Below is a list of our most commonly asked questions. Over 90 percent of all questions we receive are answered here, so odds are yours will be too.
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- Will this drill a well for drinking water/to water my house/lawn/garden/etc?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Well drilling is the act of drilling a hole in the soil, until you get deep enough that water flows into that hole. All well systems drill the same type of wells, because all basically do the same thing - poke a hole in the ground.
Whether your water is drinkable or usable for houses, lawns, etc is totally dependent on the water you find down there. Some water is practically distilled, some is salty, some iron, some sulphur, and so on. Some of these can be drunk, some rot your pipes, some taste nasty, and a few are unhealthy. Usually your neighbors will know what sort of water you can expect to find in your area, so ask around.
The good news is the vast majority of wells provide good, healthy drinking water. And before drinking or using you should always have your water tested using any of the many free test kits available online; just type "free water test kits" into google.
- How big a hole do you drill?
All our kits ship with a bit to drill a 5.25" hole which is large enough for 4" thinwall PVC casing. And nearly all pumps on the market will fit in a 4" hole.
- How do you keep the hole straight?
Well, the drill and expansion chamber assembly is rigid for the first 3 feet; that helps. And the few misdirections that drill will still make tend to cancel one another out. And finally we use 4" thinwall PVC pipe which is relatively flexible so it will follow the hole even if it weaves a little bit.
- How deep can you go with this system?
I have used this rig to drill holes to 210', 196', and 175' in three different holes. I see no reason why this system couldn't be used to go deeper, but I've never done it, so I discourage it. Generally we recommend that on your first well you stick to under 100' so that you can gain experience in a shallower well before progressing to a deeper one, but that may not be an option for you depending on where you live.
- Can you drill past 100'?
I have used this well drilling system to drill holes to 210', 196', and 175' in three different holes. But the deeper you go, the more complicated it gets, so generally we recommend that on your first well you stick to under 100' so that you can gain experience in a shallower well before progressing to a deeper one, but that may not be an option for you depending on where you live.
However, most people in the country find water at less than 100'. Most find water at less than 50'. But well drillers tend to do their best to convince people that they have to drill deeper to find water, since it makes it harder for people to do themselves, plus well drillers get paid by the foot; there is no money for them in drilling 50' holes for people.
To find out how deep you actually need to go, find out if any neighbors have wells and ask them to let you drop a float (pill bottle on a string, for instance) into their well and see where it floats. This will give you a much more accurate indication of where the first water level is, and where you actually need to drill to find water.
- Can you drill to 200'
I've drilled to 210' here, so it can be done; but it can be quite difficult to go beyond 100' because several things make it more complicated. So I recommend that you stick to 100' or less at least on the first well. However, most people don't have to drill that far to get water; well drillers get paid by the foot, and 90% of the time they go 10 times (literally) deeper than necessary to get water. What I recommend you do is ask your neighbor to let you drop a small float (a pill bottle or a fishing bobber or something) on a string into their well, and see how far down it goes before it floats. Make sure it is floating by pulling up and listening to it splash, then pull it out and measure it. That is the first water level, and over 90% of the USA has that between 20 and 60 feet.
This water can be better quality water than deeper pockets, or vice versa; but depth doesn't necessarily equal better water. If you do find that your water level is within say, 100' (our recommended limit for a first well) then I would buy the plans and DVD (29.95) and familiarize yourself with those, which includes all the information you mentioned such as a parts list, etc. Then if you decide to go ahead and buy the kit, the price of the plans is refunded off the kit price. I recommend this to most people because there isn't a great deal of risk and you are fully informed when you buy the kit, which is always better.
- Can I go to 470' with this system?
No home well drilling system can go past 300'. With mine, technically, it might be possible to go deeper, but the time entailed would probably be quite prohibitive. I have gone 210' here, myself, but never farther than that. That said, it is highly doubtful that wells NEED to be drilled that deep in your area; I run into this all over the country. Bear in mind that well drillers get paid by the foot. It is to their best interests to dig as deep as they can get away with, even if you don't need it.
What I would do is find some neighbors with a well in your area, and ask to drop a float (a lightly-weighted pill bottle tied to a string works nicely) into their well and see where the *first* water is. That will give you an idea of how deep you might actually *need* to go to get your well drilled. Then if that's a more reasonable depth, and it almost always is, you can contact us and go from there :)
- How long will it take me to drill my well?
This is a question that no one can answer; everything depends on what sort of soil you encounter. Through sand I've drilled as fast as 20' in an hour, and on a good day through mostly easy soil I've drilled 90' in a day. Rocks and clay drill much slower of course - generally 3-10" an hour in clay, and .5-2" an hour in rock.
All that aside, I can tell you that you should be prepared to spend a week drilling your own well; that will get most people a well up to 100' even if they encounter moderate amounts of clay and rock. Many people, especially people who live in sandy areas or who are only going 30 or 40 feet can finish in as little as a day or two. But again let me emphasize that it all depends on what soil you find, and there is just no way to completely predict that.
- How fast can you drill
It depends on what we're drilling in, the air pressure the drill is receiving, and your personal skill; in general, 5-20' (1.6-6 meters) an hour in sand, 3-10" (7.5-25cm) an hour in clay (or much faster if it's a clay/sand mix), and 0.5-2" (12-50mm) an hour in hard rocks.
- How big does the compressor have to be?
Most people don't have compressors that are large enough to keep up with a drill like this running constantly. The compressor should be rated at at least 16CFM and be able to maintain that output constantly at 90PSI. On the machine, it will have a number like "16 CFM @ 90 PSI". More is better, up to about 25 CFM beyond which it makes no difference. If the line pressure drops below 90 PSI there is a significant loss of power, if it drops below 75 PSI it often stops completely.
Generally speaking, compressors like this are attached to 80 gallon tanks (although tank size is not important for well drilling) and stand about 7' tall, and have 7.5 horsepower or greater motors. A smaller compressor doesn't mean you'll drill more slowly, it means you won't drill at all. Smaller compressors can be slaved together, but it can be tricky and is discouraged unless you know what you're doing.
If you don't have access to a large compressor, you have two good options; either buy one, use it for a few weeks and sell it as slightly used for a few hundred less than you paid for it... or just rent a diesel-powered trailer-mounted compressor which usually costs about $90 a day or $300 a week.
- Can I use multiple compressors to get the 16CFM?
If you do decide to hook up multiple compressors, you'll need to construct a T junction that allows the compressors to be hooked together near each other. If you use similar sized compressors it is pretty straightforward. Just remember that CFMs aren't always figured the same way and 8+8 doesn't necessarly equal 16 CFM. Err on the safe side.
If you use one compressor that is much larger than the other, say, a 12 CFM and a smaller 5 CFM, it can be tricky because the smaller compressor will have a safety popoff that is rated to blow off excesss pressure at a lower pressure than the larger compressor. Generally smaller compressors blow off at 125PSI and larger ones blow off at 175.
The problem is that larger compressors generally pump the pressure up to 150 PSI, so if you connect the two compressors while they're both at full pressure, the smaller compressor will blow the popoff valve. This is not dangerous or permanent, the valve will close when the air pressure lowers, but it is inconvenient. To avoid this you will have to make sure that when you turn them on you wait until the big one starts to lose pressure before you turn the valve to add the little one into the line. Then when you are done drilling, you have to you close the valve turning off the pressure from the little one entirely before the big one gets filled up. So it can be a hassleurn themYou get the idea; it can be done, but it can be a hassle too. I've had as many as three connected in series before.
- Can you drill rock?
My rig can drill rocks, but it is slow. Even the big rigs slow down when they hit rocks. Whereas we might drill up to 20' per hour in sand, we may be as slow as .5" an hour in hard rocks. So it's not a well-stopper if you hit a few rocks, but on the other hand if you're living on a slab of iron ferrite a la Bruce Willis in Armageddon, don't buy my rig :)
And the worst kind of rocks are small round rocks between the size of a grape and a melon. Those are very hard to drill, for every rig, because you can't "bite" into them, so it just rolls off and won't drill through them. And yet they are too big to pump. There are a few work-arounds that some of my customers use that does make it possible to drill them, but they are time-consuming. So if much of that sort of rock is present, it may not be practical to drill your own well unless you have a lot of time to spend.
- Can you not recycle the water?
It will use an astronomical amount of water if you do that, plus you will lose the drilling mud which you add. Finally, you won't really add much silt back to the well; the vast majority settles out in the setting pond. So there is no reason not to recycle the water, and every reason to :)
- How can I tell when I hit water?
It's difficult to say exactly; the best way is to ask your neighbors who have a well, if any, how deep their water level is, then pick a depth at least 20-30 feet below that as a target depth. Or if you want to be sure, go 40-50 feet deeper to be on the safe side. This point is also addressed in the plans in some detail, but generally, you may feel a change in the water temperature (suddenly colder) when you hit water, you may notice a difference in the sand that might indicate water (discussed in the plans), but the surest way is to let it set overnight. The vast majority of wells can't be finished in a day, so when you go back to the well after it setting overnight, you'll be able to either see the water standing in the hole, or drop a float to it. It will almost always be standing at the depth of your groundwater. That's the best way to tell. There are a few other more subtle indications, and the plans tell you about those.
- What will it cost to drill a well?
After the kit, the largest expense is in the air compressor, which if you rent it costs about 300 dollars a week on average, plus fuel. If you don't have a compressor large enough to run the drill, the minimum cost including the kit is usually about 1000 dollars for a typical well, although it can easily be double that depending on soil conditions and local costs. Most of that cost is in the compressor, so having one or borrowing one will cut the cost dramatically.
- I can't find #1 sand
There are a surprising number of names for that sort of sand. The main thing is it needs to be roughly the size of a grain of wheat/rice. Much finer and it will defeat the purpose, which is to filter out small sand. Much larger and it won't help. You may be able to find it in rental agencies, sandblasting places use it, concrete companies might even be able to help you. If you can find a well drillers supply, they may be able to set you up too. It's about 50-thousandths, if that helps.
If nothing else, ask the lumber companies if they have anything thats around that size. Usually at least one of those places does.
- How do I finish the well?
Once you get to where you're confident the water is, you pull the well, drop the casing in, pour small gravel around it, and then fix up the surface however local regulations require; there is such a wide variation in legislations I can't offer much specifics on it, but in my area I fill the top 6' or so around the casing with concrete then pour a 4'x4' slab around the top of the casing. The plans have that information, plus when the slab is in you start pumping out the silt with the pump included in the complete kit until the water runs clear; by then you'll have a good idea of how well your water is producing. Always test it locally or with any of the free water testing kits available on the internet before drinking it.
- I can't find schedule 20 pipe!
As the first part of the plans says, schedule 20 is not crucial on the 1" pipe; schedule 40 can be used in a pinch. It's heavier and a bit harder to work with, but on the bright side it's less likely to snap. On the 4" pipe it is very important however to have thinwall pipe, but it is usually much more easy to find than 1" thinwall.
- How do I know where to drill?
Where you drill doesn't really matter because we have found, contrary to popular myth, water is nearly everywhere--underlying your entire property. It may be (slightly) deeper in one spot than another - usually a matter of no more than a few feet. But water can be found almost everywhere. So you shouldn't need to worry about finding water.
If you have a place that is significantly lower (by say, 20' or more) than the rest of the property, you're probably closer to water there because you're deeper. Otherwise, drill where it is convenient; in the shade in summer, in a sunny spot in winter.
You'll need a place with plenty of room to work (at least a ten foot radius unobstructed by trees and buildings), and in one direction a clear path approximately 20 feet wide and 75 feet long to lay out your pipe. It is possible to drill in a smaller area, but it can be inconvenient, especially for deep wells. The site should be either flat or slightly hilly, with the well drilled at a point slightly lower than the surrounding area.
- What kind of a pump do I need/how do I pump the water out of my well?
Most customers use a jet pump; these are the cheapest option if your water is less than 75' deep. If it's deeper than that, you'll need a submersible pump. You can buy either at most home improvement stores, along with pressure tanks, and google has lots of resources to walk you through setting it up and plumbing it. Then you just hook that up to your water system and go from there.
- How do you keep the well from caving in while drilling?
The reason wells cave in is because an empty hole weighs less than the dirt around it, which creates what is essentially a vacuum to pull in the hole on itself. By keeping the hole full of water at all times while drilling we stop most of it right there; but caveins are still possible, because water is lighter than dirt and so there is still a vacuum - though it is much weaker now.
However, all our kits ship with drilling mud, which is a long-chained polymer which bonds with water and the soil and makes the water heavier, and therefore less likely to cave in. It also bonds with the particles in the well wall and forms a thin layer to inhibit caveins; The mud we sell is superconcentrated so only a small amount is required, typically a pint will do a 100' well. Nothing can completely prevent caveins, but drilling mud makes a big difference!
- Do you guarantee that I'll be successful with my well?
Not even professional drillers who do all the drilling themselves can guarantee that you'll find water or that the water will be good. There are simply too many variables. We do everything we can to make your well a success, but we can't control how deep your water is, how much free time you have available to invest, how many hundreds of feet of rock you might have to go through, or how long it will take.
If it's our fault, we'll make it right; but ultimately, you're buying the information and/or a tool to try and drill your own well. A tool which many have successfully used to drill a well.
But regardless, you're buying the tool to try and drill a well, you're not buying a well. If you want to buy a finished, cased well, then your only option is to hire someone to drill a well for you. This usually costs much more, as you probably already know, but it is a relatively sure thing. Anything you do yourself never is :)
For detailed warranty and return information, see Privacy & Returns
- Can this be used for geothermal?
In theory, yes. I've never done it so I can't offer specific help with that, but this will drill a hole for a geothermal unit as well as for a well; in general it's easier to drill 6 holes 50' deep than 1 at 300'.
- I live in Walla Walla, Washington, can you provide me with a list of customers in my area that used your product?
No, due to privacy policies I am unable to connect you with anyone who doesn't opt to leave their personal information in a review.
- Do you have reviews of this product?
Yes, you can see several at Reviews which links to my Ebay feedback page, where there are hundreds of unbiased reviews in my 100% positive feedback. Unfortunately, the vast majority who buy my drill purchase it and I never hear from them again, which I can only assume means they were successful. Most don't take the time to come back and leave a review.
- I bought the plans and I want to buy a kit, how do I get a refund?
Look in the plans, chapter 9, FAQ #24; you'll see a code to use when checking out, and instructions for using it. If you can't find it or it doesn't work, let me know after you check out with a kit and I'll issue a partial refund for that amount.
- Can you drill horizontally?
This system has never been used for a horizontal bore, but I believe with a few modifications it would work great. Instead of using PVC for the drill stem, I'd use steel water pipe (to hold it rigid). That way it won't just dip down into the ground like gravity is going to want it to do. You'll have to dig out an area to work from on the high side of the road (if any) and then start a hole, and dig it sideways.
You'll also need to attach a hose to end of the drill to supply water at the source, which isn't usually necessary for a vertical well..
- Is water required to drill a well? If so, how much?
Pressurized water, no, but you do need water. If running water is unavailable, barrels or tanks will be just fine. It's impossible to say how much you will need; it depends on how deep you go, what soil you drill in, how long it takes, etc. I generally try to keep 6 x 55 Gallon drums on hand at all times.
That may not be quite enough, it may be too much, but it's a good place to start, and it's usually enough for a day's drilling, and then just refill any empties each morning. Very sandy soils or wells that get very deep will take more.
- Can I use this to clean out my existing well?
Actually, I wouldn't bother with the drill at all. You might be able to save a bunch of money by just using the air-powered water pump available in our catalog - it only costs 42.95, takes a smaller compressor, and is designed to suck out sand from wells like that and clean them out. If it works at all, it will be much cheaper and probably will do as good a job for this specific application as the drill.
- Can I install pieces of casing while I'm drilling?
No, you can't feed pipe in as you go for several reasons; one, the drill (with the bit on it) is bigger than the pipe, so it wouldn't fit back through it. Second, you can't get the pipe over the air hose and 1" pipe while you're drilling. Third, and most important, even if those others were overcome, the casing will get stuck as the sand stirred up by the drill settles around the pipe and freezes it in place; I've had it happen. It sounded like a good idea to me once, too. But even a few feet of sand is enough to make the casing permanently stuck in place.
Usually the walls don't cave in so fast that you can't get casing in after the well is drilled, I've drilled 210' here and I live in "Big Sandy", so you can imagine what sort of soil I have lots of... So no, I don't recommend it except in extremely unusual cases, and then only for short distances. Caving in is generally the least of our worries. There is one exception which is places that are within a few hundred yards of a large body of water; For example, drilling a well on the beach.
The good news is you don't need to go deep to get water. The bad news is that there is so much water pressure that it literally blows the sand into the hole faster than it can be pumped out as soon as you hit water. So in cases like that I recommend trying to get the first 20' of the well cased with 6" pipe, added as you go.
In very unstable soils we sometimes drill in stages if other methods fail, drilling to 50' or so and casing with 6" pipe, drilling to 100' inside that pipe and casing with 4" pipe, then even inside that with 3" and inside that with 2".
- Can you use schedule 40/80 casing?
We drill a 5.25" hole; thickwall (schedule 40) casing is 5.5" across at the bell (the widest part). Thinwall (schedule 20) is only 4.5" across at the bell, so a much larger hole would have to be drilled (7" or better). In addition to that, thickwall pipe seldom comes with bells on the ends, and using couplings in a well is bad because they are very large (approximately 6" across), and have rough ends on them that snag going down.
Finally, and most importantly, the hole drilled is not completely straight. No hole ever is, with any well drilling system. They always weave a bit to avoid a rock, or just meander over distance for one reason or another. On the other hand, thinwall pipe is flexible enough to follow the hole most of the time even if it weaves quite a bit. Thickwall on the other hand is quite rigid, so if the hole is not mathematically straight, it will almost certainly get stuck while you try to case it. The deeper you go the more likely it is.
And finally, in our experience, 4" thinwall is quite strong enough for this job; remember, it is designed to be laid on its side and can be driven over with only 2-3' of dirt on top of it. When installed vertically, it can take much greater pressures and little short of a geologic event will be likely to crush it. So no, we do not recommend thickwall casing. It is, of course, your well and you are welcome to give it a try and let us know if it works for you :)
- Where can I buy an oiler?
We used to sell the oiler, but don't anymore (the supplier stopped selling wholesale). Several similar models are available at these links:
Northern Tools Oiler/Regulator
Harbor Freight Tools
- Can you drill horizontally (under a road)?
This system has never been used for a horizontal bore, but I believe with a few modifications it would work great. Instead of using PVC for the drill stem, I'd use steel water pipe (to hold it rigid). That way it won't just dip down into the ground like gravity is going to want it to do. You'll have to dig out an area to work from on the high side of the road (if any) and then start a hole, and dig it sideways. You'll also need to attach a hose to end of the drill to supply water at the source, which isn't usually necessary for a vertical well.
- Can I pay by Check/What is your address to pay by check?
To send a payment by check/money order, just check out on the website as usual, then when it asks you what sort of payment you want to make, select "check/money order" and you'll be taken to a page with a total price and an address where you can ship the payment. That way you get the total amount including shipping and tax if applicable :)
- Can your system be used to drill multiple wells?
Yes! For each new well, you'll need a bottle of drilling mud (14.95) (or buy superconcentrate (59.95) which will last 4-8 average wells). You'll also need (or need to make, instructions are provided) a new well point for each well (29.95). Periodically, as they wear out (every 40-100 hours with proper maintenance) you will need a replacement motor (49.95). Once in awhile, it varies depending on the soil, you'll need a new bit (39.95-99.95). That's about it!
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