 2 to 3 weeks and I don't need to water.

Think about the time and money you will save not watering and not mowing.

My father recently purchased the supplies for a sprinkler system for a similarly sized yard and spent $2100 just for the supplies. He had an option of saving $200 by choosing the black poly pipe over the white pvc pipe, but he wanted the pvc pipe for some reason.

After installing a sprinkler system for the back yard at a previous home, it was really easy to install another system at my current home. Do you think you will be moving at any point? If so, it might be worth it to learn how the install works. I did the same thing with installing garage door openers and have saved hundreds of dollars by doing myself. There is a learning curve, but it could pay off in the long run if you ever find yourself needing to install another system. Also, by doing the install yourself it will give you a great amount of confidence to make any necessary adjustments or repairs as you familiar with the how the system operates.

Good luck with your yard. I spend a decent amount of time keeping my yard maintained, but I really enjoy a yard that is beautiful and inviting.

If you go with having someone do it I'd get a 3rd quote as mentioned before and also ask for detailed cost breakdowns from each supplier. You can then compare each detailed quote and use the additional information to negotiate this down further. Or you may find if you buy the parts and pay them for labor only you will save, or like Old Limey says - you do it yourself and save on the labor costs.


I'm responding to everyones posts about my question. I guess I'll give you guys an update.

I got a third and fourth qoute and feel much better about the fourth one. His qoute was 2200 plus tax and he is giving me trees at a discounted rate. He spent a good two hours with me at my house explaining what equipment he would be using where and said he will be using all rainbird. This guy has been very helpful with all of my questions so I'm going with him. I would do it myself but with the permits and tests I would have to get I feel better having a licensed person do rustYrust me, I do everything in my power to diy. He is installing 6 zones and putting bubblers in all twelve trees (for free). Thank you to everyone for all your inputs.

I'll let you all know in three to five years If it helps sell the house.... Thanks again. 

Buy a MacBook instead.

There may be various reasons why your system may cost more or less. The rules/regulations in your area may be reason its higher than you'd think.

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