How To Build A Cool Little Pump House (Shed) That Will Have Your Wife Swooning With Delight

What, me exaggerate? You don’t believe building a pump house aka shed of any sort is going to make the lady of the house faint in sheer ecstasy?

Okay. Maybe I did overstate that just a little bit. Housing the water supply’s booster pump and pressure tank isn’t quite on a par with a day at the mall and no limit on the credit card, is it?

Heckuva title, though.

We’d homesteaded here for three years and five months by the time I got the water line pressurized. Did that by setting the booster pump and pressure tank on a bare platform, then cutting into the house supply water line and plumbing both pump and tank ino the loop. It was easiest by far to do it that way, without any close-fitting walls to make the process more of a challenge than necessary.

Booster pump and pressure tank, plumbed into the water supply line and fully operational.

Booster pump and pressure tank, plumbed into the water supply line and fully operational.

However, it’s not practical to leave the pump and tank out there in the open like that. During the winter months, even in southern Arizona, there are nights that dip well below freezing. In February of 2011, we even had one fairly lengthy cold snap that saw temperatures hovering around 7 degrees Fahrenheit a lot.

So you need a structure to cover the equipment…but it’s a good idea to make it as small as possible. You’ll need access doors that allow you to check the pressure gauge, adjust the pressure in the tank, hit the pump reset button, or even drain the pump if the need arises. But you don’t want extra cubic feet of air space roaming round in there for no good reason.

Why?

Partly because it’s cheaper to build smaller…but mostly because the smaller the enclosure, the easier it is to keep the chill off with nothing but a single incandescent bulb left on during those nippy nights.

Yes, incandescent. Never mind the eco-folks who’ve been pushing the curly fry bulbs. Ain’t a-gonna happen at this house. Ever.

I settled on a footprint (the platform size) that measured 24″ x 46″…and started building the pump house aka shed from the ground up. Or from the platform up, if you prefer.

There was no insulation included in the design, just a mostly airtight little box clad in 3/8″ sheathing board and a standard roof.

First, a bit of 2″ x 4″ framing. The height was chosen to be no taller than necessary but to allow ample working room above the pressure tank “just in case”.

The framing begins.

The framing begins.

With the first blow of the hammer hitting a nailhead as the framing was attached to the platform, I got a minor but rather nasty little shock. The pump started leaking. It had just cycled back up to its maximum pressure, the cutoff point of 60 psi…and water started showing up where it shouldn’t be showing up.

Turned out to be no big deal. Whoever assembled this at the factory had a screw loose. Literally. One of the long, skinny pump mounting bolts needed more than a bit of tightening with a Phillips head screwdriver–nearly a full turn. In fact, every one of the 6 long-stemmed through-bolts cinched down a minimum of 1/8 turn, and all tightened by hand at that.

That stopped the leak, which was good. But it was the second thing about this unit that was “off”: The inadequately tightened bolts, and the pressure switch calibration. The manual said the pump would turn on at 23 psi and turn off at 50 psi. Instead, it turns on at 17 psi and cuts out at 60 psi.

What else did they screw up?

Rhetorical question. It’s working, and if it works, don’t fix it.

Pam checks up to see if I'm acually working back here or just napping.

Pam checks up to see if I’m acually working back here or just napping.

The entire front of the little pump house is nothing but a double door frame. Though the rest of the framing is constructed from 2″ x 4″ lumber, the front center post is a piece of 2″ x 3″…simply due to space considerations. The smaller post size left just a bit more space for the pump on one side and the emergency drain pipe on the other.

To get just a bit of pitch on the roof so that rain will run off the backside, one extra piece of 2″ x 4″ was added for height beneath the front ends of the rafters.

Center posts and rafters in place.

Center posts and rafters in place.

Next comes the siding…and here is where I departed from the method used in every previous bit of building on the acreage. We still have a stock of OSB strand board on hand, but instead of using that (as was done for the water tower, two propane tank “hiding” sheds next to the house, and Pam’s AC unit “carport”), I actually sprang for real siding.

You know. The kind with a coat of paint or at least primer pre-applied, cool decorative linear grooves, etc.

As the building begins to become enclosed, its snug fit around the pump and pressure tank is obvious.

The snug nature of the enclosure becomes evident.

The snug nature of the enclosure becomes evident.

Building around here is sort of a when-you-can situation. We’re comfortable enough, what with the Border Fort secure against the terrors of the night, running water, flush toilets, and all that–so other things frequently take priority.

Still, I’ve learned to peck away at whatever project is in front of me, getting a little something done every possible day. One of those days was pretty short, and even cutting a single piece of siding, then nailing it in place, took me until well past sunset and on into flashlight territory.

Only one piece of siding added this day--or night--but at least it's something.

Only one piece of siding added this day–or night–but at least it’s something.

It felt like the “right” thing to do was finish siding the other three sides before making and installing the doors on the front. For one thing, those other pieces of siding are what really stabilizes the structure. If they’re done first, the shape of the doorway(s) won’t suddenly decide to change…I hope.

Three sides done.

Three sides done.

The doors were put together from pieces of siding and just a few “backing” pieces of 1″ x 3″ lumber for reinforcement where hinges and bolts had to go. In the case of the hinges (or more specifically, the hidden 1″ x 3″ pieces into which the hinge mounting screws penetrate after going through the door itself), that presented a challenge: The 1″ x 3″ pieces bumped into the door framing 2″ x 4″ uprights.

Ooops.

Wood chisel time, whack out enough wood to make recesses into which the 1″ x 3″‘s can fit comfortably. Fortunately, this part doesn’t have to be pretty.

A wood-chiseled recess.

A wood-chiseled recess.

One door hung.

One door hung.

Open view.

Open view.

This "inside bolt" seats in a hole drilled in the 2" x 4" framing above the door. So far, a similar bolt for the bottom doesn't seem to be needed--but will be added if the door starts to warp.

This “inside bolt” seats in a hole drilled in the 2″ x 4″ framing above the door. So far, a similar bolt for the bottom doesn’t seem to be needed–but will be added if the door starts to warp.

When the second door was hung, it became obvious that the only way latch bolts could be applied without rethinking the entire structure was to “hang ’em to the right” a bit. So I did, using just two screws where four are the norm. But with the “pull” being the way it was, there wouldn’t be any undue stress on those bolts, so…good enough.

Both doors in place and the exterior bolts applied.

Both doors in place and the exterior bolts applied.

Next, one final carefully cut strip of siding/trim above the doors. Then strips of aluminum flashing to hide/seal the raw vertical corner edges.

Home Depot didn’t have exactly what I wanted, so a couple of roof flashing pieces were purchased and the little “flared” edges were simply hammered flat. With soft aluminum, that’s not a big deal and doesn’t require much time to accomplish.

Trim above doors applied. Vertical corner flashing nailed in place.

Trim above doors applied. Vertical corner flashing nailed in place.

Today was the big day: Nothing left but the roof. YAY!

Ten days in the building, but hey. We’re getting there.

First, a piece of wood cut from an old foil-topped hunk of OSB strand board that had been lying around all summer, left over from another project that didn’t go quite as planned. The foil is getting a bit ragged, but we’ll plop it on there shiny side up, anyway. Some heat reflection during an Arizona summer is better than no heat reflection.

Roof board, ho-o!

Roof board, ho-o!

Roof flashing to go with that cool vertical edge flashing? Why, certainly!

 Heh. That roof has just been flashed.


Heh. That roof has just been flashed.

Continuing with the leftovers from building the Border Fort in 2010, we go next to the tarpaper aka roofing felt, applied with staples that hardly ever go in right and therefore require mashing with a hammer after the fact.

Roofing felt, squared away.

Roofing felt, squared away.

When the steel roofing panels were custom ordered for the Border Fort, one extra 20-foot panel came with the order. No idea if that was standard practice or not. They didn’t say, and I didn’t ask.

For more than two years, that panel just lay flat on the ground, acquiring a nifty layer of dirt and not much else. Then, in June of this year, part of said panel was used to roof the little “carport” that houses the AC unit for Pam’s bedroom.

Which left plenty for the pump house shed. Cutting the pieces to size is simple: Just turn the Skillsaw blade around backward on the saw and start cutting steel. Sounds like a grinder, works like a charm.

Steel roofing panels screwed down tight. Never mind the dirt; that'll wash off when the rains come again.

Steel roofing panels screwed down tight. Never mind the dirt; that’ll wash off when the rains come again.

What’s left to do? A coat of paint. That’s it, except for adding a warming light when the weather gets colder, come December or so.

Painted up, prettied up, and good to go.

Painted up, prettied up, and good to go.

Okay. You were right. Pam did not swoon with delight when she saw the completed pump house aka cool little shed. But she did sleep most of the day, giving me enough free time to finish the project.

That should count for something.

23 thoughts on “How To Build A Cool Little Pump House (Shed) That Will Have Your Wife Swooning With Delight

  1. Great step by step lay out, beautiful design! It helped Me immensely get My small pump shed on the road to completion. Thanks bunches!

  2. Thanks, Ryan. Your comment is much appreciation. It helps greatly to get a bit of feedback here and there. 🙂

  3. Thank You for sharing your “how to build a cool little pump…” Your presentation was the inspiration that ive looking for.
    you know
    give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish feed him for a life time…. knowledge is a form of nourishment…

  4. Great guide!. Mine has to be a little larger but I think I can get er done in 1 day after reading this. I have to have room for my filter system and expansion room for a future (possible) water softener. Either way this will get me on the road to success! I’m going to modify it a little by adding accessible doors all the way around. This is to avoid having to rebuild the well house in the future just to remove/replace tanks and pumps…

  5. The multiple access doors make total sense, especially for your installation as you explain it. Glad we could help a bit. 🙂

  6. Thank you for posting this. I want to steal your idea! I have Jet Pump mounted to the pressure tank in my utility room. It drives me crazy. I am going to relocate it just outside and your neat little housing is the perfect solution for me. I will pour a concrete pad first and then put the enclosure and tank on the pad. Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Awesome, Ted; that’s why I wrote the post. “Stealing” my idea is the ultimate compliment. 🙂

  8. This is nice. Where did you/do you put the light bulb?

    We are getting ready to put in a pressure tank this summer and I am going to box it in just like yours! I am just not sure how to include the light fixture.

  9. Oh man, that is an awesome presentation, as well as awesome comments. Made me think…..when I build this pump-house I am going to try to get access doors all the way around as well as a hinged roof…..hmmmm…….

  10. H: The light bulb goes into a reflector that clamps onto part of the framework inside the structure. The cord from the reflector plugs into the multi-outlet extension cord leading over to our solar generator, as does the pump itself.
    ——————-
    Aaron: Thanks. To do what you’re considering, access doors all around and a hinged roof, you only need to have enough lateral structural strength to support all of that–which could be provided by starting not with a “floating platform” on the ground as I did, but with 4 corner posts (treated) sunk well into the ground. Just a thought.

  11. Thank you for the post. Bought some land in NE Okla that had a well. Turned out the well was dead so had to have a new well drilled. Searched the ‘net for plans and the only one that made sense was yours. My wife & son have decided to help me with this project. Can’t wait to start. Again, many thanks for the help.

  12. I appreciate your comment, Richard–and wish you well on your project, too.

  13. Great write-up! I’ve got a new plot of land that came with a well, but the wellhouse is an eyesore and I want to replace it. The one problem I see with your design is accessibility when something goes wrong. With how tightly everything is housed, if you need to fix a leak, you may need to actually remove siding. And if you have to replace the pump, you’ll have to remove the roof. It looks from the pictures like you’d have to actually cut the roof free…

  14. Benjamin, you’ve got a good eye there. But as tight as everything looks, it’s a bit deceiving. I decided to go that small in order to make the shed easy to heat during our usually mild winters with a single 60 watt incandescent bulb. I could completely replace the pump without removing one bit of siding–because the entire front is actually comprised of two doors. It’s possible I would need to remove the center post between those doors, but that would not be a major problem to remove and replace.

    However, we had an “early scare” a few months ago when apparently a bit of sediment (or something) was keeping the foot valve from sealing completely. Had that not “healed itself” (which it did, eventually), I would definitely have needed to replace or at least remove and repair the pump. And if I had to do that, I decided I was going to add more shutoff valves so the pump could be isolated right there in the shed…and yes, as little room as I left to play, that would be an exercise in contortion.

    All that would have required (my easiest fix that I could see) cutting a small access door into the back of the shed siding, reinforcing it and fitting it with hinges and all that.

    Bottom line, though, you’re mostly right; the shed is not that well made for convenience of pump replacement. IF a builder has the budget AND can afford stronger heating wattage draw in winter (ours comes from a fairly small solar generator, making every watt precious), THEN I agree: Build it bigger…but insulate it, too, and be prepared to spend a little more for winter heating to avoid freezing the pipes.

  15. I found you while googling well house plans – lo and behold we are nearly neighbors! We have 45 acres in the Whetstone area, and my husband has tasked with me coming up with a plan for our well (currently covered in old wool blankets, lol). I looked around your blog some more, and reading about Sheriff Dever brought tears to my eyes, he was a good man, and we lost him way too soon. Take care!

  16. Hey Patty,

    Thanks for commenting, neighbor. 🙂

    Nothing wrong with those old wool blankets for insulation; they would certainly do the trick. And yes, we did lose Sheriff Deaver way too soon. You take care, too.

  17. I’m considering building this for my well pump on an island on the coast of Maine! Thanks for the instructions. A picture is worth a thousand words. I’m afraid we may have you on the “cool” temperatures one can get in winter!

    We’ve loved Arizona when we have visited. God bless.

  18. Yeah, I reckon in Maine you might want to expand the shed size a bit to allow for a whole lot more insulation than we need in Arizona. Which I thoroughly understand, having grown up on a ranch in western Montana with occasional winter temps of forty below. Appreciated those Christmas gifts of sheepskin lined, horsehide mittens when we were out feeding cattle on those days, for sure. Thanks for commenting.

    May the blessings be.

  19. Our pump is 350 feet down……roof has to be removable. It’s been ruined 3 Times by lightning over the last 20 years….. That’s The only way they can access it to pull the pump….. otherwise good little plan except we would definitely have to have insulation here in Missouri. And we use a little hog house heater. It’s a small element that comes on only when it gets a certain temperature. The problem with the bulb is they burn out and you end up with frozen pipes.

  20. Thanks for commenting, Susan. Our well pump is 325 feet down, close to your depth…but the above-ground piping is right out in the open, no cover whatsoever. To load the 2,825 gallon storage tank, a portable generator is fired up, the pump plugged in via a long cable with a 4 prong plug, and away the water goes, through about 1/2 mile of around-the-loop underground PVC piping.

    We’re not in Missouri, obviously (and I grew up in Montana, so yeah, I get your situation), but in the winter, once the water is pumped, the by-the-wellhead above ground piping has to be drained. It wasn’t set up for that when we got here in 2009, but a weeklong cold snap in February of 2011 burst pretty much every above ground pipe in the county (and there are a lot of them). Even though we didn’t yet own the full acreage and technically owned a mere 1/5 share of the well, there were no other homes on the land, the well service company was overwhelmed, and I took over. Reworked the pipes at the wellhead to include a bottom drain valve; no problems there since.

    A removable roof would have been a great idea here as well. We do get lightning but fortunately haven’t been hit directly…yet, anyway. Knock on wood. Your hog house heater would have been good here, too, except that I was working on the super-cheap at the time and didn’t mind checking daily (the booster pump shed is only 60 feet from the house) to be sure the bulb was still working.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.