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I'll be happy to try to answer any questions I can.   If you don't want your email posted, it's not a problem - just say so.  I only post about 1% of them anyway.   Send comments and/or questions to mike.willis@runbox.com

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I started drilling and everything went fine until I got down to about X feet (x= 10 to 20).  Then suddenly the water stopped coming back up to the top.

You have hit a soft spot.  If you were a little deeper I'd suggest you consider setting your well screen at that level.  Since you are so shallow you need to get past that soft spot.  Mix up some bentonite slurry and re-drill through that soft spot while adding bentonite.  It should harden up the sandy sides of your hole so you can get deeper.  Please check out the modified drillhead on the "Making the Drillhead" page for an easy way to add bentonite to your drilling fluid.

 

How do I know how deep I have to drill?

You need to drill deep enough so that the top of your well screen can be 10 feet under the standing water level.

For example, say your standing water level is 12 feet down and you are using a three foot long 1.25 inch diameter well screen.  You need to drill down 25 feet.  This puts (starting from the bottom) three feet of 1.25 inch well screen followed by 22 feet of 1.25 inch PVC.   The top of the three foot section of well screen is at the 22 foot level which is 10 feet below your standing water level of 12 feet.

 

How do I know what my standing water level is?

You might be able to check with neighbors who have wells.  If there is a lake or a stream nearby the standing water level is probably close to the level of the lake or stream.

Unfortunately the only really reliable way to tell the standing water level is to drill a hole and leave it alone for a couple of days and then measure how far down to the water.

 

 

 

OTHER QUESTIONS

Hi Mike;
  
I put down a small well for my first time on a small piece of property in Bronson Florida. I told a well man that I didn't have a very large flow, and he said to let the pump run for a long time, and it would give me lots of volume! Sure enough, I got more water than I could use. So, the longer you run the pump to start with the more water you will get.
 
Hope this helps folks. 

Ronald,  Gainesville Florida

Thanks Ronald!

 

How deep can I drill using this method?

Most wells drilled using this method are two or three inch wells from 25 to 30 feet deep.  With enough patience you could go a little deeper but not much.  It isn't that your pipe won't drill deeper - it is that the sides of the hole collapse on your drill pipe.  If you add a mixture of bentonite clay with water you can probably get another 10 feet, maybe a few more. 

 

How do you put the well screens into place?

I would think that I would need to use the drill head to carve out the bottom of the hole, then start from the bottom and start filling in gravel by dropping it down the center of the PVC pipe. Then drill back down through the full gravel and insert the screen. Please correct me.

Also, are you more concerned about natural water pressure, or more concerned about water temperature for your geothermal installation? 

WITHOUT AT MUD PUMP:

To put in a well screen with no gravel pack - Dill the hole with a 2.0 inch drillpipe.  Then drop the 1.25 inch wellscreen pipe down through it and pull the 2.0 inch drillpipe out of the ground, leaving the 1.25 inch wellscreen pipe in the ground.  That is the well. This is how most wells are done with the technique described in this website.  Be sure and seal the well at the top 15 -20 feet with cement or bentonite.

To put in a wellscreen with a gravel pack - Drill the hole with a 3.0 inch drillpipe.  Then pour a few inches of gravel down the 3.0 inch drillpipe for a base of gravel.  Then put the 1.25 inch wellscreen down through the 3.0 inch drillpipe.  Then pour gravel down between the 3 inch drillpipe and the 1.25 inch wellscreen pipe as you slowly pull the 3.0 inch pipe up and out of the ground.  This leaves the 1.25 inch wellscreen pipe in the ground with a gravel pack at the bottom.  Be sure and seal the well at the top 15 -20 feet with cement or bentonite.

WITH A MUD PUMP:

Use either a 2.0 or 3.0 inch drillpipe to drill the borehole.  Mix in bentonite with your water during drilling so the hole will not collapse.  Drill the hole.  Pull the drillpipe out of the ground.  Then pour a few inches of gravel down the hole for a base of gravel.  Put the 1.25 inch wellscreen down the hole.  Pour gravel down the hole to form the gravel pack.  Fill in the hole with clay and be sure to seal the well at the top with 15 -20 feet cement or bentonite.

Regarding the geothermal issue - any groundwater is going to work just fine.  You just need enough GPM to support your heat pump.  For most residential heat pumps, 10 GPM is adequate. 

 

I would like to try your method to drill a well near a pond where I am currently getting water from for a pond house to take showers and so forth, not to drink. The water has a pond smell of course and I hope a well would not. The streams flowing into the pond put out about 20 gallons a minute. My question is how far should I drill away from the pond not to be contaminated by this surface water and how far down do you think I should drill. My house well is about a half mile away and it is around 100 feet deep. I see on your great website that one cannot go over 35 feet with your method. I live near Columbia, SC. The land is hilly where I want to drill also, but I am hoping the water table is not so deep near this pond.

That is hard to predict.  Best thing I can tell you is drill a hole and see.  It is pretty cheap to try.

 

If you can possibly get your hands on a mud pump (trash pump) you can drill quite a bit deeper.

How do I know when I have reached the water table ?

Good question!  The only sure way to tell is to drill a hole, let it sit for a day and then measure how far down to the standing water.

Your neighbors might be a good source if they have wells.  The county agent might know.  The USGS has a lot of data about it at their site too.  Its a bit obtuse (at least to me).

What type of pump would I use to pump water out of the well if I drilled down deeper than 35 feet with a mud pump.  Thanks for replying to my e-mails.

If the water table is lower than 25 feet down you need a pump that pushes the water up from the bottom.  It can not be sucked up with a suction pump from those depths.  There are several ways of doing this.  The most common for commercially drilled wells is to use a submersible pump.  This generally requires a four inch well casing.  There are some specialized submersible pumps that can fit in a three inch well casing.

The other option is to use a jet pump.  Jet pumps pump water down the well through one pipe to a jet, where the water is sprayed upward and used to push additional water up while at the same time suction is being applied to the top of the second upward flowing tube.  It might not sound like it but it works very well.  Most jet arrangements require a four inch well.

There is a jet pump arrangement designed specifically for two inch wells.  It is called a packer jet..  I have used one and it worked well for me.

 

I need to use a submersible pump.  Can I drill a four inch well with this method?

The simple straight answer is "no" - or at least I don't think so.  I have never tried it.  It would be awfully hard.  The surface area of a four inch hole is four times as much as a two inch hole.  It would be tough. [update - 8/2010 take a look at Ed's idea on page 2 of this section]

Thanks for putting up this site.

You're welcome! I made a bunch of mistakes learning how to do this myself. I thought a site that was basically a tutorial on the method might be useful. I hope folks like it.

What type of pump do you recommend?

I am no pump expert.  I have just used the shallow well pumps that Lowes and Home Depot sell.  They are certainly not premium pumps but they are readily available.  You might look at the "from a REAL Well Driller" page.  The fellow who I have linked to is a pump expert who sells good pumps that won't crap out on you in a couple years.

My water table is at 90 feet.  What pump should I use?

First of all, you are not going to be able to drill to 90 feet using this method.  If you did, theoretically speaking, you'd need a packer well jet.   Water is easy to push and hard to pull.  Suction can only pull water up 25 feet at best.  From 90 feet you'd need to either have a submersible pump or a jet at the bottom of the well.  The only jet that will fit in a two inch pipe is the packer jet.  I have used one before with a convertible jet pump and it worked well.

I drove one wellpoint down to 40 feet and washed another down to 27 feet and got nothing.  I am trying to use a shallow well pump.

To advise you, I need to know what the level of your water table is, i.e. how deep your standing water level is.  Find out from neighbors/drillers/County Agent where your water table is.  In many areas the wells you describe are plenty deep enough.  If your water table is below 25 feet, this technique won't work for you.  No amount of suction will bring up water from deeper than 25 feet.  Drop a string down the 40 foot wellpoint and measure how far down your standing water level is.

Another thing: when you use a shallow well pump, you have to fill up the pump and the well casing with water before you start trying to pump.  The pump must be primed both above and below the check valve.  Make sure you have the well primed properly.

I really appreciated your videos showing how you flush a well.  It looks like you are using 3" PVC to drill with.  Have you tried this with 4" PVC?

Thanks!  You are absolutely right.  That was three inch PVC I was using on that particular one.  Usually I use two inch because it is easier.   I have never tried four inch.

Does the well screen need to be open ended or closed off?

It should be closed off at the bottom end unless the well is an injection well. Most well screens come with points on the bottom end that are perfect for the job.

Do you make your own well screens or do you buy from Campbells? Is it worth it to make you own well screen?

I buy them from Lowes or Home Depot. They are pretty cheap. Not as cheap as making one though!  If you are going to make your own get a very skinny saw...  It is hard to cut a very narrow slot.

I am in south central Arkansas and we don't have flat land... but it isn't hilly either..... Do you know of any sources for seeing what the expected water table might be in a given area as well as rock problems? My main question though is this:  I saw some illustrations where there was more than one water bearing sand pocket. Once you hit water bearing sand how far should you continue to dig into that sand? When do you know to continue through that pocket down to another?

The only way I know of (other than drilling) to find out how far down it is to the water table is to ask around - drillers, County Agent, neighbors. There are usually multiple layers of water bearing sand around here (Coastal Alabama) with clay and darker sand in-between. I have no idea what you will encounter. Generally, it is best to go as deep as you can. My experience is limited to this area and we have a high water table. You can be guided somewhat by how far you are elevated above any nearby lakes. Also, be aware that water runoff occurs underground just like it does at ground level. If you are between a high elevation and a river, it is likely that there is runoff occurring underground that you can tap into. This method of “drilling" will only take you down about forty feet at best. Thirty to thirty-five is more typical. You’d be surprised at how often that is deep enough for an irrigation well. The beauty of it is that it is really cheap to try compared to hiring a driller.

On your site you say a 35 foot well, about how long did it take you to drill it and what soils were you drilling through?  That looks like a lot of twisting.

Water bore drilling, using this technique, typically takes about 10 to 12 hours.   Here, in South Alabama, I typically encounter a couple of kinds of sand and multiple layers of clay.  This will vary by your geographic location.  It is a lot of pipe twisting! 

Do I need a license or permit to drill my own well?

This varies by jurisdiction.  Be sure and check with local authorities on this issue.

I live in NC near the big water where there is plenty of water about 12-15 ft down, I am however going through the four hole thing like you did and this is not my first rodeo neither. my question is how do you get the screen down in the sleave and then put stone in around it I am trying the fourth hole on sat. but would like to do it the better way instead of just a foot valve.  HELP ME PLEEEEASE.

A couple of others have emailed me about this.  I have not made it sufficiently clear on the website and I apologize.

Pea gravel will not fit down a 2 inch pipe that has a 1 ¼ inch pipe in it but it will fit down a 3 inch pipe with a 1 ¼ inch pipe in it.  So…

For a two inch drill pipe:

1.  drill the 2 inch hole down to whatever depth you are going to.  Let’s say, for purposes of this example, 30 feet. 

2.  When you get to 30 feet work the pipe a lot up and down to every side.   What we are trying to do here is wallow out the bottom of the hole so it is significantly bigger than the two inch pipe.  The larger the diameter of the wallowed out area at the bottom of the well is, the better. 

3.  Have a 1 ¼  three foot well point attached to 30 feet of 1 ¼ inch pipe already glued up or glue it up while you are still washing out the bottom of the hole.   The well point must have a pointed end.  Practically all do but make sure you have one with a point.   This will give you a 33 foot long piece that you can put down the well at one time.

4.  Stop the water and remove the well head, or the piece with the hose attached, from the top of the drill pipe.  Pour pea gravel down the pipe until you can feel about three feet of pea gravel.  As you are pouring the gravel into the pipe work the pipe up and down so you can tell how much you are filling the bottom of the hole with pea gravel.  When you get three feet of fill, stop working the 2 inch pipe.  You’ll know when you have three feet because the 2 inch pipe will be three feet higher than it was.   You won’t be able to push the 2 inch pipe down through the pea gravel so as the bottom of the well fills up with pea gravel you can tell how much is down there

5.     Put the entire length of the 1 1/4 inch pipe down through the 2 inch drill pipe.   The 1 ¼ inch pipe will stop when it hits the gravel.   At this point the bottom of the two inch pipe and the bottom of the 1 1/4 inch well point are at the same depth.

6.  Slowly work the well point into the gravel at the bottom of the hole by twisting and applying downward pressure.  Don’t get in a hurry.  It will take a while and will slow up as you get deeper but getting three feet in should not be a problem.   If for some reason you can’t work it down three feet you'll probably be OK.   Just raise the 2 inch piece some more so the entire length of the three foot well point is exposed at the bottom of the well.

For a three inch drill pipe:

1.  Drill down to 30 feet.   Have the 30 foot of 1 ¼ inch PVC already attached to a three foot long well point.

2.  When you get to 30 feet work the pipe up and down and side to side until it is good and loose in the hole.

3.  Take the well head off the top of the drill pipe.  Insert the 1 ¼ piece in the 3 inch pipe all at once.  Put the well point all the way down to the bottom of the hole.

4.  Pour pea gravel in the three inch pipe slowly.   Work the three inch pipe up and down while someone holds the 1 ¼ pipe so it does not raise up as well.  Keep pouring in pea gravel and working the three inch pipe up until the three inch pipe is up three feet.   This way you will have, at the bottom of the well, all three feet of the well point surrounded by pea gravel.  Pull the 3 inch piece out of the ground.

Hi Mike I live in Panama ,Panama, near the ocean , reading your instruction a few questions pop up. Once I have drilled the well using two inch pipe do I insert the well screen pipe into the two inch pipe or withdraw the two inch , all your diagrams only show one pipe, a little confusing. Also do I then insert the pump pipe with foot valve into that Pipe. Thank you in advance .

First, have the 1 1/4 inch well screen with enough 1 1/4 inch pipe already attached to reach the bottom of your well.  When you get to the depth you are going to stop at, work the two inch pipe up and down and side to side until it is very loose. Then, disconnect the water connection piece on top, or what I call the well head, from the two inch piece.  Then put the entire length of the 1 1/4 inch pipe down through it until the 1 1/4 inch piece hits bottom. Then pull the 2 inch piece out of the ground taking care not to raise the 1 1/4 inch piece.   After you raise the 2 inch piece a few feet sand will usually collapse on the bottom of the 1 1/4 inch piece so it is easier to raise the 2 inch piece without pulling the 1 1/4 inch piece with it.

Regarding the foot valve - I prefer to put the valve near the pump so if it sticks I can change it.

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I'm not clear on setting the well screen.  Should I pull the two inch pipe out altogether?   Also, should I put in a long gravel pack?

You don’t have to pull the two inch pipe all the way up.  You just have to pull it up six or seven feet so the wellscreen is exposed at the bottom.  It is no problem if you pull it all the way out.

You can’t put in a really long gravel pack when you are drilling with a two inch pipe.  With a three inch pipe you can.  With a two inch pipe if you are going to use a gravel pack just put in three feet of gravel.  To do this, when you get to 35 feet pour three feet of gravel down the two inch pipe.  Raise the two inch pipe and work it up and down so you can tell how much pea gravel you have added to the bottom of the hole.  When your two inch pipe is up three feet, then you know you have three feet of pea gravel at the bottom of the hole.   Then put the well screen with the blue point on down through the two inch pipe.  Then work the wellscreen down three feet into the gravel.  The first few inches will be easy and it will get harder after that.

If you are not going to use a gravel pack it is critical to hold the 1 ¼ inch pipe down while you lift the two inch pipe.

 

I live in West Mobile, yes that's in Alabama, you're in Foley right? I have looked at your website several times now and I'm ready to start this project of digging my own well. I went to Home Depot today and I found some well points and the 2" inside couplings along with some pumps, but that's all I could find. Do you have a particular place that you find your supplies? I'd hate to have to order on-line when they may be here locally. Also, I'm not sure of my water table depth here, but I do live out past the airport and there are enough farms and fields out here and I would think that some would have wells. After watching your videos and reviewing the 'how to' instructions from Campbel.coml, I feel really confident, my wife though can't say the same. Thanks for your help.
 

I have had no problem finding the stuff at Lowes and Home Depot. I have had to go to multiple stores a couple of times. Sometimes the Brady kits are not stocked but they are easy to make from PVC parts.

Thanks for your reply. How deep would you say that your gravel pack is? I have read that the deeper your pack is the better. Was it hard trying to advance the 1 1/4 pipe down through the gravel? Also, do you cut the blue tip off of your well point or just leave in on and bout how many well points do you usually use together? When you finally are able to place the 1 1/4" pipe down through the 2" pipe, how did you manage not to pull both pipes out at the same time? Isn't it a bit difficult to pull a 35' pipe out of the ground? Have you ever made the T pack assembly by hand or have you just gotten buy with the store bought one? One more thing, on your pump, do you have yours hard wired to your house or do you just hook it up to an extension cord? What horsepower are you using? 1/4 hp per linear ft? Oh yeah, I would say that I don't live on a hill, though my house is elevated a bit from street level, but my whole neighborhood is kind of in a valley from the main road, bascially sloping down from the main road.
 

That area around West Mobile likely has a water table about 15 to 20 feet.   I previously lived in Spanish Fort Estates, one of the only hills around and my water table was at 17 feet.

As you start down you will notice you are going through layers of both sand and clay.  Pay close attention to the color of what is coming up.  After you get down about 10 feet, go slow.  GO REAL SLOW.  Go a lot slower than you actually can go.   Do not advance the pipe downward until you have it very loose in the hole.   It will be very tempting to go fast when you get in soft sand.  If you have to stop for the night, pull up the whole pipe.  If you need to pull up the pipe to sharpen the teeth on the end of your pipe, do it.

After you (1) get to 35 feet, and (2) you are in light colored sand and (3) you have worked the pipe really loose, put the entire length of the 1 ¼ inch pipe with screen down through the two inch pipe (have it already made up) and then pull up the two inch pipe at least six or seven feet so the three feet of 1 ¼ inch screen is both exposed at the bottom and covered over with fill for a few feet above the screen..

The two inch inside couplings are not needed but certainly won’t hurt as long as you later use inside couplings for your 1 ¼ inch well screen pipe.   When you are raising the 2 inch pipe, you have to hold the 1 1/4 inch pipe down to make sure it doesn't raise up as well.

When you are inserting the the 1 1/4" well screen into the gravel at the bottom of the hole, it starts in easily and gets harder as you go down.  You should be able to get three feet into the gravel.

If your wife is a little wary, get a commercial well drilling quote.  Heck, if it takes you five tries, it is still 1/5 the price of a commercially drilled well.

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 I want to do a sand point well or what ever you are calling this. Either you have left out a lot of important information or I can not find it. What are you attaching to the top? is one house attached to a water pressure source and perhaps the other is excreting the waste??? please explain or guide me to the video with the missing information.

I have a connection that attaches to the top that has fittings for two hoses.  A photograph is at http://www.drillyourownwell.com/background.htm   Both hoses are supply hoses.  Get as much water pressure as possible to those two hoses.  Usually, that will be by connecting them to two different faucets.

 Hi Mike. How will I know that I have reach water or do i go as deep as possible? Joe, South Africa

As you drill you will notice as your borehole is going through layers of sand and dirt and clay.  You can tell what your are drilling in by the material that is coming up.  What you are watching for is the light colored sand.  When you get to the lighter colored sand or any coarse sand that is well below the water table, that will be a good place to stop.  Ask around and see what the water table is in your area.  Make sure you are significantly below the water table and then as you are drilling watch for the light colored sand.

 

Hi , how interesting to finally find a informative well drilling site after many searches on the net, plus were practically neighbors.  I live on Mobile Bay (Dog River area).  I have tried many times to jet a well for my garden with very little success,or with no water yield - I am ready to try Your method after searching Your site which is very informative-how deep should I have to go to reach a good water bearing sand?  I have tried to find water table information for our area -but with no luck.  As mentioned I live aprox 800 foot from the bay at about 17 foot above sea level.  My failed attempts of 2-wells has been less than 20 ft where I hit a clay hardpan.   Should I go past the hard pan at 30 foot as you show and use the gravel pack??  I have gray very fine silty almost powder texture sand below my topsoil and clay at about 4 ft on down to 20 ft which is as deep as I have tried- ( water is within that range but I cannot pump it  any help would be greatly appreciated, and thanks so much for the information on your site ,it has been very informative and needed - Thanks

Thanks for your comments!  In the Dog River area I don’t think you can miss hitting water in the first 35 feet if you tried. I'm guessing your water table is about 10 to 15 feet..??

You can go right through the clay hardpan but it will take a while. For example, where I live just southeast of Foley, I have solid clay beginning at one foot down and continuing to 11 feet down. Since, as you well know, there are a bunch of houses built on sand around here I don’t really mind! I just put down three injection wells in my back yard for a geothermal heat pump system and each one took several hours to go through that ten foot clay section. On each one, the clay rubbed the teeth right off the PVC after a couple hours.

Assuming you got the pipe out of the ground, go right back to the location of one of your previous tries. Make sure you have as much water supply for drilling as you can possibly get. Definitely use two hoses running wide open. Then drill down to the clay layer. When you hit the clay, pull the pipe out and re-cut the teeth on the bottom. Then, just stay at it. There is no harm in cutting the teeth again after a couple hours.

There is one good thing about drilling through clay with this method. The clay won't collapse on your pipe. There is, however, another hazard I will warn you about as I have succumbed to it. After you finally get though the clay and you are into the sand, it will be very tempting to go as fast as you can. Don't. At that depth, you will stick the pipe very easily.

Try to make it down to 30 or 35 feet. If you just put a well screen in sand at that depth, you should be fine. A short gravel pack certainly wouldn't hurt.

Thank you so much for all the information you have provided!

After thinking about it, I have a question. Why do you only lift the casing up 3 feet? Why not raise it up 10 feet adding pea gravel all the way. That would be a way to make your gravel pack longer. And why not pull the casing all the way up filling it with the pea gravel and then adding dirt the last 4 feet or so.

Another question. Why not extend your screen to a length of 10 feet by cutting out the notches along the way. Wouldn't this allow for greater possibility of hitting the water bearing sand at different levels, especially it you have a 15 foot gravel pack?

Thanks for checking out the website!

The reason to lift the casing up only three feet to install a well screen is you can’t jam the well screen through much more pea gravel than that. You are right a much longer gravel pack would be nice. It is just darn hard to do.   After you get the gravel pack installed, it is a good idea to lift the larger pipe up a few more feet to avoid the potental for sucking air when you pump.  It is best if you pull it out of the ground completely.

There is nothing at all wrong with a screen of 10 feet in length as long as you know you are way under the water table.  If you aren’t deep enough though then you are potentially sucking air up at the top of the well screen.  If you have a way of putting in a 15 foot gravel pack, then put the screen at the bottom and you will still get the advantage of the extra long gravel pack.

 

Subject: Water for the water hoses? Hi, I was happy to find your webpages for I am looking to save the money by trying to drill my own well. I was just wondering though, where is the water supply for the two hoses coming from? If you are drilling a well, there is no available water...

This method won't work without water. Sorry. Most folks that use this method have utility supplied water at their homes but want a well for inexpensive irrigation and/or watering their lawn.  You might look at the videos regarding the Baptist method.

I am working with a community garden here in Florida and I am looking for a do-it-yourself way to drill a well for irrigation water.  I am about 40 miles inland from the beach and the terrain here is mostly flat.  Limerock and maybe some clay are the only things I am likely to find in the soil here other than sand.  I am thinking that your method of jetting a well with PVC pipe may be my best option, but the nearest source of water is an existing well that is about 1200 feet from the garden area.  We plan to eventually have a community center that will need potable water so the new well will likely go between the existing well and the garden.  Can you give me some idea as to how much water pressure is needed to use your method?  Have you considered used compressed air from an air compressor instead of water to clean out the cuttings?

Also, do you have a parts/supplies list that I could use to work up a budget?

I would appreciate any input and information you could provide.

You need as much water as you can possibly get.  Having said that, I see no reason why you couldn’t do it with one hose, PROVIDED you are really, really, patient.   You might want to drill a practice hole close to your water source so you will have some perspective as to how to do it when your have less water.

The parts list isn’t much.  A Brady T-Pack and some two inch PVC will get you started.  Fashion a handle to hold the PVC and that is pretty much it.  The supplies run about $40.00.  If it looks like you are going to be successful go get a 1 ¼ inch well point and some 1 ¼ PVC to connect to it.

There are techniques for using compressed air but I have not used them.

Since your water supply is limited you might want to try a re-circulating system with a mud pump to pump the water down the hole.   It requires much less water.   I don’t have the instructions for that ready yet.  I’m going to do one myself as soon as I finish four other projects and I’ll document it when I do it.  I’ll post it when I do it but that will be late this summer probably.

Questions from South east Texas:  Love the site, but still have a few more questions. After reading all the information and watching the videos, I am thinking that using the 3 inch pipe to drill is the way to go. Am I correct in believing that when I get as deep as I need to be, I then stop drilling and insert a length of 1 1/4 PVC pipe with a screen into the 3 inch pipe. After this is installed, I pour gravel through the 3 inch pipe until I get about 3 feet of gravel surrounding the 1 1/4 pipe the work the 3 inch pipe out, and if needed add more gravel. Do I completely remove the 3 inch pipe from the hole and back fill around the 1 1/4 pipe or leave it in?

Thanks!  The borewell drilling procedure you described will work with a three inch pipe only. With a two inch drill pipe there is not room between the 1 ¼ well screen pipe and the two inch drill pipe. As you pour the gravel in work the three inch pipe up gradually. Hold the 1 ¼ inch well screen pipe down. Pour a bit and then work the three inch pipe up a bit. Then pour some more and then work the three inch pipe up. Keep it up until you get the entire well screen (three feet) exposed and surrounded with gravel.

With a two inch drill pipe you have to pour the gravel in first, raise the drill pipe three feet, and then put the well screen pipe in. When the well screen pipe reaches the gravel you have to work it into the gravel. You should be able to get three feet of it in but it gets slower as you get more well screen in the gravel.

After you finish setting wellscreen at depth, pull the drillpipe, whether you use the 2 inch or the 3 inch, out of the ground.  Pour enough gravel in to cover well above the top of the well screen.  Then seal the top of the well so groundwater cant enter by pouring cement down the annular space.

 

First of all, thank you for an excellent website and videos on how to drill a shallow well. I plan to drill one myself soon but I have two questions that I did not see covered in the videos.

I plan to drill using 2" PVC and then insert 1-1/4" pipe inside that. My plan is to hook this to a hand pump. My first question is this. When the 2" pipe is down to the desired depth, how do you hold the 1-14" pipe while you join pieces together to be inserted in the 2" pipe? I plan to go down about 25' so I will have glue at least three joints of the 1-1/4" pipe together while it is being inserted in the 2" pipe. I just don't understand how I am going to hold this pipe and glue it at the same time.

My second question concerns the gravel pack. You said on your website that the best option is to extend the gravel pack up well beyond the well screen. How do I do this? I can not pour the gravel between the 2" pipe and the 1-1/4 because there is not enough room. If I pull the 2" pipe all the way out and then pour more gravel around the 1-1/4" pipe, will it settle down to where I need it to go or is there another way of doing this?

I look forward to hearing from you soon. I hope I have worded my questions in a way you can understand what I am talking about.

Thanks for your comment!  I hope the website is useful.  Your questions are perfectly clear.  Let me know if my answers are not!

After you get the two inch pipe to depth and worked it until IT IS REALLY LOOSE, make up the whole length of the 1 ¼ inch pipe.  For example, if you have drilled with the two inch pipe to 30 feet, make up about 35 feet of 1 ¼ inch pipe, fully glued up with a three foot well point at the end.   Then pour gravel down the two inch pipe and work the two inch pipe up and down keeping it on top of the gravel.  When you work it up three feet meaning there is three feet of gravel in the bottom of the hole and the top of the pipe is three feet higher than when you started, put the well screen pipe all the way down at once.  When the well screen pipe hits bottom it will stop.  Push it gradually down while twisting it back and forth until you have it three feet into the gravel.

The only way with this “drilling" technique to make a really long gravel pack is by drilling with a three inch pipe and using a 1 ¼ inch well screen and pipe.   First drill to whatever depth you can with the three inch pipe.  Then put the 1 ¼ inch well screen pipe all the way down.  Then fill the three inch pipe with gravel slowly as you work the three inch pipe up and down until you have filled and raised say, ten feet.  Then you will have a three foot well screen at the bottom, and ten feet of gravel pack.  Then pull the three inch drill pipe out of the ground.

 

Would it help if I used a post hole digger and go down about 3 feet before starting to wash out the hole? How can I find the ground water table for my area of Norfolk, VA?

Yes, a post hole digger is a great way to get the hole started.   Update!  Don't use a post hole digger.  It will dig a larger hole than you may need.  Just start drilling with the drillpipe.  If the top of the hole is too big, it slows the upstream flow of the water/cuttings.  Thanks go to Bill in Tampa for this tip! 

The best way to find out the local water table is to ask around.  Neighbors, drillers, county agents, etc.   In Norfolk it is likely pretty high, I guessing like about 15 feet since you are close to the water.

There is still one thing I am unclear on. If I drill to 30', how am I going to get a 30' long piece of 1-1/4" pipe in the 2" pipe. I can't stand a 30' piece of pipe on its end, it would be too wobbly. I had read on your website where you said to glue all the 1-1/4" pipe together but I just don't see how that is going to work. Will it bend enough to leave the opposite end on the ground while I insert the well point end in the 2" pipe? Forgive me for being dense, but I want to do this right the first time.

As for making a longer gravel pack, I was afraid you were going to say use 3" pipe. I am going to use 2" pipe so the 3' gravel pack will have to do. Hopefully it will work OK.

No problem, I should have made this more clear earlier. The 1 ¼ inch pipe will bend enough to do it. It takes a bit of effort. It helps if you have two people and something high to stand on like the bed of a pickup truck. One person should stand on the bed of a pickup while the other is on the ground aiming the pointed end in the two inch pipe.

A three foot gravel pack will very highly likely be sufficient.  Most wells just use a single well point.  I described the longer gravel packs just to try to be thorough.

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I was so thrilled to find your web site.  I love simple and ingenious! 

I'd like to drill a well in an area that has hot water.  The water is about 10 to 15 feet down.  Guestimates of its temperature range from 80 to 110 degrees, depending on which underground stream area one is close to.  I'm a total novice about this, so what I'm wondering is if your method, using PVC pipe, would work (is safe, would hold up, etc.) for hot water, or if you can foresee any possible problems because of the hot water.

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences.
 

Thanks for your kind words!

PVC has a service rating up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit.   Even so, it might be a good idea to put a steel pipe at then end of your PVC to do the actual cutting.    If PVC has too low of a softening point for your application, try PVC conduit.  The grey stuff.    I know CPVC would work but it doesn’t come in two inch sizes.   As a last resort you could just use galvanized pipe.   Since you are drilling such a shallow hole, the weight should be manageable if you use five foot sections..

You might as well try plain ole PVC first since it is so easy and  cheap though

Thank you for your fast response.  I live in Truth or Consequences, NM.  I've been told there's a fairly shallow layer of clay on the surface and then pretty soon you hit sand, so it shouldn't be difficult to dig in.  I haven't heard of water over 110 degrees around here, so likely the PVC will be fine, but I'll consider the metal pipe, since I hope to not have to go down more than 20 feet.

When I first thought of drilling a shallow well here, I talked to a couple of well-drillers and was told none of them in the area will charge less than $4K to drill a well, even if they only go down 20 feet, so I was feeling dismayed I wouldn't be able to do this.  I know nothing at all about well-drilling, so your web site was an inspiration. 

By the way, I'd like to put a hand-pump on the top.  Will that work?
 

Thanks for your kind words.  4K is outrageous for 20 feet.  I think you can make 8K per day if you can line up customers.  With just sand and clay you should have no problem.  Please let me know how it goes.

The hand pump will be no problem. 

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I tried putting down a well today and I was not successful. Actually things were going very well until I started to put the gravel pack in. I used pea gravel purchased from Lowes and I poured it directly from the bag just as you do in your videos. However, I ran into a serious problem. After having poured more than it should take to fill three feet, nothing happened when I pulled the pipe up, which meant the gravel was not coming out the end of the pipe. I tried everything I knew but nothing worked. Eventually, I pulled the entire 2" pipe out of the ground. I had no choice because the 1-1/4" pipe wouldn't go down far enough because of the gravel stuck in the pipe. When I got the 2" pipe all the way up. I discovered what the problem was. The pea gravel had gone almost all the way to the bottom of the 2" pipe, but a big rock (apparently in the pea gravel bag) had gotten lodged very tightly about 6" from the end of the pipe. Have you ever had this happen before? I guess I should have screened it before I poured the pea gravel in the pipe. I will try drilling again but I am dubious about putting in the gravel pack. This was an awful lot of work to come up empty-handed.

I do have a question. How far away should I drill next time. I would like the well in the same general vicinity, but I remember reading where you said you had run into one of your unsuccessful wells on the second attempt. I really want my next attempt to be successful.
 

Darn it. That sounds frustrating!  I have never found a big rock in pea gravel.   I have good news though…  Your situation is different from mine.  Under your circumstances,  I’d go right back in that same hole.  The pipe will follow the hole as you drill.  When you get back down to the depth you are going for you can either try the gravel pack again or just go with a well screen.  How deep were you?

It was frustrating to no end. I was down to 21'. I know that isn't very deep, but I am only trying to put in a hand pump and the water table in my area is about 16-18' and there is a limit to how far shallow well hand pumps will pump water. I will try going back in the same hole. Maybe it won't be as hard to drill this time. Things went very easy down to 17'. Then it took me three hours to go 4 more feet. I do not have clay or rock. At first I thought I had hit a root, but after continuing to drill, I am convinced it is just a hard pan.

One thing I will do different next time. I will make the bit for the drill out of galv. pipe instead of PVC. I will just use a 2" galv coupling with teeth cut into it and attach it to the PVC pipe with a PVC male adapter. When I pulled the pipe up, all the teeth were gone off of my PVC bit. Perhaps that is one reason the last 4 feet were so difficult.

Thanks so much for your help.

You're welcome.  I have experienced the same thing.  Re-cutting the teeth is quick and easy, if only you know to do it!   I wasted several hours myself in an identical situation.  The only reason I knew to re-cut the teeth was I pulled up the whole pipe to quit at the end of the day!  The next day, after cutting new teeth, I finished the well very quickly.  It is amazing how hard that hard clay can be.  [I have added a section under Miscellaneous Tips in response to this inquiry]  You need to get through that hard pan.  The two inch galvanized coupling, or nipple, with teeth cut in the end will work very well.   Be sure and put a set screw through both the pvc and the coupling to keep it from twisting off.  The next layer of sand below it will likely be productive.

* note!!  I heard back from this gentleman and the big rock turned out to be a hunk of clay stuck in the end of his pipe - something to watch out for...

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I can't pump as much as I need to.  It runs out of water when I try to turn it up high.  What is up?

You may be experiencing a drawdown sometimes called the "cone of depression."   This occurs when a well is pumped.  No problem if you ware way under the water table, but - If the bottom of the well is just under the water table, you can run out of water quickly and be sucking air - or at least as much air as there is down there to get.   At any rate your water pumping will literally dry up. 

Photo from Rio Colorado Reclamation Committee Site

The solution is go deeper or put down parallel wells well spaced from each other.   If you decide to put down parallel wells be sure and make the pipes going to your shallow well pump from each hole are equal in length.

Mike can you expound on the hand held device used to work the two inch pipe.  What kind of clamps are you recommending/using & so forth.  I was using a pipe wrench until I found your web site. 

P.S.  Great web site.  Very helpful.

Thanks for you kind words!  I am just using cheap pipe clamps with the screw drive that takes either a screwdriver or a nut runner.  Unfortunately, they tend to last only one well or two.  I have experimented with better clamps but the ability to tighten and loosen the the cheap screw clamps with a drill/driver with a hex bit is very, very handy.  I’d suggest using three at a time.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with four if you can engineer it into your handle.

My son wants to dig a well on the back end of our property where he is building a horse corral for his one horse.  Being in Michigan , we have to deal with frost line of about 2 ft. in the winter. Not having electrical in that part of the field, he is thinking of using an old fashioned hand pump. Do you think this would work with your type of well?  We are estimating he'll find water at 25-30 ft.  Also, what would you estimate the total cost of this project to be?  By the way, you did an excellent job on your website explaining how to dig a well.  Thanks for your help.  

You're welcome.  A hand pump will work fine so long as its downpipe will fit in a 1 1/14 inch pipe which this type of well uses to connect to the wellscreen.  Regarding an estimate of the cost - not much - the cost of PVC and fittings and building a handle - say $50 to $100.  It could run a little more if you obsess on it for several years and start drilling several and put up a website...

Mike, you done great job on your web site for drilling wells. My question is: Can a 1 1/4" 4 ft. well point from Ace Hardware that has jet holes in the point of it be attached to 1 1/4" PVC and jetted into the ground just as you show in your instructions, minus using the 2" PVC for well casing? In other words, I would have the well point on a length of 1 1/4" PVC and sink it in the ground until I hit water bearing sand. Then attach a pump for the sprinkler system. Thanks for any advice you can give me on this.

Thanks for your kind words!  Regarding the well point with holes in the bottom: It won’t work as well.  It will work but it is not nearly as effective at evacuating the sand/dirt from the bottom of the well as a piece of PVC with teeth cut in the bottom. If you have a sandy soil and a high water table it may be adequate though!

 

Hey Mike, First off let me say thanks for the great info and video on digging a well. I think I follow you most of the way until you   get to the part at the end were you say you need to install a Wellpoint. Is  this something that fits snugly into the pvc pipe at the end? Also, in what section of Home Depot do you find the Wellpoints?  I asked two people there and they had no idea what I was talking about....thanks again.

Thanks!  A wellpoint or a wellscreen is a piece of PVC (can be metal) with a  jillion tiny slots in it.  A wellpoint is nothing more than a wellscreen with a point on the end.  Usually they have a blue point on the end. Here is what most of the PVC wellpoints look like.

They come in lengths from two to twenty feet.  Most of the time you will be using about a three foot long wellpoint.  Plenty of water can get in a three foot long wellpoint to produce six gallons per minute for typical irrigation purposes.  The Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware stores all carry them in my area (Lower Alabama aka LA).   I'm confused as to why they wouldn't carry them in most other locations.

First you dig a two inch hole with the two inch PVC pipe.  Then, when you get to the depth you want your well to be, put the 1 1/4 inch diameter PVC pipe with a 1 1/4 inch diameter well point down through the two inch piece to the bottom of the hole.  Have it glued up beforehand so you can put it down through the two inch piece all at once.   When you get the 1 1/4 inch piece to the bottom, hold it down while you raise the two inch piece up enough to expose the wellpoint at the bottom.  Six or seven feet is usually enough for a three foot screen.  Water can flow freely from sand into the wellpoint.   Then you attach a pump to the 1 1/4 inch pipe and tell the city water folks to go gouge somebody else.

Mike, I got my pipe stuck right at 14'.  It is 3" pipe and I was wondering if I could start inside there with 2" or drive a well point or am I just plain screwed? Let me know if you have any friendly suggestions.

You can start there with a smaller pipe, provided it fits.  You can probably get that one loose.  If you were 25 feet down I wouldn't be so optomistic but 14 feet should be unstickable (if that is a word).  Get a 1/2 or 3/4 inch piece and jet it down around the edges as well as in the pipe and you can probably get it loose.  

 

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