Homeowner Guide

All turf & landscape irrigation work performed in the state of Texas must be done by a licensed irrigator. This includes all contracts, design, installation, and repair.

A licensed technician, working for a licensed irrigator, may perform installations and repairs.

Either the licensed irrigator or licensed technician MUST remain on the jobsite at all times while work is being performed.

Both the licensed irrigator and licensed technician are required by state law to comply with regulations established by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). These regulations have been established to insure the protection of our potable water sources and maintain minimum standards as established by the TCEQ.

Key points to consider before selecting an irrigation contractor

Automatic Irrigation Systems

When designed and installed properly, automatic underground irrigation systems will not only eliminate the time consuming chore of hand watering your lawn, but also provide your landscape with uniform coverage of water based on specific zones. Properly installed, an automatic system will aid in healthy and vigorous growth of your valuable turf and landscape plantings. Over time, the demand for commercial and residential irrigation systems has been accompanied by two developments:

(1) Better values and quality by responsible licensed contractors.
(2) A number of irresponsible and / or non-licensed contractors.

A prospective customer should always obtain sufficient information to select a responsible and competent contractor.

License

The State of Texas requires a test to become a licensed irrigator or a licensed technician. Applicants are tested in the areas of backflow prevention devices, hydraulics, proper sizing of pipe and irrigation components, efficient head spacing, and other important aspects concerning the system. The successful applicant is then issued a license number by the state. It is required by law that the licensed irrigator’s seal and number be placed on all designs and documents. Any advertisement or business card must also have the licensed irrigator’s license number. All vehicles used for installation, repair, or service must show the licensed irrigator’s number on both sides of the vehicle. You can easily verify a contractor’s irrigation license status by contacting the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. TCEQ contact information is located on the Associations page of this website.

The Dallas Irrigation Association strongly recommends you deal only with licensed irrigators.

Selecting Materials

Ask your prospective contractor to show samples of various types of equipment used; such as spray or rotor heads, valves, and controllers. Don’t forget to ask about drip irrigation components and newer technologies as well. This information 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 a system. Ask for an explanation on the advantages and disadvantages of each product and brand. As a general rule, sprinkler system equipment varies in cost and quality. Each item is manufactured with a specific function in mind and will operate properly only if it is installed as recommended by the manufacturer’s specifications.

Irrigation Design & Bid

Each contractor will have their own policy regarding design and bidding. Always remember to compare “apples to apples”. Free estimates are typically very limited. Many contractors will charge a fee for an irrigation design or even for a bid. A contractor may or may not wish to provide you with a design for the purpose of submitting a bid on a new installation. However, a design is required by state law before work begins. Make sure you receive a copy for your records. Designs should be drawn to scale and contain a point of connection, backflow device, head and valve locations, pipe layout and size, nozzle sizes and degrees of coverage. Upon completion of the installation, the contractor should supply you with an “as built” design, showing any changes that were made during the installation. This will be a valuable benefit to you when future additions to your residence or landscape are needed; for sprinkler system repair; or if issues regarding design or warranty arise.

Permits

Most irrigation work requires a permit from your local municipality. Each municipality will have a threshold for when a permit is required. Typically, any new installation or an addition of at least 25% to an existing system will require a permit. Some municipalities require a permit if the backflow preventer is replaced. If a contractor states that no permit is required, check with your local authorities to verify. It is ultimately the homeowner who will pay the price for not having the required permits.

Written Contract

As a general rule, irrigation system installations are begun after a contract is agreed upon and signed by both parties. The contract submitted by the contractor should include: irrigator’s legal name and license number, the scope of work, list of materials, total price for the job, any required permits, warranty period, and payment terms. The contract is directed at legally protecting both parties. A responsible contractor should have no objections to a written contract.

Payment

A successful contractor should be adequately financed to install an irrigation system without the need of large advance deposits or payments. However, due to high operational and material costs, a contractor may desire a deposit or progress payment, particularly on large or expensive installations. The Dallas Irrigation Association recommends that an advance deposit or progress payment should not exceed 50% of the total cost of the job.

Warranty

You should receive a written warranty for materials and labor, outlining exactly what is covered and for how long of a period. The warranty may vary from contractor to contractor.

Low Bid

It was Ruskin who said: “There is hardly anything in the world that some men cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper; and the people who consider price only, are such men’s lawful prey.” In order for the contractor to continue serving you and other customers in a responsible manner, they must stay in business and show a fair profit. Simply “paying the bills” is little incentive to a reputable contractor. Consider the cost of other items you own compared to the value of your landscape and residence. The low bid is not always the best value. Rebuilding or replacing an improperly designed or installed irrigation system may cost you many times the amount you thought you saved. Even if the system is functional – if it wastes water – you will pay more in higher water costs for many years to come.

Remember, you are installing a permanent system that must be installed right the first time in order for it to work properly. 

Additional Tips

  • Look for a contractor that is a member of a local, state, or national irrigation trade association. Verify current membership status.
  • Look for additional irrigation industry certifications and verify.
  • Ask for references and contact them to check on satisfaction with the contractor’s performance and quality levels.
  • Remember that not all contractors are equal. Check all available information including the scale and scope of previous work.
  • Check out the latest news on Water Conservation here.