How deep is my well?
Q: How can I figure out how deep my water well is? I have to get a new water pump but the supplier wants to know how far down below ground level the water is.
A: When it comes to water wells, there are two important dimensions involved. One is the total depth of the drilled or dug hole in the ground, and the other is the distance of the water below the surface of the ground when no water is being removed from the well. This second number is the most important for choosing a new pump and it’s called the static water depth. I’ve used a laser distance measuring tool aimed down the well to determine water level, but this only works when the water is no more than about 30 feet below the surface. Deeper than that and it’s hard to hit the water with the laser beam.
The simplest and most reliable way to measure static water level involves nothing more than a weight on a string. Any kind of weight that can be tied securely to a strong string will work. It’s surprising how easily you can hear the sound of the weight encountering the water as it’s lowered, even in a deep well. Tie a knot in the string at ground level when you hear water splash from the weight, then pull up the string and measure the length to the knot.
Solving cold room moisture problems
Q: What can my son do to make the cold room underneath the front steps of his house free of ice and moisture? There are currently water droplets on the ceiling and last winter there was lots of frost on the upper walls. The water pipes that run through the cold room sometimes freeze in winter, too. Would some kind of vapour barrier on the inside walls help?
A: Moisture and frost problems with under-the-steps cold rooms are very common and the reason is lack of soil to protect the ceiling and upper walls. This is why typical cold rooms get too cold in winter and too warm in summer. The solution is to add some kind of insulation to the underside of the ceiling and that part of the walls that extend down to 12 inches below ground level. Closed-cell spray foam insulation will do the job, and so will sheets of extruded polystyrene foam with edges sealed to prevent indoor air from getting behind the foam. Don’t use the white beady type of insulation because condensation will form behind it. Also, you don’t want to insulate the cold room too far down because that would stop the cooling action of the soil from lowering temperatures in the summer. Download detailed plans for upgrading a typical cold room at baileylineroad.com/cold-room-fix.
Killing basement mould
Q: Do I need to clean a mouldy area in my basement before killing the mould? The growth is only a couple of feet high in one corner and I plan to use Concrobium.
A: You can treat the mouldy area without cleaning the stains off first as long as the area is dry. Concrobium needs to be able to dry out after application to kill mould and mould spores. It kills by mechanically crushing mould organisms on a microscopic level. This is how it can work without being toxic to people. After killing the mould cleaning of the stains is optional but it’s a good idea. With clean walls you can easily see if the mould is coming back later. If you do see it, kill and clean again, then coat the wall with waterproof paint. Xypex or Drylok are two brands that I know work well.
Steve Maxwell is a syndicated home improvement and woodworking columnist who has shared his DIY tips, how-to videos and product reviews since 1988.