How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

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What is the average life expectancy of a landscape sprinkler system?

Monday, March 2, 2020

How long does a sprinkler system last?

You can expect a landscape sprinkler system to last about 20 years. Although the underground pipes can remain functional for 40 years or more, most of the other components of the system, including the control panel, wiring, valves, and heads all need replacement at, or before, the 20 year point. Our experience in thousands of home inspections is that an older sprinkler system has either been extensively renovated or abandoned by around 20 years of age.

    Here are some of the factors that can shorten the life of a sprinkler system:

1) A hard winter freeze can fracture a backflow preventer if not well insulated.

2) The salts and disinfectants in reclaimed water will speed up the deterioration of the interior surface of sprinkler components that use it.

3) Rodents nesting in control valve boxes gnaw away the wiring.

4) Erosion of the soil will expose buried pipes to damage from mowers or walking over, especially around the perimeter of the home near foundation planting. Also, PVC pipe becomes brittle and cracks easily after sunlight exposure.

5) Cars or trucks driving over sprinkler heads or buried pipes can fracture them underground. This can happen near the edge of driveways and roads, and also under a driveway that has settlement cracks. 

    Go to our blog post What is the average lifespan of the parts of a house? for rating of other house components. To understand the basis, potential use, and limitations of lifespan ratings, see our blog post How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful? 

    Also, see our blog post What problems does a landscape sprinkler system have when it is not used for a long time?

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Here’s links to a collection of some of our other blog posts about “SPRINKLER SYSTEMS":

• Why is a backflow preventer required on lawn sprinkler systems?

• What is the difference between regular tap water and recycled/reclaimed water for landscape irrigation? 

What devices are code approved for backflow prevention at a sprinkler (lawn irrigation) system?


• Why is the cover plate of some water meter boxes in the ground painted purple?

• Will a sprinkler system work without a vacuum breaker (backflow preventer)?

• Does the receptacle outlet in a garage for a sprinkler control panel have to be GFCI-protected?

 NOTE: These life expectancies are based on data provided by InterNACHI, NAHB, FannieMade, and our own professional experience. Because of the numerous variables that can affect a lifespan, they should be used as rough guidelines only, and not relied upon as a warranty or guarantee of future performance.

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