Homeowner: Deciding between SDI or sprinklers

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by iaccord99i, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. iaccord99i

    iaccord99i LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Hi All,

    First time poster here and I'm hoping I can get some advice from anyone who's had experience with SDIs.

    A little background. I currently have a sprinkler system (which was horribly installed by the previous homeowner or whoever he hired). It's very inefficient, over-sprays, uneven coverage, damaged sprinkler heads because some were installed 4 inches above ground, etc. Basically, whoever installed this had no idea what they were doing or just didn't care. I tried to manually water my lawn for the past few months but lost the battle to the heat wave a few weeks ago :mad: and now the entire lawn is basically dead.

    I talked to a local landscaper and they basically told me that it would be much cheaper/easier re-doing the entire system instead of trying to find the pipes and fixing/adding/relocating the existing popups. (BTW, please let me know if this is not true).

    Now since he's suggesting that I redo the entire thing and that my lawn is dead, I am wondering if it's a good idea to go SDI? The local landscaper is saying it's not feasible because of root damage will clog it up after a few years but I'm reading online that it CAN be done if designed properly and it does last over 10+ years (not sure how true this is).

    I have 2 lawns. The front one has about 900 sqft of grass. I haven't measured the back yard but I would guess it's close to 2000 sqft so I have around 2900 sqft of grass to cover. The shape is close to a rectangle with some areas that are slightly irregularly shaped. The soil is mostly clay all over.

    Since I'm using a very inefficient system, I do see $200/month water bills during the drier months. I'd like to decrease this and I know installing better designed sprinkler system will reduce this, and that a SDI will bring that number down even lower.

    My big question now is.... is it worth it? What are the cost of installing an SDI vs sprinkler system and how much water can I expect to save between the two assuming both are installed correctly? Also, do SDI systems last? I'd hate to install one only to have it break down and clog up after 2 to 3 years.
  2. CAPT Stream Rotar

    CAPT Stream Rotar LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,168

    sdi=subsurface drip irrigation?

    sounds like you need to start over..might need to add a valve or 2..i would keep existing valves and chop offeverything else if its that bad..some pics would help.

    good luck.
  3. txirrigation

    txirrigation LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 977

    Starting over is probably your best bet. You will end up spending roughly the same amount of money, and you will have a full warranty.

    Just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should be done. There was a guy in our area pimping full drip systems for a while, turned out to be a disaster.
  4. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,377

    Roots will always want to grow into drip tubing, since that's where the action is, water-wise. This is why an old-school drip install of discrete emitters is with tubing laid on top of the soil, and mulch added later.
  5. iaccord99i

    iaccord99i LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Yes SDI = subsurface drip irrigation. Sorry I should have been more clear. That was the action my local gardener also suggested. Sorry don't have pics but imagine a 27x36 flat plot of land that's covered in dried straw. It's pretty much a rectangular shape. Whatever grass that is/was on there looks like this:


    Except I have more hints of green scattered along the edges... from encroaching weeds.

    Thanks for your input. I am just curious but do you know what exactly happened with his drip system? Are features like the copper shield protection mostly marketing BS?

    Thanks! I'm seeing that the general consensus is that SDI isn't as reliable as as sprinklers and that there are a lot more points of failures in the system.

    I guess I need to backtrack and go with the traditional sprinklers. Does anyone have a general idea on how much it should be costing me to hire a professional? (Bay Area, CA). This would be redoing the piping from the valves onwards + prepping the soil and either seeding or SOD on a 27'x36' rectangular plot? The estimate that was given to me was over $5,000 but in my mind... that seems way too high.

    Is this a fair estimate or am I getting ripped off?
  6. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Dead or dormant .... there is a difference.

    Depends. The system would have to entirely trashed, including pipes broken in multiple places, for me to consider abandoning it entirely.

    He is wrong. Good quality line (ex. Netafim TLCV) installed and managed properly it should not be an issue. Should you use it on your turf ... probably not unless you are trying to irrigate a mow strip.

    It will most certainly save water and money in the long term, assuming it is installed and managed properly ..... can't stress that enough, especially with turf. It is generally safe to say most people don't know how to do either.

    The potential savings can be substantial, given it is installed and managed correctly. I expect 20+ years from Netafim TLCV SDI.
  7. iaccord99i

    iaccord99i LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Thank you for your response!

    It seems like it's 1/2 dead, 1/2 dormant. There are small patches of green from weeds.

    How tricky/labor intensive is it to figure out where all the pipes are? Also I think most of the pipes aren't even deep enough. It almost seems like they just laid a bit of soil + sod on top of the pipes. Could that be fixed somehow or is that a sign to abandon it?

    Okay. Thanks for your input. I'll get sprinklers instead.

    Landscaper gave me an initial quote of $5200 to install new pipes (reusing the old zone valves). Sprinkler heads will be a mix of new/salvaged. He will also prep the soil and lay SOD on the lawn (27x36 flat area). Do you know if that is a fair estimate? He is charging me $3.50 per square foot to install SOD and $2000 to redo the sprinklers. It seems very high for the amount of work he's doing.
  8. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    If the system you have now has pipes as shallow as you described, it is time for a new system. IMO, laterals should be a minimum of 8" deep, mains at least 12" for normal installs. If you have a lot of trees around, I would push that depth to 18" deep on mains and at least 12" deep on laterals. With the pipes at these depths and your soils you will pretty much ensure there will be no breakage/pinching of pipes/fittings due to roots.

    Can't comment on the irrigation price since I don't know what is involved here, but given what you have described above and what he is proposing to do, I wouldn't walk away from that landscaper, I would RUN!

    I haven't laid any sod for many years so I don't know what the going price is for install right now. Call one of the local sod suppliers, most also do installs. They can give you a price for sod + install.

    Also, if the current system is as crappy as it sounds, I recommend replacing everything.
  9. iaccord99i

    iaccord99i LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Thank you so much for your response. I'm going to look for other landscapers. Hopefully they will have a more reasonable estimate this time around.

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