"You get what you pay for", "The poor man pays twice", "The other quote is much cheaper -can you beat 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 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 with much more to it than just digging a trench and installing some pipes. The design has to be done right for starters. Because of the poor layout we often have to start again. Not enough sprinklers, pipes are in the wrong spots to just add a few more, are the wrong size, and too shallow so it just isn't worth modifying.
It starts with 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.
Next is design. A licensed contractor will design the system based on the available flow and pressure at your property. 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.
Sprinklers and valve boxes are 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. Too low and dirt will get in between the stem and the seal so the stem will be jam up.
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. I'm sick of seeing it. 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 I 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. 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 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 backfow 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- Servicing schools, acreage, and residential properties in the Sydney metropolitan area