A well is a vital water resource that is absolutely necessary if you plan on living anywhere that does not have access to copious amounts of above ground freshwater or municipal water systems.
Humans have been digging and drawing water from wells pretty much forever, and though we have it down to a science one thing about the process has not changed: It is an awful lot of work and typically a significant investment in both time and resources.
In the interest of being truly prepared for long-term survival, as well as potentially saving a few bucks over a professional well excavation and installation, some folks seek to dig a well themselves. We can all admire their industrious spirit, but:
How much does it cost to dig your own well? Assuming you know how to properly install your own well, and can rent a drill rig to handle the excavation, you can DIY install a well for anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000 depending on the length of time you must rent the drill rig and the associated expense of all necessary parts, components and equipment.
This figure can vary greatly depending on your local terrain, and on any special requirements for installing a working well safely, and some installations, like a shallow sand point well, might be achievable for only a couple of thousand dollars.
In the remainder of this article we will look at some of the predominant costs and expenses associated with installing a well so you can come up with your own estimate, and draw your own conclusions before you commit to doing it yourself.
Shallow Well vs. Deep Well
Your choice of a shallow well versus a deep one will largely determine the viability of a DIY well install, and also how much it is going to cost you all the way around.
Shallow wells only go down to a depth of 50 feet or less, though they are often less productive and more vulnerable to contamination compared to deep wells, if your property supports the installation of a shallow well they are nonetheless a worthwhile choice if you don’t need a ton of water or are limited by what you can perform yourself reliably.
Deep wells, as you might expect, are wells that go deeper than 50 feet, and some can go thousands of feet down in quest of water.
Most deep wells that go farther than a couple of hundred feet are usually beyond the reach of amateur well diggers, and even if you are capable they are going to be very expensive if only owing to the cost of components.
Expect $12-$30 per linear foot. The excavation of the well hole itself is often the single biggest procedural expense, and is completely dependent upon the type of machinery required to penetrate the soil and reach the aquifer the well is going to draw from, how long it is in operation, and how deep the well must go.
The average depth of a residential well in the United States is about 150 feet, so computing that against our typical drilling costs we come up with a result of $1,800 to $4,500 just for the excavation!
This can certainly save you some money over a front-to-back professional installation if you are confident that you can install the well casing and the rest of its needed components yourself.
For many folks, this might actually be an ideal way to save a little money since the drilling operation is complicated and fraught with peril.
One factor you cannot change except by selecting a different digging site is the quality and composition of the soil on your property.
Some soils are much easier to dig than others, and certain places might have an awful lot of rock, dense clay, or other obstructions throughout them which can make digging slow, laborious and more costly, both in time on the job and in broken drill heads.
If you have a reliable geological survey for your parcel, you can adjust your estimated price of installing your own well based upon how difficult the soil is to dig.
Soil that is easy or moderate in density could save you anywhere from 15 to 30% right off the top in total expenses, where rocky or extremely dense soil could increase costs by a factor of 90% to 160%!
And that doesn’t even take into account additional expenses from broken tools and other curveballs that will surely crop up as a result of trying to install a well and such tough soil conditions.
The well casing is a critical and integral component to any modern well. It functions as the inner wall present in the well hole, both reinforcing it and helping to protect the water source from contamination. Modern well casings are typically made of PVC or steel in a variety of diameters and, as you might have guessed, the material selection plus the diameter will dictate the expense of this part.
The most common well casing formats are 4 inch PVC, 6 inch steel and 8 inch steel. Steel is drastically more expensive than PVC, with the big bore 8-inch variety being very spendy.
A 50 foot length of PVC well casing (installed) will run you about $1,700, a 100 foot length about $3,400 and a 150 foot length around $5,250. Contrast with steel well casings, of which the larger 8” diameter variety runs between $4,400 and $12,200 for the same lengths! That is quite a difference!
DIY or professionally installed, you’ll always have to include a well casing for a safe and functional well.
Other Parts, Odds and Ends
Modern wells must have a few other components that primitive wells lack, things like wiring systems, pumps, pressure tanks and more. Depending on the quality of the water that you are able to tap with your well, you might need a purification or softening system additionally.
Deep wells in particular are fairly notorious for having water that is so contaminated with minerals it is hardly fit to drink or use for washing due to hardness.
The pump is the most obvious component that you will need to install for a modern well, and that will require electricity. A suitable pump for a shallow well installation can run anywhere between $250 and $1,000.
A pump for a deep well is far more costly, starting anywhere around $500 and topping out at $2,500. Then add in little odds and ends like wiring, costing between $50 and $1,250, a pressure tank at around $400 and various controllers at anywhere from $50 to $70.
Odds and ends like seals, switched and caps will cost anywhere from $100 to $200 all total.
The excavation and installation of a well is within the realm of possibility for a DIY project, and will run anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 by the time you account for all expenses and the necessary components.
These are significant savings over the average cost of professional well installation in most parts of the United States, but one should be cautious to budget for mishaps, unforeseen circumstances and the broken parts for drilling equipment.
Even so, the rising costs of well installation are seeing more people roll up their sleeves and dig their own wells using a variety of methods. Make sure you sharpen your pencil, and review the costs presented in this article before breaking ground!