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Doing it Right/Judgement Call/Some Background

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by AWilsonCreativeServices, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. AWilsonCreativeServices

    AWilsonCreativeServices LawnSite Member
    Messages: 213

    Hey y'all-

    Please bear with the really long post (trying to give some background to answer potential questions). I've never posted in the irrigation forum; mostly lurk over at the equipment and more pertinent lawn-care topics when researching equipment and such.

    Me- I'm 23, recent Alabama grad, 2014 will be my first full year. We are a full-service landscape co doing everything from maintenance to install, irrigation, tree work with x2 trucks, Dingo with attachments, full insurance, etc. Been part-time for 4 years of college, and worked for a guy who did nothing but irrigation for a few summers while I was in high school. He was a kinda slap-dash, tip-to-tip, Get'er'Done typa fellow (nice guy, though). I have spent many hours working on some of his former properties because he's now too lazy to answer the phone and return messages (think its bec he's about to retire). I am the type that is a "by-the-book", head-to-head, careful not to load up too many heads per zone, build-a-manifold-for-all-the-vales-in-one-place typa guy. I (am trying to) cater to the folks in my town who have money and want work done correctly at a fair price.

    Now for the real point- Today, I met with a customer for whom we had previously worked. Nice folks, and go to my church. Own a 150+ yr old antebellum home downtown, and he's an Architect. He just had a geo-thermal heat pump put in, which tore up part of his yard and sprinklers. Well, he called us back for a quote on replacing the 2 or 3 zones he tore out and sodding the 2,600 sq ft area (plus adding sprinklers to a shrub bed that was abt 175'x6'). He hands me a blueprint of the home and property, complete with the layout of all the sprinkler heads and lines (system originally installed in the 70's, and apparently has a 1" or greater separate irrigation meter). He previously had 15-20 6" spray heads watering the entire 2600 ft of L-shaped turf area. The heads were running down the middle of the vertical part of the 20' wide "L" and has a few rows at the bottom end, which was wider than the vertical "L" part. I tell him that I'm going to price out putting in new sprinklers, and do it the right way with spray heads working in from the corners with head-to-head, etc. He says that what he had worked OK but go ahead. Anyway, I spend most of the day pricing and drawing up the system on his blueprint, and bring it back to him this afternoon with a $1,500 MATERIALS price (buying all materials @ local irrigation house, including backflow and new glue). I was going to charge him abt x3 times materials, roughly. He's incensed that I have gone and redesigned the entire system and what he had was fine before, and gets kinda pissy with me (these are folks that go to my church, remember, so he's civil but he gets angry). His wife, who's looking on too, talks him down and reminds him that his customers always want things done and trying to cut corners, but he sticks to his guns. After a lot of treading water, I end up telling them I don't feel comfortable putting in a system that isn't up to my standards and could reflect negatively on my reputation (esp bec I am a newer co and am striving for 100% quality work).

    The problem is I really could use this work this spring, and would like to have worked on a property that is as visible as this downtown huge antebellum home (it'd be irrigation/sod/plant boxwoods/maybe install an ornamental iron fence). The real problem is that he's an commercial/residential/building& HVAC architect and thinks he knows irrigation and that his heads were providing adequate coverage without all the extra heads and double the zones (he said that the supply house I use agreed on the design because they stand to profit from the sale of more parts). Though the couple is about to pay for the 2nd son's wedding and I have heard that their finances are tight, I told them I didn't want to put in a system with so few heads that are supposed to water so much. What would y'all do- try to compromise on the design and still barely have tip-to-tip/ or just let some other fool do it lol? I really need some backup, as I was both pretty angry and disappointed when I got home tonight.
  2. AWilsonCreativeServices

    AWilsonCreativeServices LawnSite Member
    Messages: 213

    P.S.- a cornerstone of my business is that I pride myself on being really ethical and professional in whatever I do, even if it means me going back and fixing a problem or loosing money (that happened on one job lol). I think I was very polite with them, and his wife seemed to be understanding of my situation. I just don't feel comfortable installing something that's against my irrigation "code of ethics" as I know it is not correct, but the work would still be profitable and I could use the job to help boost my company (pics online, recommendations, a tangible result of my efforts to show potential customers, etc).
  3. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Messages: 1,865

    Can you do it correctly with rotors? That would cut your head count down significantly (like by 2/3) so you could put in something you were comfortable with and that met his budget needs.

    This is why I don't do install work, btw. Even though the law says we have to hydro-zone, have head to head, not over spray hard surfaces, etc. in Texas, we still have yahoos installing 4 rotor wonder systems spraying over the sidewalks for 1/3 of what my materials would cost to do it correctly. People don't in general care if it's right, they only care if it's cheap.
  4. Autoflow

    Autoflow LawnSite Member
    Messages: 245

    How have you designed it? Were you going to use MP Rotators to reduce the number of zones and pipe?

    I would stick you what you have told him. Do NOT lower your standard to make it fit someone's idea of a fair price. I did it when I started out and always got calls back about why there are dry patches etc, even if you try explaining it to them that it won't be quite right.

    It may be tough for you initially but I think you are doing the right thing by not installing a half arsed system that you will be embarrassed to service in the future. Look over your design again and see if there are alternatives to what you have whether it be MP Rotators or rotors as bcg said.
  5. txirrigation

    txirrigation LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 977

    I never suggest working for family, friends, or church friends. In real estate they call it "At arms length," and that is the distance we keep with customers. You need to be the professional your trying to become, not the church lawn boy. I promise that if you install "tip to tip," he is going to hate it and you will be back once a week.

    Anyone that uses the term "tip to tip" in irrigation should be shot. He will end up wasting more money in a year by trying to water the weak spots enough to keep the grass green than doing it right and having DU (distribution uniformity). This comes from a guy South of Bcg where the four rotor systems are found also. We do it right and still install 400-500 full systems a year.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  6. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,318

    I'd lay money that you've prolly installed at least 1 more irrigation system than most architects have. You'll be fine with your decision. The balls in your court. :waving:
    Posted via Mobile Device
  7. CAPT Stream Rotar

    CAPT Stream Rotar LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,193


    Back out. Usually people should be happy are trying to protect their investment. Most of the time when we add the zone for better coverage we get tipped.

    Its tough to say no to $ but its not the $ you want.

    If you wanted to focus you energy on getting paid get in touch with your previous irrigation boss. Buy him out or talk to his old clients if he is done.

    Good luck
    post more
  8. easy-lift guy

    easy-lift guy LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,372

    If you are uncomfortable now you will continue to be from now on. You gave your professional opinion and you are dealing with Two professional customers. Only you know your market, that said your also wondering about your gut feeling or that little voice saying, I have done everything according to the book, my book!
    You will have other jobs and opportunities in the future. Who ever the customers hirer learn from the job good or bad results for the customers and move forward.
    easy-lift guy
  9. AI Inc

    AI Inc LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 27,007

    system originally installed in the 70's

    That right there is enough reason to start from scratch. You need to explain to him that patching an old system back together is so time consuming that he will end up spending the same either way. So his only 2 choices are to have a brand new system for $5k or a butchered system that will require a lot more service in the near future for $4900
  10. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,592

    Just a thought. Is the geothermal well accessible to pump ground water into the sprinkler system?

    You can't lose sleep over the aftermath of miscommunication. I had a guy ask me for an estimate in line with the recommendations in a NY Times article in their home section, and I spend an extra hour or so drawing up something to match. The guy sees the price, and is incensed, and nothing about being informed that the design fit the newspaper article's parameters, like no shooting over the sidewalks, could get him past the price tag. Moral of that story was to make sure from the start that the estimate price isn't going to be a rude surprise.


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