Installing a sprinkler system can cost anywhere from $1,700 to $3,500 for a standard quarter-acre lot, but the final price depends on a variety of factors. Larger lots will cost more, as will lots with multiple zones. The bulk of the cost is in digging trenches and repairing the lawn afterward. The actual pipes and sprinkler heads are affordable and easy to assemble.
In addition to your lawn’s size and the number of sprinkler zones, some other factors will affect your sprinkler system cost. Here are a few other things you’ll need to consider when planning your project:
1. Soil Conditions
The biggest factor that affects sprinkler system costs is your soil. Depending on the type of soil you have, you might need a more expensive setup. For example, plastic sprinkler heads are fine for most soil types, but sandy soil requires stainless steel heads, which will increase your costs.
2. Sun and Water Requirements
The amount of sun your lawn gets can also impact the cost of your sprinkler system. If your lawn is in full sun, it will need more water than a partially-shaded garden. Similarly, different plants and grass species require different amounts of water.
3. Whether Or Not You Hire a Contractor
A contractor can install your sprinkler system quickly and is unlikely to make a mistake, but you'll need to pay for the convenience. Additionally, a good contractor will be insured, so even if something does go wrong, you won’t be left footing the bill.
4. Materials and equipment rentals
As the saying goes, “Measure twice, cut once.” Make sure to figure out in advance everything you need for the entire system. If it helps, lay everything out on the ground first to make sure it’s all there. At that point, you can rent a trencher and start installing with confidence.
5. Cleaning Up Afterward
You’re about to dig up your lawn, so you’d better have a plan for repairing it when you’re done. If you’re a DIYer, make sure to have grass seed and straw on hand for repairs. If you’re hiring a contractor, make sure to clarify whether they repair your lawn afterward, or whether you’ll need to hire a landscaper to do that.
If you can afford the cost of installation and maintenance, a sprinkler system is usually a worthwhile investment. A sprinkler system will provide proper lawn irrigation and help you grow a beautiful, healthy lawn. Besides the installation cost, there are many other factors to consider before installing an automatic sprinkler system. Here are a few reasons you might — or might not — want to install a sprinkler system on your property.
Sprinkler System Advantages
This much is a no-brainer. With an automatic sprinkler system, you don’t have to wrangle hoses and adjust dials yourself. You set a timer, then forget about it for the rest of the summer. Without any additional effort, you get a lush, well-watered lawn.
2. Better Lawn Health
The best time to water your lawn is in the morning, just before dawn. Watering during the day wastes a lot of water because most of it evaporates in the sun. Conversely, watering in the evening leaves excess moisture on the surface overnight, which can help spread fungus and disease. When you water early in the morning, the water absorbs well, and any excess is evaporated when the sun rises.
But do you really want to get out of bed at five in the morning to run your sprinkler? With an automatic sprinkler system, you don’t have to.
If you’re on vacation, or if you live alone and regularly travel for business, you won’t be able to water manually every day. You could ask a neighbor to water for you, or you could install a sprinkler system and let things take care of themselves.
4. More Control
Many automatic sprinkler systems can be connected to soil moisture sensors. These sensors will ensure that your automatic sprinkler only waters as much as is needed. If your lawn is waterlogged from recent rain, the sprinklers will remain off until they’re needed. If it’s been sweltering and dry, the sprinklers will water more to compensate. This ensures that your grass will always have the soil moisture it needs.
5. Increased Safety
If you use a traditional sprinkler, you’ve got a hose running across your lawn. Not only is this unsightly, but it can also be a safety hazard. Children and pets can trip and hurt themselves, not to mention the fact that you’ve got to roll the hose up whenever you mow. Automatic sprinkler heads only appear when they’re needed. Otherwise, they remain tucked away, out of sight, and out of the way.
Sprinkler System Disadvantages
1. Higher Costs
No matter how you cut it, an automatic sprinkler system is pricier than a traditional, manual sprinkler. Whether or not it’s worth the money depends on your own personal needs.
2. Complex Repairs
An automatic sprinkler system will work for years when properly maintained. However, like all mechanical systems, some parts will eventually break. This means troubleshooting, then digging up part of your lawn to access the troublesome part. This can become even more challenging if you’ve got an automated system with a bunch of sensors. You’ll have to troubleshoot a bit to determine whether your problem is coming from a broken valve or a faulty sensor.
3. Lawn Damage During Installation
There’s a reason why most automatic sprinkler systems are installed in new houses. When the “lawn” is just a bunch of dirt with no sod, it’s easy to install a sprinkler system. You can seed around it, and the grass will be automatically watered from day one.
On the other hand, installing an irrigation system on an existing lawn means digging a series of trenches. When you’re done, you can plan on reseeding a lot of grass. Thankfully, this can be turned to your advantage. Since your lawn is getting torn up anyway, now is a great time to plant trees, install hardscape elements, or build that artisanal pond you’ve always been thinking about.
When you think about installing a sprinkler system, it’s helpful to think in terms of other projects that might add value to your home. For instance, many people spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on lush home gardens with all kinds of flowers, shrubs, and trees.
If you love gardening, by all means, plant your dream garden! But fancy gardens require maintenance, and not everybody wants one. And if someone is a gardening enthusiast, they probably want to plant their own garden, anyway. So unless you find a buyer who shares your love for South Javanese Ficus trees, you’re not adding any value to your home.
On the other hand, everyone has a yard, and every lawn needs to be watered. No matter who your buyer is, they’re going to benefit from an automatic sprinkler system. This type of universally-useful addition is precisely the kind of project that will add value to your home.
We’ve already discussed sprinkler system installation costs, but there’s no reason you can’t save money by doing it yourself. Installing the actual pipe is easy. All the parts are made to fit together, so as long as you plan ahead and buy the right equipment, you can lay an entire system in a weekend.
The bulk of the work comes from trenching and burying the pipes. You can rent a trencher for a few hours for less than a hundred dollars at most rental shops. Once again, planning ahead is key. Mark out where you’re going to dig beforehand, so you don’t waste your time with the rental.
Also, call your local utility company before you dig, so they can mark the property for any buried lines. If you hit the neighborhood’s main phone line, the expense will wipe out anything you saved by installing your own sprinkler.
If you want a beautiful lawn, watering is your number one consideration, and the best option is to use a sprinkler system for irrigation. You can rest assured that your lawn will always be sufficiently watered for its needs by installing a sprinkler. That said, it’s a major project, and many people may balk at the costs. Don’t worry. You might be surprised at just how affordable a home sprinkler system can be.