Water – Digging

There was quite a bit of digging (manual and machine) involved in our water infrastructures. I can point out for distinct efforts: (1) a cement box for the pump; (2) a cement box for main supply valves; (3) a long trench for a water pipe and electricity; (4) getting water in and out of the house.

Pump Box

Having decided to go with a surface pump we needed to create a freeze-proof space next to the well to install the pump. I suppose it’s possible to build some insulated box above surface but the recommended solution is an underground cement box. I started digging this hole by hand before we moved out and it was loads of difficult physical work.

In this image, taken while the well was being prepared for cleaning, you can see the hole in progress.

When this dig was completed there was a hole over 1 meter deep and 1 meter square in the ground. It needs to be large enough to accommodate the pump itself, some plumbing and a person who can move around inside for installation and maintenance work. In the image you can see the hole into the well and the beginning of an exit trench towards which the main water supply pipe will be installed.

A few small tips and things I would have done differently:

  • Make the hole into well in line with where the pump will be installed so that the pipe from the well does need to bend (beyond coming out of the well).
  • Do not begin the ditch for the pipe before completing the cement box. The earth walls form the outer form for the cement box. By starting the ditch I complicated the form work since a part of the earth was missing.

The inner forms for the cement box were built outside

… and then lowered into the hole in the ground followed by rebar to give the cement walls structural integrity.

Here you can see the layers of the inner form-work, the concrete rebar, and the outer earth.

The cement was poured in (mixed in an electric mixer and carried over in a  wheelbarrow) and when the forms came off we had a nice box.

Complete with holes fitted with 10cm PVC pipe into which smaller feed pipes will be fitted later.

And then immediately work began on the box cover. A wooden frame was created at the top of the box.

On  that frame they laid down a wooden “floor” (if I remember correctly they also put in some posts inside the box to further support the “floor” form). Then added some more rebar. On top of the rebar they added a manhole cover (which is supported on another partial wooden frame and ultimately set in the concrete) and an outside form to contain the poured cement.

Our concrete mix was a bit thin because we did not have gravel on-site and there wasn’t enough justification to bring in a truck load (even a small one). We did however have a large pile of sand with very small rocks in it leftover from the concrete floor that was placed inside the house. This meant that we needed more cement in the mix (gravel provides much of the volume in typical cement mixes).

The whole thing is supposed to be setup with a slight slope to the side and back (away from the well itself) to drain water away … I am not convinced that they put in enough slope.

And this what the result at the end of the concrete work.

A few days later (during which we watered the concrete numerous times) they came and hacked through the manhole opening with a chainsaw and pulled out the remaining forms.

The floor of the box remained pack-dirt so that excess moisture could soak away. Inside the floor they dug a hole 30cm deep which served as a foundation for a small concrete platform (~15 cm high above ground) upon which the pump itself would be installed.

Then came another precious lesson about working with professional, especially Romanian professionals. The pump is anchored with anchor bolts (bolts that are set in the concrete). I had already given some thought about how to place those bolts precisely enough for the pump base (which has very little tolerance). The solution I came up with was to comfortably (outside the cramped space of the concrete box) create a simple wooden template which would mark correct placement of the screws. Then the screws would be attached to the template, leaving as much as needed sticking out and the template would be placed in the concrete.

Still sounds like a good plan to me but they didn’t think so and I (through Andreea’s translation) was not demanding enough. So they did it “professional Romanian” style. They carried the pump out to the well and measured the distance between the screw holes and “copied” those measurements to the fresh concrete.

It was particularly disconcerting when, after rough measurement they placed the anchor bolts in place and jiggled them around a bit to get them to set well in the concrete.

When I came to install the pump I could just barely get two of the screw-holes onto the anchored screws. Of course it didn’t fit – why should it? Luck? By then the professionasl were already paid and too busy to come back and fix their work (hold on to your money in Romania until work is completed to your satisfaction) so I finally had to purchase a disc cutter (which has been an extremely useful tool, much more then I expected it to be) and cut the existing bolts, purchased bolts that could be drilled in (rather then set in the fresh concrete), drill holes for new ones and cut the new ones to size

Note: if you want to be able to get a nut onto the bolt you better cut it straight and level … not a trivial thing to do crouched in a confined space in the ground. I definitely paid for their stupidity – but as always I got a precious lesson in return.

Trenches

We hired a local excavator to dig an ~80 meter long and 110 cm deep (well below the freeze-depth of about 80 cm) trench then went from the pump-box to the back of the house where eventually a pipe entered the house. The dig started from behind the house.

Down towards the road

… and then across it

and across to the well-box

Not long after that a 32mm HDPE pipe and a protected electric cable were laid in the ditch which, for the most part, was quickly backfilled.

A protection measure can be taken for the pipe and cable  – and that is to place them over and cover them with a layer of builders sand which is better draining and also acts as a cushion against the heavy and expansive clay soil. We didn’t do this mostly due to costs – we would have needed another truck load of sand and would have to pay for more excavation time (for lining the trench with sand before laying the cable and pipe and then covering them with another layer before backfilling the trench).

 Junction Box

A second concrete box was excavated and built to house both a main filter and a junction point from which the water supply could be split to numerous destinations (including the house, a future connection to the summer kitchen, a future new house and an outside water supply in the area surrounding the house). This time, and in a matter of minutes, the tractor completed the excavation and the concrete construction process was repeated a second time.

Stay tuned for a closer look at the actual pump installation, plumbing and electricity.

 

 

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