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Keep checking the water pressure and volume from the faucet and check the pressure gauge during the well system test. Record the highs and lows on the well pressure gauge. The well pressure should remain within a 20 psi differential during and after the test. This simply means that the high and low pressure gauge reading shouldn't be over a 20 psi difference. Most well systems operate between 30-50 psi and 40-60 psi. Therefore, the mid-system pressure reading during the test should be either 40 pounds per square inch for a system that operates between 30-50 psi or 50 pounds per square inch for a system that operates between 40-60 psi. The reading will depend upon the normal operating range of that particular well system. Sometimes it's difficult to decide what the normal psi range is for a particular well system. But that's why you check the static pressure, to try to determine the range before you start the testing.

Check to see if there's an operating emergency shutoff switch for the well pump. It's usually located near the water storage tank and its operation is similar to that of a boiler or furnace shutoff switch.

Real Estate Advice Education House Inspection Appraisal Home Improvement Renovation  Check to find out if there's a water filter installed on the system. I even recommend that the client use water filters when their house is connected to the city water system. Water filters are highly recommended for health reasons, especially with all of the pollutants going into the water supply these days. Check the color of the filter if there's a see-thru casing. The filters need to be replaced according to the owners manual and whenever they appear dirty. There are two kinds of water filters:

  • Point of Entry filters that are installed at the beginning of the house water main pipe.

  • Point of Use filters that are installed at the faucets, usually the kitchen faucet.

You can't evaluate water filter systems during a home inspection because of the laboratory water analysis that would be needed. I highly recommend to clients that they have a water sample taken and analyzed at a local laboratory whenever the house has a well or possible lead plumbing lines. Check the phone book for a licensed water analysis laboratory in your area. Water analysis can be for bacteria, mineral, metal and radon content in the water supply.

Often there are water softener systems installed with a house supplied by well water. Water Softeners are shaped like large scuba tanks or garbage cans. The softener equipment is usually located next to the lower level well components. They're generally made of plastic or fiberglass. They have salt, called brine, inside them that's used to help control the mineral content of the water. Softeners take the hardness out and raise the sodium level of the water to keep the proper chemical balance. "Hard " water has high mineral content."Soft" water has low mineral content. Water that's too high or too low in minerals can corrode and clog the plumbing lines. If the water has too many minerals, it'll clog he interior of the pipes over time. If the water is too low in minerals it can't balance the acid that's naturally in water and this will deteriorate he pipes. Your water's acidity or alkalinity (often measured as pH) greatly affects corrosion. Temperature and mineral content also affect how corrosive it is. If you're wondering about the strength of water to deteriorate and dissolve pipes then you may not be aware that liquid water dissolves just about anything. Water is probably the best solvent in the universe according to scientists who say that everything is soluble in water to some degree. Even gold is somewhat soluble in seawater. (Before you get any ideas about extracting gold from the oceans, scientists say that the value of dissolved gold in a metric ton of seawater comes to about $0.0000004).

Water softeners should go through "backwash" cycles every few days. This rejuvenates the minerals in the softener with the brine. You can't evaluate water softener systems during a home inspection. They can't be evaluated because of the laboratory water analysis and specialized equipment and training that would be needed. Just take a look at the equipment to determine the general condition. If there's excessive rust or signs of aging, tell the client to have a well contractor evaluate the softener system.

Try to determine where the well is located on the site. Ask the owner or Realtor about this in the preinspection questions. On the exterior of the house you should see the top of the well shaft head protruding out of the ground by about one foot. If you don't see the top of the well shaft, there is a chance it's a buried well head. Buried well heads are no longer allowed to be installed in many areas. The reason for this is that buried well heads are more prone to contamination and venting problems. The pits for these well heads act like a catch basin and allow contaminants into the well shaft. This leads to unsanitary problems in the house water supply. So warn your client about buried well heads if you don't see the top of the well shaft on the site.

Real Estate Advice Education House Inspection Appraisal Home Improvement Renovation  The local building and health codes regulate where a well can be drilled for safety. Wells should be drilled at least 25 feet from the house foundation and 50 feet away from a septic tank. The well should be at least 100 feet away from the septic fields or any underground fuel tanks. These distances are the minimum recommendations to help prevent well water contamination from termite chemical treatments of the house, the septic sewage, and from leaking oil tanks. Some local health and building codes don't allow termite treatments to houses that have well water systems. This leaves the homeowner in a serious predicament. They can't use the in-ground chemicals to get rid of the termites because the town doesn't want any potential well water contamination. Tell your client to talk with some local exterminators about this prior to closing.

Home owners should not have decks or patios built over a well head by the house. At the same time, well shafts inside the lower level of a home should not be installed either. The reason for this is that a well contractor has to be able to get the drill rig machinery over the well shaft to make repairs. When the well pump needs replacing, if repairs are needed, or if the well has to be dug deeper, there's no way for the contractor to do it without the well rig equipment.  Sometimes a builder will have the well drilled before the construction of the house. During this time the area over the future basement or crawl space is open for the use of well drilling rigs. If the well head ends up being located in the basement or crawl space of the finished home, then the contractor can't get their rig equipment inside. The only option for a homeowner in this situation would be to have a new well drilled on the site where there is open space above the shaft.

Recommend that the client check with the local building and health departments about the well. The client needs to confirm that the well meets all local codes and they should obtain the plot plan for the well. A plot plan is a diagram of the site that should show where the well is located and how deep it is.

Real Estate Advice Education House Inspection Appraisal Home Improvement Renovation  Sometimes you'll inspect a house that originally had a well water supply but was later hooked up to the city water pipes. Any unused wells must be professionally sealed according to the local building and health codes. A small child could fall down an open well shaft. Also, if any contaminants traveled down an open well shaft, they would get into the groundwater. This could contaminate the well water supply of the neighboring properties. The homeowner of the unused well could be held liable for the damages to the neighbors well water.

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