BEGINNER'S TIPS FROM BILL
Shortly after I posted the first pages of this
website I got a fabulous email from Bill Granade in Tampa, Florida.
He had been drilling wells by hand for quite a while with great success.
Details of his technique are on the "ANOTHER HOME DRILLER!" page.
I really appreciate him sharing his experience and expertise with us.
Bill was kind enough to permit us to post his
email address and has, for several years now, been answering emails and
mentoring prospective home drillers. He has helped over 25 home
drillers put in their own wells. Based on that experience, he has
noted several common mistakes that folks make when they first start
trying to drill (wash down) their own wells.
Recently Bill suggested that we post a page
containing tips for beginners. In this way beginners could avoid
some of the common pitfalls. This is an excellent, excellent,
Before we go further, if you would like to
contribute to Bill and thank him for his efforts, please send him some beer money! You can send Bill a
PayPal donation at
The info from Bill is in
FIRST! We hear from folks who
stick their pipe the first try all the time. If you drill a 20
foot well in sand, when you get to the 15 or 20 foot level, while the water is
flowing and the pipe is loose and it seems like it will be that way
forever. It will not. If you turn off the water and give
it about 20 minutes, the sand will collapse on that pipe and it
will be stuck. Guaranteed.
Don't plan on turning the water off and coming
back tomorrow and working on drilling your well some more. It
The BIG mistake all beginning drillers make (even
me) when they try their first well is to dig a hole and then start
drilling. All goes well for the first 10 feet and then the drill pipe
The trick is to NOT dig a start hole
first. All you need is a little 2 inch deep “washed up sand" escape
trench on the low side of your drill spot. You don’t even want to remove
the grass ….just drill thru it.
I would suggest that you start with a
one inch test (see photo below) well close to where your pump is going
to be. You will need two 10 foot 1 inch diameter pipes and a garden
It costs less than $10 and will let you
know if you can get down 18 to 20 feet.
One inch test well rig (add PVC to
bottom to make it 18 to 20 feet long.
After you get the one inch test well in the
ground, give it a day to settle and then measure how far down it is to
the water. Tie a weight onto a piece of twine and drop it into the
one inch pipe. Pull it out and measure how far down to the wet
part of the twine. This will give you your standing water level.
This is extremely important because later you will want to drill deep
enough to place the top of your wellscreen at least 10 feet
under the standing water level.
Measure how far to wet part of the
Another method to test the distance down the
standing water level is to insert a wooden broom handle tied on with
fishing line into the one inch pipe.
Listen for it to hit the water.....or a THUD when it hits bottom if no
Broom handle inserted into one inch test
One inch test well with twine inserted
into well to measure depth to water
Bill strongly suggests
that wells should be started simply by putting the drillpipe in the
ground and starting the drilling/washing process. He specifically
suggests that the hole not be started with a posthole digger as that
will make a bigger hole than is optimal.
I used to always start wells with a posthole
digger but I now agree with him. Just put the pipe in the ground
and start the hole.
Bill also suggests
making a small downhill cut from the hole for the water and cuttings to
Excellent suggestion. This is a good
protocol to follow.
You'll find that you need an easy way to prime
your well. Bill suggests that you consider putting a priming hose
bib inline above the check valve to make this process easier.
Priming port setup for connection to a
For reasons unknown to Bill, folks keep wanting to leave the two inch
drill pipe in the ground. Pull it out! It is absolutely
critical to leave the 1.25 inch well screen pipe fully exposed. If
the two inch pipe is surrounding it, no water can get in the well
Bill says he doesn't like metal drill heads in his area. They may
be great in clay but they are problems in sand an increase the chance of
Bill has had five guys in the Tampa area have Harbor Freight pumps fail.
It does seem like this might be a good brand to avoid.
One more tip, and this one is from me, not Bill. I keep hearing
from folks who use pea gravel on their first well. Please
don't do this. Once you put pea gravel down that hole, you
are done. It either works or it doesn't. You can't change
it. If you don't put pea gravel down and you need to redrill or
move the screen or use a different size screen, you still can. Pea
gravel is for experienced drillers only!
Last but certainly not least, remember - Bill is
thirsty. Being a legend in the Tampa area is great but that
doesn't quench anybody's thirst. Send the poor boy some beer
money! It's the least we can do for all the help he has been.
You can send Bill a PayPal donation at
NEXT: Making a PVC Drill Bit