Things to know before you drill a well

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BDN File Photo

Accessing your own water via a well is sometimes necessary, sometimes preferred. But creating a well is not as easy as digging until you locate water and then installing a pump. Here’s what you should know before you drill a well.

First, location matters. You don’t want to dig a well near waste-related systems on your property. “Establish where the leach field and septic tank are on the property. They need to be a certain distance away from the well to protect your drinking water,” Sharon White, office manager at Sunco Pump and Well Drilling Inc. in Sabattus, Maine, said.

Then, consider who will drill the well. It’s not recommended to do-it-yourself for this project since you can’t determine water quality without special knowledge and equipment. Reputable well drilling companies have the equipment, experience and knowledge to assess the water quality for a well site, and the best location on your property for a well, White said.

The good news is there are benefits to having a well. “Well water tends to be better,” White said. “It’s only your source of water, and you don’t have to pay a town bill to use the water. A well also increases the resale value of your home.”

Now, what kind of well do you need?

Types of Wells

A covered dug well in Fredericksburg, Virginia. | Photo by Mary Jo Farthing

Dug Well

There are three main types of wells, said Roger Skillings, a certified well driller and pump installer, president of Skillings and Sons Inc., which has locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. “A dug well, which is usually eight to 14 feet deep, dug with a backhoe.” They are best for sand and gravel, and dependent on the surrounding water table.

“Dug wells are influenced by the water table. If the area around the dug well has a horse corral, there’s a chance you’ll get run off,” Skillings said. A dug well works best in an area away from roads and livestock, Skillings said.

Screen Well

A wash well, or a screen well, as it can also be called, is usually 10 to 25 feet deep, Skillings said. They’re generally 1¼ to 2 inches in diameter, and dependent on sand and gravel for the drilling installation process. The sand and gravel filter the water, creating a permeable access layer to the water table. You would only need a screen well if the terrain around your well had small particles deep underground.

A screen well has the best quality water of the three wells, because the water is sucked through a screen with the pump, Skillings said. He also added these kinds of wells typically have less issues than the rest.


Drilled Well

A drilled well, or artesian well, as it is also known, is drilled deep underground, Skillings said. This type of well is best used with ledgerock, or bedrock.

A submersible pump is added at the bottom to pump the water out. “If the bedrock has low iron and mineral levels, it’s a dependable water source,” Skillings said.  

Which well is right for you?

There are several considerations you should mull when choosing the right type of well for your property. Among them is soil type, which makes some wells better than others, Skillings said. Proximity to roads and livestock should also be a consideration.

Experts suggest that the deeper drilled well is superior to the dug well.

“A dug well can get you by, but you never know when it will dry up. They’re only generally between 15 and 20 feet deep, so that doesn’t leave a lot of reserve water,” White said.

Dug wells only reach the top of the water table, which makes them dependent on the height of the water’s surface; they can become unreliable, or even dry up if the water table’s level fluctuates too much.

Once your well is drilled

So the well is there, now what? Before you start using that water, you need to ensure it is safe for consumption. White recommends a basic water test of your well before you use the water, “including arsenic and radon,” especially before drinking, she said.

Also, it’s essential to keep good records on the well installation and maintenance. The one drawback to having a well is there can be no warning when something goes wrong, White said. The pump and tank system can last up to 30 years, but once the system dies, that’s it.

“If you notice a pressure difference, or if the water acts different, let someone know. That could be a sign there’s an issue,” White said.

If you have any problems with your well, Skillings recommends talking with the well driller. “A professional is the best person to talk to,” Skillings said.


9 comments
  1. John O'Donnell says

    One of the biggest advantages of having your own well is that you can enjoy fluoridated-free water without having to buy it. Fluoridated water from municipal systems is nothing more than mass poisoning.

  2. Bree Ward says

    My father is planning to dig and build a drilled well in our old house located in the countryside because there has been a water shortage for the past few months. The caretaker is complaining about the lack of water sources. You’ve said that drilled well is best used with bedrock. I’m gonna advise my father about this so that he will include bedrocks when they start the drilling process.

  3. Erika Brady says

    I like that you mention how it’s important to consider the type of soil you have and how close it is to roads or livestock when determining the right kind of well to get. When choosing, it might be best to consult a local well drilling service. This could give you the opportunity to discuss the soil, proximity to roads, and other factors so you can get their help with determining the right type to get and ensure it’s drilled correctly.

  4. Angela Waterford says

    Wow, I didn’t know that there are different types of wells. I think I will have a contractor drill a well for me so that I will have access to water. Since location matters, I’ll make sure they drill in an area that’s near my home.

  5. Ellie Davis says

    I liked that you mentioned you need to drill your well far from a septic tank to protect your drinking water. We are thinking about installing a water well for our winter home, and we are looking for options. As you mentioned, we need to contact a professional well drilling company to help us make the right decision for our water well.

  6. Derek McDoogle says

    I’ve heard that some communities still using wells for water consumption. I like that you pointed out the different well types such as drilled, dug, and screen wells. Thanks for the information about how the pump and tank system can last up to 30 years.

  7. Jane Burt says

    Thank you for explaining how a drilled well is drilled into bedrock to be able to pump water out of the deep ground. I am wanting to get a well for water at our house and we have bedrock around our home. Maybe we will look into getting a drilled well.

  8. Tyson Coolidge says

    It’s cool that drilled wells are best used with ledgerock or bedrock. My wife and I would like to get a well installed so that we can save some money. We’ll be sure to look further into our options for getting one drilled in the future.

  9. rachel frampton says

    My mother has been meaning to have a well at her backyard. Thank you for this; we’ll keep in mind to have a deeper well made so it wouldn’t dry up easily. I hope we’ll be able to find an excellent drilling service in Dunlap so this project could be started before Christmas.

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