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How to Install a Hand Pump

Updated on April 06, 2016
Joy At Home profile image

Joy has lived the old-fashioned way since 2010, when she and her husband bought a 1928 farm house, without improvements. What a journey!


Joined: 8 years agoFollowers: 253Articles: 45

My Bathroom Hand Pump

My bathroom pitcher pump, immediately after installation.
My bathroom pitcher pump, immediately after installation.

Intentions

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted a chance to experience a 1920's-1930s kitchen like I saw in my dollhouse catalogs, complete with cellar, hardwood floor, and pitcher pump installed at the sink. It took over 20 years, but I got my dream.

In the winter of 2009, my family and I moved onto a rural property on which stood a 1928 Wardway's kit home. The house had never undergone improvements, and was in its original 1928 state.

Through looking over old receipts for the farm's goods - papers and belongings were scattered throughout the house - and through talking to a neighbor who had known the family well, we determined that the appliances we found there were all the modernization they had cared to do. There was some electricity in the home, done in a 1940s do-it-yourself style. (Electricity didn't come to this area of Colorado until the mid '40's, but the family did have a small generator previous to this.) There were two refrigerators - no ice boxes - one from the late 20's. Also a nice, six-burner propane stove, which had clearly replaced a wood-and-coal cookstove. And there was a place where a hand pump had been installed at the kitchen sink. The pump had been removed, but the sink and wooden countertop were fine.

I determined to install a classic red pitcher pump there, and one in the bathroom (which had never had fixtures installed, being used instead as a storeroom). This project required a new cistern (water holding tank), some work on the electric well (there had once been a windmill, but no more), and a lot of new plumbing. I called my handy-dandy dad, and together, we designed a system to bring both hot and cold running water into the home.

Two Hand Pumps in My House

This classic-looking pitcher pump makes filling a dishpan or scrub bucket a breeze. Visitors never ask whether it's new or original. They can't usually tell, either.
This classic-looking pitcher pump makes filling a dishpan or scrub bucket a breeze. Visitors never ask whether it's new or original. They can't usually tell, either.
For hand washing, it takes only two pumps into the stoppered sink to take care of even the grimiest child's "paws".
For hand washing, it takes only two pumps into the stoppered sink to take care of even the grimiest child's "paws".
And I love how it looks.
And I love how it looks.

What Is Your Water Source?

You must consider what kind of water source or cistern you have available, before deciding what it will take to install your hand pump. This may greatly affect the functioning of your water pump, as well as direct what diameter pipe is best. A water barrel under your countertop will do as a cistern.

At any rate, for an average small hand-operated water pump, your cistern should not be more than 21' lower than your pump, and 15' would be better. 28' is the maximum "draw" rating on most commercial hand pumps, and this may only work if you have a complete vacuum in your system. (This would be hard to achieve, normally.) I have only about 6' of drop before my plumbing runs horizontally to my cistern in the basement. There is about 30' of pipe altogether, running to my kitchen sink.

Horizontally, your water source may be as many as 100 yards away from your pump, without adversely affecting the pumping power or the water flow rate.

Regardless what is your water source, you will want to install a check or spring-loaded foot valve at the end of your vertical pipe, to prevent the water from flowing back down and emptying your pump. (Letting your pump sit dry can be hard on the leathers. If you intend to be gone for more than a day or two, and need to empty your system, consider putting mineral oil on the leathers to keep them soft. Also do this prior to installing your pump.)

Advice on Choosing a Hand Pump

Make sure the pump you intend to purchase is designed to actually pump water. Some of the pumps on the market are cheaply designed, and are intended only for ornamental use. Also, pumps designed for other liquids, such as oil, do not have the same design for all internal parts, and may not work satisfactorily.

Secondly, make sure your water pump includes a check valve in the base, to prevent backflow. If you don't have one, you may have to re-prime your pump often, and this would make water usage tedious. If I drain all 30' of line in my system, it takes at least 15 pumps (sometimes closer to 30) to get water back up to my sink. My pump came with a swinging check valve in the base, but a spring-loaded one would be even better, as it is stronger.

If you do not include a check or spring-loeaded foot valve at the end of your vertical pipe when installing your pump, you will have to remember to pump a cupful of water each evening to keep until morning, for re-priming your pump each day.

Lastly, make sure there is nothing in your pump which would be destroyed or damaged, should your pump freeze. My bathroom pump froze twice last winter, and was not hurt. But it did require a long time to thaw. (There was ice forming right up through the center and out the top.)

Get good leathers for your pump, and be sure that they are kept in good condition. Change them as often as necessary. My pumps were both installed in December 2010 (this is now August 2011), and I have had no problems.

Tools and Supplies List

Here is what we required to install the pumps:

  • Two red pitcher pumps, purchased off Amazon
  • Drill to make hole for pipe through countertop; proper bit of appropriate diameter (hole saw blade, spade bit)
  • Pipe wrench
  • Galvanized steel pipe - 3/4" diameter (1/2" would do; 1" would take too long to fill up to the pump spout)
  • Pipe cutter and threader for steel pipe. Your local hardware store might do the cutting and threading for you, if you calculate the exact lengths of all the pipes needed.
  • Pipe dope or teflon tape
  • Wrenches for bolts or lag bolts for attaching pump to countertop (ours were 1/4" bolts, so we used a 7/16" wrench)
  • Adjustable open end/crescent wrenches for general use - 6"-8" length (2)
  • Tape measure

If you choose to use copper pipe, you will need a torch, copper pipe cutter, solder, flux, and pipe dope or teflon tape.

Rigid PVC pipe would probably work, too, but we chose to use something we were sure would not suck in from pressure.

What We Started With

Here is the kitchen counter and sink as it was before we installed the pump. You can see the hole where a pump was removed, at the side of the sink.
Here is the kitchen counter and sink as it was before we installed the pump. You can see the hole where a pump was removed, at the side of the sink.
The farmhouse sink is original, and appears to be one of the oldest models available.
The farmhouse sink is original, and appears to be one of the oldest models available.

Finished Product

You can see here under the counter the hot and cold water pipes, with the valve switch attached. You won't need one of these, if you have only cold water available.
You can see here under the counter the hot and cold water pipes, with the valve switch attached. You won't need one of these, if you have only cold water available.
The finished plumbing under the bathroom (including the drain for both sink and bathtub). The galvanized pipes running toward the left go directly through the floor to the pump.
The finished plumbing under the bathroom (including the drain for both sink and bathtub). The galvanized pipes running toward the left go directly through the floor to the pump.

Installation Instructions

I had to decide what sort of appearance I wanted the pump to give, as well as how I wanted it to function. I opted to set the handles toward the edge of the counters, so that they would not take space out of my work area, in order to be pumped. The handles on my pumps were designed to be adjustable, being able to be set at any angle around the pump.

Here is how we installed the pumps:

We began in each case at the countertop, measuring, cutting, and threading pipe as we went. Naturally, how much pipe you need, and what other fittings are required, will be determined by how far it is to your water source. My cistern is about 30' away from my kitchen sink, and less than half that to my bathroom sink. In both cases, we went straight down from the pumps and through the floors, then across the ceiling of my basement toward my cistern, hanging the pipes from brackets attached to the joists. I have both a hot and a cold line running to both sinks, with a valve switch under the sink to direct the flow from each one.

Once we reached the cistern, we ran the pipe into it, and put in another check valve. You may wish to add a debris screen, depending on your circumstances, and the condition of your water source. We added a water filter just outside of my cistern, through which everything must flow before it reaches the pumps, as my well water is somewhat silty.

I would like to introduce you to the whole wood-heat hot water system another time, but for now, I have explained what you really need to know in order to install a hand pump in your own home.

Should you wish to install a pump in an outdoor setting, a 1 1/4" diameter pipe would make the pump self-supporting (freestanding).

A Sampling of Styles, Types, and Colors Available in Hand Pumps

Courtesy of: http://www.daytrails.com/CastleRockPump.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.daytrails.com/CastleRockPump.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.drumpumps.com/ProductImages/Cistern.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.drumpumps.com/ProductImages/Cistern.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.plumbingsupply.com/images/handpump.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.plumbingsupply.com/images/handpump.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.pumpsandtanks.com/Pumps/Images/Pitcher_Pump.gif
Courtesy of: http://www.pumpsandtanks.com/Pumps/Images/Pitcher_Pump.gif
Courtesy of: http://www.langhalegardens.co.uk/shop/product%20pictures/pumps/pump.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.langhalegardens.co.uk/shop/product%20pictures/pumps/pump.jpg
Courtesy of: http://www.2kstore.com/anm/anmindex3.htm
Courtesy of: http://www.2kstore.com/anm/anmindex3.htm

Have I Been Happy With My Choice?

Yes, I have loved my hand pumps.

I have had some pleasant surprises. For instance, water flow is easy to restrict. While growing up, I had sometimes used the tall red pump my grandmother had at her cistern by her garden. Not only had that one been more difficult to pump (and skreeked, needing to be oiled, as well), but the water flow had not been adjustable. I got a gush, or nothing. With my small pitcher pumps, I can get either a trickle or a gush, as I wish. Furthermore, I can fill a sink or bucket faster than with a conventional, modern faucet. Each full pump brings up about a pint of water.

The pumps are easy to use. Even my pre-school age daughter can pump water for herself, to wash her hands or brush her teeth.

On the downside, the pumps sometimes need re-primed, after I have been gone a few days. But this is not hard. I simply pour a few cups of water down the top hole where the pump rod is, to get the flow started. (This removes air from the line, and allows the pump to draw again.) Also, after a hard pump, the water sometimes splashes out the top hole, wetting my countertop. And I always have a bit of a puddle, once I am through pumping, at the base of the pump. But this is not much of a hardship.

The pumps are easy to wipe clean, and don't look shabby, as a conventional faucet can, even when dirty.

I have loved the fact that the pitcher pumps go so well with the era and design of the house. They bring a feeling of completeness to my surroundings, and make me smile when I use them. They remind me that dreams do come true.

When Choosing a Pump...

Be aware that not all hand pumps or pitcher pumps are designed to be actually used to draw water. There are quite a few decorative models on the market. So when selecting your pump, please be careful to avoid lead paint, shoddy construction, and lightweight parts. Forewarned is forearmed.

Update - July 10, 2015

From Jaimie, a reader:

Hopefully we can get the hand pump set up with limited problems. We recently tried a small tank on the roof with a pump to get water to the tank, hoping that it could be gravity fed through all our existing plumbing. There was simply no water pressure and all we got was a drip drip. It seems that your hand pump and cistern idea is our best bet. We don't have a basement so we are thinking of burying it outside our kitchen window. Our water source is our hand pump well in our backyard. We already have the equipment to power it with solar to fill a holding tank.

My reply:

Sounds good! The only thing I didn't show in the hand pump article is the fact that we had to apply silicone around the kitchen pump and large sink, built up in front on the pump, so that water stopped running back onto the counter. In other words, the pump spout does not extend far enough out to allow the water to fall into the sink without hitting the counter. Not a big deal - just two applications of silicone built up to seal everything, since one large application was difficult to judge correctly how much was enough. Some people solve this problem by extending the spout with a piece of conveyor belt, etc., looped over the spout with wire. Looks ugly.

So, photos of the caulk-silicone job are below. I apologize for the goobery pics; I was rushed.

The newly-applied silicone will need to sit undisturbed overnight, for best results. (No using the pump.) Since you will need to apply the silicone to clean and dry surfaces, this may mean you'd best apply it first thing in the morning (after everything has had a chance to get really dry overnight), and just use another water source for a day or two.

Adding Silicone/Caulk Around the Pump

If I had my druthers, I'd have used clear silicone...but I used what I had on hand.
If I had my druthers, I'd have used clear silicone...but I used what I had on hand.
My wooden counter - 80-some years old - needed some sealing, as well, in nearby areas.
My wooden counter - 80-some years old - needed some sealing, as well, in nearby areas.
I built up the silicone until water cascades neatly back into the sink without causing any problems.
I built up the silicone until water cascades neatly back into the sink without causing any problems.

An Idea for Accessing a Somewhat Deeper Water Sources

© 2011 Joy At Home

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    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 5 years ago from India

      A hand operated well pump has limited range. If water level is very deep, you may be pumping for a while just to get water up to ground level. A check valve is needed to help keep it up too.

      Its better to use electric driven pump, keep hand pump there just for looks.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

      Trsmd,

      Yes, as explained in the article, a hand pump does have limited draw. 15'-28' deep is the extent to which many are useful. However, a few are rated for much deeper draw. One of the links in the article above leads to a site selling a hand pump rated for a medium-depth well.

      I cannot think of using a hand-operated pump on my well - just on my cistern. My well is 300' deep...which is still considered a medium depth, as many of the local wells are 350-400 feet deep. A windmill and/or electric well are the only plausible choices with these.

      Also, as mentioned twice in the article, a check or spring-loaded foot valve, installed below the "water table" for your system, is necessary to keep water from flowing back down the pipe(s).

      As to whether an electric pump is always a better choice, well...there are certain circumstances in which it just isn't.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      What an incredible guide! I didn't know that many folks still used hand pumps in their homes. Now that I think of it, it'd be really great to see them more often... when one has to pump one's own water, one is less likely to waste!

      Your advice and instructions are excellent. Thanks so much for putting this Hub together!

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

      Simone,

      Thank you for you very kind comment! I had fun putting this together.

      And you are right about wasting water - we use the least water of any family I know.

    • ridgetop profile image

      ridgetop 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Very interesting. I'm interested in your cistern connections. I've plumbed my in ground cistern with 3/4" stub line into my crawl space, 3 feet below kitchen floor level, prepartory to an electric pump installation. However, it may be another year before I get electric. Cistern is full and I'd love to be able to use the water. Floating check valve is already in place inside the cistern. Thanks for your comments.

    • ridgetop profile image

      ridgetop 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Useful information. Can you give some details concerning the connections at the cistern and just under the pump itself? I'm considering the same set-up, but my exit line from the cistern is 3/4 inch diameter into the crawlspace.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 4 years ago from United States

      All the plumbing in our set-up is 3/4" galvanized iron pipe. Under the pump itself, there is a reducing bushing, that goes from 1 1/4" (I believe) down to 3/4". If you have a pipe coming out of your cistern, I would probably connect it with a union. I suppose you could use black polypipe, so long as you believe it won't collapse under the suction. If it is only a temporary set-up, you could use hose barbs and section of 3/4" black polypipe that is NSF approved.

      We didn't use polypipe, but it would make the connections easier to do for a temporary set-up. Any kind of ridgid pipe (copper, PVC, etc.) ought to be used in a permanent set-up, so that there is no danger of it's collapsing due to suction of the pump. I wouldn't use pipe which is smaller than 3/4".

    • ridgetop profile image

      ridgetop 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Thank you. That appears to be very do-able, and even as a permanent installation for when the power is off later on. What is your line length, would you say?

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 4 years ago from United States

      My line length from the cistern to the pump is approximately 30 feet.

    • Bethw67 4 years ago

      I was just wondering about your pump - did they tell you whether or not it was safe for drinking water? Or are you just using it to wash up? I recently purchased a cast iron pump to convert to use as a bathroom facuet but when it arrived it had a sticker saying (do not use for drinking water, as this product contains lead and other harmful substances that cause cancer and other conditions) I am still looking for a safe pump to use for people who want to brush teeth, drink water, etc.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 4 years ago from United States

      Bethw67,

      There does not appear to be any good reason why we should not use our particular pumps for drinking water. However, we typically do not, as our cistern contains enough impurities that it is safer and simpler to keep the drinking water separate. (I don't enjoy chemicals any more than I do toxic anaerobic growths.) We typically do use the cistern water for brushing teeth, washing, and other activities during which the water is not directly ingested.

      I don't remember the company from which our pumps came. I can try to check that if it would be helpful.

    • CherylPatton 4 years ago

      You probably covered this but I need to ask again, does the plumping from the hand pump into the cistern need to be totally vertical or can there be two elbows in the entire length? I would be pumping it from an above ground cistern into the house. Thank you!

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 4 years ago from United States

      Cheryl,

      How far you can pump (either vertically or horizontally) has much more to do with the draw rate of your particular pump, than with the angles of your pipe.

      Many small hand pumps are rated for 15' to 25' of vertical draw (suction).

      Does this answer your question adequately?

    • Fernanda 23 months ago

      The first thing I would suggest is a trhuoogh search of the RV to determine if a field animal got into the vehicle. A dead mammal reeks and it is a very strong smell that won't go away, even with an airing out. After you have made sure that is not the problem, I would suggest two main steps that are quite easy to accomplish. Additionally, there are some optional steps should you require an all out attack on odor.1. Go to home improvement store and buy product called "Damp Rid." This is one product that truly delivers. Use it as directed and you will be amazed to find it soaks up humidity, dampness and odors. (I use it in my teenager's closets and any place that remains closed to air circulation.)2. Place some bowls of white vinegar througout the RV for a few days. Ignore the vinegar smell, as it will dissipate eventually, along with the odors. After a few days, air out the RV and you should find the air smells much cleaners. (Someone suggested this treatment would rid a house of fish smells after cooking, and it works REMARKABLY well for fish or any other stinky smell.)3. You may want to sprinkle some baking soda over the carpet and on the bedding, and chairs to tackle left over odors.4. Spray "Oust" spray or Lysol disenfectant spray throughout.If all else fails, hire a pest control person to search (for an up-front agreed upon price) for dead rodents. Good luck!

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 23 months ago from United States

      Fernanda,

      I wonder whether you actually meant to post this comment here, as it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the content of my article? If you were advertising something, I'd assume it was spam and delete it, but this seems to be a friendly comment with good intent.

      - Joy at Home

    • les 5 months ago

      could you tel lme how to put a replacement washer on a garden cast iron water pump pls

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 5 months ago from United States

      If it is a pitcher pump, you should be able to unscrew the top, pull out the plunger, and get to the washer to replace it. If it is a deeper-well type, you'll have to pull the well and get to the necessary parts lower down.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 5 months ago from United States

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