Sunday, September 25, 2022

Why is everything always so complicated?

First, our hot water tank went out.

Okay, we adapted. We've been heating water with the tea kettle for washing dishes, and taking showers in our outdoor shower.

Then we got the bright idea of upgrading our propane tank to a 500-gallon model, as we had in our last home. We wanted to install one last year, but there weren't any tanks that size available, so we settled for a 120-gallon size. However this year we were in luck. The propane folks will be here next week to install the larger tank.

Before they arrive, however, we needed to dig a shallow trench (12 inches deep) to lay the pipe. Don started digging by hand, which proved impossible except for a surface scar.

Not only is the ground still rock-hard after the long dry summer, but the ground is almost pure clay.

Instead, he used the subsoiler on the tractor, which is designed to break up soil.

So yesterday he easily got the trench dug, and he was feeling quite pleased ... until he learned the power to the well was out. Not the power to the house; just the well. Suddenly we had no water. He figures he must have snapped the electrical wire to the well while trenching, even though he felt nothing (no tug, etc.) and had set the subsoiler to only dig down 12 inches.

So he examined the trench minutely, trying to find the broken wire. And let me tell you, he was on his hands and knees looking for that broken wire, to no avail. If he did snap the wire, it means whoever laid the wires on this home must have laid the wire very shallow, and directly from the power pole. Normally wires are buried much deeper, and he was only trenching at 12 inches.

Now before anyone chastises us for not calling the power company in advance of digging, we tried. They will only locate underground lines between the power pole and the meter; and since our meter is ON the power pole, they won't look any further. Finding stuff that's underground is up to us. (And no, there's no regional company that specializes in locating underground lines. We've checked.)

That's one of the problems with moving into an existing home with a history of multiple short-term previous owners. Knowledge of where critical infrastructure is located (such as buried pipes, septic, wires, etc.) is long forgotten.

At any rate, we have no water. We're waiting to work with an electrician to dig a new trench and lay new wire to power the well. (And this, boys and girls, is why it's so necessary to store water. And yes, we have some stored.)

Sigh. Why is everything always so complicated?


  1. How awful! My house built in 1902 had similar problems since all the owners did as they pleased, died and left no records. But, thankfully, there were no buried wires. Do you have stored water?

  2. If the power is now off at the breaker, maybe try running the subsoiler parallel to the trench 5 feet either side. It's possible it will bring up the free broken wire end to the surface. Then you'll know better where to look and can splice in a new segment.

  3. My well pump died over the summer and I was without water for about a week. Some things worked well, but others didn't work at all. I had some stored, and I was able to haul in extra water from nearby friends. The standard guide of one gallon per day per person is nowhere near enough.

  4. We had half the outlets in our outbuilding suddenly stop working. My husband suspected a broken wire, and expected to pull the damaged one out of the conduit…then found that there was no conduit, the previous owner had just scratched about 6” deep and laid the wire in the dirt. The break was under a drive-through gate. In ripping the wire (slowly)out of the clay soil he encountered a large nest of ground wasps. Fortunately no one was seriously stung, but it stopped work for the day!

    We ended up renting a Ditch Witch to excavate to the correct depth and laid PVC pipe down, so the lines are now run correctly. Since we live in an unincorporated county area, there are no permits or inspections required when people undertake projects, which many residents prefer (don’t have to pay for those pesky permits and have someone telling you what to do.) It was certainly a learning experience for us!

    I hope you get everything back to normal soon, Patrice.

  5. Oh, no! Your soil looks like ours (despite completely different regions, states, and topography)! Our place was homesteaded in 1913. The big barn was built in 1930 and the house was DRAGGED (we found grass had been left in there to draw in moisture) - across the ground from the original place to the current foundation in 1978. We jacked up the whole east side to replace the rotted sill in 2012 - when we removed 5 layers of siding, insulated it, and repaired walls. That was to be a "simple" siding replacement. We also discovered that it was SET on the foundation - not actually bolted down. Fixed that. When my husband was alive we did some rewiring (no permit required then) and made some improvements and repairs after a lightning strike.

    While working on different projects we had the wire finding 'pros' out twice. They placed the same wire 10 feet apart depending on who was operating the detector. Another family member recently had to replace their septic tank, had the 'pros' out, made sure they were clear of the marked spot, and took out their own internet.

    Finally, the week before Labor day we had our 2 1000gal propane tanks lifted (they had settled) and a new poly hose run to the house as the copper line was deteriorating and would plug the regulator screen when the propane ran low and we needed to switch tanks. Our 'old' tank was free from friends who switched to NG service. (It used to cost $1/gal for a tank and now they are $2.50/gal for used and $5.00/gal for new, so I am going to have the gauge, blow tube, and safety replaced next time that old one is empty.) Our tanks are squeezed between a large tree, a fence, the house, and the septic tank. The 2 "pros" came out with their tank trailer (and a mostly dead battery on the lift). We got the job done, but it took 6 hours, 4 of us - my son and I worked too - both of our tractors, our chains, our clevises, our grinder and cutting wheel, our battery charger, and my plan on how to get one tank out, squeeze our big tractor into place the first tank so they could move the second back into the new spot.

    Yep - extra drill bits - and everything else, can sure come in handy! Also, having the 'pros' at your disposal does not necessarily guarantee easy success! Good luck to you!

  6. Is the pressure tank in the house? I did this exact same thing with my house and turns out all I hit was the sending wire that the pressure switch uses to turn the pump on. Still had to dig a trench to replace but at least it was cheaper wire.

  7. Is your pressure tank in the house? I did this exact same thing at my house and it turned out to be the wire that the pressure switch uses to signal the pump to turn on. Still had to dig a trench but it was much cheaper wire.

  8. not complicated.... just bumps in the road. things will smooth out.....sooner or (probably) later

  9. Have the same problem with the electric line run from the power pole to the well. Can't dig deep enough IN A FLOWER BED to put in bulbs unless very carefully because our electric line is about 3" deep. And it and the water line go under the driveway. Thankfully the water line is deeper and we don't have as long lasting cold here in MS.

    kathy in MS

  10. That reminds me of a severe cold snap here in the Dallas area. We had something like 2 weeks where it never got over 32 degrees F. The last few days there were thousands of water lines frozen because they were buried so shallow. Mine did not but we had a line in the kitchen near the north wall freeze. That was a pain.

  11. I had that problem with the septic tank at my cottage. One day, it stopped working, sewage backed up, etc. So the tank needed to be pumped. Just one problem. No one could find it. No one. People dug, people stuck long poles in the ground, two different companies whose entire raison d'etre was locating things underground--no one could find it. We flushed an electronic transmitter. It disappeared into some netherworld. In the end, we simply installed another septic tank, which was an expensive pain.

  12. I always run into the same kinda issues. Stuff been run all over for so many years. Especially when dealing with water as the times changed and required new stuff installed.

  13. If you know anyone with a metal detector you may be able to fine the wire that way.

  14. I feel like it's even worse with a country property because people just do things. Nine times out of ten, it's not done right.
    One of the farms we looked at before purchasing our current place had garden hoses run for the waterlines in the house. Not copper pipe, not pex, not even lead pipe. Frickin' garden hoses.
    Realtor took one look and said "I don't think you want this place". We agreed and left...

  15. Bend some wire coat hangers in a (L) shape, one end longer that the other, and try dowsing !! wires, water lines, pipes.. they will find it !

  16. Not if there's no power

  17. It seems to me, though the issues you face can be somewhat expensive, and definitely frustrating, that perhaps you are being allowed to find and fix them - before it is too late economy wise, to do so. We have a tankless water heater that died in October/November 2017. So we did as you - heating water to provide for bathing etc. We had to order and wait for the new tankless water heater which required a plumber to install so as not to void the warranty. 😏 We retrofitted our all electric manufactured house to use propane for cooking and water heating, and have never regretted that decision once in the past 16 years. The wood burning stove we had installed (again, "professionally" for house insurance reasons - though hubs would have done a better job) paid for itself the first year we used it. We do not run the central heating except in rare circumstances. Again, we are thankful being warmer and avoiding high electric bills. I don't think we could afford doing those things now with the way prices have blown up. I am glad you are able to get things in order Now. I empathize with you on the frustrating necessity of doing so. The other good thing is that you don't feel you will have to move to a hotel and eat out until you have hot water and running water to manage. Many people would do just that!

  18. Thought I would let you know IF you are acquainted with a person who is a verifiable dowser. Someone who has been trained in the classroom and the field. They can locate your broken electrical line for you.
    Which will save you from having to establish a totally new one on the property.

  19. Patrice, If you have an ACE hardware "nearby", check to see if they are connected to an outfit that can test your water for Iron, Arsenic, sulfite, nitrates, etc. Lots of places up here in the NW have HIGH iron content, and because of the volcanic history there is also lots of places that have HIGH arsenic content.

    We just had our well pump replaced by a very reputable outfit. They told us that the well pumps have an expected life of "approximately" 10 years. Ours lasted 15 years before dying. You might look into when your well pump was installed.

    If you have high iron or calcium in your water, your water heater will croak after a few years from accumulated deposits on the electrodes. You should "blow down" your water heater every 3 to 4 months depending on the concentrations of minerals in your water, especially IF you don't have a water treated.

    And, yes, everything craps out at the same time, especially out in the boonies, and with FULL Murphy.