"You get what you pay for", "The poor man pays twice", "The other quote is much cheaper -can you match it?"....These are phrases I often hear, and I hate seeing a poor installation, resulting in people having to pay twice to have their irrigation system installed.
We come across a lot of very poorly installed systems from unlicensed "irrigators" that are qualified in a similar field, such as plumbers, gardeners and landscapers. Yes they work in your garden, but would you trust the person at the car wash to service your car?
Irrigation is a specialist job and carries a separate trade license. There is much more to it than just digging a trench and installing some pipes. The design has to be done right for starters, starting with a flow and pressure test. We use a gauge to determine how much flow you have at the pressure required for the system to operate most efficiently, and then design our system based off these figures. Flow and pressure varies greatly across Sydney.
Then we select the most suitable sprinklers for your property type and their location to give 'head to head' coverage, then size the pipes accordingly. Head to head coverage is where one sprinkler throws to, is the spot the next sprinkler should be installed. This will ensure even coverage- see the image below with 12 metre spacing in each direction.
We often see sprinklers installed down the middle of the lawn instead of the edges, which means for the sprinklers to reach the corners there will be over spray onto hard surfaces such as roads, footpaths, driveways and houses. There will also be uneven water distribution resulting in /dry wet patches- You have to over water one area to give sufficient water to another area.
We see pipes that are too small for the required flow (demand) significantly increasing the risk of water hammer, or on bigger sites they are just not able to deliver the flow required. Pipes can be installed too shallow (you didn't want to aerate your compacted turf did you??), or the wrong type of pipe for the pressure.
There is also backflow prevention. A legal requirement to connect to the Sydney Water supply, often the first thing skipped because of ignorance from the unlicensed installer, or they just want to save a few bucks. Water can be sucked back from your irrigation system into your house plumbing and beyond if it isn't installed.
Sprinklers and valve boxes are often installed too high, too low, and completely in the wrong locations. They will be a trip hazard or require whipper snipping around to prevent damage from the mower. When sprinklers installed too low dirt will get in between the stem and the seal so the stem will be jam up. Too high and the mower will munch them up and they can also be a trip hazard.
We see cable that isn't installed in a conduit where it's exposed, instead it's left dangling out of a controller or across the surface of the ground, so it's unsightly and can be easily damaged.
We have come across sites that had a very good system until there was a minor electrical fault that would be easily fixed for a competent technician. Instead the gardeners ripped out the solenoid valves and replaced them with cheap, poor quality battery timers that will have to be replaced again in the near future.
MDPE (blue stripe poly) with a big curve coming out of backflow prevention device will work, but it just looks horrible! We use copper so it's nice and straight. Our standard is to install copper wherever pipe work has to be exposed.
We see cheap, poor quality sprinklers, solenoid valves, and controllers with very little water saving capabilities- if any, all installed to a very poor standard.
In NSW a licensed irrigation technician has completed a TAFE course, and completed a minimum of three years practical experience.
This page is aimed to raise awareness about licensing and educating the decision makers. There are landscapers and gardeners who have taken the time to further their knowledge by completing the TAFE course that are licensed that will do a good job, but there are a lot out there who haven't got a clue about irrigation that are happy to take your money and leave you with a woeful system, never to be seen again. I'm sick of seeing it, and the poor clients have to pay again to have a good sprinkler system installed. The irrigation component of Certificate III in the horticulture trades is very minimal. The scariest thing I have found is some of them are charging more than double to install an inferior system than what we would have charged to do it properly!
Please ensure the installer you choose is licensed to install irrigation, and not just licensed for landscape construction or plumbing. It's a specialist job, and we are licensed for a reason.
Below are some images of the poor quality systems we have come across by landscapers and gardeners that claim to know how to install irrigation. Some photos show how it looks once it's been rectified.
Awful exposed poly pipe installed out of a cheap timer.
Nice and clean with copper.
Cable and mainline both installed on the surface. It was damaged and looks horrible!
This is in a car park of a commercial site. The valve box should be installed IN the ground. Dripline needs a lot more pins to stay on the ground instead of becoming exposed.
The more you look the worse it gets...
Poly exposed out of a cheap splitter without backflow prevention.
Nice and clean with a brass tee, ball valve, and a dual check valve for backflow prevention.
There was an electrical fault so the gardeners just removed the solenoid valve and installed this cheap battery timer. They have also installed 13mm poly pipe which will drastically reduce the flow. Would have been a simple fix.
The cable was just wrapped up with a pallet of black electrical tape.
It's now in conduit. The second conduit is for the cable for the flow meter which has to be separate to avoid interference. There were a lot of obstacles here including a drain, tap, and power point which is why it has been installed like this.
A decoder which has been installed without waterproof joiners. These decoders weren't actually wired up to the solenoid valves. The cable path was full of faults due to poor installation. The retirement village now has working irrigation for the first time in years.
Very poor workmanship on this PVC. Apart from being too shallow the angle of the pipes means the fittings and pipe are barely in and will fail.
Autoflow Irrigation- specialising in Hydrawise smart controller upgrades