When it rains...it pours (or not)


Saturday night, about 10:30, I suddenly had no water.
We checked things and saw that the bladder in our pressure tank had ruptured. This was surprising since we installed that tank a few years ago and the previous tank had lasted 20 years. So Sunday morning, hubby went to the store, bought a new pressure tank and spent the afternoon installing it.
Got it installed, everything hooked up and...still no water.
So first thing Monday morning, we call a well service company. They couldn't send anyone out until about 4:30pm. They did some checks and determined it was either the pump or the motor (or both) at the bottom of our well.
They came back Tuesday, had to drill down and, surprise surprise!!! Both the pump AND the motor had failed and needed to be replaced!!
We were told this isn't uncommon. Both parts have an average lifespan of 15-20 years and they were last replaced about 12 years ago. So they didn't last quite as long but still, not too far off. Still, the pressure tank was confusing.
They finish the well work around 6:30pm, hubby installs a new filter and...no water.
So we call Wednesday morning, they come out and...turns out when the previous owners put the house filtration system in, they were using the wrong filter, and we've been replacing the filters with the same kind.
What?!?!? Really??!?!???
So...turns out the pressure tank almost assuredly failed because of the filter putting undo strain on the system.
No way to know for sure if it caused the pump and motor failure as well, but they would have needed replacing in a few years anyway.
What an expensive (and exasperating) lesson! We've always done a vast majority of our home repairs. Sometimes, it really is worth it to hire the pros. Ugh.

Comments (16)
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ravencajun Zone 8b TX

Oh man what an ordeal! We have been through all of of the pump and motor related issues and the bladder to. That was when we were in Oklahoma and had our own well. We had great water though. I kinda wish we had our own well here. Sorry you had such a bad few days!

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Wait. No water from Sat thru Wed? Maybe camping with a stream nearby but I need water and electricity to function these days. Hats off to you...

I haven't had well water since I was a kid - and remember during storms the counter was covered with pitchers and containers. The pump was electric and if we didn't have power, we didn't have water

Even the family farm (house) is connected to a municipal water supply now, although the well was kept for garage, barn, garden.

I'm sorry for your expensive surprise. My dad (an engineer) could fix or construct just about anything and did. My DH, not so much...and I learned long ago the easier way out of a problem could be calling a service person ;0)

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BTDT. In the 25 years we lived In our house, DH replaced the well pump once. Not a bad average. But last fall, we thought it had gone again. DH was out of town, and suddenly I had no water. To make it worse, we had accepted an offer on our house. I had visions of the buyers running the other direction if they found out we had well problems. I suffered through a few days of no water, and when he finally got home, it turn out to be an electrical part on the controller. One trip to the store and it was a 15 minute fix. Whew!

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The bladder in our tank failed some time ago, so when we turn on a tap, the pump runs for a couple of seconds, building pressure, but as there is no air cushion to expand and contract with differences of pressure, it stops almost immediately, then starts and stops for a couple of seconds as long as the tap is open.

My landlord has an old formerly propane tank into which he installed a valve stem like in tires and fills it with air.

I can use it to blow some air into the tank so that it will provide a cushion, allowing the pump to run and stop for much longer periods, reducing wear on the mechanism.

When I was a child we had a water well with a hand pump in our yard and carried water in pails.

Just before World War II Dad had a well drilled with a pump and pressure tank, with no bladder and we had to use a hand-operated tire pump to push some air into that tank every few months, as the air under pressure dissolved into the water more quickly than under atmospheric pressure.

One of us kids' household chores.

ole joyful

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This was an interesting lesson for a City Girl. My grandmother fetched well water from a hand pump in the yard of her farmhouse in Rhode Island -- outdoor privvy there too, of course. (You better not let her catch you wasting water!)

I have never lived without good Lake Michigan water flowing at the touch of a faucet (or a toilet lever). I even take for granted that the pump on our water heater will deliver heated water to every hot water faucet in the house in 10 seconds or less. O! The luxury!

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Have lived with wells and septics 50 years. Well head even hit by lightning once!

when something goes wrong it’s all ways a worry.

either no water or no where for it to go!

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>They came back Tuesday, had to drill down and, surprise surprise!!! Both
the pump AND the motor had failed and needed to be replaced!!

I'm not surprised they declared they both needed to be replaced. I also would not be surprised to find out that one or the other, or both, hadn't actually failed.

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Even if only one failed you might as well replace them both while they were down there. We have public water in the house, but still use the old well for outside. My husband said if anything goes wrong with it we are not fixing it. Well, we'll see about that. I like the well.

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Elmer J Fudd

Except for simple things, DIY people rarely have the depth of know-how and experience that the pros have to diagnose and correctly fix problems. Or to build/install new things when some breadth of knowledge is needed. They too often mistakenly think they have all the knowledge necessary to do what needs to be done and the work winds up being wrong, causes more problems, or is done in a half-gassed way.

I understand when some small tasks need to be tried when money is limited. To a point. Some things are possibly too dangerous, too risky, or too important to screw around with. Many DIYers don't perceive or understate such potentials.

Truly smart and capable people are more aware of what they don't know, than of what they do know. And not just as it relates to the trades in the home.

bob, your skepticism about service providers is too bad. The solution is to find reputable ones, not DIY.

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I have always had well water, even when living in the city limits. I had to replace my well pump and tank in my garage and go to a submersible pump just over a year ago. My son and two of my sons in law did the work for me. My family is quite capable of taking care of a lot of things.


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I thank all of you for listening, commiserating and sharing.

Chisue- Where I live, well water is VASTLY superior to the public water supply. People outside of town have only well as an option and, 99.9% of the time, it is not a problem.

I don't personally have to worry about power going out as we also own and keep charged a backup generator large enough to power our well and also our necessary appliances (HVAC, fridges, etc).

Elmer- I don't disagree with you. We are NOT your average DIYers though. We have previously built from the ground up as well as remodeled numerous times, pulling all the permits for ourselves AND passing the required inspections afterwards.

We successfully replaced the pressure tank, switch and gauge ourselves.

We did NOT have the extensive knowledge required to know that the FILTER (really?!?!? the filter???!?!?!?) for the house filtration system was the wrong kind but...how many people would normally call a professional to replace a filter?!?? Especially one that was already in place that you have simply replaced over time on the normal prescribed routine maintenance?

An annoying but expensive lesson. I KNOW when to call a pro, which is why we called them.

Our previous home was remodeled by a less than competent DIYer who had the audacity to sign his name (Bob Calhoun) on a hidden section of wall that we uncovered during that remodel.

Either that or someone who didn't like him wrote his name down to make fun of him. I'm not sure. All I do know was that after finding his name, every problem we came across in that house we attributed to the "Calhoun Curse".

Guess we need to come up with a "curse name" for this house!! Lolol

Joyfulfuy- I also prefer to save money anywhere possible but...you've been with a broken pressure tank for how long?? I admire you and your landlords ability to adapt and overcome but...you really shouldn't have to put up with THAT level of headache. Not for a 400 dollar part.

Your landlord shouldn't be accepting and expecting you to go through these numerous steps just to get water. It's WATER!! This is 2020, not 1920.

I don't care if you grew up with a sketchy water supply, there is no reason that should be acceptable today.

I hope you will speak to your landlord about the broken pressure tank.

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When it comes to pulling a well pump, you need to have proper equipment. That's why it pays to call the pro unless you are fully prepared and know what to do. A typical well pipe is 20 ft long, so if you have an 80 ft well, there will be at least 4 lengths of pipe screwed together. One of the worst things that can happen is to pull up one length of pipe, unscrew it, and drop the rest. Now, you have a pump jammed at the bottom of the well and the remaining pipe is 20 ft down in the well. If you do not have a grabber tool to fish around and retrieve that pipe stub 20 ft down, you are in a mess!

There are subdivisions around my location that have 175 ft deep wells. Now, that is a heavy piece of piping to lift.

Glad to hear that you have water again. After being without a couple of days makes one appreciate it more.

When I was a kid down on a farm, one year a drought hit. First, the cistern was depleted and then we panicked when the well started to go dry. A river was only 1/4 mile distant from the house. We hauled water in barrels on a wagon for our livestock and reserved what little water we could get from the well for our drinking and cooking purposes. We were on edge because the river flow was down to a trickle and its quality was questionable, but were forced to feed it to the livestock since there was no other water. That was long ago and I do not wish to live through that again. That experience made me hesitate when considering Arizona for retirement.

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> bob, your skepticism about service providers is too bad. The solution is to find reputable ones, not DIY.

My skepticism is well-found based on experience. It is a simply truth that about half of the practitioners of any given endeavor are in the bottom half in terms of skills and knowledge within that field, but many such fields involve enough specialized knowledge which is hard for "laypeople" to gauge that it is easy for unscrupulous (or even simply not very bright) practitioners to BS their way through and make a reasonable living and even to earn a good reputation from customers.

The company TexasGem used may be good and knowledgeable, or maybe they simply know how to install one particular brand of pump and pump motor into an existing well. In that case every single time they are called, they will declare you need a new pump and pump motor, and do the one thing they know, install a new pump and pump motor, and lo and behold the water works. The customer grumbles at the bill for about thousand dollars, but is happy that the water is working, never knowing that perhaps had the hypothetical not-very-knowledgeable contractor had been more skilled, he may have been able to determine that the issue was a failed valve, or a faulty seal or a loose connection or some other simple, inexpensive fix.

Admittedly diagnosing what is wrong is hard, and potentially time consuming (and therefore expensive), and includes the possibility of being wrong. Even if the hypothetical contractor is absolutely top notch, and is able to pinpoint the problem, as say a blown seal on the pump, that pump may no longer be manufactured and the parts may no longer be available or maybe the manufacturer still exists, but prices individual parts such that it is as expensive to repair as it would be to replace. And if that then means a new pump is required, the pump manufacturer may decline to warranty the pump unless it is it is installed with a new pump motor. So perhaps the most skilled, most honest contractor would have ended making the same recommendation and doing the same work and charging about the same price, but that still doesn't mean that both pump and pump motor needed to be replaced, it may have only needed a $5 part, but there is no way you, or I , or Texas Gem will even know.

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Elmer J Fudd

" It is a simply truth that about half of the practitioners of any given endeavor are in the bottom half "

No, that's not a truth, that's a definition. That's the definition of median, half of the population is above the value and half is below. Median in many populations is close to the average and so there it is. You've used a tautology.

In your work, do you not have complex problems to address where the source of the problem is unclear and so the solution may be hard to identify? Is that someone's fault, do people grouse at you when the first thing you try (when cause is uncertain) doesn't work? I had a car problem that took me to a dealership's service department this week. It was covered by a warranty so there wan't an issue of make work or try to appear knowledgeable when ignorant, they wanted to fix it ASAP. But, "It could be one of about 5 things, we have to eliminate them one at at time". They did and found the cause needing a fix. Should they have been able to guess which it was?

Yeah, there are clueless tradespeople who, failing an understanding of what a problem's cause is or how to diagnose it, will replace a part or "at least do something" hoping their blind shot in the dark may work. Far more DIYers do the same thing.

There are capable people around in most areas for most trades, though perhaps not in rural areas or small towns. They're usually not that hard to find.

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As per usual someone has disagreed with you and you spring to attack.

> You've used a tautology.

Duh. What truth could be more simple than one which is universally true -- by definition -- irrespective of preconditions or exceptions?

Furthermore in your attack you demonstrated that you didn't even fully understand the contents of the post that you viewed as disagreeing with you.

If the tradesperson was barely competent they may have recommended replacing both pump and pump motor, simply because that's all they know how to do. However even if the tradesperson were the absolute best anywhere, they still may make the same recommendation for various non-nefarious reasons, even if the pump and/or motor could have been repaired and reinstalled. Since they charge for their labor the cost for installing a 5 dollar part would still be significant, and even if the fix made them last for the remainder of their expected lifetime, they may well need replacing in as little as three years, plus the diagnosis work that might be necessary to determine that it is only requires a 5 dollar part may take enough hours of labor that the cost of removing the pump and motor, and diagnosing the problem, and ordering the 5 dollar part, and installing it, and reinstalling the repaired pump and motor might easily equal or exceed the cost of installing new units. Or as I said even if only one of the components were bad they may still recommend replacing both for the same reason of labor costs, or because of manufacturer warranty considerations.

So irrespective of the tradesperson's skill level, or honesty level the recommendation might have been the same -- replace the pump and pump motor -- but even given that I still wouldn't be surprised to learn that one or both of them hadn't in fact really failed.


Years ago we had a well issue where the pipe between the well and the house had started leaking, a simple fix (a backflow prevention valve in the house) worked well as a temporary fix for several years, but as time wore on it needed to be properly fixed. Rather than try to find the location of the leak, which was beneath the roots of a largish tree, and repair that one leak, the well people said given that there was one leak there might be more than one leak -- if not now then perhaps soon, and that the digging might damage or perhaps kill the tree. So based on their recommendation I had them install an entirely new pipe following a different route.

After that work was finished the water worked, and everything was fine. Until the first rain when the water would come out of the faucet tinged orangey-red, the color of the local clay soil. I called and complained. they denied any responsibility, I countered that it had never occurred before, even in Hurricane Irene's 10 inches of rain, but now after the worked on the system it was occurring, regularly, therefore they must have been at fault.

Grudgingly they agreed to return and investigate, and change the well head from the older cement-pit style to the newer capped PVC pipe wellhead, even though they didn't think that would be of any benefit. In that process they discovered that when the well was originally installed, the installers hadn't sealed the outside of the well casing, and consequentially surface water was seeping/pouring down the outside of the well casing, and entering/contaminating the well. So it turns out that their work installing the new pipe didn't cause the well-problem, it was merely that the disturbed soil caused the existing problem to be more noticeably evident.

They "grouted" the well (AKA sealed the outside of the well casing) which was a significant material charge due to how much was needed and after that the orangy-red water problem never re-occurred.

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Elmer J Fudd

"Duh. What truth could be more simple than one which is universally true"

The Duh goes to you, my friend. A definition is simply what a term means.

What you said was akin to this--

Income levels have been creeping up in my county, the median family income is now $55000 (the amount doesn't matter). But, my sense is, half of the people in this county make less than that.

Yeah, DUH.

You said half of X is in the bottom half. Of course. And half is in the top half. Because that's how math works.

If you don't understand, fine.

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