How To Lift A Water Tank To a Water Tower

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Most of the rural water towers in our off grid area seem to be made of metal, but since when have I ever gone with “most of”? Our 500 gallon water tank arrived shortly after noon today, dropped off by a trucker who negotiated our mesquite laden turf with a reasonable degree of skill but who diidn’t show much concern for our precious polyethylene. Ah, well. He only dented the tank a little while unloading the thing.

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Caveat: The top photo is recent (October 2013), showing the new Bushman 2825 gallon water tank. This one will not be placed atop a tower–in fact, it’s going to be partially buried, an innovation nobody wants to admit is workable, another story for another day. The subject of this article is the green 500 gallon tank featured in the lower photos. It was rigged atop the water tower four years ago (October 2009) and has performed flawlessly since.

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Then it was up to me. The water tower has been under construction for a while. Although there are a few finishing touches to add, including part of the paint job, there was no reason the tank couldn’t make it up to the top of the nine foot tall tower before the sun went down.

Well, no reason other than my wife’s polite request to consider waiting for her son to come help me put the tank up there in the air.

Which request I politely refused. I work best alone, always have, like it that way, didn’t want to wait. So I didn’t.

By the numbers:

1. Set the aluminum extension ladder to maximum length, providing a steep but viable ramp.

2. At the top, squeeze in a loose piece of 2″ x 4″ scrap lumber so that the tower deck joists didn’t stick out through the ladder–otherwise, said joist tips would have “stabbed” the tank as it reached that height and stopped progress in its tracks.

3. At the bottom, lean a leftover piece of of OSB (oriented strand board) (2 feet by 8 feet) on the ladder to keep the second half of the ladder from “stabbing” the tank halfway up.

4. Wrangle the tank around so that it leans up on the board which is on the ladder. You know, tank-bone connected to the board-bone, board-bone connected to the ladder-bone….

5. Grab a long chunk of yellow polyethylene rope that’s been in the family for years, loop it around the tank (down low), and tie knots-and-loops every 18 inches or so. These will serve as grab handles and provide workable gripping points on the otherwise extremely slick rope during the pulling-up process.

6. Get the step ladder out in order to be able to climb from that to the extension ladder at a point above the strand board–using the “Do Not Stand On This” tiptop of the step ladder to acccomplish the maneuver, naturally.

7. Grab a pair of leather gloves and the camera, climb to the top, and take pictures which make my fist look awesome and the huge tank (nearly six feet in diameter) look like a puny little thing which couldn’t possibly be any problem to elevate.

Contemplating the ascent.

Contemplating the ascent.

Rickety step ladder, reporting for duty!

Rickety step ladder, reporting for duty!

One Power Fist, ready to pull!

One Power Fist, ready to pull!

Up On Deck

Pulling the tank up that hastily improvised ramp promised to require concentration. Cue the competitor: Belt…loosened, jeans hiked up, belt tightened so far it looks like a good economy. Tape measure…unclipped from belt, laid on post top out of the way. Big pocket knife…removed from pocket, joins tape measure. Digital camera…on post top at the other rear corner. Ready…set…and away-y-y-y we go!

No. That’s not right. I was pulling the tank to me, Need a much different battle cry. Almost immediately, the tank tipped up sideways like it wanted to slide off to the left of the ladder and make love with the nearest mesquite bush. Figured out later its errant behavior was inspired by an extra bunchy bunch of bunch grass that gave it a bit of a boost. So of course I had to move to the right to counter the tipping…and by golly, it actually worked out. Without all those knotted loops I’d tied into the rope, however, the task would have proved impossible. Despite the angle provided by the extension ladder posing as a ramp, that tank’s piddly little 95 pounds felt like–um, not exactly a 500 pound gorilla, but certainly a bit like a 200 pound fat pig on the end of the line.

Everything actually functioned better than it had any right to function, however, and within a matter of seconds (certainly less than a minute, not that anyone was counting), the tank was safely perched on the water tower deck. Time to holler:

“PA-AM-M! ALL CLEAR! YOU CAN COME OUT NOW!!”

Except she really couldn’t. True, we’d agreed she should stay inside the camp trailer while I was doing the tank elevating thing she’d begged me not to do alone. Getting distracted for even a split second during a job like that could be moderately disastrous, and (as strange as it sounds coming from a husband) I’ve never been able to totally tune out my wife when she speaks. Another equally dangerous Pam factor is the horrible truth that if the tank looked like it was going to fall, she would have automatically attempted to grab it and push. But neither of those was the reason she couldn’t come out right at that moment. The reason was that she was stuck in the restroom…okay. TMI.

After positioning our new water tank just so, the container that will provide the basis of our water supply system for many years to come, I grabbed eight leftover pieces of 2″ x 4″ lumber, each two feet long, and nailed them around the base of the tank in an octagonal pattern. With that done, even a fairly hefty gust of wind can’t slide the tank off the top of the water tower; the tank would have to literally jump to get out of there. Never one to underestimate the power of the undesirable if unlikely possibility, however, that wasn’t the end of it. The same yellow rope used to pull the tank skyward became tiedown rope, more than snug enough to keep the tank secure until tomorrow’s trip to Home Depot can score some eyebolts and sunproof tiedown straps for precision long term security.

With the septic tank installation done and the incoming water line buried yesterday, getting this far with the actual water tank today was pure bonus. The water tower will be doing double duty: The walls you see in the photo are about to become a shower stall–right below the water supply itself! Am I a genius or what? Another day, maybe two, and we’ll actually have shower water on tap as such for the first time since we moved onto the land in April (this being October). Pam says it’s about time.

(*Sniffs armpit*) Wonder what she meant by that?

Sitting on top of the world.

Sitting on top of the world.

Me, Tank, king of Water Tower Deck!

Me, Tank, king of Water Tower Deck!

Ha! Look good from every angle, don't I?

Ha! Look good from every angle, don’t I?

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