About four years ago I had an underground sprinkler system installed in our yard.  We have a small 2 bedroom home, but it sits on a pie-shaped lot and the backyard alone is well over 8,000 square feet.  When we first moved into the house I watered the lawn with a regular sprinkler but found that I had to move it 5-6 times to give full coverage to the backyard.

The process was incredibly time consuming, often taking 3-4 hours to completely water the backyard.  Picking a day and time to do this was not easy either.  We have high winds here in Lethbridge which makes it difficult to water specific areas of the lawn.  And it’s best to water early in the morning or late at night when it’s cool, but having to manually move the sprinkler every 30 minutes or so made that nearly impossible.

Finally, after accidentally leaving the sprinkler on all night and waking up to a nearly flooded backyard I decided to investigate the underground sprinkler system cost in order to save me from this hassle.

Typical Underground Sprinkler System Cost

Installing an underground sprinkler system varies from region to region, but the cost depends on two main factors: the size of the lawn (the amount of pipe and number of sprinkler heads needed) and the quality of the parts used.  For an average sized 2,500 square foot lawn the price ranges from $2,000 to $3,000.

With a bigger lawn, one way to estimate the underground sprinkler system cost is to price it by zone.  A zone is an area in which multiple sprinkler heads are concentrated and run at one time, and costs in the neighbourhood of $400-$600 apiece. (Note: only one zone operates at a time because it requires a lot of water, somewhere around 75 litres per minute)

Keep in mind that a larger lawn isn’t proportionally more expensive, because once the plumbing, which is the most complicated step, is installed and connected, it is easy to add more zones.  So, while a 2,500 square foot lawn may average $2,500, a 5,000 square foot lawn may only cost $3,000 to $3,500.

What’s included with your Underground Sprinkler System?

An underground lawn sprinkler system consists of several main components.  The controller is a small computer that is installed in an out of the way place such as the garage.  It controls all the timing of the underground sprinkler system, including which zone turns on when and for how long.  The controller is linked to a valve system that controls the water flow into the sprinkler system zones.

The valves are buried underground in boxes that make them easy to access if needed.  The water then runs through PVC piping buried a foot or two underground.  This pipe is connected to the sprinkler heads.  Sprinkler heads pop-up when activated on a lawn.  Permanently raised heads are often used in gardens.

Professional installation of sprinkler systems can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week.

Additional Underground Sprinkler System Costs

Routine maintenance on underground sprinkler systems includes replacing the timer ($100), valves ($25 apiece), valve boxes ($20), rotor heads ($25) and spray heads ($10).  To replace most of these components, with labour, could cost $750-$1000.  New pipes cost more.  Doing it yourself would lower the cost.

Do-it-yourselfers installing an underground lawn sprinkler system should be aware of hazards such as utility lines.  Remember to call before you dig.  It is generally advised to leave this step to a professional.

DoItYourself.Com offers a tutorial on installing an underground sprinkler system.

Was It Worth The Money?

We had our underground sprinkler system professionally installed and managed to get by with a few less zones than typically recommended just because of the size of our yard.  The underground sprinkler system cost us in excess of $3,000 when it was finally completed.

I’ll admit that having an underground sprinkler system is very convenient.  You can set the timer to water the lawn once or twice a week early in the morning, or set it to come on while you’re on vacation so you don’t come back to a brown lawn.  It’s a worry free way to keep your lawn looking beautiful.

If I could go back in time though, I would have made a few different choices:

  1. I would have bought the house down the street with the smaller backyard
  2. I wouldn’t have cared so much about how my lawn looked
  3. I would have saved over $3,000 by not installing an underground sprinkler system

Do you have underground sprinklers, or would you consider having a system installed?


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