Depending upon the location you have chosen for your small house, your well can be easily installed as a do-it-yourself project or you may encounter the expense of installation through professional water well drilling methods. It all depends on your underlying geology. I went with a conventional well drilling because of the thick limestone layer just 15 feet below my house. It cost me just under $5k.
When determining which route you should take regarding installing a water well, you will want to do a little homework with regard to the geographical location you chose for your small house. You can do this by talking to the neighbors near your land parcel and contacting your local county officials who have access to well drilling logs and a geological history and data for your area. The professional well drillers in your area will also have a pretty good idea of the geology under your property.
In general, the well depth of your neighbors will give you an idea as to how far down you will have to drill to reach what is called the aquifer. The aquifer is the initial point to accessing a reliable water source for your small house. Once the aquifer is reached you will want to continually test it for a number of days to see if it still provides water. Aquifers sometimes can fool you into thinking you have found water and then can dry up without warning. This happens in areas where there is heavy agricultural irrigation use from the water table.
A good illustration of a typical water well with submersible pump and its connection into a pressure tank in the basement of a house. A pressure tank is necessary to, you guessed it, maintain the water pressure coming out of the tap. Municipal water systems don’t need these because the water pressure comes from elevating the water in a huge tank way above the houses. Illustration courtesy of InspectAPedia.com.
If your small house is going to be located in a geographical location with rocky terrain, chances are you will need to choose a professional water well drilling subcontractor to successfully complete the job. With this type of terrain, a professional well driller may need to access several aquifers to get the proper amount of gallons per minute flowing into the well. Many times with rocky terrain, the first aquifer will draw water and then either dry up or not provide enough water to create a reliable water source for your small house.
With a rocky terrain, installing a water well may mean that the professional well driller may have to drill down farther to several more aquifers to get an adequate read on the number of gallons per minute that are being produced for the well. The number of gallons per minute that are required will depend upon the number and type of fixtures in your small house.
If the reading on gallons per minute is low, when you finally install a pump, your water pressure in the house will be very weak and tend to trickle out of the fixtures. This may cost you more money in the future either drilling the well deeper or worse yet, installing a whole new well. When you pay by the foot this could become a costly venture.
Another option that isn’t done very often is to install a cistern between the house and well. This will allow you to tap into the slow flow of a small-producing aquifer. The slow trickle will gradually fill the tank during the day and night, and the house can then access this water tank at full pressure when needed.
I’ve seen some very large plastic tanks and cisterns on the market expressly for this purpose. A poured concrete tank could also be an option. Whether plastic or concrete or metal it should definitely be installed well below the frost line for your area. Even if you’re in the desert, keeping your cistern buried will keep it cooler for your drinking pleasure.
If your small house is located in an area where the geography contains less rock substance, then installing a water well may be able to be considered as a do-it-yourself well drilling project. This water well drilling method is quite simple and can be accomplished by simply using a “sand point” on a steel pipe to drill into the ground anywhere from about ten to 75 feet deep.
Once you think you may have a water source you can test it by dropping a weight on the end of a string into the pipe. You must do this for a period of days and if the string consistently comes up wet when you pull it out, you have potentially found your aquifer and water source. If you choose this route, make sure you are working a good distance away from the septic and other entities that could possibly contaminate your water source (50 feet minimum — more is better).
Installing a water well for your small house can be somewhat of a gamble however; doing your homework ahead of time will help you to troubleshoot as much as possible and define an estimated expense budget for this phase of building your small house.
Some pictures from our well drilling.
I can see why a typical well-drilling company charges so much for doing this. Some very big/expensive equipment and a lot of time. Overall I couldn’t believe how LOUD the whole operation was absolutely deafening!