It sure does mess up your day when you turn on the water in the morning and nothing happens. We were the recipients of that inconvenience this past weekend. The first thing that came to mind was, “Oh no, the pump has finally bit the dust”. As it turns out the problem was electrical in origin. However, even more frustrating than being without water was the fact that this problem could have been avoided, along with the expense and manual labor that followed. I’m telling you our story so that those of you whose new homes will be supplied by well water can easily sidestep the following scenario.
Step One: Determine the well water service problem. We were pleased that the well company could promptly respond to our call. Of course it was Saturday (translation – time and a half for labor). The well professional quickly determined the main electrical wire leading from the house to the well had given up the ghost and that it was not installed in a chase – also known as a conduit. There’s the rub. A chase (PCV pipe in our case) allows a new wire to be pulled through without unearthing the damaged one or burying a new one. I’m amazed that a chase wasn’t installed in the first place – seems like a no-brainer to me – but live and learn. Although the wire was rated for underground use (meaning a chase is not required), that definition is not synonymous with “it won’t give you problems down the road”.
Next, we had a choice. We could either pay the well guy some crazy amount per hour to dig a ditch in order to access the wire or we could do it ourselves. Keep in mind that code in our area requires the wire be buried two foot underground, so we’re talking some significant digging here. Guess what we did.
Step Two: Begin repairs. We decided that it would be best to have an entirely new wire installed in a chase instead of just patching the old one. The electrician would be there later in the afternoon providing us time to commence digging. As it turns out the water was finally restored to our home around 7pm that night. That was after my husband and I (mostly my husband) dug a two-foot deep ditch that turned out to be 38 feet long.
As you can see, the ditch was a straight shot from the house to the well. (The original wire took a 90 degree turn near the house and we never saw it again.) What a way to spend a Saturday. We’ve never been so grateful for sandy soil! A new wire was installed in a chase, eliminating ever having to go through this labor-intensive process again.
Step Three: Put the pieces back together. My husband spent Sunday morning putting the yard back together. Doesn’t look too bad, does it?
Yes, we put in some manual labor and forked over several hundred dollars but… let’s look on the bright side:
* A new pump would have cost a ton more than this electrical fix.
* The weather was beautiful.
* We have very sandy soil, not hard clay.
* We didn’t have a house full of people. Oh my, could you imagine!
* We weren’t planning to entertain and didn’t have any plans we had to cancel
* The two professionals we called were both able to respond with very short notice.
To avoid our experience, I suggest you get confirmation from the appropriate subcontractor that a chase will be installed. Also take pictures, or have your builder do so, with two goals in mind: 1) a record of the trench location and 2) visual confirmation of the chase installation.
As always, The Difference is in the Details.