Miscellaneous Well Drilling Tips
Time Savers and Problem Solvers
1. A couple of these in-line hose
valves are very helpful when it comes time to add a length of pipe. They
save you from having to go so far to turn the water on and off.
IN-LINE HOSE VALVES
Even better! - Here is a tip from Bryce, who saw the
above tip on the website and wrote in with a very good idea:
valves are built to be cheapů.and are thus poorly designed. They usually
contain a rubber gasket that eventually fails and they have a very low
The solution is to connect
directly to the plumbing line using a full port 1/4 turn ball valve.
(ideally 3/4 or 1") This solution will give you much greater flow
especially if you use a commercial 3/4 hose. The ball valves also tend
to last much longer and close without leaking.
2. When you are working the
pipe into the ground, sometimes you will start to feel very hard obstructions.
As you rotate the pipe, you will feel the teeth at the bottom catching on
something. It might feel like rock but if the area you live in is flat it
probably isn't. It is more likely wood that has been buried for a long
time. Don't give up until you are sure it is rock. Keep trying for
an hour or two. I have had this happen several times and have gotten past
it every time.
3. Forgive me for repeating
myself on this one but I stuck a few pipes in sand before I understood it.
It doesn't make sense at first but when you are using hoses for your water supply the weakest
part of your "drilling" setup is not the plastic drill bit.
It isn't the human
powered drill motor. It is the water flow. You have to give
the water plenty of time to do its thing. The water will bring the
cuttings to the surface but it takes longer than you expect. As you
get deeper it takes even longer. Go
slowly, even if it seems like you are able to go faster. Work the pipe up
and down and side to side
until it is loose before proceeding down further.
4. When it is time to add
another length of pipe and you are using PVC glue, you have to be especially
sure you have worked the existing pipe very loose. It is going to take
about five or six minutes to add the pipe and give the glue a chance to set and
the looser the pipe is in the ground is when you start, the less likely it is that
sand will collapse sufficiently to stick your pipe while you are adding the new
piece. Also, always use PVC primer and give it a minute to set up
before applying PVC glue.
5. When you are drilling it
hard clay and you don't seem to be getting anywhere, check to see if you need to
re-sharpen your bit. Pull the pipe completely out of the ground and look
at the bottom end. It is easy to underestimate how hard clay can be.
Sometimes, it feels essentially like rock. When you are
drilling in clay this hard, it will dull the teeth on the end of your PVC
pipe. On one project I got down to 25 feet, hit clay, and the next three
feet took me six hours. Like a dummy I never checked my bit.
Finally, at 28 feet, I had to quit for the day so I pulled the pipe out of the
ground. I found the end of the pipe was worn completely smooth.
You could not tell there was ever a tooth there. The next day (after I cut
new teeth on the end!) I finished the well quickly. An alternative
solution to this problem is to use a metal bit. Buy a two inch galvanized
nipple and cut the teeth in it. You'll need to include a set screw through
the PVC and the bit to keep it from working loose.
6. When you are drilling an
injection well for a geothermal heat pump system, it is important to fill in
around the annular space with cement (another one I learned the hard way!).
This will keep the water that is being injected back into the ground from coming
up around the well pipe.
There are two types of two inch connectors. There are little short
(about 2.5 inch long) ones that will fail every time. There are
longer beefier ones that are about five inches long. You HAVE to
use the longer ones.
I have noticed a definite trend. The tips I
get from you tend to be better than the tips I have posted myself.
Embarassing, but true. So, I'm going to start posting a bunch of
the tips you are sending me. Here goes.
Here are some of the lessons I learned that may be of assistance to
1. Look up, It can be difficult to pull 25 or 30 feet of pipe out of
the ground with overhead obstructions, in my case trees. If you are
working inside, dig a deep enough pit to use ten foot lengths of pipe so
you don't have an excessive amount of couplings.
2. It's worth the time and trouble to make a steel drill tip. Mine is a
2" pipe coupling.
3. If you cut teeth in the plastic, make a sawtooth pattern, not a
triangle tooth. They only cut one direction, but they last longer and I
believe they cut better.
4. If you want to put down a large casing (over 3 inch) use inside
couplings so it will pull up more easily. My 4 inch went quite well down
to the 19 feet I went and except for the weight of raising it I believe
I could have easily gone 30 feet.
5. Use primer to make your joints. The extra strength is worth the
6.. You can't have too much water flow. Buy or rent a pump and use a
settling basin if you can't get sufficient water or don't want a high
water bill from your efforts. Use full port valves on your water hoses
as those cheap ones, no matter how short the distance through them,
severely restrict water flow
7. Use double clamps on your rubber coupling and sand the pipe to
roughen it, sanding in a circular motion around the pipe. This increase
the pressure you can produce a lot without blowing off the coupling. If
that's not enough to free a pipe you'll just have to glue it together.
8. If you have a pipe stuck and all else fails, try using a small
diameter pipe alongside it (1/2 or 3/4) to get the soil or sand
liquefied again and free it.
9. A large heavy metal object on a chain (sharpened well) will break up
all but (bedrock) the largest rocks.
10. Perseverence, not cussing will get you the farthest :)
From Jim in
Texas on how to find out how deep wells are in your area. This
shows how to use the usgs.gov website to find data on wells in many
areas of the country. It covers a lot but it doesn't cover the
entire United States. The data was recorded incident to the
National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE). The example
below shows how to find well data in the Pell City, Alabama area.
Follow the example and you'll see how to look up your area of the
country as well. (no pun intended!)
Its a little complicated,but here goes...
Go to the USGS website
Click the black section in the upper right
hand corner,where it says : SEARCH USGS
Type in Birmingham NURE,or your
The search should show : Birmingham
Quadrangle NURE HSSR Study - click on that.
Scroll down to :
Download The Data
Birmingham Quadrangle Water Data -
click this (either here or on the website...)
There's 1,739 samples collected on that grid - not all of them are wells
- some are stream samples.
Click Birmingham North and it will enlarge that grid.
Then you can click a specific region,like Pell City.There were 17
Then click Browse Records One at a Time.
Scroll down about 1/4 of the way and it will say sample source : STREAM
Go back up to the top and on the upper right hand corner it says NEXT
RECORD:,click this until you get 1182025 (about nine times - the
previous 8 samples were streams...)
2/3 rds of the way down under : Site characteristics it shows the well
was 185 ft.
Go back up to the top and click Google Maps and it will show the exact
location of the well.
You can go to NEXT RECORD and search for more wells in that area.
You could also go to other regions or other quadrants in the grid.
My search got me pretty close to where I want to drill,and I know that
the wells range from 24 - 35 ft. in my area.
I guess the NURE study was looking for uranium levels in water,but they
recorded well locations and depths as part of the study....Finally I
have benefited from our tax dollars at work !!!
This data is approximate,but it can give you an idea of well depths in