Hi: I have a few questions regarding irrigation systems. Here is the background: We inherited a sprinkler system 7 years ago, when we bought a house built in 1972 in Portland, OR. Supposedly (according to the person who maintained it but didn’t install it) the system was installed in parts over time, as it has both galvanized steel and PVC pipes. A few heads were replaced, some were shut down during the past few years. The system is functional but some of the heads no longer go down, some spray erratically and water the side walk and fences, etc. The maintenance guy tells us that "removing a sprinkler head is a major challenge; put a wrench to it and the pipe below may crack. One day soon you either see your water bill going high up or a muddy sink hole in your garden.“. The current system has 6 zones, an Orbit controller, a mixture of head types and 3 valve boxes. The house is on a slope so the ground is relatively flat in the front and back but sloping on the 2 sides. We have grass on all sides and some flower/bush areas. I asked for proposals from the current maintenance guy and 2 more companies in this business and asked them for their professional opinion about potentially “upgrading" the existing system. All 3 only wanted to bid only on a new system, stating that probably I would end up paying almost the same for upgrading the old system with no guarantee for its reliability. I got the 3 proposals, all of them quoted for a much higher price than expected and with contradicting recommendations and comments, which really confused me. I have no idea whom I can trust (or not). So here are the questions: Question #1 - waiting w. some fixing vs. being proactive: I have an acquaintance who does mainly lawns for golf courses and garden design (but has formal education in landscape design & irrigation systems) who told me that he doesn’t think that I should rush to get a new system and that I can guestimate the potential reasonable cost for a new system to be about $600-$700 times the number of zones. Since all 3 contractors only want to install a new system and warn me about major potential problems due to the galvanized steel pipes, I do not know whom to believe. Is there a reliable and easy way to determine the state/age of the galvanized pipes? The 3 contractors I talked to do not care to save the existing PVC pipes, they just want to put everything new. Should I just wait until something happens to them or should I pro-actively have a new system installed? Question # 2 - Smart controllers One of the contractors recommended usage of a smart controller (Rain Bird ESP-SMTe). He said that after he does the initial adjustment, we would not have to do anything. The other one, when asked about it said that " they are still to complicated for home owners, I do not recommend them unless you are very technical savvy”. I do not want to ask for any headaches or build in ongoing maintenance/support issues, but I would love to have a smart system that can determine watering needs based on actual circumstances. I am not very handy and while I can, I prefer not to read periodically long manuals and struggle with adjustments. Usually in Portland a rain sensor is not helpful because it either rains most of the time or never rains (during the summer). Which contractor should I believe? Question # 3 - Design, drawings and proposals I have checked a few websites about design and installation of irrigation systems. Lowes, Hunter, Popular Mechanics and the incredibly helpful Irrigation Tutorials website all talk about design by taking measurements, doing calculations, preparing drawings, etc. It looks quite scientific. All 3 proposals are about half - 1.5 page lists, some with more details than others but none shows any specifics about my lot and does not include any drawings. E.g. they mention: “six Rain Bird DFV100 electronic control valves in locations to be determined at installation”, "Hunter Pro Spray PRS40 sprinkler heads with MP Rotator nozzles for all of the zones” (without showing the number of of heads). Is this customary for professional proposals? What should one expect that a professional proposal include? Question #4 - Warranty Two of the 3 proposals do not mention anything about any warranty and the contractors do not provide any formal contracts beyond the proposal. When asked, one of the said that their 1 year "Warranty covers everything that can break naturally if we winterize annually... without mother nature’s help-freezes, earthquake, large tree roots, grass roots growing into nozzles, bark dust caught in nozzles, humans breaking heads or pipes, utility companies breaking something.”. It’s hard to see then what’s covered (beyond maybe the manufacturer’s guarantee). Also if I read the above correctly, it seems that while they honor any warranty only if I pay them to winterize (and activate) the system, freezing caused problems are not covered….. Is this standard, an acceptable kind of warranty? Question No 5 - winterizing the system: The current maintenance guy has been winterizing the system by draining it (without blowing it) and covering the valves in the 3 valve boxes with isolating pillows. One of the other contractors stated that he doesn’t blow out pipes when he winterizes the system because blowing them out can damage the system and because supposedly there is no need to that where we live. According to him if something freezes, it is less expensive to fix the problem than dealing with blowing out the pipes… The 3rd contractor said that what’s being done currently is irresponsible and that we are taking major chances by just having the system drained… What gives? Question # 6 - What “material” should be under/over new pipes? Portland is in a major earthquake zone. All 3 contractors recommended PVC pipes. I was reading that gravel or sand should be placed in trenches under and over any new PVC pipes. Is that a best practice and necessary? THANKS IN ADVANCE.