Choosing an Irrigation Contractor - Questions to Ask

The success of your irrigation system depends largely on the contractor you choose to install it. A contractor's expertise and specialized skills are crucial in determining your system's efficiency and long-term reliability. In fact, how your irrigation system is designed and installed will make the difference between a system that is reliable and keeps your lawn green and healthy, and one that is troublesome, wastes water and leaves your lawn looking brown and unhealthy. Above all, you should choose a contractor you can trust and with whom you feel comfortable.

To ensure that you hire a reputable irrigation contractor capable of designing, installing and maintaining a high-quality system, ask the following questions:

Does the contractor have a minimum of 10 years of experience?

Only by hiring a contractor with a large base of experience can you be confident that your irrigation system will be designed and installed properly. An inexperienced contractor may not fully understand the parameters of the job and may not be available for future service and warranty issues.

Gentle Rain is Tidewater's oldest and most experienced irrigation contractor. We have been in business for over forty years designing, installing and servicing residential and commercial irrigation systems.

Does the contractor have a Class A business license?

Class A contractors must meet the strictest standards required by the Commonwealth of Virginia. This license is earned by contractors that can perform projects of any size. It provides peace of mind that the job is not beyond the contractor's capability.

Gentle Rain is a Class A contractor. (License #: 2701-033975A)

Does the contractor have the appropriate insurance?

Your contractor should carry adequate Liability and Workman's Compensation insurance in the unlikely event of an accident. You should request proof of insurance demonstrating that your contractor is fully insured for all operations on your property.

Gentle Rain has a comprehensive insurance program including General Liability, Worker's Compensation on every employee, and Auto Insurance on every vehicle.

Does the contractor offer a warranty period for the materials and workmanship?

At a minimum, your contractor should provide a written, one-year warranty on parts and labor.

Gentle Rain's warranties include:

  • One year guarantee on parts and labor
  • Two year guarantee on parts (rotors, spray heads, valves and controllers)
  • Five year guarantee on sprinkler heads against rotary failure
  • Five year guarantee on piping and fittings underground
  • Free winterization and spring start up the first year

Can the contractor provide a list of references?

Client references are often the best indicators of the contractor's work. At your request, your contractor should provide you with the names and telephone numbers of references to call. These property owners can attest to their satisfaction with the contractor's work.

Gentle Rain will proudly provide you with references upon request.

Can the contractor provide after-sales service and maintenance?

Lawn sprinkler systems are put through rigorous wear and tear, often in use for hundreds of hours a year. Your contractor should be properly staffed and equipped to provide timely, reliable service such as winterizations, spring start-ups, and repair and/or replacement of worn out components.

Gentle Rain maintains a fully staffed and equipped service department with experienced technicians solely devoted to providing outstanding service for your irrigation system.

Does the system provide "head-to-head" coverage?

One of the fundamentals of irrigation design is that each head hit the one to the left and right of it, and any other heads within its throw in order to provide even water coverage. Proper spacing of the sprinkler heads is paramount for a lush, green lawn.

Gentle Rain does not cut corners on irrigation design, so you can be confident that your sprinkler heads will be properly spaced.

How many rotors and spray heads per zone?

Your available water pressure determines how many sprinkler heads can properly function on one zone. Too many sprinkler heads on a zone prevent the heads from popping up completely and spraying effectively.

Gentle Rain always designs irrigation systems to match the available water pressure. Your system will have the correct number of sprinkler heads per zone with the appropriate nozzle sizes.

Are spray heads and rotors used on the same zone?

Different types of sprinkler heads put out different amounts of water and should never be installed on the same irrigation zone. Mixing sprinklers with different application rates causes one area to be over watered in order to sufficiently water another.

Gentle Rain never mixes two different types of sprinklers on the same zone.

Is a rain sensor included in the contractor's estimate?

Rain sensors are designed to shut off the irrigation system when a specific amount of rainfall has occurred. These devices conserve water, save you money on utility bills, and prevent unnecessary wear on your sprinkler system.

Gentle Rain includes the installation of a rain sensor in all of our proposals.

Is your contractor certified to install and test backflow preventers?

Backflow preventers are required on all city water irrigation systems to protect the drinking water from contaminants. Certification is required by law to install and test these devices.

Gentle Rain is certified by the Virginia Department of Professional & Occupational Regulation to install and test backflow preventers.

Does the contractor use waterproof wire connections and valve boxes?

Some of the most common electrical problems in an irrigation system are caused by faulty wiring. Special watertight connections are necessary to guard against short circuits and prevent corrosion. Valves should always be enclosed in protective boxes that allow for future inspection and maintenance.

Gentle Rain always uses heavy-duty, grease filled splice kits to safeguard the underground electrical connections. We always install valves in protective boxes that provide easy access.

Will the contractor provide an as-built drawing?

It is important to document the layout of your sprinkler system to designate the location of the sprinklers, pipe, valves and control wire. An as-built drawing is an invaluable tool for future maintenance and repairs.

Gentle Rain always creates an as-built drawing of your irrigation system after the installation is complete.

Is the contractor a member of the Irrigation Association (IA) and Virginia Irrigation Association (VIA)?

Both organizations seek to advance professionalism in the irrigation industry and environmental conservation through intelligent water management. Membership in these organizations indicates a commitment to furthering the industry and keeping up with technological changes and standards.

Gentle Rain is an active participant in the both the IA and VIA. Co-owner Bill French is the current President of the VIA.