How Much Does a Lawn Sprinkler System Cost? The Cost to Install a Sprinkler System, Broken Down
Installing a sprinkler system promotes consistent watering to help establish a lush, healthy stand of grass. A sprinkler system on average costs between $1,714 and $3,520, with a national average of $2,538.
- Typical Range: $1,714 to $3,520
- National Average: $2,538
Having a sprinkler system installed takes the guesswork out of calculating how much water the lawn is receiving per week, and it eliminates the need to drag a hose and sprinkler to different areas of the yard. Maintaining a healthy, lush lawn is contingent upon the turfgrass receiving adequate water regularly.
The typical cost range for a professionally installed residential sprinkler system on a ¼-acre lot is $1,714 to $3,520, and the national average runs $2,538. Sprinkler system cost can fluctuate based on yard size and the quality of the materials, in addition to other factors, including the going price of local labor and the type of sprinkler system plus any chosen bells and whistles.
Factors in Calculating Sprinkler System Cost
Several factors affect sprinkler system cost, but among the most significant is the difference in the type and quality of the installed system. As noted, the typical range is $1,714 to $3,520, but homeowners could pay as much as $5,000 at the high end and as little as $400 at the low end.
In most instances, a professional installer will want to look at the yard in question before submitting a quote. Things such as steep slopes, rocky terrain, and other factors that pose installation difficulties may add to the final tally.
In general, as opposed to a flat cost, the cost to install a new sprinkler system is going to run about $0.20 to $1 per square foot of lawn. Replacing an outdated system with a new system could cost about $2,460, and that’s before adding in $50 to $100 per hour for the labor necessary to remove the old system.
The going price of labor varies from community to community, and sprinkler system installers charge the same amount per hour, whether installing a new system or replacing a dated system (about $50 to $100). Factors that can affect labor costs include whether the employer offers benefits to workers, such as health insurance or retirement savings accounts.
Not all communities require pulling a permit before installing a new sprinkler system, but if they do, it will add to the cost because the company doing the installation will pass the fee on to the customer. Permit costs vary widely, but if one is required, an inspection of the system may also be required. This involves a city inspector coming out and looking at how the installer (or DIYer) has connected the valves and piping before giving final approval. The inspection usually does not cost an additional fee but instead is included in the cost of the permit.
A quick call to the local building authority will determine whether or not a permit is required. Typically, if a permit is required, it may only be necessary for an in-ground system, not an above-ground system. A permit could run as much as $200. If the home is located in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA), check with the HOA board before hiring an installer. Potential rules about the type of sprinkler system permitted in the HOA may affect the cost.
The larger the yard, the higher the sprinkler system cost. While the national average for installing a system on a standard ¼-acre yard is $2,538, as the size of the yard increases, so does the cost. For homes that sit on a full-acre yard, homeowners can expect to pay an average of $10,280 to have a sprinkler system professionally installed.
Type of Sprinkler System
While all sprinkler systems simplify watering the yard, the differences in type and quality will impact the final installation costs. A standard in-ground sprinkler system ranges in price from $1,740 to $3,400, while an above-ground system can run $1,800 to $2,000 for a 1-acre plot. The addition of an automatic controller will cost an extra $10 to $325. An automatic controller can be added to either an in-ground or above-ground system. Having a drip irrigation system installed can run from $1,800 to $2,500 per acre.
Trenches are a requirement for installing in-ground sprinkler systems, and depending on the type of equipment used to dig the trenches, this may affect the cost. For DIYers, this may mean digging trenches with a shovel, which can be labor intensive when installing a sprinkler system on a large yard. Professional installers are more likely to use a trenching machine that makes deep, narrow cuts in the lawn. The quality and the initial expense of the contractor’s equipment factor into the above $1,740 to $3,400 cost of installing an underground sprinkler system.
Additional Costs and Considerations
Yards vary, so sprinkler system costs vary. Factors such as the type of soil in the yard, whether the sprinkler system will be part of a larger landscaping project, or whether additional lawn services are needed will all affect the final tally. The type and quality of the installed components (valves and sprinkler heads) also play a significant role.
Installing a sprinkler system is often part of a larger landscaping project. While the type and scope of landscaping services vary in cost, professional landscaping companies charge an average of $1,363 to $5,640 to design and install new landscaping features. Those features may include such services as planting a small tree for as little as $150. However, changes such as planting a mature tree could run as much as $3,000, depending on the size of the tree.
When not part of a larger landscaping project, the cost of a sprinkler system can vary due to the existing landscaping design. Shrubs and bushes may require high-rise sprinkler heads that can affect the total cost of installation. This is an example of how variations in landscaping design can lead to requiring different sprinkler heads and varying watering patterns.
Type of Soil
The easier it is to trench through the soil, the less it will likely cost to install an in-ground sprinkler system. Most companies will charge up to $0.40 more per linear foot to install a system in hardpan (a dense layer of soil) or in rocky soil because the trenching takes longer. In addition, if special measures are required to ensure the system won’t freeze in some areas, it could add approximately 10 percent more to the cost of installation.
Sprinkler System Parts
When it comes to sprinkler system parts, higher quality parts are more durable, which means the sprinkler system will also last longer before needing repairs or replacement. The various components used in a typical in-ground system include valves that control the water flow and sprinkler heads that lift due to the pressure of the water when the system turns on.
Depending on the type and quality, valves range from $12.50 to $40 apiece, while sprinkler heads range from $2.50 to $30 apiece.The controller (or timer) runs $10 to $325. These costs do not reflect the cost of labor to install them or to replace them later.
A watering zone is an area of the sprinkler system that comes on at one time. Water pressure at the spigot varies from home to home, but unless it’s a tiny yard, there usually isn’t enough pressure to water the entire lawn at one time. The installer will check the water pressure and then decide how many individual zones are necessary. The more zones that are necessary, the higher the cost will be.
- 1 Zone: $500 to $1,000
- 2 Zones: $1,000 to $2,000
- 4 Zones: $2,000 to $4,000
- 6 Zones: $3,000 to $6,000
- 7 Zones: $3,500 to $7,000
Depending on the type of equipment the sprinkler company uses to install the new system, there’s a chance some lawn repairs will be necessary. For large bare areas, expect to pay between $1 and $2 per square foot to have new sod laid. Alternatively, a simple reseeding may do the trick. Those who intend to overseed their own lawns can expect to pay about $3 to $10 per pound for lawn grass seed. Having the lawn professionally overseeded runs between $411 and $1,554, depending on yard size and grass species.
Enhancements and Improvements
Many homeowners choose to have related service work done simultaneously, which may translate into savings because the company doesn’t have to make a separate trip to the property. Some sprinkler system installers may suggest installing rain sensors, which run $25 to $50 per sensor and help determine how much water the lawn is getting from rain and watering.
A rainwater collection system conserves water, and in regions that see summer watering bans, it may be the best way to keep the grass healthy when a watering ban is in place. A rainwater collection system runs about $2,500, and, depending on the type, it may be possible to connect it to an irrigation system.
Sprinkler System Cost: Types of Sprinkler Systems
Different types of systems require different types of material, which will factor into the cost of having a system installed. For a 1-acre yard, expect to pay about $10,280 for an in-ground system, $1,800 to $2,000 for an above-ground system, and $1,800 to $2,500 for a drip system. Automating any of these systems will add another $10 to $325.
The most common type of professionally installed sprinkler system is installed beneath the surface of the lawn via pipes and tubing buried in shallow trenches. For many, this type is preferable because it’s virtually invisible until the water comes on and the sprinkler heads pop up. To install an in-ground system on 1 acre of yard, the cost is approximately $10,280.
The simplest—and most affordable—of all sprinkler systems is the above-ground system that consists of hoses or tubing placed on the top of the yard that connect to above-ground sprinklers. It can be professionally installed, in which case you can expect to pay between $1,800 to $2,000 for a 1-acre property.
Geared more toward gardens, flower beds, and perennial borders as opposed to vast expanses of lawn, drip irrigation features tubing and drip heads located at the base of individual plants. The cost per acre to install a drip irrigation system runs approximately $1,800 to $2,500. Because the water is dispensed at the plant base, the roots receive a maximum amount, rather than some of the spray being blown away or evaporating when using a garden sprinkler.
Adding an automatic controller to an in-ground or above-ground sprinkler system will add approximately $10 to $325 to the cost of the system. The range in cost can be explained by the wide variety in type and quality of the controllers. At the high end of the range are smart controllers that sync with a home’s Wi-Fi network and can be monitored and programmed via smartphones.
Sprinkler System Cost: Do I Need a Lawn Sprinkler System?
Regular watering is necessary for maintaining a lush lawn, but with today’s busy lifestyles, who has time to pull a sprinkler around the yard? The larger the yard, the more work it is to keep it manually watered. Inconsistent watering can negatively impact the yard, causing the grass in various areas to grow at different rates. The grass may be tall and green in some spots, but patchy and dry in others.
Grass density is also a factor in weed control—when the grass grows thickly, it chokes out weeds, but if the grass is thin and sparse, weeds have a better chance of getting a foothold. Consider the following when deciding whether to have a sprinkler system installed.
Increased Curb Appeal and Return on Investment
Good landscaping and a healthy lawn not only improve curb appeal, but if the house is going on the market soon, a lush lawn is also essential for grabbing buyers’ attention and getting them in the front door to take a look. A sprinkler system will ensure the property is uniformly watered, keeping the grass healthy and looking its best. While the average cost of installing a system is $2,538, homeowners can expect an approximate 86 percent return on their investment (ROI) when they go to sell. An installed sprinkler system is a perk for potential homebuyers.
Efficiency and Flexibility
An automatic controller, which adds approximately $10 to $325 to the cost of an installed sprinkler system, improves watering efficiency by ensuring each area of the yard receives the same amount of water. Controllers feature a wide range of options. Some of the best ones sync with the local weather data via a home Wi-Fi system to automatically water more or less frequently based on how much rain was recently received.
Anyone who’s turned on a sprinkler with the intent of turning it off half an hour later—but forgot—knows to expect a higher water bill for that month. While grass needs a minimum amount of water to grow green and lush, overwatering isn’t helpful and can actually lead to an increased risk of fungal lawn diseases.
Sprinkler systems can be programmed to water early in the morning while temps are still relatively cool to reduce the risk of the water evaporating before it hits the ground. An automatic sprinkler system will prevent accidental overwatering and water at the best time of day, even if no one is home.
Better Lawn Health
Regular watering helps grass grow strong, making it more resistant to damage from drought and disease. Reseeding or overseeding a lawn runs between $411 and $1,554, so it makes good sense to take steps to ensure the grass receives the correct amount of water. The average lawn needs about 1 inch of water per week—too little water and the grass can become thin and patchy. Too much water and grass roots develop just beneath the soil’s surface, rather than digging deep, which weakens the grass.
Sprinkler System Cost: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Homeowners can save money by installing their own sprinkler systems, but this is a labor-intensive project that can be difficult to do without the right equipment, such as a trencher to help dig the rows for installing the pipes. The horizontal lines in an underground system are typically installed about 6 to 12 inches below grade.
While it can cost approximately $50 to $100 per hour for professional installation, if trouble arises later, such as a leak in the lines, the company may warranty its work and return and make sprinkler system repair without charging.
In addition, DIYers aren’t always knowledgeable about the potential need to pull permits or get permission from an HOA. Failure to take these steps may result in hefty fines or the need to remove the system.
How to Save Money on Sprinkler System Cost
Having a sprinkler system installed is an investment in the lawn, the curb appeal, and the home’s value, but it’s admittedly not cheap. At the low end, it can run about $400, and at the high end, homeowners can expect to pay up to $5,000 for a ¼-acre lot, so saving money is a top priority.
- Opt for less expensive sprinkler heads. Heads run from $2.50 to $30 apiece, and choosing less expensive ones will save money.
- Select an above-ground system rather than an in-ground system. An above-ground system runs $1,800 to $2,000 for a 1-acre yard, while an in-ground system for the same size yard can run as much as $10,280.
- Do some of the paperwork yourself. Dig out your property survey or take measurements or all areas of the yard and create a to-scale map. It will save the installer some time, which could translate into keeping some additional money in your pocket.
Questions to Ask About Sprinkler Systems
While installing a sprinkler system can be costly, it will ensure regular, uniform watering that will keep the lawn healthy, boost curb appeal, and add value to the home. Still, homeowners often want to know exactly where their dollars are going, and the time to ask questions is before hiring an installer.
- How many zones are necessary? The installer will charge extra for each zone—usually between $500 and $1,000 per zone—so knowing how many zones will be installed will give you a better understanding of the final cost.
- Does the work come with a warranty? Many companies will warranty their workmanship for up to 1 year or longer.
- Can part of the yard be put on a drip system? Lawn grass typically requires sprinkling, but other areas of the landscape, such as perennial borders, rock gardens with plantings, and privacy tree fencing, can be watered at the base. By putting these areas on a drip system, you may be able to save money.
Sprinkler systems are convenient and produce healthy lawns. For those considering the pros and cons of a sprinkler system, some questions are to be expected.
Q. Does a sprinkler system add value to a home?
A sprinkler system encourages a uniform and healthy lawn, boosts curb appeal, and increases the home’s value and appeal to buyers. A professional appraiser will usually increase the home’s value if the landscaping and lawn are in top shape.
Q. Can I install a sprinkler system by myself?
Check with your local building authority first. Professional installation may be required in some communities because installing valves and fittings comes under the heading of plumbing. In other communities, installing a system is permitted, but digging trenches is labor intensive, and figuring out how many sprinklers can be on a single zone requires knowledge of water pressure mathematics as well.
Q. How long does a sprinkler system last?
In general, users can expect to get up to 20 years of useful life out of a sprinkler system, but some maintenance will likely be required during that time. High-quality sprinkler heads may need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, while inexpensive heads may need to be replaced every 2 to 3 years.
Q. How many sprinkler heads can I put in a single zone?
That depends on both the pressure of the water and the type of sprinkler heads used. On average, a pop-up sprinkler head will water up to 300 square feet of lawn. An installer will decide the optimal number of heads by factoring in water pressure in gallons per minute (GPM) and the flow rate for each head.
Q. How deep should a sprinkler head be?
Sprinkler heads come in various sizes ranging from 2 inches to 20 inches tall, but the general rule is to install any head so its highest point retracts below the surface of the soil when the system is not watering.