Sprinkler Business. What am I missing?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by sildoc, Dec 18, 2004.

  1. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    What are the nessesities for starting a sprinkler business?
    I so far have:
    Trencher and tractor or toro dingo or such like.
    Trench spade
    misc. pipe, fittings, heads, timers, valves
    of course liscense and insurance.
    What am I missing. Am I thinking this is to simplistic? what are those little tools that you guys cant live with out.

    I am looking at getting my LCB for sprinkler and Backflow, but before I do I am trying to put together a business plan and cost estimate to get started.

    I know I can rent a trencher and tractor for a while.
    Thanks in advance.
  2. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,722

    Knowledge , or experience Priceless

    a vibratory plow ( we dont trench ) $ 25,000

    a tow behind air compressor $8000.00

    boring rods or even better a missile or mole up to $ 5000.00

    wire tracker $ 900.

    Pressure and flow gauges misc tools $ 3000.00

    Basic cost estimate to set up a truck ( excluding truck) but all the basic above equipment is about $ 50,000 .00 if you buy things new .
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I actually don't think you need a lot to start up. Knowledge and actual experience are the key, IMO.

    You could send me out to a new install job (for us, a typical install job might be a 6 station residential system) with no tools whatsoever and I could just go to a local irrigation supplier and get everything I need to do the job (including tools, pressure and flow gauge, pipe cutters, flags, all system components) for under $1000.00. I'd have it designed in the morning, have all the materials there by afternoon, have it all flaged out and begin work by mid afternoon.

    As for MDIrrigation, I always respect his opinions in the irrigation forum. And he probably has more experience than I do. But I don't necessarily find that I need most of the things he mentioned.

    Don't know what that is. I've installed over 100 residential irrigation systems and I've never had to use whatever that is. We trench everything. Being that we just do residential systems and we're only trenching to 8" depth, half the time we can just hand trench it out. The other half of the time we just rent a trencher for $75.00

    I suppose there are good reasons for having one. I am assuming the biggest reason is for winterizing systems. But I've never had to use one. Being that we live in a temperate climate in the part of Oregon I am from, we don't need to blow out lines in the winter. Freezing temperatures are very rare and almost always short-lived. And it almost never freezes to 8" depth here. Regardless, I would think renting any kind of air compressor (tow-behind or other) would suffice for quite a while until you REALLY got into doing a lot of systems.

    Again, we almost never find a need for these. Of course, like I said, we mostly do residential. So maybe if you are doing commercial systems, it's different. But most of the time the only thing we'd like to bore under is the driveway, when the water meter is on the wrong side of it. But 90% of the time we're already trenching most of the way around the house anyway. So we usually just do it that way - go around the house - rather than under the driveway. Regardless, I can hire a local boring company (LineScapes) to bore under any driveway for me for just a few hundred dollars. And that's only necessary once or twice a year. Hardly a reason to spend $5,000.

    Again, have never had to use one. Not that they wouldn't have been nice in a few instances. But so far I've been able to diagnose and troubleshoot most problems I run into without one. And it is important to note that these are only really valuable in troubleshooting existing systems. If you are doing a lot of irrigation repair, one of these might one day be handy to eventually buy. But I would only ever recommend buying one once the need was obvious. Not something I'd say is a necessity for starting up.

    A $40 Toro Pressure and Flow Gauge (avail. at Home Depot and most irrigation suppliers) will work sufficiently for most jobs, in my experience. But again, I am speaking from a standpoint of doing small residential systems. For these systems, I've always done well with one of these inexpensive gauges. Otherwise, if I were outfitting a truck for the first time, I would honestly only probably spend $500 or less in tools. Various pipe cutters, saws, tool boxes, trenching shovels, irrigation keys, wire tools, some basic tools (screwdriver, wrench, etc.) and maybe a pick and an axe.

    I now have thousands of dollars in random irrigation tools, parts, etc. that we keep on our trailers. But if I were just starting out, I wouldn't just go buy all those things. A lot of these tools we've just used once or twice. Buy them as you need them.

    I'd worry more about actual experience and knowledge than I would about making sure you have all the right equipment.
  4. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,722

    Jim , you dont know what a vibratory plow is ? It puts the pipe in without a trench , I can lay the pipe for a 6 zone system in 2 to 3 hours and no backfilling. Actually around here if you trenched in a system you would only do it once , after people saw the damage to the lawn no one else would hire you. If you are hand trenching it must be sand . I will suggest that you demo a vibratory plow , you will be amazed . Contact , Burkeen , Vermeer , Case or ditch witch and check one out.

    Air compressor is for winterizing and running the missile , I shoot under drives, landscape beds 2 to 3 times a week.

    Wire locator gets used on repairs almost daily , its great for instals when the locate company doesnt mark in time and you use it to find utilities.

    Time is money , the right tools and the best tools for the job . I can shovel the snow off a parking lot or I can use a snowplow . Both will get the job done , one is better and faster.
  5. DGI

    DGI LawnSite Member
    from SE Mich
    Messages: 173

    He's probably only a few thousand off of what he needs to get started, assuming he has a truck and trailer also. I understand there isn't much vibratory plowing going on in Oregon, nor do they blow out the systems there (correct?)

    Knowledge and experience are invaluable, however. How much experience do you have with irrigation?
  6. Mudmower

    Mudmower LawnSite Member
    Messages: 102

    In Texas, a master plumbers license to make water hook ups.
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I don't know that there isn't ANY vibratory plowing going on. Is a vibratory plow the same thing as a pipe puller? I know a very few irrigation contractors around here who use a pipe puller. But they are less than 5%. Most everyone trenches. Again, I am speaking of residential jobs.

    And same with blowing out systems - in THIS part of Oregon. I'd say probably only 10% of irrigation contractors blow out systems with air. I am not one who believes it's necessary. So we don't do it. Like I said before, it doesn't really ever freeze to that depth. But in Central and Eastern Oregon (Oregon is pretty big) it's a necessity. It freezes and snows big time in those areas during the winter. But the majority of the population of Oregon doesn't live in those areas. So it's fair to say that most contractors in oregon don't have to blow out systems with air.
  8. Qualey

    Qualey LawnSite Member
    Messages: 144

    "Wire locator gets used on repairs almost daily"

    Can you explain what this is and where you got it? We have repeatedly found DigSafe unreliable.
  9. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,722

    I got mine on e bay . Type in locator or wire tracker , there are a lot of manufacturers . I have a progressive electronics , I think its a 521 but I cant remember since I havent used it in a month.

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