How Much Does a Lawn Sprinkler System Cost?

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated June 16, 2022
Big yard with automatic sprinkler system
Photo: Kirill Gorlov / Adobe Stock

Sprinkler installation costs can be as low as $400, while some costs of sprinkler systems can be as high as $5,000

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When you install a sprinkler system, you can say goodbye to wrestling with garden hoses, getting wet while moving the portable sprinkler, and spending all your valuable time babysitting the lawn. The total amount you spend on your system will depend on the size of your yard.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Sprinkler System by Foot or Acre?

Acreage SizeAverage Cost
1/4$2,500 – $3,500
1/2$3,500 – $5,500
1 $6,000 – $10,000

Sprinkler installation costs vary from yard to yard. It will cost anywhere from $0.20 to $1 per square foot to install a sprinkler system on your lawn. 

A typical yard in the burbs is about a quarter-acre large, and the sprinkler systems cost about $2,500 to $3,500 to install. The cost to install sprinklers on half-acre lawns runs $3,500 to $5,500, and one-acre properties cost $6,000 to $10,000.

Ultimately, what you will pay depends on the size and shape of the lot, the water pressure, the number of landscaping beds present, and the amount and size of sprinkler heads. A smaller yard requires smaller heads placed closer together, while a larger yard needs bigger heads that spray farther.

Sprinkler System Installation Cost Factors 

Several factors can influence sprinkler system cost. Hiring a land surveyor to help you plan your sprinkler system will help you get a better understanding of the total cost as you factor in the details of your yard.

Material Types

Quality parts and materials will cost more upfront than those on the lower end of the cost spectrum, but they will help your sprinkler system last longer. That investment could save you money in the long run. Just be mindful of your budget when you head to the home improvement store or consult a professional.

Labor 

The total cost to install a sprinkler system will go up if a project is difficult or takes a relatively long time to complete. Talk to a professional and consult a land surveyor before diving into the project.

Lawn Size

The larger your lawn, the more it will cost to install a sprinkler system. Not only will labor costs increase, but so will material costs. You will need more sprinkler heads to spread water throughout a larger area.

Zones

A yard may contain different zones that have different watering needs. Sprinkler systems can be set up to water different zones with different amounts of water or at different times of the day. Depending on what’s in your yard, you may have separate zones for lawns, gardens, and shrubs. 

Sprinkler systems for yards with only one zone will cost between $500 and $1,000, with each additional zone costing an average of $1,000. The plus side: Some professionals who are setting up this system will charge less as the number of zones increases, which means you could score a great deal.

Permits

Most cities and/or states require a permit before you can break ground on a construction project like this. If you are installing the sprinkler system yourself, you’ll need to wrangle the paperwork yourself. 

Costs will vary tremendously. If you decide to hire a professional to install your system, they will handle the permit and licensing on their own, and you won’t need to worry about that cost—it will be factored into the total.

Location 

Sprinkler system costs vary across different regions because contractors in some areas may charge more than those in other areas. For example, sprinkler systems in the western U.S. are nearly $3,000 on average. Prices tend to decrease as you move east, reaching an average of $2,000 in the Northeast.

Trenches 

Once a sprinkler system is installed, it’s virtually invisible when not in use. To achieve this effect, plumbing is usually buried just below ground in shallow trenches. The equipment used to dig these trenches may affect the overall cost of installing a sprinkler system. Shovels can be used for small projects, but pros are more likely to use a trenching machine in a large yard.

Landscape Design 

Landscaping can affect the cost of a sprinkler system in multiple ways. If the system is part of a bigger landscaping project, you’ll need to factor in the cost of other features like new trees. If the system is a standalone project, existing features may require more expensive sprinkler heads or water patterns. For example, you may need high-rise sprinkler heads for tall shrubs and bushes.

Soil 

The type of soil you have will likely impact the cost of installing a sprinkler system. Rocky soil or a dense layer of hardpan soil are harder to dig through, causing installation to take longer and raising costs by up to $0.40 more per linear foot.

Your soil type may also affect the type of system you need. For example, stainless steel sprinkler nozzles can better withstand coarse, sandy soil, but they also tend to cost more than plastic nozzles.

Repairs

Installing a sprinkler system tends to involve digging up a large part of your lawn. Depending on the equipment used, you may have some repairs to do once installation is complete. These typically involve having new sod laid, which costs $1 to $2 per square foot.

Sometimes, simple reseeding is an option. You’ll pay $3 to $10 per pound of grass seed if reseeding as a DIY, or between $450 and $1,550 if hiring a pro to do the job.

How Much Does It Cost to Install an Irrigation System by Type?

The type of irrigation system you choose will affect how much you pay. 

Automatic Sprinkler System Cost

For the average quarter-acre residential lawn, an automatic sprinkler system costs an average of $2,630. Installing an automatic sprinkler system will allow you to set it up and forget it when it comes to watering your lawn so you can spend more time on other projects. Using an electronic panel, you can schedule waterings for times that work for you.

Underground Sprinkler System Cost

Closeup of an underground sprinkler system
Photo: Yuliya / Adobe Stock

Some homeowners prefer to keep their sprinkler systems out of sight underground to give their lawn a clean and seamless look. To complete the project, you’ll need to dig a trench, which typically costs between $400 and $1,200, or $4 to $12 per linear square foot. If you can dig the trench yourself, you may be able to cut costs in half. Otherwise, hiring a local excavating company near you is a great way to get the job done efficiently.

On a quarter-acre lawn, an underground sprinkler system will cost between $1,740 and $3,410. As lawn size increases, so does the price.

Underground sprinkler systems are usually automatic, and the total cost includes the cost of a panel and timer.

Drip Irrigation System Cost

Worker installing irrigation system in a garden
Photo: Tomasz Zajda / Adobe Stock

A drip irrigation system is a low-flow irrigation system that involves (you guessed it) drip lines. These lines sit above the ground and are typically more efficient than sprinkler systems, making them a great choice for those with extra-large lawns or gardens that require a lot of water. Expect to pay between $1,800 and $2,500 per acre for a drip irrigation system.

Drip irrigation systems on residential lawns are usually installed a few inches below the ground, which means you won’t have to look out for it while you mow or run around the yard. But installing this type of irrigation system involves a lot of digging, so it’s best to get it done before planting your grass.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Sprinkler System Yourself?

DIY-ers can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 to install a sprinkler system. By DIYing your sprinkler system installation, you can save hundreds of dollars. But keep in mind, this project is labor-intensive and requires plenty of skill to pull off. If you’ve got that handled, go for it.

Typically, you’ll spend $800 of the total project cost on plans, inspections, permits, and the backflow preventer system, which keeps water from flowing in reverse, before installation starts.

Hiring a Professional

If you’re juggling kids with extracurriculars and multiple sports games each week, your schedule might benefit from hiring a pro to install your sprinkler system.

To find a reputable sprinkler installation company near you, find a contractor who’s been in business for at least five years and be wary of any company that asks for money before starting work. Most pros will only need about a day or two to install your system, and a credible company won’t need that money upfront.

If you’re considering a sprinkler system, check with your HOA to determine their rules for installation and any watering restrictions. They may require a plan or permits before work begins.

Once you get the green light, you can install your system and enjoy a stress-free green lawn. You can install a sprinkler system any time it’s warm outside, but the best time is in the early spring or early fall when sprinkler companies aren’t as busy.

FAQs

Should I install a sprinkler system myself?

Only install the sprinkler system yourself if you have the necessary permits, skills, and time. If you run into any problems along the way, or if you reach the end and realize your sprinkler system already needs repairs because of an error, you could rack up a lot more costs (and a headache or two). You can likely avoid those extra costs by hiring a professional—they will handle the costs of permits, equipment, and materials so you can stay as hands-off as you’d like.

Why should I pick an irrigation system instead of a sprinkler system?

Irrigation systems provide a specified amount of water to plants in a small area. Unlike sprinkler systems, which spray water on top of your lawn and plants, irrigation systems supply water directly into the soil. In the long run, this can cut water costs because it eliminates evaporation. This type of system is best for large areas with lots of plants, such as a garden or farm.

Sprinkler systems, on the other hand, are great choices for homeowners to maintain simple lawns, no matter their size.

What other projects should I do at the same time?

If the grass in your yard is dry, dying, or has difficulty growing, consider putting down sod. In just hours, sod will help you transform your lawn from lackluster to lush and beautiful. If you’re going this route, install the sod first before adding your sprinkler system. Or, some contractors will offer to do these two projects at the same time.

You should also have a plan for future landscaping to account for added gardens or shrubs that may have different water requirements. Then, you can arrange your sprinkler system into zones.

If you’re installing an underground sprinkler system, you’ll need to dig a trench. While that’s happening, you can also place utilities underground and design a drainage system. You can also construct a retaining wall.

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