Getting Started in Irrigation - Forum Members Advice

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by PurpHaze, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. Mad Estonian

    Mad Estonian LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 280

    I'm someone who's trying to gradually transition to (mostly) all irrigation work from garden maintenance etc (maybe 20% irrigation at this point). My parts distributor recently gave me (free) a copy of Hunter's Irrigation System Design Manual, which I've found extremely useful for just laying out all the basics in a very straightforward manner (the trickier bits I think you can probably find just on this forum). It's not too propagandistic either (though I like Hunter anyways), probably other manufacturers have similar manuals, maybe even online. Don't know what it would cost to buy, it helps to have a good connection with your distributor, there's lots of free stuff available. I also got a copy of James R. Huston's "How to Price Landscape and Irrigation Projects" for $100 at Amazon (more expensive elsewhere), which I'm finding useful, especially as I've never taken any business classes (it's not just about estimating, it goes over the entire structure of a green industry business, lots of useful details). I know there's also things like this available online (obviously,, which is tied to this site). :blob2: (what's this guy for?)
  2. bicmudpuppy

    bicmudpuppy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,781

    Maybe its not to late to suggest that you just DON'T! Beyond that, avoid shortcuts. Both in the learning curve and in how you repair or install being cheap might get you a job or to, but being cheap will also put you in that group that doesn't survive past year five. Provide and sell maintenace. You can install a premium system and make good money at it and if you don't keep the customer, you missed the boat. You can break even (pay the help, overhead etc, but miss a profit margin) and be in great shape if you add the customer to your maintenance list and keep them on it indefinitely. I just made a company switch this season, and even though I have always preached the value of maintenance, I almost choked when I saw a ledger with March Pre-Pays as a six figure number. We started this year with 1500 customers. We will install our 100th system this week and have sold our 115th system for the season. I am looking at an additional 100 systems growth beyond what we have installed because we offer regular maintenance. Imagine an outfit that is primarily an LCO doing residential full service banking six figures in Feb and Mar for irrigation contracts. So, emphasize quality maintenace.
  3. Critical Care

    Critical Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,654

    Getting started in irrigation… Well, how about before you get started? Here’s an analogy.

    I’ve been a ham radio operator for 36 years, and back in the ol’ days you had to know morse code for all of the different classes of licenses. I ate, drank, and slept on morse code. I simply loved it, but a lot of my buddies hated it. So when it came to upgrading to a higher class of license, I had no problem, however my friends would generally fail because they had to do something that they couldn’t stomach.

    Before doing this work, consider if you can stomach the work. If it’s just for the money, then you may have a very bumpy road ahead, but if you really like the work, then you’re already ahead of the game. Working briefly for someone else may not only give you experience, but may also be a determining factor on whether or not you want to take another step down this road.

    But I see where I've screwed up big time - I see things that I could have done differently and had a lot more successful ride here. But of course, hindsight is 20/20.
    Ray Stevens
  4. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,764

    Toro makes a Flow and Pressure Gauge Assembly that you can use to evaluate nearly any residential water supply. It isn't the last word in flow accuracy, but if you get a chance to calibrate it, like I have, in a utility room with water meter, hose bib, and sink, you can find a 'set point' where it is dead on, and also see how the accuracy varies as the flow goes higher or lower than that set point.

    Since my installs are almost always from the plumbing in a home's basement, I can do a flow-and-pressure measurement from a hose bib nearest the water meter, and while doing so, note what flow restrictions might be a part of my readings. A long run of 1/2 inch copper and a stop valve, plus the hose bib I measure from, all present a pressure loss I won't have when I plumb right after the water meter.

    The value of the measuring is that I can see with my own eyes how much flow and pressure I can count on having. As it happens, and quite conveniently, the pressure I will lose through my system plumbing, and zone valves, and backflow preventer, is pretty close to what is lost in that hose bib line. That means I can look at the gauges and say "This is what the heads will have to work with."

    Another point of having this tool, is when a lack of indoor access to the plumbing means a system might have to run from the water I can get from one of the hose bibs, and knowing precisely the flow and pressure, can allow me to see if a hose-bib hookup is feasible.

    If you work in a part of the country where you are cutting into outdoor supply lines, where the meters are by the street, it's a lot harder to figure what extra pressure you might count on having, when you compare a hose-bib measurement to what you anticipate from your supply connection.

    But pressure aside, it's the flow gauge that will still serve you well, because you play it safe by not assuming you will have more flow than you measure at a faucet.

    When your clients trust you to do things right, you can re-measure flow and pressure after you do the connection, and zone out the system according to the actual flow you end up with.

    By the way, if you have one of these gauges, remember to take it out of your truck when the cold nights arrive. The gauges can and will break from freezing water (you can't completely drain the water from them)

  5. PurpHaze

    PurpHaze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,496

    Go to:


    Both sites have good design resources in the form of PDF documents that you can download to your computer, read and/or print out for reference.

    Pay VERY CLOSE attention on how to establish the amount of GPM and working (or dynamic) pressure you have to work with or any design you come up with with be marginal or nonexistent.
  6. PurpHaze

    PurpHaze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,496

    Was doing some reading in my Turf Irrigation Manual (Watkins) looking for a formula and came across a section I'd hi-lited many years ago pertaining to designing systems with the anticipation of decreased pressure occurring in the future. Considering all the recent discussion on systems that have developed similar problems I thought I'd share a few passages for those that don't have this valuable resource book.

    "Gauged pressures in excess of 60 PSI should be especially suspect. Water distribution systems are designed in new neighborhoods to allow for building, extension of mains into even newer areas, and reduction of main capacity due to deterioration from aging. Thus, immediate pressure in a new neighborhood is usually substantially greater than the future low pressure.

    As a general rule, systems should be designed to operate on less pressure than the anticipated low pressure in new neighborhoods and known low pressure in older ones. This protects the system from anticipated pressure drops.

    When low static pressure is: Allow: Design for:
    50 PSI 10% 45 PSI
    75 PSI 15% 65 PSI
    100 PSI 20% 80 PSI
    125 PSI 25% 95 PSI

    A further argument in support of conservatism is the necessity to design systems to function properly on hot days when pressure will be lowest. This is obviously the time when good, dependable, artificial watering is needed most."

    Interpretation: Plan ahead!!! :)
  7. RLW

    RLW LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    Hey Critical Care,
    I live in central Oregon as well. Can you recomend any good books to help pass the LCB test for irragation?
  8. Critical Care

    Critical Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,654

    Hello neighbor RLW. You will see that people on here have used different material and sources for their irrigation study guides. I got by fine with the Rainbird Landscape Irrigation Design Manual, which I purchased from United Pipe Supply. It provides a fairly good foundation for basic theory, facts, and figures on irrigation design, however you’ll need further material for backflow, etc.

    If you’re like me, you may find that the toughest part of the LCB exams is the laws and rules section. Laws and rules are always changing, and it is up to you to keep up with those changes. Don’t be surprised if you get asked questions on material that has just changed, and where the new correct answers are mixed in with the old.

    By the way, did you buy a Stihl FC-110?
  9. RLW

    RLW LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    No I haven't grabbed an FC 110. Any good? Your thoughts? We currently use our Mclane or Stihl string trimmers. Do you need to be licensed to purchase from United pipe? Heard that you need an LCB. I've down loaded the PDF study guide but it seems pretty vague. Is DMV vs Salem for testing better? Just trying to offer more for next year, mainly small repairs and blowouts.I want to be able to advertise leagally.You're a solo outfit, right? Do you do big installs?
  10. lawnrich

    lawnrich LawnSite Member
    Messages: 112

    I need to winterize the town homes i mow im licenced but do not do alot of sprinkler work no installs i havent ever winterized a system. where do u get the hook ups for the pittcocks on bfp or the drain can i buy them or do i need to fabricate them? they do not have them were i rent equiment

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