How to Drive a New Well Point
Let's face it: Anything to do with water and plumbing fixtures can cause many unwanted problems and drain your piggy bank. It's not uncommon to be charged $50.00 by a plumber to assess your problem. The good news is that a good number of people throughout the U.S. still rely on wells for their fresh drinking water.
If you were one of the unlucky people who lost your power due to Hurricane Irene, then you know you can lose access to your well water in the blink of the eye. With city or public water, you have a constant supply of fresh, cold water.
In the following guide, I describe how I drilled a new well point and what tools I used.
- Diagnosing a Bad Well Point
- Recruit a Helping Hand
- Tools and Equipment You'll Need
- Driving the Pipe
- Finding the Water Table
Attaching Elbows, Clamps, and Nipples
1. Diagnosing a Bad Well Point
What do you do if you wake up one morning and find that your water pump has lost its prime and no water is being drawn up out of your well? Do not lose all hope and do not call that plumber yet!
Washing Machine Cold Water Hose Check
One of the major reasons you may have lost water is a damaged screen at the bottom of your well. By unscrewing the cold water supply hose behind your washing machine you can assess the health of the well point. The cold water supply hose will be a black rubber hose that comes off of a blue colored handle.
Take a look inside the end that goes into your washer. If the hose is full of sand or fine dirt particles, it's a telling sign that a well point is starting to go and will eventually lose its prime.
A way to confirm the well point is bad is by cleaning out the hose and doing a load of laundry. If you find it has accumulated with sand particles once again after running your washer, it is highly likely it's time to drill a new well point.
Don't Call a Plumber
If you're seeing the telltale signs of a failing well point, do not panic and do not call the plumber. Visits from the plumber are expensive, and this is a job you may be able to do yourself.
2. Recruit a Helping Hand
Replacing a well point is tedious. This project is a great opportunity to reach out to a friend who is strong and, ideally, mechanically inclined. This project typically requires at least one extra set of hands, and it's a great excuse to spend time with a friend. You can then repay your friend by cooking them dinner. They did just save you somewhere between $3,500 and $5,000! That is what a professional well driller would charge.
3. Tools and Equipment You'll Need
You won't need too many tools to drive a new well point, and fortunately, the ones you do need are not very expensive. Most DIY plumbing supplies necessary for this job can be purchased at your local Lowe's, Home Depot, ACE Hardware store, or your local plumbing supply store.
You'll most likely need to purchase:
- galvanized pipe: Ten 5' sections of 1 1/2" galvanized threaded pipe
- well point: Pipe that allows water to enter and keeps water table in place; find this at you're local plumbing store
- screen: A filtering device
Other Required Parts
More or less of any single material may be needed depending on the below surface depth of your water table. All of these items may vary in size depending on your personal well. Measure parts with this in mind, and be sure to ask your mechanically-inclined friend or neighborhood hardware store if you're struggling to determine proper sizes.
- one 2-3' by 1 1/2 inch screen: Screws this onto the end of the first section of galvanized pipe that gets driven into the ground, about one to two feet away from where the old point was.
- one 1 1/2" brass check valve: The check valve goes on the black flex tubing located between your water pump and last section of galvanized pipe. Its purpose is to keep water within the pump, so the prime is not lost. And this last section will be sticking about a foot out of the ground.
- one 1 1/2" galvanized elbow: Screw this elbow onto the last section of pipe above ground level.
- one 1 1/2" galvanized nipple: Screw this nipple into the end of the 1 1/2" elbow, mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- one 5' length of 1 1/2-2" black flexible pipe: Cut this with a hacksaw and place it on the end of the galvanized nipple to one end of the check valve. Securely fasten it then with hose or pipe clamps.
Additional Tools and Plumbing Supplies
- one 100 lb. or heavier post pounder or well driver: This is the most important tool. It does not need to be purchased; typically you can rent one from your local hardware or plumbing store.
- two 12" or larger pipe wrenches: Wrenches hold and screw the separate sections of threaded pipe together.
- Teflon tape or Grey plumber's putty: Plumber's pipe putty used in conjunction with Teflon tape between pipe sections is necessary before driving the individual sections into the ground. If there is not a proper seal between the pipe sections seepage could occur resulting in loss of prime to your water pump.
- one hacksaw or Sawzall: A saw is necessary for trimming extra lengths of pipe.
- two Hose-type clamps 1 1/2-2": Hose clamps secure ends of black flex pipe to your pump and well point.
- manual hand pump: Used to bring water to the surface of the ground, the manual hand pump is used to prime the check valve on the electric pump. This allows the electric pump to turn on and pump with ease. Manual hand pumps can be rented from the hardware or plumbing supply store.
Follow the instructions associated with the post pounder and/or well driver closely. Misuse of a post pounder could cause injury.
4. Connecting and Driving the Pipe
This job takes some initial hard work in the way of connecting several lengths of 1 1/2" pipe, screwing the lengths together and then pounding each length vertically into the ground. Repeat this process for each pipe length one length after the other, until you have reached your water table. Depending on how deep your water is you could be placing anywhere from five 5' sections of pipe to twenty or more sections of pipe.
Getting the pipe lengths into the ground is the most difficult part of this job. As previously mentioned, this is where a good, strong friend could come in handy. The hollowed-out pole pounder or well driver that you and friend will be using weighs at least 100 lbs.
5. Determining if Your Well Is in Water
It is important to determine if your well is in water so you know how far down to drill the new well point. To find out if your well point is in water, take a 30' to 50' piece of strong string. At one end tie a fish sinker that weighs a few ounces. Place the sinker into the pipe where the old well point pipes enter the ground. Slowly lower the string with a sinker attached down the pipes. Try to feel for some sort of resistance.
If none is felt, bring it up gradually, If you notice wetness on your string, then you will know that your point and screen are within the water table. You may not need any additional sections of pipe, but you may want to drive the last section of pipe a few more feet into the ground with your well driver. This will place the well point and attached screen in even more fresh groundwater.
6. Attaching Elbows, Clamps, and Nipples
After your point is in the ground and you have hit water, the remainder of the job is nothing more than screwing together the nipples and elbows. Attach one end of the black flex pipe to the check valve attached to the pump. Attach the other end of the black flex hose to the well point side. Securely attach both ends with hose or pipe clamps and you're ready to go.
While this project is very physically difficult, it is fairly conceptually simple. The most important parts of this project are:
- Gather the tools beforehand
- Have a handy friend to help you
- Patiently follow the steps outlined here but adjust them for your specific well project
Have Your Water Tested
Have your newly driven well tested either by the local water authority in your township or by a company who does this routinely. This is just a good sensible habit, that will in addition give you peace of mind, knowing that your drinking water still has the same quality that the old well provided.
Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor
After you've completed this big DIY plumbing project, you can give both yourself and your helper a big pat on the back. Even though you will have shed approximately four to five hours of blood, sweat, and tears, you will also have saved yourself well over $4000. The tools and materials for this job typically cost no more than $750.
Take a seat, turn on the electric water pump attached to your new well point, and take that long, well-deserved drink of fresh water!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.