An Emergency Hand Pump For A Well, by C.P.

After looking at various sources for deep well hand pumps for use in an emergency and noting that the price (some being over $1,000) was out of line for me, I decided to make my own unit. My static water level is about 65 feet, yet I was able to construct a workable unit using schedule 40 PVC plastic that cost me about $80. It’s amazingly easy to build and will pump a five-gallon bucket of water in about three minutes. So, if you decide to make one, here’s how I did it.

Your well casing should be 5” or more, or you may not be able to get past the pitless adapter with the pipe. I recommend disconnecting the electrical source to the pump by tripping the breaker before continuing.

Take off the well cap to find how far it is from there to the water level below. (This is the static level; see the note below.) If it’s no more than 70 feet, then this pump will work for you. Beyond that, it may work for another 10 feet or so, but more effort is needed to obtain water when you pump.

Using a flash light, look at the pitless adapter, which is a few feet down. You will need to determine if you can get a 1¼-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe, with a coupling and foot valve on the end, past the adapter. Just use an eight foot piece of the PVC with a male threaded coupling glued on the end to which you will attach a brass foot valve. You will need to file or grind off the hex nuts on the coupling. If it goes past the adapter, you’re on your way.

Next, you will need to bore, or drill, a hole in the well casing cap for the pipe to go through. Hold a short piece of the 1¼-inch pipe on the cap where you want the hole to be. (It should be above where the pipe will pass the pitless adapter.) Then, scribe a line around that. Remove just to the line. We do not want a coupling to pass through this hole; only the pipe! Check that the piece of 1¼-inch pipe will just go through the hole. A pipe coupling will sit on top of the well cap and hold the entire unit in place when installed, which is why the hole has to be accurate.

When installed the foot valve should be submerged about six feet in the water, so you will need enough 1¼-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe for that length, plus the static level of the water, plus about four feet extra. For example, if your static level is 50 feet, you will need to purchase 50 + 6 + 4 feet of schedule 40 PVC pipe. I used 10 foot sections of pipe, and that worked well. Get the same amount of ¾-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe, which will form the piston. Figure how many couplings you’ll need for each size of pipe, and buy extra ones in case you need them.

I sanitized each piece by putting the foot valve, all couplings, T’s, and elbows in a bucket of bleach solution, and soaking them for awhile. Then, I placed them on a clean towel to dry and covered them until they were needed. The inside of the 1¼-inch pipe and the outside of the ¾-inch will be sanitized after installation, as I will explain later.

For your layout, place the piece of 1¼-inch pipe (with the foot valve attached) near the well casing so that it is pointing out in the direction you want the layout to go. Keep it all off the ground using saw horses, ladders, chairs, or whatever. Be sure to use the proper primer and glue for PVC, and then glue all the 1¼-inch pipes together, EXCEPT (pay attention, as this is a Very Important Point) do not put glue on the end of the pipe that will come up through the well cap (the last pipe from the well on your layout)! Hold off on putting glue on the top coupling yet!! First, slide the well cap through the hole you made, with its bottom toward the well, and THEN glue on the last coupling– the one that will sit on the well cap when it’s in place.

An hour or so after the glue has set, you can sanitize the outside of the pipe with a solution of bleach water and a clean rag. Use clean hot water to rinse off the bleach residue on the part that will be submerged, if you want. Anyone who will touch the pipe now should thoroughly wash their hands first. Slowly begin feeding the pipe down the well. In order to keep it off the ground, about three people should walk with the pipe as it advances. (Watch that the well cap doesn’t slide down and hit your hand or head!) Attach the well cap to the casing, and trip the breaker if you want.

Look at the enclosed diagram for the 1¼-inch above well cap set up. Glue this up, except item 1 & 2, and install it in the coupling on the well cap. Allow the glue time to set.

Now, for the ¾-inch piston. (See notes below) Glue on a flat type cap on one of the 10-foot sections. Then, glue up the remaining sections, keeping it all off of the ground. You can wash this layout with a little soapy water. On the top piece of pipe, drill a 1/8 inch weep hole about seven feet down on it so water will drain and not freeze in winter. Allow the glue to set for an hour and insert this layout into the 1¼-inch pipe. Let this pipe to rest on top of the foot valve, and extended about a foot out the top of the unit for now. We’ll cut it off to proper length in a minute or so.

Insert a plug in the water outlet elbow but don’t glue it, and carefully pour a bleach solution in the 1¼ inch pipe untill it’s full. Let this remain for at least a couple of hours, in order to sanitize the unit. Now pour the ¾-inch pipe to about ½ full with the solution, as this will make it easier to pump up and down.

Pull the ¾-inch pipe up another three inches, and mark a line on it level with the 1¼-inch pipe opening. Pull it up a few more inches, and cut it off at the line. Don’t let go, or it will drop below the opening and you may have to remove both pipes to get it out. Make sure it’s dry, and then glue on the handle. Keep the pipe up so that the handle isn’t supporting the entire piston for at least 45 inches. You can then remove the plug and pump out the bleach solution. When doing the pumping action, try to go as straight up and down as possible.


In the layout of the pipes, make sure your ¾-inch pipe couplings will not be coming through any 1¼ connectors on the upswing to eliminate a possibility of a snag. I actually laid out the 1¼-inch pipe on the ground butted together, then laid the ¾-inch pipe beside it to visualize the up stroke of the ¾-inch pipe, usually 1-3 feet. Also, If the weather is very cold, the pipes may not be very flexible; pick a day of say 60 degrees or so. Keep the well casing covered while the cap is off to prevent insects or debris from dropping in. Static level can be determined by using fishing line with a steel nut tied on the end and a bobber tied about two inches above the nut. Lower the nut until you feel the slack, and then mark the line. Pull out and measure from the nut to the mark.

Parts List for 1 1/4-inch Pipe Portion:

  • 1 – 45 degree elbow
  • 1 – plug
  • 2 – male couplings, threaded on one end (See ### note below.)
  • 1 – female coupling, threaded on one end
  • 1 – 1¼ x ¾ inch bushing (slip) # 23914 at Lowe’s. I found one at Tru-value Hardware by Genova that’s easier to file out. (See *** note below.)
  • 1 – brass foot valve. I recommend Lowe’s ProPlaner # PPFV125NL.
  • Needed pipe and couplings for your total depth
  • Primer and gluefor the PVC fittings

### – The Hex nuts on the male coupling that holds the foot valve will need to be removed so it will go past the pitless adapter. Grind or file them off.

*** – This bushing will need to be filed out with a round rasp file to the point where a ¾ inch pipe will slide in and out easily, but not sloppily.

Parts List for ¾-inch Pipe Portion:

  • 1 – – Tee
  • 3 – end caps; flat on the end works best
  • Needed pipes and couplings

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