Our Water Tower

My husband and I have recently moved up to our “future homestead” and will be living in our travel trailer as we are building our new home.  While our Architect and Engineer finish our house plans, and while the building department in our county reviews the plans before they give their approval, we are preparing our living arrangements so that we can live comfortably while we work.

One thing that needed to be done was to build a water tower.  Before the water tower was built, we would pump water from our well into a water storage tank that was sitting on the

This will be home sweet home while we build our new house. Solar panels run the lights, the TV, satellite receiver, fans and a CD/radio.

This will be home sweet home while we build our new house. Solar panels run the lights, the TV, satellite receiver, fans and a CD/radio.

ground, and with a few lengths of hoses, this delivered fresh water into our trailer.  It worked, but we just didn’t have much water pressure.  Sure, we could turn on the water pump in the trailer, but we are living off-grid and prefer to use our solar power for other things – like lights, fans, satellite TV receiver, flat screen television and a CD/radio. Contrary to what some people believe, living off grid is not living like Neanderthals!

It’s important to know that for every foot in elevation, you get almost half a pound of water pressure.  So, if the water source is 20 feet higher, you will have almost 10 pounds of pressure.  Most municipal water systems provide about 40-60 pounds of pressure.

Our main reason to have the higher pressure was to get a better shower.  Without the water pump on, and before the water tank was built, we used to have a trickle, not a shower! 😉  That was very unsatisfying after a hard day of work.

The first thing we had to do was purchase some lumber posts that were tall enough for the tower.  We were surprised to find that our local box store had 20 foot long posts that were 6 inches by 8 inches.  These came at a hefty price (a little over $100 each).  The 2 x 6 cross braces weren’t much cheaper because we chose to use treated lumber.

A water tower

This is some hefty lumber – and fairly expensive also!

I know, I know, treated lumber has poison in it and it will contaminate the ground.  We considered that, but tossed about the fact that our land is populated by millions (not exaggerating) of carpenter ants and probably more termites!  Do we build a very expensive water tower that will be eaten in a few years by six legged critters, or do we buy the treated lumber and enjoy the tower for at least 20 years?  Knowing that there were no food crops growing near the tower, the tower was at least 50 feet from our well, and our home was also going to be almost 50 feet away from the tower, we opted for the treated lumber.

Building a water tower

Deep holes were dug to pour a concrete foundation for each leg of the water tower.

The first thing to do was to dig the holes for a concrete foundation the water tower legs would rest upon, with room for more concrete to encase the legs.  The holes were dug fairly deep (more than 5 feet deep), rebar was pounded down into the holes at different angles to give even more stability, and almost three feet of concrete was poured into the holes.  Ray had to wait a couple of days for this concrete to set up before he could place the four legs of the water tower on top.  In the meantime, the first side of the tower was built on the ground.  It was much easier that way.  Dear hubby Ray set up a pulley system on one of the tall pine trees nearby, and used the quad motorcycle to pull the first side up into place on the poured concrete pads.  You can see in the picture below that he used both lag bolts and later some carriage bolts to build the tower.

How to build a water tower

Building the first two opposites sides on the ground first, then erecting them with a pulley system, was a bit scary, but it worked!

Once two opposite sides of the tower were up with each leg of the tower resting securely in the center of each concrete and rebar pad, Ray set about securing them together, again with the carriage bolts and some lag bolts.

building a water tower

Getting all four sides of the tower upright was an engineering feat! Have I told you my dear hubby can do just about anything? 🙂

After the four sides of the tower were secure, more concrete and rebar was poured around each leg.  You can see in the picture below that Ray built the concrete up like a volcano around each leg, to help with water run-off.  Once the tower has been in use for a few months and any settling has occurred, we will pour a 6 inch thick concrete pad under the entire tower, incorporating each leg, which will make it even stronger! water tower Iphone

The tower was now starting to look like an actual water tower!

how to build a water tower

4 x 4 treated lumber was used for the deck that the water storage tank will rest upon

The next task was to build a deck on the top of the tower to support the water storage tank. We decided to use treated redwood 4 x 4’s because the deck had to support a lot of weight!  The water storage tank holds 305 gallons. Did you know that a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds?  So, if my calculations are correct, the deck of the water tower has to hold at least 2,400 pounds!  Sheesh!

Once the deck was built, it was time to hoist the storage tank up. Easier said than done, and I honestly didn’t know how we were going to do that.  However, my dear hubby’s ingenuity rigging up hoists and pulleys eventually got the job completed!  I’ll tell you a secret…  that was really, really scary to watch!

How to build a water tower

I was so afraid that the rope would break or come undone.    Boy, that was scary!

Finally, the intake and outtake pipes had to be plumbed.  The fresh water coming from the well goes into the top bulkhead (hole) of the tank and the water going to the trailer comes out of the bottom bulkhead.  The pump in our well is a very versatile pump – we can run it on either batteries, a generator, or solar panels.  Right now we are using a generator because we have a few trees to cut down before the solar panels will work right.  Once the solar panels are operational, we have a sensor that Ray will install into the tank on top of the water tower.  The sensor will turn on the well pump when the water gets down to a certain level.  With this set-up, we will be able to have our water tank automatically kept full without us even having to think about it!

Now won’t that be cool?

No leaks!  Done!

No leaks! Another project done!

This was another project completed to make our lives easier while we build our new home. We can now have a nice hot shower after a long day of work!

I can’t wait to show you what else we have been doing!

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27 thoughts on “Our Water Tower

  1. I have to say this is the best do-it-yourself post I have read in quite a while. Thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating article. And I do hope all goes well with future efforts of building your new home.

    • Thank you for such kind comments, Toni! My husband did a great job, didn’t he? I am really enjoying the benefits of all his hard work with nice, hot showers! 🙂

    • Thanks, Ken. Ray pretty much did most of the work on the tower by himself. I was too nervous watching him climb to the top like a monkey to stick around for very long. Besides, I am not very good with heights, so I couldn’t be very much help! I can’t wait for you and Penny to see it!

  2. Love the water tower – well done 🙂 Unfortunately, concrete is necessary – sometimes, and this was one of those times.

    What capacity is your tank?

    • Three hundred gallons. We also have a 500 gallon tank and several 1,000 gallon tanks, but decided to use the 300 gallon tank because the smaller capacity means the water will be fresher! It’s only my dear hubby and I, so we don’t really use very much water. All of our gardens and the orchard use rainwater that we collect in the larger storage tanks, so we rarely need to use well water outside. Of course, if we find we need more capacity, we can always put the 500 gallon tank up there. Thank you for visiting, Dani!

  3. What a great project. We lived in a 5th wheel for 2 years while we built our homestead and this would have really helped. Now that we are in our house I still have such fond memories of living in our camper for so long. To this day my hubby says he misses it.

    • Hmmm… I will bet that your 5th wheel was a lot larger than our travel trailer! It seems our travel trailer shrinks a bit every day, and it isn’t even winter yet! 😉 Actually, it’s really not too bad, and we will be using our tool shed as a living room during the winter. We bought a small wood stove and will be using it to keep warm and to cook on. We are hoping it only takes two years to build the house, but we are starting to doubt that. Everything seems to take twice as long to accomplish than what we planned, and our architect and engineer have taken almost 6 months to get our plans done! So, unfortunately, we missed the building season this year. Oh well, there’s always next year!

  4. Wow! What a great idea…and one I’ve never thought we would need to do. Of course, we probably would need to though lol. And, I’m with you, I’d have been a bit afraid during the course of all this building and hoisting, but I’m so glad it worked out well and you all can finally have those nice hot *showers*! 🙂

    • Yes, hot showers are especially nice after a long day of work! Let me tell you, we get really dirty here! The water tower was almost completely my husband’s project – from it’s design right down to most of the assembly! He even ended up with a black eye when his wrench slipped once. But that didn’t even compare to the fright I got when he showed me the rattlesnake that had been hanging around the water tower! Of course, what’s an adventure without the memories – good and bad?

  5. This is awesome – this is actually what we plan to do when we move. Not building a house though actually plan to have a barn where we can park our RV indoors. I love this water tower, excellent idea. Going to start following think I can learn from your experiences. We have our trailer and need to find our land next. After that then it will be time to sell our small farm. So excited!

    • Thank you, Carol! I am so glad to have you on board. Our adventures have been so fun and rewarding! We have had a lot of success and a lot of failure, but nothing drastic or life changing – thank God! I hope your own journey is as fun and fulfilling as ours.

  6. That is amazing! I would have been a nervous wreck, but your husband did such a great job. All those ropes would have confused me! I hop eyour house building goes just as smoothly, I can’t wait to read all about it. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

    • He did a great job, didn’t he?! Building our new house is going to be quite an adventure, and we hope it goes smoothly also! Thanks for hosting!

  7. I haven’t ever commented, but follow your post to get ideas we are trying to go the same route but not quiet made up our minds about living on out land, we have bought acreage and have a 5th wheel camper on it and are building a cabin as of now, starting a lake this coming week, just don’t know if we can get all of this done before my husband retires. Thanks for your post they are so informative.

    • Good morning and thanks for your comment! I would love to hear more about your journey – please comment more often! We were rushed trying to get things done before Ray retired also. We didn’t finish everything we wanted to, but we found that once we were up here it was much easier to get things done. No more travelling back and forth, no more packing and unpacking, and we were able to prioritize and plan better when we could actually live on the land. I won’t sugar coat it, however. It’s been hard at times. In fact, right now, it’s raining ashes and the air is so thick with smoke my throat hurts and I am getting a headache. There is a forest fire just several miles away and so we are on constant alert. So our priorities have changed today. Today we are going to try to find the important things that we will need in case we need to evacuate. What we need more than anything is rain. And no lightening. Thanks for following us – hope to hear from you again soon!

  8. Very interesting. I am building half as high, but 10x heavier, as I am putting up a 3,000 gallon tank. And I live in the desert so not trees to work with. But I like the pics and am definitely getting some ideas. Thanks for the article.

    • 3000lbs? Maybe bury, below ground or above ground, the #3000 for storage. Use a solar powered pump for a #300 up a tower for pressure? If you have 120VAC skip the tower.

      • We are producing all our own power with solar panels (we are off-grid), and pumping water into the tower tank with a solar powered pump works well, why wouldn’t we? Being off-grid, we need to be mindful of the amount of power we are using. With the system we have, we can not only pump water while the sun is shining, but also recharge some batteries, which the pump can run off of during times of no sun. It’s a win, win situation! The height of the tower and the fact that it is elevated on the hill above us is what provides the needed water pressure. Also, so many people up where we live do not have solar water pumps, nor do they have towers, and must use gas or propane powered generators to pump water from a well. Not only are we avoiding burning these fossil fuels, we don’t have to listen to those noisy generators!

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