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Getting Started in Irrigation - Forum Members Advice

Discussion in 'Professional Discussions' started by PurpHaze, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. PurpHaze

    PurpHaze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,496

    OK gang. Sean has agreed to make this thread a "sticky" that will always be at the top of this forum. It may take him a day to get it done so please be patient. Then we can submit our links, books info, etc. and other advice for newbies looking to get their feet wet in irrigation. New posters asking for the same advice can then just be directed up to this thread in the event they don't take advantage of this thread in the first place.

    Thanks Sean! :)
  2. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,789


    A good starting place is Jesse Strykers Irrigation Tutorials page:


    While Jesse has a good general idea, some of the things he says are his personal preferences, and need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Its a still a great starting place for a beginner.
    Matt LI LAWNZ likes this.
  3. GreenMonster

    GreenMonster LawnSite Silver Member
    from NH
    Messages: 2,701

    Hey guys, this is cool. We're just starting out with irrigation. I've done an install at my house, which is up to 5 rotor zones, 3 drip zones and 2 spray zones. We've also done two other installs that we actually got paid for. :) I've been browsing the irrigation forum lately, and I'll keep an eye on this thread, and check out those tutorials, Dirty.

  4. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,789

    What brand should I use?

    A lot of companies sell their systems as "Toro Systems", or "Hunter Systems". While this works for them I've found that by combining different brands you can make a superior system. Not everything Hunter makes is perfect, the same goes for any brand.

    My general recommendations for brand is something like this. Remember this is not set in stone, but just my personal preference for a typical residential install:

    • Timer: Rainbird ESP-M or Hunter PRO-C

      Both are excellent timers. They have similar features and reliability, I have found the ESP is easier to teach people to use, so I install that, but again, both are good timers.

    • Lawn Rotors: Hunter PGP or I-20

      The hunter PGP has been the industry standard for 25+ years. Its a reliable gear driven rotor that works well in almost any situation. The I-20 add's a stainless riser shaft, more nozzle options, and a shutoff valve in the head.

    • Spray/Mist Heads: Rainbird 1800 series

      This one is a no brainer to me, Rainbird has cornered the market with their superior wiper seal. They are the best spray heads on the market.

    • Valves: Rainbird DVF-100, Hunter SRC. Irritrol 2400

      All three valves listed here are good valves, I personally have had best luck with the DVF-100, but you won't go wrong with any of them. I've found that the Irritrol 2400 does not like sandy water, so perhaps consider the DVF-100 with its screened solenoid as extra protection.

      I also advocate using valves with flow control. I think the extra flexibility added by this feature offsets the extra buck it costs.

    Do not use parts from Home Depot or Lowes, even if they are made by commercial companies. Most companies (K-rain and Rainbird etc) have two lines, and their cheap line goes to the home hardware stores. These are garbage. The same goes for anything that Orbit makes.

    Remember, if you want to be a professional, use professional parts.

    Well, thats all for the time being, perhaps I'll write something on which pipe to use, but that will probably start a 20 page debate thread :)
    John Dement likes this.
  5. OP

    PurpHaze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,496

    1. Local colleges for design classes.

    2. Some local colleges have landscaping classes that include "hands-on" irrigation installation.

    3. "Turf Irrigation Manual"

    4. A lot of guys usually start out by working for an irrigation company and then branching out on their own as they gain more experience.

    5. Manufacturers' schools.

    6. Distributor seminars.

    7. The Internet.

    8. This forum. (better have thick skin) :laugh:
    hort101 likes this.
  6. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,789

    Rule 1: Two '45s use less space than Two '90s.

    Rule 2: Two 90's are easier to repair than two 45's.

    Rule 3: Hayes and Jon are going to get drunk some day talking about this.
  7. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,265

    Learn hands-on from someone else before you just jump into it. You can't just read a book or website and expect to know everything about installing/repairing/servicing sprinkler systems.

    No two contractors install the same way. So design and install will be different on almost every job you try to service.

    Do not assume that the house next door to one you just installed has the same GPM and pressure.

    If you are in a cold climate, be prepared for the rush in the spring and fall. Along with the rush comes low patience levels, tempers flair, and the inability to sleep!!!

    Know YOUR local codes for backflow prevention. Each state/county/city is different.
  8. Critical Care

    Critical Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,654

    Amen to that, but if you can't learn hands-on from someone else, then learn whatever you can from the books. If you're in a state that requires you to take an exam and to be licensed before doing business, then hit the books... and I mean big time. Then, when you are worried about getting hands on experience, do as Mark with Green Monster did. Install your own system, or help a friend with his. Learn from your mistakes, then crawl before you walk.

    By the way, never stop learning. The more I learn, the more I learn that there is still a lot that I don't know.
  9. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,789

    How Much should I charge for XXXX

    There are many different ways you can charge for irrigation, the two most common that I hear are by the head, and by the zone.

    If you charge by the head, factor in the cost of parts and labor for each head (Head, Swing Joint, T, 20 ft of pipe + Labor). Usually people add a flat rate charge for the back flow, timer, and mainline/wire installation.

    Other people charge a flat rate per zone. This would be done by averaging the size of your zone, and calculating its cost.

    Personally, I find that per zone charging is unpredictable, especially if you end up with a zone that has 25 spray heads....That is going to take a lot longer than a zone that has 5 rotors.

    Finally, know your market. Just because Contractor A can sell his system for $8500 in one state, doesn't mean that is the going rate in your area.

    The best advice I can give is measure your job before your bid, check soil conditions, look for obstacles that could be headaches (tree roots, sidewalks, utilities, poor machine access) and try to factor in the additional labor they will cause into your bid.
  10. Dirty Water

    Dirty Water LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,789


    I can't stress this enough. Before you dig, call a locate company. Check in the beginning of your phone book for a number to call. They will usually locate for free about 48 hours from when you call.

    If you have a property located, and you hit a unmarked wire/pipe/etc you cannot be held liable for damages.

    Remember, one damaged utility can potentially take all profit from the job, and very easily leave you in the red.

    Once the locate is done, the general code is this:

    Red = Power
    Orange = Cable or Telephone
    Blue = Water
    Green = Sewer
    Yellow = Gas

    Always hand dig across the locate lines, giving 2' on each side before you use any machines. A locater is very accurate, but you can never trust the operator. In my State, if you hit a line within 2' of the locate mark, you still are liable.

    Happy Trenching :)
    Anne Wilk likes this.

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