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How To Drill Your Own Water Well … Using Only PVC Pipe

spigotThere’s something that our ancestors all had on their property, which we don’t often have today. No, I’m not referencing a barn, although that would be true. I’m referring to a well.

City water is something relatively new, at least as we know it. Before that, people had to rely on well water for everything. If they didn’t live close enough to their neighbors to share a well, they had to have their own.

Today, having a well is rare. Few can afford the cost of having a well commercially drilled and even fewer try doing it themselves. But there are ways of doing it yourself, without having to resort to the time-tested method of using a pick and shovel.

The problem with using a pick and shovel to dig a well, besides it being back-breaking work, is that the well has to be big enough to climb in and work. That means displacing a lot more dirt in order to get down to the level of the water. The well also has to be shored up as you go, in order to prevent it from caving in while you are working.

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But there is an easier way. You can actually drill a well fairly easily, using nothing more than PVC pipe and water. No, I didn’t invent this way, someone else did; but his method is so simple, it deserves to be shared.

The Right Soil

To start with, you have to have the right soil. Not all soil is created equal and the wrong soil will make it extremely hard to drill a well. The ground beneath our feet is divided into layers, and the composition of those layers will drastically affect how easy they are to drill through. We can have layers of:

  • Soil
  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Rock
  • Gravel

Soil and sand are really the only ones which are easy to drill through. Of course, if there are tree roots in the midst of the soil, you may have trouble drilling through them. Clay breaks up very slowly, and rock and gravel … well, they speak for themselves.

Water is caught in the layers of sand and gravel. So you eventually want to hit one of them, preferably sand. If you hit gravel with water in it, it could cause problems, as you actually have to get down into the layer to have a good water flow.

In much of the country, water can be found in a sand layer as little as 20 feet below the surface. Professional well drillers won’t stop there, as they want to make more money and they charge by the foot. Besides, generally speaking, deeper water will be better quality water.

Making the PVC Drill

well water -- richThe PVC drill is extremely easy to make. All you need is some two-inch PVC pipe and some fittings. The “drill bit” itself is made out of the pipe, by cutting it. This can be done with just about any type of saw, but it is most easily done with a grinder.

In reality, all this is going to do is scrape at the dirt, breaking it up so that it can be removed from the hole. But that’s all it needs to do. You will be pumping water down that hole as well, which will be constantly flushing it out, removing the dirt and sand that the drill point is breaking up.

The same thing can be made out of galvanized plumbing pipe. That will stay harder, allowing you to drill through tree roots and even some soft rocks.

This same PVC pipe can serve as your well casing with some minor adjustment. All wells need a “well screen” at the bottom. The purpose of this screen is to allow the water to seep through the casing, while keeping the sand out. To make your pipe function as a well screen also, cut a number of thin slits in the side of the pipe, staggering them, so that you don’t weaken the pipe. This is most easily done with a pneumatic die grinder or cut-off tool (they are essentially the same) and a small, very thin cut-off tool blade.

Remember, you don’t want to weaken the pipe, so put about six slots in the pipe, lengthwise around the circumference of the pipe. Then move up five or six inches and do it again. Make sets of slots like this for the bottom three feet of your drill pipe.

The other end of the PVC pipe needs to be adapted to attach two garden hoses. It takes two in order to have enough water coming into the drill to force the debris that I was just talking about, out of the hole. One hose won’t be enough. In fact, one of those hoses should be coming from a neighbor’s house, so that both of them will have a full flow of water.well water -- rich 2

The well head consists of a two-inch PVC “T” with adapters on both sides stepping it down to ¾ an inch garden hose connections. Make sure that all connections are put together with PVC cement and primer, so that they don’t come apart. The rubber coupler is used, rather than a fixed connection, so that another section of PVC pipe can be added, when needed.

This is where the water will enter the drill, so that it can flush out the hole. The water will travel down the length of the drill, inside the pipe and come out the bottom. It will travel up the outside of the pipe, enlarging the hole slightly and carrying the debris from the well out.

The only other thing you need is a handle. You are going to be the “motor” for this drill, so you’ll need to turn the pipe back and forth, causing the drill teeth to break up the soil. A simple piece of wood to cross the pipe will serve fine. You may want to round the edges and sand it, to make it easier on your hands. Then, attach it to the pipe with large hose clamps.

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It will become important to be able to move your handle up the length of the pipe as the pipe descends into the hole. Otherwise, you won’t be able to keep drilling. So, don’t do something like using a PVC cross to make the handle permanently attached to the drill pipe.

Drilling the Well

If you have a post-hole digger, you might want to start the hole for your well with that. That will cut through grass roots much easier than the PVC drill will, getting your hole started. Then, when you stand the drill up and put it in the hole, the hole itself can help hold it up.

To drill the well with this simple drill, start by connecting the hoses and turning on the water at both sources. Then put the bit end of the drill in the hole, standing it up. Adjust the handle height, if needed, so that it is at a comfortable working height. That would be somewhere between your upper chest and slightly below your waist. Any farther up or down will add strain to your body while drilling.

Start turning the drill back and forth, about a quarter turn in each direction. You will see muddy water start to bubble up out of the hole. Get used to looking at that mud, as you’ll see it for the next few hours. The drilling action is slow, but not really any slower through dirt and sand than what I experienced using an air-driven drill.

Continue drilling until you hit water, adjusting the handle up the pipe as needed. It will be a little difficult to tell when you’ve hit water, simply because you are constantly adding water to the hole. So what you do is look for sand. The water is going to be in the sandy layers, so watch for sand to start coming out of the hole. When you hit sand, you should also hit water.

Don’t stop just because you’ve hit sand. Measure the depth of your hole by measuring how much pipe you still have above the ground. Then, drill into the sand. You will need at least three feet of pipe down into the sand so that you can have a constant water flow.

Finishing Off Your Well

The deepest you can practically go with this sort of well is about 20 feet. Past that point, you’ll need to pour some drilling mud into the well hole, to help stabilize the hole and keep it from collapsing in on itself. Even with the drilling mud, the deepest you can probably go is about 30 feet.

That’s really not a problem, as you’ll probably run into water by then. You also have to consider that a shallow well pump can only draw water up about 20 feet. So if you don’t hit water within that distance, this method may not work for you.

Once you have hit water, let your well sit overnight and check again the next day. Drop something down the inside of the drill pipe, tied to a string, to ensure that you have water in the well. Don’t close it off until you are sure.

To close the well off, temporarily cap the well with a plastic cap or duct tape and pour sand down around it to fill in the space between the well casing (formerly your drill pipe) and the edges of the well hole you’ve drilled. If you don’t fill this area with something, it will fill in on its own. By filling it with sand, you keep a porous material there that water can flow through.

That’s basically it. All you need now is a pump and your well is ready to go. Don’t be surprised if the first few hundred gallons of water that come out of it are murky. It will clear up after a while, providing you with cool, clear water. Have this water tested before drinking it, or run all drinking water through a purification process for your safety.

Have you ever drilled a well similar to this one? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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31 comments

  1. I did try this in a low spot in my backyard. The drilling was easy as I have pure sand and as you suggested I started with a post hole digger. I hit water just a few feet down. The problem that killed the project was very fine sand. It was saturated but it wouldn’t “give up” the water fast enough for a useful flow. An old fashioned “dug” well would have worked because the hole would have been big enough with enough surface area to release a useful volume of water. My bad back wasn’t into digging a well.

  2. I made a well drilling rig using a gas powered post hole digger. It was quite a makeshift rig but it worked like a champ. I made a big upside down “U” out of 4x4s for uprights and 2×8 across the top It was appox 6 feet wide and 10 feet high using 12 foot 4×4’s and 8 ft 2×8. I used 1/2 galvanized in 11 foot length as my drill rod/ On the bottom I made a drill point like an arrowhead but in an X and at the top I had a snap on connector so I could have it stay stationary as the drillrod turned. Attached to the on off clip i had a hose connector and attached a garden hose to it so as i drilled it pumped water down the drill rood. after i drilled down 11 feet I pulled out the drill rod and put a 2 inch galvanized well pipe in the hole and to pound it in (this is the best part). to pound the pipe in I found a nice power pole solid metal rod nice and heavy and i affixed a weight set weight holder with screw to hold about 100 pounds of weights. This had a loop on top and with a pulley and a jacked up rear wheel on my truck that had a pipe and flange bolted to my rear wheel I wrapped the rope around it 5 or 6 times and whith the truck running in gear i would pull and tighten the rope and it would pull up the pole and weights when i slacked the rope it dropped the weights onto the pipe smacking it into the ground. When I hit water the water slowed coming out of the hole because a well will take as much water into it as you can pump out, so watch for slowing of return water. I dropped the pipe in another 5 or 6 fewet and after pulling out all the drill rod I hooked up a rotary pump and started pumping out water for 4 or 5 hours till it cleared and made a “Cave” under the pipe tat held a reservoir of water and put on a hand pump or rotary pump and walla instant (almost) water. Hope you followed all this . Joe

    • Wish you could post a picture of that auger rig. Especially how you’ve got the water hooked up to the drill pipe. I have a big 2 man auger I’d like to try that with.

  3. with n s a [ nastional society of a… ] listening … uncle sneaky is on your trail / tail

  4. Using the information at http://drillyourownwell.com/ , I drilled down 43 feet and have 8.5 feet of water standing in the pipe. Mike has itemized instructions and videos on his site.

    I suggest that you use a cast iron pipe coupling to make your drill bit and attach it to the PVC pipe instead of just the much softer PVC pipe. I made a couple of modifications to keep water flowing while I added sections of pipe. I spent an afternoon, left water barely running overnight to keep the pipe from getting stuck and finished up the next morning. All total, it took me about 15 hours to get it done.

    I live in East Texas and had to go through top soil, clay, sand, clay, sand, etc. When you hit water bearing sand, it will be very coarse sand. You will see the difference.

    I bought a hand-pump which pumps about 4 gallons per minute so we’ll have good water when the SHTF time arrives.

  5. great article!

    could you turn it into a pdf?

  6. I did this several years ago.
    Hit water and gravel at about 25 feet.
    Couldn’t go further easily and Pitcher pumps and shallow well only work up to a little over 20 feet.

    Not enough flow for an electric pump.
    But a Pitcher pump will draw water as fast as you can pump

    One MAJOR problem, water ate up cast Iron pitcher pump!
    But found an all plastic/pvc pump on line, worked perfectly.
    Easy to filter and sterilize water but I worry about dissolved solids?

    Good article.

  7. I raised horses in the Midwest and drilled three wells which we referred to as Sand Points. Used 2 inch galvanized pipe, four foot lengts, threaded on both ends with a diamond shaped head on the very bottom. Then, with a driving cap on the top of the first length of pipe, proceeded to drive the first length into the ground at which point I removed the threaded cap and added the second length of pipe using a pipe coupling and then placed the driving cap on the top again and repeated the driving process. I found good water anywhere from 12 to16 feet. Watering a size able number of horses and never ran out of water. (Soil was mostly sandy loam)

  8. Years ago I dug down about 25 feet with a post hole digger, with extension rods I made from water pipes. It was in the country where no city water was available to help with the drilling. I was ready with 8″ PVC for a casing wall. But when I got to about 18′ I hit waterlogged sand. At that point the sand walls of the hole collapsed before I could pull up another load from the post hole digger. It didn’t occur to me that my job was done; all I had to do was put the PVC down as far as it would go, then hook a pump and it would pull out enough sand to let the PVC drop another 10 feet or until it reaches the bottom of the sand! So at that point I gave up and hired a well digger who put in a 3′ hole. When I looked down into that finished 40′ hole, though, the walls of the hole weren’t collapsing. They were pretty solid, with “holes” where sand was presumably removed appearing to be only inches deep.

    Problems with this article: it doesn’t warn you that a mere 2″ pipe will only hold a couple of gallons (depending on how far below the water table your pipe goes) and then you will have to wait a while for the pipe to fill again. Even my 8″ pipe would have a minimal reservoir. It is also hard to imagine from this article what apparatus the author has to turn the bit from 20′ up. So I will suggest these adjustments to the article: use a 8″ pipe, cut the teeth in the expanded female end that is larger to receive the next pipe. That way there will be less friction between your pipe and the ground on the sides. When you get below the length of the pipe, cement the next length to it so you can keep turning the bit. You might want to cut teeth in the second pipe too, though not so deep that you have too little gluing surface.

  9. Good instructions except I know that of all the wells near me 60′ deep is the most shallow and it runs out of water in the summer sometimes so figuring on 20 feet to hit water is not realistic for all areas. In fact I have lived in many states with a well and non have ever been as shallow as 20ft. Most were over 80′ A good way to drill deeper would be helpful.

  10. I helped my Dad drill a water well when I was in Elementary School. The drill head was about a foot long and drilled a hole for a 2 inch pipe which connected to 1/2 or 3/4 inch pipe. it had two pieces one with the drill head the other with a T handle. The head looked like long circle which was made to cut the hole. You would drill down so far and pull it up to empty it, once you got so far you would have to add a section of pipe. Dad would reach up to the T handle while I was sitting on the ground with a pipe wrench to help turn it. I remember that when we got to around 20 feet or so, all of a sudden the T handle hit the ground. Dad thought that we had turned it the wrong way and unscrewed the pipe. Once we was we had water we put a 2 inch pipe down and connected a hand pump to it and pumped for a long time to get clear water. Then we pulled up the pipe and put on a filter on it and put it back down into the hole. Afterwards we built a pump house around it and put on an electric water pump and tank. As long as the pump house is closed and insulated a electric light will keep it from freezing, you will need to bury your water line about 2 feet so it will not freeze and insulate it coming out of the ground to where goes into your house. We had to pull the pipe out in about five to ten years to replace the filter being it will clog up. We took the screen off the screen head and put it back down and pumped a lot of sand out to clear a larger hole for it then we pulled it back up and put a new screen head back on and put it back down.

    If you use the water to drill the hole I would suggest that you use a three inch pipe to drill and when you get down to the water leave it in the ground and put a 2 inch pipe with your screen head on it so your hole doesn’t cave in when you pull it out to replace the screen head in the future.

    • Charles, What part of the country are you in? I haven’t many folks with the name Tedder.
      My family came from the Columbia, S.Carolina area

  11. Drilling a well will take some knowledge of the underground material. it could be a substantial distance to the water table in some geographic locations. (greater than 60 feet )The pioneers used water pressure to help drill the hole , then a casing with perforation located according to the material will keep water pure.

  12. John T. MacF. Mood

    I did the same thing (drill a well), and secured a very old school hand pump. You’ve seen them in old Westerns used to fill a horse trough. Kids that were naughty got the “thrill” of pumping the trough full.

    In OTG SHTF situations, I have water and no power is needed but my left warm or my right arm – or a rotten kid!

    Hard to find now, I got a deal on one at a scrap yard, and had to refit it with the flapper valve that lets it work. Cost total was less than $10.00 including the ‘fix’, refurb, and repaint $5.00 more for Rustoleum (TM) in barn red. I wanted it in an authentic color.Can’t beat that!

  13. As a master plumber in MI the northwest of state is best for this. I prefer the poster that “drove” well by pounding it in and also another’s idea of using 1 size larger as casing pipe then sliding your actual well pipe in that pipe. Tractor. Supply has new cast iron hand pumps that will pull 30 foot head of water. Good idea to have a water source set up because it’s going to happen soon . I was discussing with a former IS Embassy Guard (Moscow) that in weeks after collapse ammo will be a form of currency to trade food and drink. Get with like minded people and pool resources, stock up on antibiotics and chlorine. It will clean your water pipes and water to and breaks down at a decent rate. I have a spot picked out in National Forest where clean fresh water perks right out of ground. Loved ones know to gather to me when SHTF and son has stockpiled. I am a government worker and can see it coming soon.

  14. High Pressure Washer
    Just did this using 1″ pipe instead of 2″ It goes much faster, and you know if there is water without so much time invested. I went to 28′ in about 2 hours. Now I think it will easier to enlarge my existing hole up to a 4″ casing., but I haven’t done that yet. With a 4 ” casing I can put a submersible solar pump in the well.
    Why high pressure washer? I reduced my PVC pipe with metal pipe fittings to 1/8″ at the point. Then flattened the center of that to make a pressure nozzle. Now, using the low volume, high pressuer washer’ my drill bit will cut thru a lot of stuff. Even soft roots, and a gravel bed were easy to push thru by just using my hands to jack the pipe up and down. It’s easy to tqke the whole thing out with just your hands, Using the high pressure washer allows you to work where therei s no water hose. A coulpe of barrels of water, a water recovery pit and a transfer or sump pump will feed the HP washer.
    Now I need suggestions for help on how to enlarge it to 4″. here are some ideas, but would love feedback and help. I am thinking of making a metal arrowhead type point that has about a 5″ diameter and mounts to the bottom 4″ casing. As the water forces the mud out I can turn the pipe using a piece of metal pipe at the top as a handle. Just drill holes thru the pipe to slip the pipe thru, and later cover the holes with the next glue joint fitting? I am thinking that will scrape out my predrilled hole enough to allow the 4″ casing to lower itself. Maybe have to put metal cap on top and drive with sledge hammer?
    Lessons learned; Use the glue on fitting that allow you to screw the pipe sections together. Instead of 10 sections of PVC with a hose fitting dangling overhead, just cut them in two and use 5′ sections. Working at waist level is much easier, especially if working alone.

    Actually need this for mission work we do in a delta area of central America. In a very remote area where there is no chance of take in drilling equipment (accessable only by canoe). All the existing open wells get contiminated with livestock and surface water and there is much sicknes as a result. We have taken water filter systems, but they are only a temporary fix. We need cheap, clean cased wells large enough for 3-4 families.

  15. How much more effective might this be if you hooked it up to a power washer instead of just a faucet?

  16. Instead of fabricating a drill point/filter, use a sand point made of either PVC or Galvanized iron pipe. The PVC sand point filter is cheap and can be found at Home Depot or Lowes. I am using one of the PVC points, down about 60ft, and with a shallow well pump, I’m getting 4.5 gallons a minute.

  17. Thank you for sharing this water well tutorial. I am sure I would be able to follow all of these steps, but I have just one question. How do you know where to find the ground water? I don’t think I can dig a hole in the ground and expect water to be there. Could you explain how to find the water?

  18. I live on an ancient sand bar, so I guess my area would be perfect for drilling a well! I thought this was a genius idea, I didn’t think you could just use PVC. My nearby uncle drilled his own well, I wonder if he did it the same way? Thanks for the info.

  19. My water bill has been higher than ever. It’s crazy how much water my family can go through in just a month. I’d be interested in getting my own water well. You mention that you have to have the right soil. Can that soil be put it, or how does it work?

  20. Everybody should leave the Location they live State Country, etc. Give the readers a little more info concerning types of soil, weather conditions……I live in Southern Alberta just above the Border.

  21. Is there anyone in the Peekskill ny or Hudson valley area that has been successful in drilling their own well I would
    Very much like to talk to them

  22. Not trying to be smart but just curious if your drilling a well how would you do it if you do not have a water source?

  23. Dear Sir/Madam

    I am wondering what I need to complete this task, I have watched many youtube videos about how to do this but many have different materials and procedures, and I do not know where to start

  24. I am interested in buying some land and drilling a well… How do you drill a well using this method if you don’t have water to run into the hose…?? and if you have water to run into the the well to while drilling why do you need a well in the first place.. I don’t see where this is a useful method to drill a well where you don’t have water yet. I may be wrong.

    • You could collect the rain in a 50 gal barrell, then get a pump that would force the water down the pipe. A solar or gas generator could be used to power the pump if no electricity.

  25. I wonder if you attached a small water jet nozzel at the tip, it would drill the soil like a water cutter that cuts through metal?

  26. I live in central Texas so everything is limestone. welp…

  27. I AM A LICENCED DRILLER AND THE ADVICE ABOUT POURING SAND AROUND THE CASING IS !! WRONG !!AS ALL WELLS ARE REQUIRED TO BE SEALED AT THE SURFACE TO PREVENT POLLUTION FROM ENTERING THE BORE HOLE AND DISTROYING THE WATER TABLE.

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