Sunday, May 10, 2015

A New Base for the Water Tank

It is All About the Base! ... the Base! ...the Base! It's all about the Base!

The base for this water tank should never have been made of wood... but it has lasted almost 30 years.

I was all set to re-do it last summer/fall... but the double hernia put that plan on hold until the surgery was healed... so it was pushed to the top of the list for this spring.

You can see how the wood has rotted and is really sagging.

Before we took this all apart, I hooked up a string of garden hoses to our neighbours house so we could still live normally... flush toilets and have showers until we we got it all done.

I first had to disconnect the electrical and cut the pipes. There is an electric float switch inside the tank that turns on the pump when the water level reaches the minimum... and there was a couple of heat tapes wrapped around the inlet and outlet pipes.

Once again Johnny to the rescue! The empty tank is not heavy... just awkward and it has no handles.  So with a nylon tow belt I rigged up a way to hold the tank tight to the tractor bucket. Couldn't have done it without my handy bucket extension to carry the tank.

This little four-wheel drive tractor just slowly marched backwards down the hill to the orchard level, where it was easy to take it over to a convienent spot so we could wash it out and clean up the inside.

This looks like a good place to do the wash up... 

close to water and the power washer.  You can see the white supply pipe still standing on the ridge behind the tractor.

I tried to clean it up with the power washer without getting inside the tank... but I couldn't do a good enough job without climbing right inside and doing some "hands on" cleaning.

What rusty sediment came out from the bottom of this tank.  This is likely the first cleaning since it was installed in 1987... about 28 years ago.

So I totally suited up, with googles, and climbed inside with the power washer wand. Once I had done a careful power wash, I had Shirley bring me 3-M scrub pads and towels to wipe it all down and dry it. There wasn't' a speck of anything left inside when I was done!

The access hole is just under 15 inches, so I had to make a custom ladder to use to get in and out of the tank. I just barely could get back out.  Where there is a will there is a way.

Next I headed up the hill to take that rotten platform apart.

At first I planned to just take it all to the burn pile... but as I was pulling the nails and removing the planks, I decided to use four of the best boards to make the form for the concrete pad.

After levelling the ground and building a six-foot square form, I cut some 45 degree corner blocks and then bent and tied the rebar in place. I forgot to take any photos of the intermediate steps... but just as I delivered the first load of concrete I realized I had not documented the rebar and formwork. 

We set up the cement mixer near the gravel pile. Shirley took the lead in running the mixer and I did the delivery and concrete placing and finishing. Johnny transported the concrete to job site.

I could only get the tractor to the one side of the slab, so had to drag the concrete across with a rake to fill the entire form.

It took about a dozen mixer loads of concrete to do the job... it sure beat having to wheel those heavy wheelbarrows up the hill!

Since the final concrete finishing was done just after sunset, this beautiful slab had to wait for the next day for the photo capture.

Most of the slab would be covered with the water tank, so I focused on getting a nice border edging. I let this sit and cure for three or four days before putting any load on it.

It was tricky to get the plumbing re-fitted.  The tank was now 8-9 inches lower than before when it was elevated on a timber platform.  The electrics were no problem to get back together.

We tested the old heat tapes... neither of them were any good.  This explains why we were having some freezing problems. I had purchased three different lengths of heat tapes, not knowing what size I really needed. Home Depot is great about taking things back... so I always try to prepare for the unexpected.

I used three different products to wrap the pipes. The thin reflective tape first... then after winding the heat tapes around and securing it with tie-downs, I then wrapped the 5 inch insulation over the heat tapes.  The final application was the foam adhesive tape. 

The longest inlet pipe got a 4-inch drain pipe sleeve final wrap, as before.

It was a thing of beauty to see the water come pouring in when I turned on the breaker for the well pump. This 500 gallon tank fills up in just over an hour.

Thank you, Shirley for taking some of the photos. My apology for not getting a photo of you on the shovel at the cement mixer. I know it was hard work. You are my Proverbs 31 wife!

The best news is that this base will not rot or deteriorate, and will never have to be redone again.

"Why is there is never enough time to do things right, but there is always enough time to do it over?"


  1. Looks great. Nice job. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You did a smashing job, Bear. I was so delighted that you did such a fine job of cleaning out the inside. Now I won't be whining anymore about 'it must be the water' every time one of feels a little off! :)

    The whole set up is so nicely finished, thanks to you.

  3. "This 500 gallon tank fills up in just over an hour."

    Must be larger than 500 gal - 2,500? 5,000? In any case, if you can fill that in less than 2 hrs, you have a great well.

    Nice post, nice photos, great job.

  4. That wooden base may have lasted 30 years, but from the looks of it, it really needs to be replaced. It’s a good thing that you’ve replaced the base for the tank with concrete, otherwise the tank could collapse once the wooden base starts rotting or gives way. Anyway, I hope your tank is doing fine. Thanks for sharing!

    Bert Aguilar @ Rain Fill Tanks

  5. Yikes. That must’ve been worrying before. It appears that the water tank could barely be supported by the wooden base at that point, even if it's been holding on for 30 years now. Thankfully you were able to spot that, and have proceeded to remedy the problem. Thanks for sharing!

    Rosemary Bailey @ Wabi Iron & Steel Corp.