Keeping your lawn well watered is a critical component in proper lawn care. For those who are too busy to take care of watering the lawn themselves, installing a sprinkler system will take this task off your shoulders. A sprinkler system will maintain the beauty of your yard, and will keep it from a worst-case scenario of needing to be reseeded or re-sodded. Let's check out the prices reported by HomeGuide members:
This pricing guide covers:
Sprinkler System Cost
For homeowners looking to install a sprinkler system on a quarter of an acre lot, the average price is between $1,900–$3,800. To install sprinklers on half-acre yards costs $3,400 to $5,400, and one-acre yards cost $6,000 to $8,000. This reflects an installation cost of approx. $0.40 cents per square foot of ground watered.
National Average Cost
Sprinkler System Cost By Lawn Size
Following are the national averages for typical complete lawn sprinkler system prices. These prices include PVC Schedule 40 Pipe, sprinkler heads, control valves, essential fittings, digging trenches, and backfilling trenches. The costs reflect the cost per square foot of the ground to be watered.
For a large area manual sprinkler system using pop-up impact irrigation heads, covering between 200 square feet and 300 square feet per head, you’ll pay approx.
|Size Of Lawn
|Up to 5,000 sq. ft.
||$0.46 per sq. ft.
|5,000 to 10,000 sq. ft.
||$0.38 per sq. ft.
|Over 10,000 sq. ft.
||$0.31 per sq. ft.
For an automatic control sprinkler system, add an additional $0.14 per square foot.
For a small area manual sprinkler irrigation system under 5,000 SF using spray heads:
|Strip, automatic, shrub type
||$0.73 per sq. ft.
|Residential type, manual
||$0.66 per sq. ft.
|Add for automatic controls
||$0.14 per sq. ft.
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Sprinkler System Cost Factors
The two most important cost factors to consider is the size of your lawn, and the quality of materials used. Additional factors include:
- Lawn Size – An average quarter acre lot has about 7,500 square feet of lawn and shrubbery that would need to be irrigated. Expect to pay $0.31/sqft–$0.80/sqft for a large area sprinkler system using pop-up impact irrigation heads, covering between 200 square feet and 300 square feet per head.
- Sprinkler System Parts – Depending on the brand of pipes, heads, controllers, and timers used by your installer, your project final cost may fluctuate some. Expect all the parts to install your sprinkler system to cost $700–$900 depending on your lawn size. Cheaper components are always an option, but likely will need repair sooner than quality parts and potentially end up being a more expensive path down the road.
- Trenches – Trenches will be dug to lay the pipes that will carry the water to the sprinkler heads. The trenches are typically up to 12 inches deep, and risers are used to bring water to the sprinkler heads. Expect to pay around $68–$72/foot to trench 12 feet long x 12 inches deep. Sod will then be put back over the pipes. Replacing and rolling sod is about $5/ft. Reseeding by hand, cover, water, and mulch is approx. $0.70/sqft.
- Type of soil – There is an additional cost for hard soil including digging shelf, rock field, hardpan is $0.40 per linear foot. If the installation is to take place in an area that typically experiences significant freezing each year, there would be an additional 10% in costs to construct a system to operate in that environment.
- Number Of Zones To Water – The larger the area that needs to be watered, the more trenches will be dug, the more pipes laid, and the more heads used. Pop-up impact irrigation heads cover between 200 square feet and 300 square feet per head. For a simple average-sized yard area, you would install as many lawn zones as needed and a shrubbery zone. You may need to separate sunny and shaded areas for both the lawn and plant areas for maximum efficiency.
- Landscaping Design – A range of design features and the type of landscaping installed will place unique demands at different locations. For example, having a significant grouping of very thirsty shrubs in the farthest corner of the yard from the house is different from only needing to reach grass at the same distance.
- Permits (may not be required) – When a homeowner is adding a new sprinkler system that will remain permanently connected to a water supply to a residential lot, it is typical in most states that building permits will need to be applied for. The average fees are approx. $200. In addition, if you live in a neighborhood under the authority of a homeowner’s association, check with them to make sure there are no restrictions or regulations.
- Labor – On average, labors costs around $42/hour for sprinkler installation. It is largely the labor costs that will vary and not the materials cost, unless the installation is taking place in a very rural location.
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How much water will your sprinkler system use?
On average, your sprinkler system will use half a gallon per sq ft to provide your lawn with 1” of water.
When compared to a manual, above-ground irrigation system for your residential lawn, bushes and shrubbery; an inground system, especially if equipped with an electronic timer, is a lot more efficient in water use, which saves you money, and it saves a lot of time over the course of a year.
To calculate the amount of water you use to provide your lawn with 1” of water:
Length x width of yard = sq. ft. of yard
Sq. ft. of yard x 0.623 = number of gallons used
Planning Sprinkler System Zones
Planning the zones for your new sprinkler installation is about the available water pressure from the supply it is connected to and making sure none of your lawn is overwatered.
- Watering needs – Because certain areas in your yard have different watering needs, good planning practice is to never have areas of different demand levels in the same zone. Examples of varied water needs include:
- Plants that receive direct sunlight for the majority of the day need more water than those that live in a shaded area, like the side of a house.
- A shrub bed will need a lot less water than most lawn/grass areas.
- Desert plants need less water than tropical plants.
- Appropriate sprinkler system heads – Plan the right implementation of zone control and appropriate sprinkler heads so each area can be watered with precision, ensuring a long, healthy life. Avoid putting different types of sprinkler heads like drip irrigation, rotor heads, and spray heads in the same zone, because one or more areas will suffer from an inadequate supply, or an overabundant supply, of water—because they all deliver water at different rates.
- Sprinkler system water pressure – Plan each zone with the available water pressure in mind. Measured as gallons per minute (GPM), you have three sets of numbers to work with:
Add the GPM of all the sprinkler heads in each zone to get a total GPM per zone. If the main water supply to feed the system is 35 GPM, then the total for each zone shouldn’t exceed that rating or there won’t be enough pressure for them all to operate effectively. A common practice is to have zone GPM totals be 5 GPM less than the feed GPM to accommodate for any loss of pressure in the pipes.
- The water pressure at the location the sprinkler system will be connected to
- The flow rating for each sprinkler head (GPM)
- The cumulative total (GPM) for each zone—based on the GPM of each sprinkler head in that zone
Lawn Sprinkler System Design
To get your sprinkler project off to the right start, your sprinkler professional will create a map of the land on the property around your house. The more details the map contains, like measurements for the perimeter and any features like lawn and rock gardens, etc. will help in getting the most accurate quote. By doing this part yourself, it will save the installer time in the design of your installation which may lower your cost. Consider using your lot survey paperwork to help.
The final map, or a revised version of it, will then be used to detail the zones, pipe locations, valve locations, sprinkler head locations (as well as head types), sensors (if these are a part of the system), and the location for the shutoff valve.
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Sprinkler System Components Costs
Knowing more about the components that should be installed will give you some help as you sort through bids that you get for the work. Following is a high-level view of the larger subsystems that all work together to deliver a lush green lawn and healthy plants.
- Control valves
- Pipes and risers
- Sprinkler heads – pop up and non pop up
Sprinkler System Controller Cost
You sprinkler controller/timer in an important part of your system that usually ends up costing around 1%–10% of the total installation cost.
|Simple electronic timers
|Sophisticated electronic controllers with zone controls
What are the different types of sprinkler controllers?
- Programmable sprinkler system - With a professionally installed underground sprinkler system, with the heads precisely adjusted, there will be no water going to areas you don’t want to water. The system comes on and off automatically on the watering schedule that is programmed in.
- App-enabled timers - A more modern option in this space now is the smart/app-enabled timers which start at around $90, allowing you to monitor and control everything from your phone.
- Sprinkler system zone controls - In the case of some systems used on larger areas, those timers allow the homeowner to create zones which can each have their own schedules based on different needs.
- Connected to online weather reports - More recent systems can remove even more waste by having an internet-connected smart timer that takes advantage of up-to-the-minute weather information and forecasts every day.
If you’re deciding between a manual or electronic timer because of cost, ask your sprinkler system installation company to install a low-to mid-range electronic timer. Installing a manual timer makes little sense when the cost difference is so narrow.
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Sprinkler System Control Valves Cost
The control valves control the flow of water through the system of pipes that lead to the various sprinkler heads throughout the property. In a large setup, one way to compensate for a lack of water pressure is to use control valves to create zones. Each zone will operate independently, allowing the pressure in the supply to carry the water.
Typically control valves and their electrical wires are placed together in a group called a manifold, which is connected to the timer and laid at the same time as the PVC pipes that carry the water. This manifold configuration pays off by making any future required maintenance easier and less expensive. Control valves vary in price from $11 to $100 each, and vary in features and material options, including plastic and metal.
Sprinkler System Pipe Costs
A connected array of PVC pipes, punctuated by control valves, are laid just below the surface in 8’ to 12’ trenches. T-fittings are added along this network of pipes, into which vertical riser pipes are installed—bringing the water supply to the surface where a sprinkler head will be attached. 1/2"–3” pipe costs $0.34 to $1.30 per linear foot installed. Risers range from $1.22 to $9.69 each installed (for a triple-swing riser).
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Sprinkler System Head Options
The sprinkler professional will space the sprinkler heads somewhere between 15’–25’ apart along the PVC or poly pipes. The actual distance will be determined by the type of sprinkler head and the area it is to cover when the system is in use.
- Rotary sprinkler head - The oscillating variety turn once water is passing through them and are able to reach a bigger area.
- Spray sprinkler heads - Heads that are stationary either spray water in a circle or in a narrower curved shape and are more suited dedicated to a particular area.
- Low-flow or drip - Are engineered to distribute smaller amounts of water to planting beds to protect the plants from the force of a more powerful jet, and to cut down on wasted water, especially when the soil is less absorbent.
The more common product offerings in this area include the following:
Non pop-up Sprinkler System Heads
Fixed heads - Used for reaching distances of between 3’–15’ in a radius of 40°–360°. It is common to see them placed along a path, or with their back to a fence, set to 180°. Others also include options to adjust the vertical angle of the spray. Average prices are around $5.66 each installed.
- Rotating/impact heads – Reaches longer distances of 20’–150’. These heads require regular maintenance because of all the moving parts. Average prices are $19.90 each installed.
- Rotating/gear-driven heads – Generally made from plastic, these have a shorter adjustable reach of 15’–30’ long and a radius of 40°–360°. Rotary heads are best spaced no more than 20 feet apart because they need more water pressure than other heads. Gear-driven heads start at $12.07 installed.
- Misting/micro heads – Small rotating heads on a lower-diameter above-ground pipe which is run through areas where the plants need a less vigorous spray. Misting sprinkler heads start around $9.55 each for installation.
- Bubbler heads – Bubbler heads are used for irrigating areas where shrubs are planted as well as areas with ground cover. Bubblers start at $5.35 each installed for a full circle, and go to $5.66 installed for a mushroom spray model.
Pop-up Sprinkler System Heads
These heads, regardless of size, hide below the surface when not in use. They are named based on the number of inches they raise up by once water pressure pushes them above ground.
- Two inches – Capable of reaching distances between 12 feet and 15 feet, and with a radius of up to 360 degrees, this short head is for use where the grass is mowed weekly and always kept short. Average cost is $7.68 each for ¼ circle installed.
- Four to six inches – Use on grass cut to a height of around 3–4 inches high. Also equipped to deliver water between 12 feet and 15 feet away, and with 360-degree radius. Cost ranges from $6.47 for a full circle installed, to $6.62 for a ¼ circle installed, and $8.90 installed for an adjustable circle.
- Eight to twelve inches – Useful for watering more decorative grasses, or areas with hedges and higher planters. These will reach difficult spots and deliver deep into taller shrubs and plants. Eight-inch pop-up heads start at $14.85 installed, and the twelve-inch heads start at $16.50 installed.
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Rain Sensor For Sprinkler System Cost
Combining moisture sensors with an irrigation system is another way to save water and money by preventing the system from watering your property when it doesn’t need to. Sensors range from $15 to $50.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a sprinkler system work?
When turned on, water pressure in the installed underground pipes causes the sprinkler heads to pop up and turn, if they are rotary. Each sprinkler head will water 200–300 sqft. Most residential water supply feeds don’t have enough pressure to water the entire property at the same time, so in order to efficiently work with the existing pressure, watering zones are established around the property. Each zone will be watered one at a time, and watering is controlled based on which water-saving measures you have installed.
Selecting Your Sprinkler Company
Finding the right installation professional for your sprinkler is a critical component for the success of your project, and your investment. Look for contractors who have as many of the following characteristics as possible when creating your shortlist:
- Are A/A+ rated with the Better Business Bureau
- Have been in business for at least three years
- Are insured and bonded
- Licensed (if required in your state)
- Have great reviews on review sites – like HomeGuide and Google
- Offer warranties on labor and parts
- Can show examples of similar work they have done in the area
- Communicate clearly and quickly – listen well, answer all your questions clearly, respond to calls and e-mails within an hour or two
- Give a detailed, easy-to-understand proposal with itemized costs that includes setup and cleanup
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