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Do you replace sprinklers for free?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, May 16, 2005.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    If you or your crews are accused of busting a sprinkler head, do you replace it for free?

    In my opinion, there are two main reasons why we would bust a sprinkler head: Either the sprinkler is not retracting properly, or the sprinkler was not installed correctly to begin with (too high). Either way, there is only one thing that can cause a sprinkler head to get busted...our mowers and equipment. But at the same time, there is only one reason why a sprinkler would be cut by a mower...it isn't retracting properly because it's old or it was never installed correctly.

    So when a customer calls and says you broke their sprinkler head, do you fix it for free? Sometimes this can be a very simple repair, but sometimes it can mean making a trip to the hardware store for a special spray pattern head and/or having to dig up and cut pipes because the riser input is busted, etc. I do sprinkler replacements for free if we break them, and sometimes it's a 10 minute job and sometimes it's over an hour. Depends on where and what is broken.

    I',m considering changing the policy to blame the customer for having faulty spray heads that don't retract and heads that are installed too high.

    So do you or don't you? For those that don't, do customers understand or do they get mad and cancel everytime?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. Rinker97

    Rinker97 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 63

    Just a homeowner here but I had an idea I wanted to share with you.

    If the irrigation system is already installed when you sign up a customer could you walk the property with them and look at the head locations? Then you could notice if any were installed too high and let the customer know and they could get them fixed. Maybe then you could get them to sign off on the walk and let them know that the only reason you could damage a head was if it didn't retract properly and you are not liable for it.

    I'm sure some customers could still get pissed if you said you were not going to replace it. Maybe you could offer to do the replacement as a fee.

    Also, if you edge their driveway and sidewalks with a gas edger, you could damage a head with that. Been there, done that to my own. :realmad: I would think you would be liable for it.

    Just some ideas.

  3. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116


    I never meet with clients on their property for lawn mowing. It just isn't worth it. Customers can cancel at any time after they reach their six cut commitment. So walking the property is not an option for me.

    As for sprinkler heads that are damaged by blade edgers...it is because they are installed too close to the concrete. Again, not the lawn mowing company's fault. The irrigation company that installed the head should anticipate the lawn mowing company running a blade edger along the sidewalk.

    An underground sprinkler system is supposed to be exactly that...underground. If any component of the irrigation system is sticking out of the ground and is able to be damaged by a mower, the system is faulty...not the lawn mowing company.

    Problem is, home owners probably won't buy this story without cancelling service. Again, if any LCO's have experience with trying to tell customers it isn't your fault, I'm all ears. I would love to start telling home owners we don't replace sprinkler heads even though it was our mowers that hit them, but I just think it would lead to a cancellation every time.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  4. GreenUtah

    GreenUtah LawnSite Senior Member
    from SLC, UT
    Posts: 866

    We break them, we fix them, was always our policy. Of course, we never took any customer without a year commitment and three years was our standard. I always considered it the opportunity to place it properly and identify others that were misplaced and charge to fix those before we broke them too. If they did not want to repair others once properly identified, then your liability for a free fix had ended, in our book. Maybe the best you can do is split the cost for the broken head with both parties accepting liability, them for improper placement, your crew for not watching for obstacles. You may be able to incorporate language into your service agreement staing otherwise, but they will still press you to fix something you damaged. Look for the opportunity to add to the fix rather than walk away from it.
  5. dfor

    dfor LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 821

    I totally agree. I've been lucky till now. Only hit about 3-4 on different properties. Never had to pay. If I knew I hit one, I called to let them know that it wasn't retracting. BUT, last year I hit at least 6 on one property. All in the back yard. I told him before this, that they weren't working right. He hasn't said anything to me yet. But he had the system shut down, so he has to know. The heads were constantly staying up. He tried to hold back $100 from the last bill of the season, but I kept billing throughout the plowing season. Ended up paying. We'll see.
  6. stumper1620

    stumper1620 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,889

    if i damage it i replace it no charge, neglect is the only reason for hitting a head. if you are edging and come to a head that is too close, pull up and skip that area then inform the homeowner so he can arrange to have it moved, if you hit a head that is stuck up, your fualt sorry, that is just being careless about your clients interest, again step it down, mark it with a stick or flag if you have one, and inform the home owner, myself i give a quote for a service on these items because that is part of my business, the only head i have hit in 3 years was 1 week ago when i slid on a slope and scalped and destroyed the head, I replaced it for free. this is my policy and would like to think it is a standard practice for most.
  7. DennisF

    DennisF LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 1,381

    If I've been mowing the lawn for a while and a sprinkler head is broken...the customer pays for the head.

    Sprinkler heads tend to loosen over time and that causes them to stick up too high or the return springs get weak leaving the nozzle sticking up.

    Either way it's the customers responsibility to maintain the irrigation system. I tell them that I can replace it for small fee plus the cost of the head. I usually carry 5 or 6 different heads in the tool box so that I can fix them on the spot if necessary. Most repairs only take 5 or 10 minutes so it's not a big deal to change them out.

    I haven't had anyone disagree with the policy yet.
  8. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    ++++neglect is the only reason for hitting a head++++

    I strongly disagree with that. Yes, if a sprinkler head is sticking up above the surface of the lawn, and you'd have to be blind not to see it, then yes, it is neglect.

    However, I would venture to guess that very few LCO's are going to see a sprinkler head that's not retracting, sticking up above the surface of the lawn, and run it over because they neglected to mash it back down with their foot. I would venture to guess that the vast majority of sprinkler heads that are broken by LCO's are sprinkler heads that were not in plain sight when the damage was done.

    I KNOW it isn't my fault if we bust a sprinkler head because there are only two reasons why it would happen: Improper retraction or poor installation.

    Problem is, I suspect more home owners would disagree than agree with my reasoning, get mad and cancel service over it.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  9. stumper1620

    stumper1620 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,889

    should this happen to be the case, split the cost, customer buys head, you install, that would not be unreasonable if the head was obstructed from the operators view.
  10. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,496

    I'm not going to throw a $1200 a year account away over a $30 sprinkler head. Things happen. Ground heaves, the mower hitting the heads loosens them up, etc. It doesn't and shouldn't happen that often.As far as the head being up against the concrete and being hit by the edger, the same thing. There is no reason to hit this. that is just too easily avoidable. If it is damaged from aeration, we don't say "it was in the wrong place,...it should have been one inch over."

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