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What does a lawn sprinkler system cost?

Sprinkler watering a lawn automatically
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Sprinkler watering a lawn automatically
Nenov/Getty Images

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When it comes to a home’s curb appeal, a lush green lawn is tough to beat. However, to keep your grass and landscaping fresh, they need proper watering, and that is where a sprinkler system can be an invaluable asset.

According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost of a lawn sprinkler system is $2,538 (within a $1,700 – $3,500 range) for a quarter-acre lawn (the typical suburban-home size). For larger lawns, or systems with lots of bells and whistles, the average cost can mount as high as $5,500, Fixr.com finds.

Before you go in for an irrigation system (as the pros call it), let’s dig deeper into how sprinkler systems work, what you’ll pay, and why.

What are the types of sprinkler systems?

There are several types of sprinkler systems for your home, and they vary significantly in price.

Above-ground: This is your basic, plain-vanilla system, with the sprinklers placed on the surface of the lawn or yard and connected to a faucet or spigot through a hose. It’s the most economical option, costing $1,800 or so for a one-acre property, according to Fixr (about $450 per quarter acre).

Drip irrigation: A drip irrigation system, sometimes called “on-ground,” also lies on top of the ground. But while above-ground systems rest entirely on the surface, drip irrigation ones are just slightly buried enough to offer a more discreet look. It will run from $450 to $625 per quarter acre, says HomeAdvisor.

Underground/In-ground: As the name implies, underground sprinkler systems are completely subterranean. Obviously, these are the most attractive and unobtrusive, but also the most expensive, costing anywhere from $1,740 to $3,400.

“You can also get an automatic controller for in-ground and above-ground systems, which adds another $25-$300 to the price,” says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, a national lawn-care company. Basic timers have been around for a while, of course. The latest thing is a smart sprinkler system that can be adjusted from your phone; the price for these can mount to about $2,630 per quarter acre.

What influences the costs of sprinkler systems?

The type of your sprinkler system is a big part of the cost, but there are some other factors that can affect the overall price tag.

The costs of “sprinkler systems are influenced [by the] size of property, type of beds, complexity of grass area [and] bed areas, type of sprinkler head used and what type of fittings,” says landscape architect Kody Ketterling of KJ Ketterling Enterprises. Sprinkler heads and fittings have less expensive and higher-end options, too, he adds.

Total lawn size

Since sprinkler systems are often priced by the acre, the size of your yard is an enormous factor in how much you pay, with the average cost being $0.20 to $1 per square foot. However, there are typically discounts when you purchase coverage for multiple areas.

Sprinkler System Costs by Acre

Size of the yard Average total cost
Source: HomeAdvisor
One-quarter acre $2,460
One-third acre $3,280
One-half acre $4,920
1 acre $9,840
2 acres $19,680
2.5 acres $24,600
5 acres $49, 200

Zones

Larger yards and lawns are often divided into zones, especially if they have gardens. A zone is simply a section of your sprinkler system in which the same valve controls all of the sprinkler heads. Creating different zones allows you to vary the amount and frequency of watering the plants and grass in different areas.

Your sprinkler project’s total cost is going to be based on the number of zones, and how many sprinklers you have in each zone. A single zone system can cost between $650 – $1,000, while one with seven zones can run between $4,550 – $7,000, according to Fixr.

Trenches

If you choose an underground sprinkler system, you will need to dig a trench to place the sprinklers beneath the surface. According to Home Advisor, this can run $4 to $12 per linear foot, costing an average of $800 per 100 linear feet.

Labor

Labor is a necessary expense to install a new sprinkler system, but just how much it will cost you depends on the type of sprinkler system you choose. Some are more labor-intensive than others.

Both above-ground and drip irrigation systems tend to be cheaper because they simply lay on top of the ground or near it. An above-ground system typically costs between $120 and $400, while drip irrigation can cost between $320 and $1,600 for labor, according to Fixr’s figures. Meanwhile, underground/in-ground systems are more expensive because of the work required to dig into the earth and construct the trenches that hold the sprinklers. Therefore, pricing generally runs between $640 and $1,600.

“Labor costs can drive up the price,” admits Yamaguchi. But given the skills needed for large jobs or in-ground systems, professional installation is often worth the investment.

Permits

Your municipality may require that you obtain a permit in order to install a new sprinkler system, especially if it’s being connected to the city or county water supply. These could run up to a few hundred dollars.

Sprinkler Heads

When installing a new sprinkler system, you also need to consider the type of sprinkler heads you are going to use. There are both above-ground and in-ground options based on your system type with seven typical options for your sprinkler head, according to Fixr:

  • Bubbler: $1 – $10
  • Misting/micro: $3 – $15
  • Pop Up: $7 – $20
  • Fixed: $7 – $22
  • Gear-driven Rotor: $8 – $25
  • Rotary Nozzle: $9 – $30
  • Impact Rotor: $11 – $35

The price of these sprinkler heads is typically included in the overall installation cost.

Do sprinklers enhance home value?

Sprinkler systems aren’t one of those showy home improvements that automatically add value to a property. But they do play an important indirect role.

Landscaping is a crucial part of a home’s curb appeal. “You need to ensure sufficient watering to ensure attractive landscaping, and an automatic sprinkler system makes things easy for you,” says Trevor Lively, President of Blue Jay Irrigation. “Eventually, your home becomes more attractive to potential buyers, and you can ask for a higher price.”

“From what we are told, a sprinkler will enhance the value between $5,000 and $15,000, depending on the size of property and system,” Ketterling adds.

And of course, there’s your own enjoyment in your beautiful grounds. It may require an investment today, but your new sprinkler system could play an enormous role in maintaining its lush green look for years to come.

Written by
Lena Borrelli
Insurance Contributor
Lena Muhtadi Borrelli has several years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as allconnect, Healthline and Reviews.com. She previously worked for Morgan Stanley.
Edited by
Senior homeownership editor