A Guide Toward Selecting an Irrigation Contractor


The HGCIA (Houston Gulf Coast Irrigation Association) is a local organization comprised of area licensed irrigation contractors, suppliers, and other interested parties whose primary aim is to provide you, the consumers of the Gulf Coast area, with the most up-to-date and reliable irrigation equipment, using the most advanced techniques in design and installation. The HGCIA is continually striving to see that only competent and legally licensed individuals design and install underground irrigation systems.

Choosing an Irrigation Contractor
A Very Important Decision

The success of your irrigation system depends largely on the contractor you choose to design and install it. A contractor's expertise and skills will affect your system's efficiency and reliability. In fact, how your irrigation system is designed and installed will make the difference between a system that continues to keep your lawn healthy and green, and one that creates problems by wasting water and leaving your lawn unhealthy and brown. Choosing the right contractor is a big decision, but it is not as difficult as you may think. Here are a few tips that will help you select a contractor who will guarantee a job well done.

What to Expect

An efficient, well-organized contractor will be happy to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed choice. First, the contractor will want to view your property in order to determine soil conditions, water sources and pressure, and planting materials. He will then present a formal estimate detailing what he plans to do and the total price for design, materials, and installation. Along with the estimate, the contractor should clearly explain all the project specifics. Generally, there should be little disruption to existing foliage, and the average job should take less than a week.

Questions to Ask

The best contractors will encourage you to ask many questions. By asking questions, you will know what type of sprinkler system you are getting for your money and what to expect from your new system. Here are a few important questions to consider:

What type of product will be used and why? A professional should tell you what type of controller, valves, rotors, or spray heads are best for your landscape.

Is after-sale service provided? A professional should be willing and able to provide after-sale service.

Is there a system warranty? A professional’s work should be guaranteed — a one-year warranty is typical.

Does he have references available? A professional should be willing to provide you with the names and telephone numbers of recent satisfied customers, so you can call and check his references.

You Get What You Pay For

When choosing a contractor, you should be wary of those who offer to charge you significantly less than others. Low bidders may not be licensed or insured and may often use cost-cutting techniques that can jeopardize your lawn and shorten the life of your system. Watch out for these commonly used, undesirable short-cuts:

Not including a backflow preventer: This is often required by local codes to protect your drinking water.
Installing sprinklers too far apart: This makes it impossible for certain areas to receive enough water and can cause brown spots during the hot summer months.
Mixing sprinklers with different application rates on the same line: This causes one area to be overwatered in order to sufficiently water another.
Not using special watertight connectors and a protective valve box: These components are necessary to safeguard the electrical elements, guard against short circuits and prevent corrosion.

Confidence Counts

Above all, you should choose a contractor you trust and in whom you feel confident. It is also important that he installs professional series products such as those manufactured by Rain Bird. For over 70 years, professional irrigation contractors have used Rain Bird products to provide the industry's most cost-effective and reliable irrigation systems. Choosing a contractor who uses Rain Bird professional series products is the best way to ensure that your project will be done right.

Your sprinkler system is a complex network of pipes, valves, sprinklers, and electrical connections. Because it serves as the circulation system for your entire yard, the design and installation of your sprinkler system is critical. This is a complicated process that requires specialized tools and equipment, as well as a strong knowledge of landscape design and hydraulics. This is why it is so important to have a professional contractor design and install your system.

Selecting Materials

Ask your prospective contractor to show samples of various types of equipment they use such as irrigation heads, controllers, valves and risers. This will not only help inform you as to how the system will operate, but will also aid in communicating with your contractor what you desire in the system. Ask him to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each product. As a general rule irrigation system equipment varies in cost and quality. Each item is manufactured with specific functions in mind and will operate properly only if it is installed as recommended by the manufacturers specifications. Underground irrigation systems, when designed and installed in the proper manner using the proper equipment, not only eliminate the time consuming chore of hand watering your lawn, but also provide your landscape with more uniform coverage and application of water which aids in healthy and vigorous growth of your valuable landscape plantings. AUTOMATIC SYSTEMS have proven time and again to not only provide better application of water, but also can provide numerous time-controlled watering schedules, which help in establishing new lawns areas and conserve our water resources. The rapid increase in the demand for commercial and residential irrigation systems, has been accompanied by two developments, lower prices and better values by responsible contractors and an increased number of irresponsible and fly-by-night contractors. You, the prospective customer, should obtain sufficient information to prevent selecting irresponsible and incompetent contractors.

Should You Request an Irrigation Design?

Each contractor will have their own policy regarding design work. He may wish to provide you a design for the purpose of submitting an accurate bid, on the other hand, a contractor may believe he is experienced enough that he can give you an accurate bid without a design. In either case, the HGCIA STRONGLY SUGGESTS that you demand a copy of the "As Built" irrigation plan upon completion of the job. This will be a valuable benefit to you when future additions to your residence or landscape are needed, or for irrigation system repair.

License?

The State of Texas provides a licensing program directly aimed at testing designers and installers in every aspect of design and instillation. Applicants for the license are thoroughly tested in the areas of back-flow prevention devices, hydraulics (proper sizing of components), economical efficient head spacing and other important aspects concerning the system. The successful applicant is then certified and issued a license number and is required by state law to place this certified state seal on all designs. HGCIA AGGRESSIVELY SUPPORTS THE USE OF TEXAS STATE LICENSED IRRIGATORS. He or she is usually well informed with state and local codes and regulation concerning irrigation system installation.

Is a Written Legal Contract Necessary?

As a general rule, most large commercial irrigation system installation are awarded after both parties agree upon signed contract. The contract that is submitted by the contractor should include: scope of work, price of job, city permits, warranty periods, and client/customer payment agreement. The contract is directed at protecting both parties legally. A written contract is not necessarily mandatory in all cases, particularly residential installations in the community, others are not. HGCIA suggests that if there is any doubt regarding a contractor's reliability, or you are not acquainted with their work then a contract should be provided by the contractor. Responsible contractors should have no objections to a written contract. In general, a contractor may require a deposit at the time of signing the contract. HGCIA suggests that if a large advance deposit/payment is requested, you should make sure the payment is justified and that you are dealing with a reputable contractor.

Warranty?

The standard manufacturers and contractors warranty period for most irrigation products and installations, is one year on materials and workmanship. You, the consumer are protected by the people who Build and Install the equipment. HGCIA suggests you, as the customer, ask for references on other installations the contractor has completed and how responsible they are regarding warranty work.

Should You Take the Low Bid?

It was Ruskin who said: "There is hardly anything in the world that one man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper; and the people who consider price only, are such men's lawful prey." Remember, in order for the contractor to continue serving you and other customers in a responsible manner they must stay in business and show fair profit. Simply "paying the bills" is little incentive to a reputable contractor. Again, consider the cost of other items you own or desire compared to the value of your landscape or residence. The low bid is not always the cheapest. Re-building or replacing an improperly designed or installed system may cost you many times the amount you thought you saved. Remember, you are installing a permanent underground system that must be installed right the first time.

The Important Points

1. Is your prospective contractor or designer a state licensed irrigator?

Have you discussed the equipment to be used, and does the contractor understand your needs?

2. Will the contractor submit to you an "As Built" Irrigation Design bearing their seal, license number and name upon completion of the installation?

3. Will your prospective contractor provide a signed written contract if you desire one?

4. What type of warranty does the contractor provide and what is their reputation concerning warranty work?

5. Remember! The low bid is not necessarily the least costly in the long run. 6. Ask for references.

7. When selecting an irrigation contractor, look for the logo below indicating the membership in the HGCIA. It is you assurance of quality design and installation.

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