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Water should be your top priority when building your homestead. If you want to drill a well but worry about the high cost of professional drilling, you definitely want to explore this method for drilling it yourself.
In your preparations to go off-grid, the item that should be at the top of your list is WATER.
Not power. Not your home site. Not soil.
Generally, you have four options for obtaining water on your off-grid property:
- Rainwater catchment (which is what we do)
- Naturally occurring water such as a spring, lake, pond, river, stream, etc.
- A well
- Water hauling
For a period of time, we had been in talks with a local well driller and were seriously considering having a well professionally drilled on our property. We backed out because we’d still need a cistern for water storage AND we’d have paid thousands of dollars to have a well drilled with no guarantee that we’d have good water or a decent flow rate.
For now, we have resolved to use our huge metal roof as a means to catch rainwater and store it in a cistern next to the house. But even still, the thought of a well to supply water in times of little rainfall is appealing. There are natural springs around and at least one old well further down the hill on our property.
What if there was a way for us to drill a well inexpensively using tools we already have access to?
I recently found out about the good folks at Drill A Well and it piqued my curiosity. Is it possible for us to drill our own water well?
The short answer is YES. You absolutely can. But there are some caveats so keep reading.
With the proper tools and some time spent learning about the process, this job is no more difficult than many other aspects of building a homestead.
Guide Sheet and Instructional DVD
Because we’re just exploring the possibilities, I received a DVD and info guide from Adrian at DrillaWell.com. The print guide gives you a solid overview of everything you need to get started with drilling your own well. Information includes a list of tools and materials, an overview of the process, and perhaps most importantly a guide to what NOT to do so you can protect your tools and your work.
The DVD is quite comprehensive. Honestly, as someone with no well-drilling experience, I do not have the knowledge to nitpick the process laid out in the video. As an educator and lifelong learner, however, I CAN tell you that the presentation of the entire process in the video is thorough. Watching it, you almost feel as if a “good ol’ local guy” is helping you along step by step, explaining it to you as if he were right there with you on the job.
He makes the job feel achievable.
The demonstration on the DVD features a complete drilling of an actual well. He doesn’t just show you the tools and give you some diagrams – he shows the process by actually completing it and showing everything that should happen along the way.
Every detail of the well-drilling process is shown in great detail. In fact, the DVD lasts roughly an hour. I would recommend watching it in its entirety and taking notes if you are at all considering undertaking this DIY job.
Materials and Potential Cost
What I found really cool about their business is how they really just want to empower ambitious do-it-yourselfers. They’ll tell you upfront that you are never obligated to buying anything else from them beyond the guidebook and DVD, and that you can buy EVERYTHING locally if you want to. They don’t try to upsell you anything you don’t need, which I completely appreciate as a frugal and usually suspicious shopper.
But if you do decide you want a bit more help and guidance as you prep for the job, they offer most of the tools needed to get the job done either separately or as a complete package depending on what you need.
In fact, the tool package they offer contains enough to help you drill at least 100 feet, including:
- 1 Expansion chamber/drill
- 1 Deluxe Rock/Clay/Sand drilling bit for 4″ casing
- 1′ Well point
- 1 Make-your-own well screen tool
- 1 Air filter/dehumidifier/lubricator (oiler)
- 1 Quart food grade air tool oil
- 1 Air-powered water pump (for cleaning out the well after drilling)
- 1 Pint of drilling mud
- Plans and DVD (unless already purchased)
According to their website, the only items you have to find yourself include the 150′ of 3/8″ air hose, 160′ of 1″ PVC pipe, 100′ of 4″ PVC pipe, 4′ of 6” thinwall (schedule 20) PVC pipe, an air compressor (if you don’t already have one capable of delivering at least 17 CFM@90 PSI, they suggest renting one), a few scraps of 2” and 1” pipe and a few small odds and ends which you may already own such as duct tape.
The tool package costs $700, and considering the cost of the other items you could complete the job yourself for $1000 or less.
Compared to the $2500-4000+ it would cost to have a well professionally drilled, that’s a bargain.
Because to reiterate, you could pay thousands of dollars and still not have a functional well at the end of the day. You may hit brine water. You may have a low flow rate. If you’re going to take the gamble, at least you can lower the stakes. Drilling your own well can be an economical and practical way to get the water you need to your site.
BUT there are benefits to hiring a professional.
We often called on professionals throughout our home building process because we knew that, even though it cost more, we would end up with a better product that was all but guaranteed to be code compliant. We DIYed the vast majority of the build, but when it came to certain issues of safety, equipment access, or code regulations, a professional saved time and hassle.
Meeting building code is a must. I’ve gone into a lot more detail elsewhere regarding what you need to meet building code and the importance of it. Even if your property isn’t in an area subject to building inspections, code compliance is a tricky issue and you should follow it carefully. Go here to read more about working with building code and code officials. I also go into quite a bit of detail on working with building inspectors in my resource book The Owner-Builder Home Planner and in the free email companion course that comes with it.
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