A Guide Toward Selecting an Irrigation Contractor
The HGCIA (Houston Gulf Coast Irrigation Association) is a local organization comprised of area licensed irrigation contractors, suppliers, and other interested parties whose primary aim is to provide you, the consumers of the Gulf Coast area, with the most up-to-date and reliable irrigation equipment, using the most advanced techniques in design and installation. The HGCIA is continually striving to see that only competent and legally licensed individuals design and install underground irrigation systems.
Ask your prospective contractor to show samples of various types of equipment they use such as irrigation heads, controllers, valves and risers. This will not only help inform you as to how the system will operate, but will also aid in communicating with your contractor what you desire in the system. Ask him to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each product. As a general rule irrigation system equipment varies in cost and quality. Each item is manufactured with specific functions in mind and will operate properly only if it is installed as recommended by the manufacturers specifications. Underground irrigation systems, when designed and installed in the proper manner using the proper equipment, not only eliminate the time consuming chore of hand watering your lawn, but also provide your landscape with more uniform coverage and application of water which aids in healthy and vigorous growth of your valuable landscape plantings. AUTOMATIC SYSTEMS have proven time and again to not only provide better application of water, but also can provide numerous time-controlled watering schedules, which help in establishing new lawns areas and conserve our water resources. The rapid increase in the demand for commercial and residential irrigation systems, has been accompanied by two developments, lower prices and better values by responsible contractors and an increased number of irresponsible and fly-by-night contractors. You, the prospective customer, should obtain sufficient information to prevent selecting irresponsible and incompetent contractors.
Should You Request an Irrigation Design?
Each contractor will have their own policy regarding design work. He may wish to provide you a design for the purpose of submitting an accurate bid, on the other hand, a contractor may believe he is experienced enough that he can give you an accurate bid without a design. In either case, the HGCIA STRONGLY SUGGESTS that you demand a copy of the “As Built” irrigation plan upon completion of the job. This will be a valuable benefit to you when future additions to your residence or landscape are needed, or for irrigation system repair.
The State of Texas provides a licensing program directly aimed at testing designers and installers in every aspect of design and instillation. Applicants for the license are thoroughly tested in the areas of back-flow prevention devices, hydraulics (proper sizing of components), economical efficient head spacing and other important aspects concerning the system. The successful applicant is then certified and issued a license number and is required by state law to place this certified state seal on all designs. HGCIA AGGRESSIVELY SUPPORTS THE USE OF TEXAS STATE LICENSED IRRIGATORS. He or she is usually well informed with state and local codes and regulation concerning irrigation system installation.
Is a Written Legal Contract Necessary?
As a general rule, most large commercial irrigation system installation are awarded after both parties agree upon signed contract. The contract that is submitted by the contractor should include: scope of work, price of job, city permits, warranty periods, and client/customer payment agreement. The contract is directed at protecting both parties legally. A written contract is not necessarily mandatory in all cases, particularly residential installations in the community, others are not. HGCIA suggests that if there is any doubt regarding a contractor’s reliability, or you are not acquainted with their work then a contract should be provided by the contractor. Responsible contractors should have no objections to a written contract. In general, a contractor may require a deposit at the time of signing the contract. HGCIA suggests that if a large advance deposit/payment is requested, you should make sure the payment is justified and that you are dealing with a reputable contractor.
The standard manufacturers and contractors warranty period for most irrigation products and installations, is one year on materials and workmanship. You, the consumer are protected by the people who Build and Install the equipment. HGCIA suggests you, as the customer, ask for references on other installations the contractor has completed and how responsible they are regarding warranty work.
Should You Take the Low Bid?
It was Ruskin who said: “There is hardly anything in the world that one man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper; and the people who consider price only, are such men’s lawful prey.” Remember, in order for the contractor to continue serving you and other customers in a responsible manner they must stay in business and show fair profit. Simply “paying the bills” is little incentive to a reputable contractor. Again, consider the cost of other items you own or desire compared to the value of your landscape or residence. The low bid is not always the cheapest. Re-building or replacing an improperly designed or installed system may cost you many times the amount you thought you saved. Remember, you are installing a permanent underground system that must be installed right the first time.