Part One – How to choose an irrigation company to install a sprinkler system

If you’re looking for the right irrigation company to install a sprinkler system so that your lawn is the object of your neighbors’ envy, read on! In this interview, we caught up with Phil Sarros of Sarros Landscaping in Cumming, Georgia. He shared some of the common mistakes homeowners make when choosing a company to install a sprinkler system. He also revealed some of the typical ways contractors cut corners.

Phil did landscaping work as a kid and got an engineering degree in college in Ohio. When his wife’s job transferred their family to Georgia, Phil spotted an opportunity to start a landscaping and irrigation company. Today, his engineering background helps him design sprinkler systems that work.

In Part 1 of this series we’ll chat with Phil about the following:

  • Checking the references of the sprinkler contractor
  • Looking for someone is ideally within 5 -10 miles of your home
  • Doing some homework
  • Considering the importance of water pre-tests.

Check the references of the sprinkler contractor.

Online reviews are a good place to start, but Phil cautions against ending your search there. In his opinion, “An online review can never take the place of a real, live person or client.”

Is there anything in particular that you should ask? “First, you want to gauge the communication level of the contractor,” Phil said. “The way a company responds before a sale is indicative of how they’ll respond after the sale. Find out if they’re good communicators.”

Some ways that you can find this out for yourself are seeing if they…

  • Answer the phones.
  • Return calls on the same day.
  • Show up on time.
  • Get the information you requested back to you within a reasonable timeframe.

Remember what Phil said. If a contractor acts this way before they have your money, it’s probably a safe bet that they’ll be even worse at communicating after they have it. Anything else you should ask the company’s clients? Phil advised that you ask if they mind if you drive by to see the job with your own eyes. “Ask if they would they mind sending you pictures.”

He continued, “You also want a client phone number from a job that didn’t go perfectly.” We asked why this way so important. “What you want to see is their level of customer service,” Phil answered. “What did they do to make the client happy? How did they fix the problem? Problems and challenges happen sometimes. It’s part of life. You want an irrigation company that is willing to jump through hoops for you to make things right.”

Look for a company that’s within 5-10 miles from your house.

We asked Phil why a client should be picky about this. His answer made sense. “It’s worth waiting for a sprinkler company that’s located nearby. First, irrigation guys love jobs close to their office location. It allows them to be more efficient with their time. Less windshield time for their employees.” We asked Phil how this benefits the homeowner. “This means that the contractor can get to your home quickly,” he said, “especially in case you have a problem. Do you want to wait a few days for someone to come fix a broken head? Or would rather they be able to send a tech over right away? It’s a win-win for the contractor and the client.”

Learn about irrigation so you know what they’re selling you.

If you’re looking to get a sprinkler system for your yard or business, Phil suggested that you first do your homework. “Take the time to learn the industry phrases and jargon,” he said. “Learn the pieces. Learn the common problems associated with sprinkler heads and timers.”

That sounds like a lot of work. Why should you do that? “An educated consumer is a prepared consumer,” Phil said. “This way, [the client] will understand what the contractor is talking about. They will understand the contract’s scope of work. They will also be better able to tell if someone is trying to take advantage of them.”

A great way to do this is to spend some time on Youtube. There are lots of informative videos on sprinkler systems out there. Taking the twenty minutes to watch a few videos might be the difference between getting a system that works properly or not.

Which brings up a good point. What are some of the mistakes and shortcuts irrigation companies will make to sell the job cheap?

Find out if they’ll do a water pressure pre-test.

Every home has a different water pressure reading. It might be:

  • Too low – There’s not enough water flow for the system to work efficiently as designed.
  • Too high – This causes premature wear and stress on pipe, fittings, heads and valves.
  • Or “just right.”

It’s kind of like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Of course, everyone wants perfect water pressure. Alas, that doesn’t happen for everyone. Why is it important to know what kind of water pressure you have? “Your water pressure will decide the number of zones that you will require,” Paul said. “It also decides how many heads per zone you can safely install.”

“Now, here’s where some sprinkler installers make a mistake,” he said. “They assume that your water pressure is just like the house they did down the block. Next, they design an irrigation system with two zones (a front and a back) based on the wrong pressure. Can you see how this can cause a problem for your system?”

So, you might want to ask for a pre-test BEFORE they design your system to make sure that you get the right system for your home.

And that concludes Part One of this series on how to choose the best sprinkler contractor to work with. We want to thank Phil of Sarros Landscaping again for the golden nuggets of wisdom that he shared. But fear not – Phil isn’t done yet! In Part Two, we will explain how you can protect yourself from some of the common sprinkler problems homeowners face. Some of these are caused by inexperienced installers. Unfortunately, others are caused by people that are trying to cut corners to save a buck. Be sure to catch Part Two so that you can get the best sprinkler contractor to design, install, and maintain your irrigation system.