Should You Schedule an Irrigation System Inspection? Here's What You Need to Know

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated March 24, 2022
Automatic sprinklers watering grass in front of home
Photo: MariuszBlach / iStock/ Getty Images

Highlights

  • Schedule an irrigation system inspection once or twice a year for optimum performance.

  • Inspections look for damage, water waste, and poor irrigation practices.

  • Plumbers, irrigation specialists, home inspectors, or landscapers perform inspections.

  • Inspections cost an average of $115 or come free within a larger repair contract.

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Of all the automated machines we entrust to take care of our homes, an irrigation system is one that keeps our flowers blooming and our grass growing strong. But we put a lot of pressure on our sprinkler systems throughout the year. Ice and snow in the winter, lawnmowers running over sprinkler heads in the summer, and of course, consistent use during the warmer months. An annual irrigation system inspection can save you money, protect your lawn from water damage, and keep your lawn happy and healthy.

What Is an Irrigation System Inspection?

An irrigation system inspection ensures that everything from your backflow preventer to the sprinkler heads is performing its best. During an irrigation system inspection, your sprinkler expert can check each mechanism for signs of trouble without performing any excavation. They may look for:

  • Damaged, clogged, or sputtering sprinkler heads

  • Damage to your shutoff and main valves, vacuum breaker, and bleeder caps

  • Inconsistent water coverage or low water pressure

  • Leaking lines, sprinkler heads, or pipes

  • Pooling water or dry spots on your lawn

  • Control panel issues or issues with specific zones

  • Backflow preventer issues

Why Are Irrigation System Inspections Important?

Just like indoor plumbing or caring for a major appliance, catching common sprinkler issues early can save you money and prevent many major headaches. Irrigation system inspections can:

  • Ensure you are not wasting water through leaks or poor programming

  • Check whether the system is properly watering each area of your landscape

  • Assist with the startup and winterization process

  • Provide vital information for your home inspection when selling your house

  • Catch small mechanical issues before they lead to larger problems

When Is the Best Time for a Sprinkler System Inspection?

Irrigation companies recommend scheduling an inspection at least once a year. Some homeowners will call in professionals twice a year—usually at the beginning and end of the growing season—for extra peace of mind. Here are the top reasons to schedule the service.

Restarting or Winterizing Your System

Prepping your sprinkler system for the winter, waking it back up in the spring, and fine-tuning your sprinkler system during the season can all be DIY jobs, but it's easy to cause major damage if you perform certain tasks incorrectly. Many plumbers and sprinkler contractors offer start-up or shut-down services with their inspection package and tips for more effective use.

When You Detect an Issue

Your sprinkler system is an excellent set-it-and-forget-it feature of your home, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep a close eye on things throughout the season. Schedule an inspection if you detect water pooling on your lawn, patches of yellow or brown grass, or unexpectedly high water bills.

When You're Selling Your Home

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) encourages inspectors to check home irrigation systems during standard inspections. This added feature to a home inspection can ensure that your system properly covers the extent of your landscape, protects against water waste, and meets modern environmental standards.

It May be the Law

Your town, county, or state may require a professional to sign off on the quality of your backflow preventer either once a year or just after you install the system. A backflow preventer keeps contaminated water—in this case from fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides—from infiltrating local potable water systems.

Who to Hire for an Irrigation System Inspection

Technician installing Garden Irrigation System
Photo: welcomia / istock / Getty Images

Several types of professionals offer irrigation system inspections. Local irrigation companies and specialists are the most obvious picks for the job. Still, you can often hire a local plumber, a landscaper near you, or a local home inspection company to perform the check as well. 

In many cases, a plumber can look for issues with the system's overall function, assist with plumbing-related repairs, and relay you to a landscaper or irrigation specialist if you require major alterations.

How Much Does a Sprinkler Inspection Cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, the cost of an irrigation system tune-up costs about $115, typically including related services like turning it on at the start of the season. Winterizing your sprinklers—which may include a general inspection—will cost between $50 and $120, depending on the size of your system.

Some companies also offer the inspections for free as part of an ongoing repair and maintenance contract. If you're hiring a plumber for sprinkler inspections and small fixes, they may simply charge an hourly rate. The average cost of sprinkler inspection ranges between $50 and $100 an hour.

Can You Inspect an Irrigation System Yourself?

Not only is it possible to perform very basic irrigation system inspections yourself, but we recommend it. Each time you turn on your system in the spring, turn it off for the winter, and check your lawn and garden for proper irrigation, it's important to keep an eye out for potential issues. 

However, call a professional familiar with your irrigation system once a year to ensure you are not missing signs of early damage, water waste, or potential backflow issues.

In between visits, you can inspect your system just like the professionals would and make notes for your contractors when they perform the inspection. Take note of:

  • Poorly performing sprinkler heads

  • Water pooling on your lawn from potential underground leaks

  • Patches of over or under-watered grass

  • High water bills

  • Loose or leaking valves and pipes

Allowing an irrigation system to run for years without inspection—especially in warm states where they don't get a break—can be a recipe for trouble. Save a place on your calendar each year to schedule an inspection for peace of mind, optimal water usage, and of course, a beautiful landscape.

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