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Stay safe when preparing to install a water line

July 19, 2022 -  By
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Matt Blashaw, owner, Blashsaw Residential, says it’s crucial to designate every sprinkler in the same zone with the same PSI. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

Matt Blashaw, owner, Blashsaw Residential, says it’s crucial to designate every sprinkler in the same zone with the same PSI. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

There’s a lot to think about before installing an irrigation system on a property. What sprinklers should you use? Which control box is best for the project?

Before installing any of that, irrigation installers need to consider their approach.

To make that process easier, LM gathered tips from experts Matt Blashaw, owner of Blashaw Residential, Kansas City, Kan.; Ken Barthuly, vice president of Barthuly Irrigation, Westfield, Ind.; and John Tollett, owner of Blue Wave Irrigation, Tampa, Fla.

Invaluable recon

Whether it’s a commercial or residential site, scouting and knowing what challenges might lie ahead is crucial when installing a line. An irrigation professional can see plenty of hazards right away, from trees — and roots — to parking lots and driveways.

The latter is a challenge that Tollett, who provides irrigation services to a primarily residential client base, says mostly pops up on commercial sites.

“Try to see where you’re going with the line because you may have to go under driveways or parking lots. So before the job even begins, make sure you have all the proper sleeves to get underneath and across things that you need to,” he says.

Barthuly, whose company provides services to a 90 percent residential clientele, says the scouting process should start with the estimation process. He says his sales team looks for where to run the water tap and locates the water source — a pond, a well or from the city.

Call before the install

As always, call 811 before digging.

“I made this mistake when I first started, and it was pretty costly for me,” Blashaw says. “Google Fiber and AT&T put their lines like 6 inches below the surface. They don’t bury them deep at all, so if there’s a line in the area, 100 percent you’ll hit it unless it’s been marked.”

In addition to keeping an eye on utilities, Barthuly says it’s essential to have safety in mind when digging deep holes.

“If it’s an outside tap and a hole has to be 4 feet deep to get to the water source, we make sure that the hole on the surface is about twice the size of the hole we’re going to work with at the bottom of those 4 feet,” he says. “We don’t want to put our employees in a situation where the ground could collapse while performing a water tap.”

Blashaw says that in addition to having utilities like electrical and gas lines marked, he checks for rock that could be underground in the way of his planned route.

Rock can drive up the price of a project as crews need to remove it before the installation process can move forward.

“I spray my line of where my main line is going to be, then I take a very sharp piece of rebar and pop that down every three feet, and I get it down to where my sprinklers are going to be — around 10 inches,” he says. “What I’ve run into in the past that is very costly is rock and getting into things that you just don’t know about.”

Rules of the game

There are a handful of general rules you’ll want to keep in mind when laying a water line, according to Blashaw, starting with knowing how deep to bury your line.

“You want to bury them no less than 7 or 8 inches and no more than 11 inches,” says Blashaw. “It’s an interesting rule of thumb you want to get below the frost line, but you also want to get them deep enough that if any machines run on top of them, you’re not going to crush those lines.”

Lines that are too shallow could be disturbed by heavy machinery used in future landscaping ventures. While lines buried too deep — below the 11-inch threshold suggested by Blashaw — will not be easily accessible and not show leaks well.

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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