Buying a lake cabin – what to know about wells?

What you should know about wells.

water-drop-384649_640When you’re shopping for a home or cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin, you should know about the two main types of wells.  If you do, you’ll be able to make a better, more informed buying decision.  Here’s a quick overview.

The first type is called a drilled well.  These wells are drilled deeper, and they’re a larger diameter.  They usually have a submersible pump.  These wells are more reliable and more efficient; they also yield a larger volume of water.  The water from these wells usually tastes better, too.

The second type is called a driven well.  Sometimes it’s also called a “driven point” or a sand point well.  As the name suggests, these wells are “driven” into the ground; using a special tool, they’re pounded right in.  At the end of the 1 ¼” or 2” pipe, there’s a special pointed wellhead with screened perforations on the side of it.  This “drive point” is usually 2 to 3 feet long.  Although some driven wells are as deep as 100’, most are less than 20’ deep.

These wells are easiest to drive into soft, sandy soil; because sand is more permeable, that’s also where they work best.  They’re also a better option if the water table isn’t very far underground.  Soft, sandy soil is no guarantee the job will be easy; if you hit even one large rock, you’ll need to start over.

Depending on the soil, the level of the water table, and the precise location of the wellhead, you may or may not get a good flow rate.  Over time, these wells can also become clogged with silt; that reduces the flow rate and the “recharge rate” even further.  You can try various backflushing techniques, but you’ll probably need to drill a new well nearby.

Despite these disadvantages, sand point wells are fairly common.  That’s probably because they’re much less expensive than drilled wells.  If you’re ambitious, you can try digging one yourself during a long weekend at the cabin.  (If you decide to give it a try, do it right.  For better results and safer water, see the Wisconsin DNR’s website to learn more.  Just go to their home page and search for DRIVEN POINT WELLS or SAND POINT WELLS.)

I see these wells most often in older cabins and lake homes.  For a cabin that’s only used occasionally use, they’re fine.  Even for a year-round home that’s only occupied by a couple or a small family, they can be perfectly OK.  Still, a deeper drilled well is always a better option.

My advice?  If you find a cabin or lake home that you love, don’t necessarily cross it off your list because it has a driven well.  Just be aware that you may need a new well some day.  And when the time comes, you’re probably better off investing in a drilled well.

Visit the Wisconsin DNR for information for homeowners with private wells.

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