Hand Driving a Shallow Well
Hand Driven Wells
Many questions have been asked on Forums about how to install a 1-1/4” or 2” well. There are many pictures and volumes of answers on the Internet on how to accomplish this task. Some are very informative and some are not. Many I have seen use methods that are contradictory to what I believe and have experienced first hand. Before I go into a detailed description, let me just say that the most important thing to do before buying the first piece of Pipe is to call some of the local Well Drillers in your area. They have been Drilling around your home for years and have all the experience needed to guide you in the decision of whether to give it a try or just forget about it. Not all areas in this Country have accessible shallow water.
What you are looking for is a sandy soil made up of pure sand and maybe some gravel that is not mixed with clay or any other substance that impede the movement of water. This surface water aquifer is somewhere between 5 and 30 feet below your grass. This is not to say that there is any water in it or that it is there at all. This is where your local Driller comes in. Ask him first!
Once you have gotten the news from your local Well Driller that there is water in the ground and at what depth it may be found, you are already ahead of the game. Now you’re not driving pipe blindly. You now have some useful information. With this info, you can go buy the 5’ sections of Galvanized Pipe either 1-1/4” or 2”. I recommend 1-1/4" as it goes much easier. This pipe must be threaded on both ends. You will also need to buy some 1-1/4” (or two inch) Drive Couplings. Enough to couple each joint together. One for the Screen ( that will be discussed later), and a couple for the top of the pipe (in case you damage one) while your knocking it into the ground. Some people will tell you to use a Sledge Hammer. I am not one of those people. You will only loosen and or break joints. A Fence Post Driver works fairly well. It is usually a two inch pipe about three feet long and is weighted. It will have two handles to operate it with. Getting a few burly friends and a case of Beer isn’t a bad idea. The joining process means that each joint must have the threads butted together inside the Drive Couplings before attempting to drive the pipe. This will take a couple of 24 inch or larger Pipe Wrenches with cheater pipe on their handles. If you don’t get the pipe threads butted together in the couplings, all you will do is damage the threads and create air leaks. Air is a Jet Pumps worst enemy.
The Driver I have pictured below is the best one I have found for this job.
The head of the driver is 6” pipe capped top and bottom with a 1” solid steel bar running through it. The head has lead melted in it for added weight. The driver weighs around 50 lbs. The one I used as a kid weighed 65 lbs and worked even better. The stem fits nicely into 1-1/4” pipe and is long enough that it can’t come out while you’re using it. I cropped the stem a little to keep the picture smaller.
The Screen I mentioned earlier should have slots or openings small enough to keep out most sand. Your Driller may be able to help you select the right slot size for your formation. Some of the fine sand will be pumped out until clear, and the larger particles are drawn up against the Screens surface to keep out other finer materials. The type of screen should be carefully thought out. You can run down to the local Hardware store or the Big Box store, but you won’t find a quality Screen there. The openings on these screens are slim to none, and this is what makes a well produce much less water than a screen with more open surface area. The Screen I recommend is a Slotted Screen. It is a series of vertical rods welded to the Point, and the top threaded piece wound with a continuous wire from top to bottom. The distance between the wire winds is how the Screen is identified. A screen with a 10 thousands inch opening between winds is called a ten slot screen. A seven thousands inch opening is called a 7 slot etc. While these Screens won’t take the pounding that the Gauze Screens will, they will offer far more water once in place. They come in Galvanized and Stainless Steel. In my experience, there is no difference.
After each joint is pounded into place; a Pitcher Pump should be put on the pipe and the Well tested to see if there is any water. Usually; once you get some water with the Pitcher Pump, another joint will be needed to get all the way into the vein. Once a good supply of water has been obtained, you can clear it up with the Pitcher Pump or connect a Centrifugal or Jet Pump to make it clear quicker. You will probably pump sand for a while; this is normal. Once clear, you can assume the Well is done.
Hooking up the Pump
Assuming you butted all your joints and did “NOT” use a Sledge Hammer, we can assume that the Casing is air tight and no air leaks should be encountered.
The top of the Casing can have either an Elbow or a Tee. I recommend the Elbow because it makes one less fitting which could be the source of an air leak. On the horizontal of the Elbow you can add a Close Nipple and a Brass Check Valve. The type of Pipe you use will determine the type of fittings you need between the Check Valve and the Pump. This only takes two more fittings (not counting elbows if they must be used) PVC Pipe would need two male adaptors. Same with Copper. If you use Poly Pipe, you will need two Barb Fittings (sometimes call Male Adaptors) and four good Hose Clamps. If you use Galvanized Pipe, you would of coarse need a Union. If you must add more fittings (I see no reason to do so) remember that you have just introduced that many more air leak possibilities.
On top of the Pump install a short nipple, with a Tee and a Plug for Priming purposes. Out the side of the Tee is where you would run your pipe to either the tank or what ever your are plumbing to. Hook up the electric, fill the Pump and pipe with water, put the Plug back in loosely to let out air as the Pump catches it's prime. Once water starts squirting out of the Plug under pressure, the Pump is Primed and you can tighten the Plug. That’s it.
I know there are other methods of putting in Shallow Wells, the Driven Well is only one method. It is the one I used the most and had the best luck with.