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My backyard is essentially a wasteland; I plan on installing an irrigation system along with landscaping, hardscaping, shrubs, trees, retaining walls, etc.

As far as I've been able to discern so far, I want to get my layout done first, and start on an irrigation system before any other features go in.

That said, I've been wondering whether this is the sort of project I want to tackle on my own (to save money) or if I am better off hiring a professional company.

I am aware of some of the concepts behind designing and installing such a system (low spots, zones, dual-coverage of all areas) but I wonder if there's enough of a cost savings to justify venturing into this project on my own.

I am looking for advice from those who have designed and installed their own, and whether you would do it again.

My lawn is about 3600 sq. foot and is essentially a flat rectangle.

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It never hurts to call for estimates. At least then you'll have a starting point to figure your savings doing it yourself. –  Tester101 Aug 9 '11 at 2:04
    
I've gotten a couple of estimates so far. The difference in price is a fairly attractive $1000 give or take. The question is, will that difference be worth it. –  JYelton Aug 9 '11 at 6:49
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migrated from diy.stackexchange.com Feb 12 '12 at 16:43

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4 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I've done all my own irragation. I would do it again myself. Here is why.

  1. You know what was done. What grade of pipe was used, proper cleaner/glue, quality of valves and timer. I've seen lots of shoddy installations at other houses.
  2. You know where the pipes are running. Take photos of everything. This really helps when you need to dig later.
  3. It is not all that hard compared to many other DIY projects. Pipes are easy to carry. Glue is easy to work with. The materials are not very expensive. Compared to pouring concrete or building a retaining wall this is easy.
  4. You can take your time. You can spen a few days installing everything. It does not have to be finished quickly, like concrete.

Some downsides:

  1. It takes time. You could be watching tv/fishing/bowling instead!
  2. There is a lot of digging. Rent a trencher.
  3. You will get dirty!
  4. You will get wet!
  5. You will probably have to fix a leak!

Some tips:

  1. Buy the thicker PVC pipe.
  2. Consider above ground valves. It is no fun working on valves when they are below ground and in the mud.
  3. Put in more zones than fewer. Think about sun/shade/soil differences.
  4. If you are putting more than one pipe in a trench color code them. This will really help when you need to add to a zone later.
  5. If possible, put the timer where you can see the water when it is running.
  6. Use better quality sprinkler heads.
  7. Bury the pipes deeper than you need. That way when you need a taller sprinkler head you can just install it. You can always use a taller riser.
  8. Make sure the sprinkler heads are below the surface of the lawn. The kids don't like stepping on them when they are running around.
  9. Make a test run before burrying everything. Check for leaks!
  10. Get the proper tools. Do not cut pvc pipe with a saw. You'll have to deburr every cut.
  11. Don't forget to flush the pipes before installing the heads!

Enjoy your new lawn!

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Though I agree in principle, you can hire an irrigation company you trust and supervise their work, and achieve the same result. Or, you can gung-ho it, with no idea about the subtleties of what you're doing, and totally screw it up. You either researched it heavily or had prior experience; the same cannot be said for probably 90% of homeowners. –  KeithS Aug 9 '11 at 15:27
    
@KeithS - Keep in mind the context of this answer is the actual question asked above which specifically requests responses from people who have done this before themselves. –  Jeff Swensen Sep 17 '11 at 4:20
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It's like any other DIY project. It's a time/money issue. That said, it sounds like you are doing MAJOR landscaping. To do all you listed will likely take you years DIY (especially retaining walls...they aren't for the faint of heart). If that's OK, I say go for it. Keep in mind that you really can't get irrigation figured out until you have the plan for the landscaping finished. I'm not sure you want the irrigation done first. Typically, you'd be adding it as needed as you go. Otherwise you're dealing with other projects interfering with your already installed irrigation system.

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+1 about the retaining walls; there's a deceptively large amount of engineering inherent in building them, especially if you need one taller than a couple of feet. –  KeithS Aug 9 '11 at 15:25
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Consider hiring a professional to do the hard part. My parents had a sprinkler system installed in their yard when I was in middle school. They hired out the trench-digging and installation, but didn't pay to have the professionals back-fill the trenches. My dad and I just had to shovel the dirt back into the trenches once he was satisfied with their work. Doing it this way saved some money and allowed my parents to inspect the job done by the professionals.

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What are the regulations in your area regarding permits for irrigation systems? In many municipalities, irrigation work now requires a construction permit, which must be pulled by a tradesman with the appropriate license -- in my area, this is a master plumber with an irrigation license.

The reason for this is back flow prevention. Irrigation systems are extremely common paths for fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals to enter your home or city water supply. The irrigation license requirement means that The city has the guarantee that the irrigation system will be installed correctly. If they find an irrigation project that a license was not pulled for, then they will require you to tear it out.

If your city has this requirement, you cannot DIY this project.

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The requirement is that a backflow prevention valve must be installed by a licensed plumber. I've obtained estimates for this work and included it in my plans whether DIY or contracted. Once the connection to the water main is installed, I can go ahead on my own or hire a landscape/irrigation company. Good information but not quite what I am after. –  JYelton Aug 9 '11 at 6:50
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Yep, that's different from my locality. (Or rather, it's different because the master plumber must sign off on ALL work, not just the backflow valve, and the liability insurance of most in my area will not allow them to sign off on work done by a homeowner.) My girlfriend's dad is a master plumber and has given me a lot of good info. –  Karl Katzke Aug 9 '11 at 21:11
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