Best practices to keep your irrigation system running smooth this season

March 31, 2023 -  By
A contractor should make checking items for wear a top priority during regular maintenance. (Photo: SiteOnce Landscape Supply)

A contractor should make checking items for wear a top priority during regular maintenance. (Photo: SiteOnce Landscape Supply)

Springtime means the return of the busy season for contractors nationwide. It’s also the ideal time for irrigation professionals to get their systems back into tip-top shape.

Shawn Sandink, business development manager for SiteOne Landscape Supply, and Patrick Johnston, irrigation product manager for Horizon Distributors, share their top do’s and don’ts for maintaining a well-run irrigation system.


Keep your eyes peeled. An irrigation system involves a lot of moving parts, making it important to ensure that the most vital components are working correctly.

“Sprinklers pop up and shrink down, a rotor pops up, rotates and comes down, a valve is constantly opening and closing,” Sandink says. “There’s a lot of movement there. So those are the parts you’ll want to watch.”

Sandink recommends checking for leaks and potential cracks in emitters as well as their positioning. He also says contractors keep an eye on outside factors that could affect the delivery of water to the landscape, like plant materials that may have grown over time.

Utilize data and technology. The irrigation world doesn’t lack new technologies designed to help irrigation professionals, says Johnston. He recommends contractors take advantage of that tech and the data that comes with it.

“The technology that is coming out is becoming less expensive; it’s a great tool to have in your toolbox,” he says. “I encourage (contractors) to use the newer technology, like smart controllers, to develop that information so you can make the right decisions.”

Stay educated. Sandink and Johnston agree that irrigation pros must continue to become educated about the latest irrigation maintenance recommendations. Sandink says resources are abundant for contractors from places like the Irrigation Association, manufacturers and local distributors. 

“The more education you have, the better,” he says. “I think that staying informed with the latest recommendations and knowledge is the best thing you can do to have a successful maintenance program.”


Let technology do all of your thinking. For Sandink, as vital as technology is for maintenance, it’s important not to let it entirely run your process. He suggests utilizing checklists with step-by-step instructions for what to check next.

“A contractor may have performed this maintenance a million times, but having to physically check and write it down ensures it’s all done correctly,” says Sandink. “If they follow a checklist, most contractors find it saves them time.”

Let maintenance be too infrequent. Regular maintenance checks are critical to ensure an irrigation system gets water where it needs to be, Johnston says. 

What qualifies as regular maintenance? That could depend on where in the country you are located. For example, Johnston says spring is a great time to perform maintenance checks in colder climates. 

“When you’re refilling lines somewhere that frost and colder weather are an issue, it’s a good time to perform a full system diagnostic,” he says. “Then you can assemble a quote for materials needed for repairs and get that done.”

In warmer areas of the country, maintenance checks should be more regular. Johnston recommends doing system checks monthly.

Assume. There’s an old saying about assumptions, and it’s one that Sandink says those in the industry should live by. While trusting your gut might work occasionally, he says you should always confirm your suspicions.

“Sometimes experience can be a pitfall for maintenance practices in our industry,” he says. “Often, we’ll look at something immediately and think, ‘Oh, it has to be this.’ Especially in today’s labor market where time is of the essence because if you’re wrong, you might run into a bigger problem.”

Rob DiFranco

About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Landscape Management's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Landscape Management, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio.

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