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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Choosing a Landscaping Company
  • Measure the company's ability to meet their commitments by how well they respond to your phone call, promptness to scheduled appointments, and their willingness to provide you with the information you need to make an educated decision.
  • Request references.
  • Realize the investment you are making to the value of your property.
  • Investigate the company's service after the installation should a question or a problem arise.
  • Review the warranty on parts and labor provided by each company. Determine the likelihood of the company to be in the business 3 years from now to honor the warranty.
  • Find out the office hours and whether there is a full-time office staff to answer your questions and return your calls.

Preparing for a landscaping project

Consider how you wish to spend your time outdoors. Who will you entertain? Will you need relief from the Texas sun? Are water features or serenity gardens part of your vision? Is an area for play or pets needed? Would you enjoy an outdoor cooking center or firepit? Will you be maintaining the landscape personally or professionally? Would you enjoy seasonal color areas to change out with the seasons?

Creating your "Outdoor Living Room" should be fun. Take time to plan it properly. Share ideas with your Longhorn Design Team and build the landscape you will love.

Choosing a Sprinkler Company
  • Measure the company's ability to meet their commitments by how well they respond to your phone call, promptness to scheduled appointments, and their willingness to provide you with the information you need to make an educated decision.
  • Request references.
  • Realize the investment you are making to the value of your property and the protection to your foundation.
  • Investigate the company's service after the installation should a question or a problem arise.
  • Review the warranty on parts and labor provided by each company. Determine the likelihood of the company to be in the business 3 years from now to honor the warranty.
  • Pay close attention to the following...
           Number of heads
           Number of zones
           Separation of turf and shrub areas
           Wasted water on walkways and driveways
           Room for expansion or change allowed on timer box

Landscape Construction

Q. Are permits required for landscape construction?
A. It depends on what elements are included in the landscape project. Construction items like arbors, fireplaces, retaining walls taller than 4 feet tall, flag poles, etc. require a city permit and Home Owner Association approval if you are a member of a HOA. Planting shrubs, adding new flower beds do not require the city's approval. Each city is different so you need to check the cities requirements for landscape design and construction. Longhorn applies for all necessary permits and provides the homeowner with the appropriate paperwork to obtain HOA approval.

Q. How can landscape quotes for the same landscaping items be so different? I have three quotes and they are so significantly different, how can that happen?
A. Well, getting an "apples to apples" comparison can be difficult. Not all items that appear similar actually are and companies include or exclude different components in their bids and proposals. For example, installing a new flower bed seems simple enough. Do comparable bids include bed preparation like adding soil amendments or are the plants just planted in the clay soil? Amending the soil is better, but costs more in materials and labor. Mulching beds seems simple enough, but there are differences in mulching materials. Longhorn uses a hardwood mulch which is more expensive than softwood mulch like pine bark. Installing a new bed often requires making sprinkler system changes to accommodate the new bed. Edging is important to keep the bed looking good and invasive grasses out of the bed. If edging is included, (stone or other material) and it should be included, how it is installed can make a big difference in the overall cost and quality.

Also note a 5gallon plant may be quite different in quality and size. Nurseries will auction off or hold special sales for plants which are not selections a professional landscaper would ever pick due to shape, quality, health or even variety. These items at times can be purchased for pennies on the dollar. So they can be resold very profitably at a much reduced price. The homeowner gets a poor specimen of a plant and may not realize what he purchased was not a bargain or even money well spent. The ability to explain what the consumer gets in his landscape that adds value to the project is important so that the customer can make an educated choice in consideration of quality, selection and price. The knowledge, experience and detail care are either included in the bid one way or another. Landscaping like everything else, you get what you pay for; the problem with Landscaping is the final results are not always immediately obvious. Ask any new homeowner who purchased the "builders package landscape" several years ago, it likely contained the wrong plants in the wrong locations.

Q. How do I find a good professional landscape company?
A. The landscape industry has a very low barrier for entry into the market. Every year we see many new entrants. They usually don't last very long and leave a bad impression on the market as warranties are not honored, jobs installed with poor quality standards and projects started, paid for and not completed. Two years is the average survival rate in this area for new landscape companies.

Hiring a landscape company is similar to any other contractor. The big difference is it can take a year or two after the job is done to discover if you received what you expected and paid for. We have seen completed projects where we were not the selected bidder and the final results were a far cry from what we bid. The workmanship was shoddy, plants were poor quality and not even zoned for this area. The homeowner may not realize until after a good freeze that he did not get what he paid for. The tropical plants freeze and the edging cracks and the new tree shades the new planted beds and the plants are full sun specimens and begin to fade, etc.
  • Check customer references and BBB
  • Look at length of time in business
  • Is the Company local or from several cities away? Local companies are typically more concerned about their reputation.
  • Are they licensed for the services they offer and are they licensed with the city as a construction or landscape contractor?
  • Do they have a legitimate business address and office, or do they operate out of their truck with a cell phone?
  • A professional landscape should have a showroom to show his work and services. Roots in the community are a good sign.
Don't assume:
  • That because they mow your grass they are anything more than non-skilled labor and may have no proficiency or knowledge as a professional landscaper or contractor.
  • Your project will not be subcontracted to someone you do not know or want to do business with. Any sub should be checked out thoroughly.
  • A generous warranty has any value unless you have confidence it will be honored. Check references for warranty work also.
  • That a large down payment up front is necessary. Normally a small down payment is required and then progress payments on satisfactory performance milestones.
  • All the necessary permits and approvals are being handled by the landscaper. The homeowner is responsible for obtaining these and held accountable for any shortfalls in quality and legality of work.


Q. Can you explain the difference between a French drain and regular drain?
A. A French drain (named after the inventor Henry French in 1859) has nothing to do with France or the French people, nothing quite so exotic. A French drain is a general term now that describes a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel and installed with a slope to direct the water in a certain direction. It has become a general term for any drainage but by definition means a drain covered with gravel that allows ground and surface water to seep into the drain. We install a perforated drain with a fabric silt cover to keep silt from eventually clogging the system over time. It is referred to as a drain sock. Failure to install a sock may result in premature failure of the drain. We have never encountered a failed drain that used a perforated pipe and sock. We have seen failures in poorly constructed drains that took short cuts.

Q. Can I cut through the curb to install a drain to dump water into the street?
A. Depends on the city's regulations. Most cities will not allow cutting into the curb because of shoddy work by previous contractors. A pop up drain is a reasonable alternative if the city won't allow a curb cut.

Q. How do you size a drain to be adequate to meet the needs when we get a heavy rain?
A. The drain size is an engineering analysis of the water volume based on collection area, length and degree of fall. Certainly it is better to over engineer. We look to identify the source of water accumulation and then deal with the run off water at the earliest point of entry. Surface drains come in various sizes and when the property slope is an issue a sump pump can be utilized to pump the water.

Q. How can I save the water from our drainage system?
A. Certainly if you have the room to store the drain water from gutters and surface run off you can store the water. A good rain can yield thousands of gallons of water coming off the roof and ground so any storage will typically be quite large. Below ground storage tanks can be buried and the stored water then used for no potable water uses such as landscape irrigation, washing the car, etc. If the landscape allows an above ground open storage tank such as a pond can be created and the water recycled for pond performance.

Q. The area between my house and the neighbors is always muddy and the grass does not grow in this area. Will a drain fix this problem?
A. Installing the correct drainage will make the area more dry and maybe help the grass grow, but more likely the grass is not growing due to the shade between the houses and a drain won't help that problem. Try growing a ground cover that wants to be in a shaded area.

Q. If a French drain gets clogged somewhere in the line do I have to dig it up to repair the blockage?
A. It depends how severe the extent of the drain blockage is. Normally you can run a mechanical snake through the drain and dislodge the blockage; high pressure water will also sometimes work. If the French drain is really clogged or has been crushed then digging or rerouting is the only solution.

Q. How much does drainage cost?
A. Depends entirely on the size of the drain and the length including the catch basins and slope to negotiate. Each project is a custom bid, but a general rule of thumb is $12 per linear foot installed. Factors such as hand digging and obstacles will add to the price. Before you dig to add a drain, make sure to find out where the utilities are on your property.


Q. What is an irrigation reroute?
A. An irrigation re-route involves making temporary or permanent changes to the existing sprinkler system/irrigation system. Typically, this activity is to deal with pre-construction activities. Construction projects including swimming pool installation, new fencing, expanding or installing a new patio, etc. may require moving the existing irrigation to permit usage of lawn sprinklers or irrigation in areas not affected by construction activities. It is unwise to build a construction project over an existing irrigation system. For instance pouring a concrete pad over existing irrigation pipes may mean expensive repairs to the patio and pipes should a leak occur under the concrete slab. Locate sprinkler or irrigation heads, valves, wiring and "main Lines", the lines constantly under pressure before starting any construction.

Not rerouting may mean extensive delays to restoring the system for the areas requiring irrigation and not under construction or delays to a project that has commenced and finds a flooded property.

Q. Can drip irrigation be installed in turf areas?
A. Yes, technically it is doable, but the size of the area to be dripped may make the decision a financial issue. Small areas like the area around between the sidewalk and street can be drip irrigated quite economically and provide a water saving solution. Longhorn has been installing drip irrigation for the last five years and is the most knowledgeable drip irrigation contractor in North Texas. If you have an area that is too large to economically drip, a good alternative is to install newer technology spray heads that utilize less water and provide excellent watering. They can be retrofitted in to any sprinkler system.

Q. My sprinkler system would not shut off despite all my efforts to make it stop, including unplugging the controller. I shut the water meet off but now I have no water to the house.
A. The system can break down and water can continue to run. A single zone (most frequent), multiple zones, or the entire system can fail in that manor. The system can be shut down by closing the valve associated with the zone(s) that failed if the valve can be easily found. Alternatively, each system is required by the state TCEQ to have a double check valve or other system back flow device installed between the water supply source and your irrigation system. A double check is the most common back flow device installed.

Often the backflow device is installed close to the water meter in a rectangular shaped box. This device has at least one handle and usually two. Either handle can be turned to shut off the water to the entire irrigation system without affecting the water to your home. After shutting it off call and make an appointment with Longhorn to repair your system and turn it back on.

Q. Can I purchase sprinkler parts at a big box store and have you install these parts for me?
A. Yes, but be aware that these parts are not professional grade and will not be covered under warranty. Longhorn uses professional grade products that meet strict standards of performance and durability.

Q. Can I really get a professional design and estimate over the phone?
A. Yes and No. You can most likely get a general idea of the budgetary cost of installing a system by answer a few questions about the size of your property, the area to be watered that is turf and bed, the water pressure at you house, the amount of shade and things like access to the property and the amount of obstructions that require hand digging.

So to get a real firm estimate, these questions and several others must be answered by a professional and that requires a site visit.

Q. I have had several contractor estimates for a sprinkler system and was told I did not need a permit to install a system because my house is not new. It is only required for new homes.
A. Yes you need a permit and do not install a system without one. Any licensed irrigator knows this. I suspect you are dealing with an unlicensed contractor, do so at great risk to you, your property and your wallet.

Q. How often should I have my sprinkler system checked; my water bill seems much higher this year than last.
A. Check your system at least once a year, twice is better, in the spring and then again in the fall. Remember your landscape still needs supplemental water in the winter months even when it is brown. Run the system controller and check each head in each sprinkler zone to make sure it is operating properly and spraying the area it needs to cover. This is called coverage, and typically the spray from one head should hit the head next to it with head to head coverage.

Check to see that shrubs are not blocking the heads or heads are spraying the house. Pop up heads need enough height clearance to work properly. Check around the property for areas that appear habitually wet, and areas that seem excessively wet after the system runs. You may have a leak that's wasting a large volume of irrigation water.

Many times leaks are difficult to pinpoint, the area where the water collects may not be the area where the leak is. Digging is the only way to find a sprinkler leak.

Repair parts for most systems can be found at the big box home stores. We are licensed to perform all inspection and repair services. Our repairs are by appointment only; we book a one hour appointment and do not charge for travel time. We always check the entire system when we are called to make a repair on any part of it. We warranty our work for one year for a repair. New system installations are warranted for three years.

Q. Do you repair irrigation pump systems and controllers?
A. Yes we will trouble shoot and repair irrigation pumps for sprinkler systems and pond aerators.

Q. Will you program my controller for me?
A. We will provide that service as a call out or for free if we install a new controller. Alternatively existing customers can call us and we can walk them through a change if it is minor and convenient for the homeowner.

If you have a question we haven't answered we will attempt to do so here on our site. Remember, Longhorn services only North Texas; consequently we are lawn and plant experts only for our area. If you have a question not answered by this page call us at 972-562-8873 or email us and we'll do our best to answer it.