Time for an Irrigation System

By Dave Heinen of Heinen Landscape & Irrigation

Kansas City Gardener

So you want to do more with your time this spring and summer than drag your hose around or worry about the amount of water (or lack of water) your precious plants, shrubs and trees will get? Or perhaps you already have a sprinkler system and need a professional to inspect, repair or adjust your system for optimum performance. A few tips will help you make an educated decision when hiring a professional landscape and irrigation contractor. A reputable contractor with expertise in installing and repairing irrigation systems will do a number of key things to determine your needs and to develop the right sprinkler system for you.

  • Take time to check the water pressure (static and working pressure) at the site.
  • Measure the space you want irrigated and determine the total square footage of water coverage.
  • Check the volume of water your meter and service line will provide and can handle.
  • Ask about how you use your property and about special needs.
  • Understand the different water requirements of flowers versus shrubs, grass versus trees.
  • Notice how the sun will affect your water needs and incorporate this knowledge into your plan.
  • Listen to your concerns and address them.
  • Listen to your plans for the future and incorporate them into the system.
  • Ask about your water conservation views and recommend a flow meter to help conserve water.
  • Make recommendations for zones based upon the water needs of your plants, shrubs and trees.
  • Design a system to achieve “matched precipitation” in each zone.
  • Think about how the system will adjust to your lifestyle over the next five, ten or 20 years.
  • Take time to explain their proposal and answer your questions to your satisfaction.
  • Have underground utilities marked and located before installation.
  • Pull the proper permits before beginning.
  • Present a visual drawing (“gas built”) to you of the system upon completion.

Pick a contractor that will grow with your needs and will service what they install. Contractors who listened to you during your initial meeting will have made helpful recommendations. You’ll thank them for the forethought they incorporated into your system because a little more thought on their part about the products and design they recommend will save you time, repairs and service later.

Avoid firms that just install sprinkler systems and do not service them. Anybody can have a truck and slap a sign on it and say they are knowledgeable about installing irrigation systems. But how do you know you are dealing with a reputable company? Ask for references, to see their contractor’s license and proof of insurance.

In addition, if the scope of your project requires a building permit, be sure the contractor pulls one. Some municipalities will require a permit for a sprinkler system installation. To obtain a permit this often requires the contractor to have a valid contractor’s license and proof of insurance. In addition, some municipalities will require the contractor to be bonded.

Even if you do hire a firm that just installs be sure you receive an “as built” plan indicating the location of pipe, wiring and key components. Should a service call be needed later, you will have the “as built” to show the new contractor.

Overall, pick the contractor you feel most comfortable in doing business. Enjoy the process of learning about your new system and evaluating bids. Good contractors will welcome a competitive bid environment that allows them to answer your questions and show you the benefits and features of the system they have designed with you in mind.

Following installation, you’ll want to take about 15 minutes with your contractor to familiarize yourself with the control box and the features of your system. Most irrigation systems today are very flexible. You’ll enjoy the variety of controls and monitoring systems now at your fingertips.