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A Guide to Lawn Sprinkler System Inspection: What to Do & How Often in MN and WI


When your car gets a tune-up, you feel like you can tackle anything, right?

You’re like Mad Max, hurtling ferociously through a sandstorm across the desert wasteland of a futuristic Australia in your dieselpunk tank truck, stoppable by no one.

Your sprinkler system wants to feel unstoppable, too.

When an irrigation specialist stops by throughout the year to check your sprinkler system’s heads, adjust its controller, and test its zones, it’s a great tune-up to keep it powerfully pumping out water as your lawn needs it.

How often do you need a lawn sprinkler system inspection? What exactly happens during these irrigation tune-ups? (If only that barren Mad Max landscape had a good irrigation system, right?)

Let’s break it down by season.

Here’s your lawn sprinkler system inspection checklist:

Spring Lawn Sprinkler System Inspection Checklist

Winter is long around here, and all irrigation systems need a tune-up before heading into the hard work of spring irrigation.

irrigation technician tests sprinkler systemApproximately 80 percent of them need at least a minor repair after winter.

Here’s a spring checklist for your irrigation system:

Sprinkler Head Inspection

Irrigation specialists physically inspect every single sprinkler head. Why? Lots of reasons:

  • Frost can cause the ground to heave and nudge your sprinkler heads out of whack. That means they might spray your driveway instead of your lawn.
  • The ground probably settled a bit over the winter months. Are the heads sitting high enough so they’re not spraying things they shouldn’t? Adjustments might be needed.
  • Heads could be leaking.
  • A snowplow might have caused damage.
  • Residue in the line can flow to the heads once the water is turned on, clogging the head without you even realizing it.
  • A fitting might have come loose.

irrigation technician adjusts sprinkler head

There’s a lot that can go wrong out there.

Irrigation System Controller Check

Before irrigation specialists turn your system on for spring, they’ll reprogram all the settings — what time of day it should run and for how long.

A lot of people unplug their irrigation controller for the winter and it loses all its settings.

irrigation technician works on sprinkler system controllerEven if you didn’t unplug it, chances are your settings will be all wrong.

Spring is cold and wet. Your settings shouldn’t be the same as in August, when it’s 90 degrees with no rain.

It’s important to adjust the controller with the seasons as part of your routine irrigation tune-ups.

Rain Sensors Check

If you have a rain sensor, your irrigation specialist will make sure the batteries are still working and that they’re adjusted correctly. And they’ll make sure they’re clear and not obstructed by debris.

The Zone Test

This is a big item on your lawn sprinkler system inspection checklist. Irrigation specialists make sure each of your zones turn on and off and run properly.

sprinkler system waters lawn Things happen, when you don’t even realize it:

  • Lightning may have zapped your system.
  • There may be a leak.
  • An animal might have chewed through the pipe.
  • Maybe a zone won’t shut off.

Any of these issues, or others, could be causing your system to waste water and cost you money.

Now, onward to summer!

Summer Lawn Sprinkler System Inspection Checklist:

Hopefully you just paid attention to all those steps, because they’ll all happen again during the summer.

At least, they should. That’s when your system is under the greatest demand, and things are most likely to go wrong.

Read Our Guide to Irrigation Installation & Maintenance
Imagine it’s a hot, dry, 80-degree day, and you realize your sprinkler system looks weird, spraying only half your lawn.

irrigation technician shows customer controls for sprinkler systemIt won’t take long for your pretty green lawn to start turning brown. Then you’ll be standing out on your lawn, shaking your fists at the sky and shouting, “Whyyyyyy???!!!”

That’s embarrassing. (Also, you know why. You skipped your summer lawn sprinkler system inspection.)

Fall Lawn Sprinkler System Inspection Checklist

Let’s tackle the most important thing first.


Yes, it’s worth getting all capital-letter dramatic over this one.

Water freezes and expands, things break, and that means a costly repair.

irrigation system repair

Think you can handle this task yourself with your trusty air compressor? Please don’t.

Your workshop or garage air compressor probably has a 100-160 psi. That’s high pressure, but not much volume.

For shutting down your sprinkler system, you need a wall of air to get that water out. It’s not about the pressure (PSI). It’s about the volume of air (CFM).

Our air compressor has a big diesel engine and produces massive quantities of air, but not high pressure. We run between 60-80 psi.

irrigation technicians and trailer with equipmentYour high-pressure machine can blow components of your irrigation system apart.

And if you leave your compressor on too long, really trying to get all the water out, it can melt the gears in your irrigation heads.

This is a job best left to the pros.

Winterize Your Lake Pump

If you use a lake pump for your sprinkler system, it has to be winterized so it doesn’t break from winter’s freezing temperatures.

Irrigation specialists will add RV antifreeze to protect it, and cover up the ends of the pipes so critters don’t crawl in and camp out.

Backflow Prep

Freezing water in the backflow device will damage the internal components and can crack the body.

If all the water isn’t out of your backflow device, you may need a plumber in the spring.

Every backflow is different and requires a different procedure to winterize it. Irrigation specialists know the drill and will tend to this as part of your sprinkler system tune-up.

Lawn Sprinkler System Inspection Cost

The cost for these important sprinkler system inspections ranges from about $200 to $400 a year, depending on how often irrigation specialists visit.

The lowest price is for basic spring activation and fall winterization, and the highest cost includes monthly visits between spring start-up and fall winterizing, to make sure everything is running smoothly and take care of any problems.

irrigation technician inspects sprinkler headA mid-level program includes the important spring start-up, summer inspection, and fall winterization. Three times a year is really the minimum number of sprinkler system inspections needed to ensure your system works great and doesn’t waste water.

Catch the Small Stuff Early

Why not just wait until something breaks, then fix it?

If you heed early warning signs and catch potential issues early, there might not be problems to fix.

Little issues are warning signs that turn into big problems later. By the time your sprinkler system needs repair, it’s an emergency.

The grass is getting brown. Your expensive plants are dying.

new sprinkler head to be installed In addition to catching problems early and keeping things running smoothly, irrigation specialists offer great advice for saving water and money during your sprinkler system inspections.

They’ll let you know if you’re watering too much, or too little.

Ignore these helpful irrigation tune-ups and you could face repairs far more expensive than the cost to pay for maintenance.

With regular lawn sprinkler system inspections, you don’t have to wait until something breaks, call us, and wait weeks for a service call. Or pay for an emergency visit. Our irrigation specialists will already be on top of any needs.

Start Your Lawn Sprinkler System Inspection Checklist with RainMaster

Proper irrigation is key to your lawn’s health, and that means a sprinkler system that won’t let you down.

If you’re tired of your irrigation system’s clogged nozzles, broken spray heads, or downright confounding controller instructions, isn’t it time to ease your stress? Time for a tune-up.

Ready to make your lawn life easier? Request a quote today! We’ll review your options together so you can make a confident decision. Then, you can finally enjoy your well-watered lawn and stop worrying about it.

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Topics: Irrigation

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