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old cistern info

Posted by ks_toolgirl (My Page) on
Thu, Sep 9, 10 at 19:16

Ok, anyone familiar with cisterns? We've known we had one under the back (enclosed) porch, but had only seen it from the outside under the porch. After years of denying myself (I've wanted to look, hubby discouraged it - the "finish other projects before blah blah, yadda, yadda" lol) I finally removed the 2'X2' plywood panel. Above ground is a 2'(+/-) dia. brick bit that goes down to just below ground level. Lined, or was - partially crumbled, with a smooth masonry of sort. Couple feet down it angles out (like a jar?) to a diameter of 5 or 6 feet. About 4' down (from porch floor) is the top of the rubble. A LOT of it. Some looks really old, (I reached down w/a prybar & snagged a VERY old car radio!), a lot of it is the broken plaster the @#* flippers removed from house & just threw in there - the plywood cover was new when we moved in, the rest of floor was not. NEED TO SAY HERE: I do NOT hate "flippers" in general! Just the cheap, lazy ones that did my house!
So - my questions are endless! I'm sure they're ignorant, also.

How deep is this likely to be? Is it unlikely to be "stable"? I want to remove this rubble, but I'm afraid to put any (MY) weight on it. My late father & I were fascinated by what could best be described as "out-house archaeology", this could be full of fun (and less than) things to find. Like a layered timeline of home occupancy.

I'm imagining it being capped off below rubble layer with something that's deteriorated - with empty space below that's just waiting for me to "drop in", lol!
Any opinions? Anyone "been there"? (Any chance of utilizing it for yard watering after cleaning it out, if we can make it "hold water", lol many of my theories don't!) We're frequently on water-restriction here in the summer, and only allowed to water gardens, not grass. I'm assuming that since it's full of debris, including painted plaster, that it would be a hazard for watering veggies - but a summer "lawn"?
Sorry this is so long! Any advice? I'd appreciate it!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: old cistern info

If it is full of rubble it is far more likely to be a sewage leach pit (or runoff from gutter) than a fresh water cistern.

RE: old cistern info

Thanks, (once again), Brickeye! I should have been a little more specific - I'm assuming it was for gutter run-off collection, also. The clay pipe is still there that delivered the water, it angles toward the corner where house & porch meet about 4' from end of pipe. Only the end is visible, so that's a guess for now. Also is a small (1-2") hole in outside facing away from house, slightly lower than the other - I'm thinking a pipe went there to direct overflow away from foundation?
The whole thing looks to be no more than 1' from house foundation - next to the root-cellar.
From what I've read, its unlikely it was potable water, even then, right? For cleaning & watering only?
Sorry to be such a pest! Mysteries drive me nuts...

RE: old cistern info

How about start by putting a ladder down there and seeing if its going to support your weight?

I'd see if you can get it cleaned out. Cisterns are great for watering the garden and lawn. There are still some houses in my area further from town that have cisterns and have water shipped in for the household needs.

RE: old cistern info

Thanks, clg! The ladder is a good idea - & gave me a head-thumping moment. Better yet, I'll start with a level-rod! That way I can "prod" & measure depth @ the same time! (Raised & trained by Land Surveyor Dad, worked in surveying & construction staking most of my life). Still have equipment, since he passed & family biz passed along-side.
Further research gives me the impression that I need to go to the (GASP!!) root cellar/crawl space to look for signs of a pipe (w/valve, initially) coming in down there. Scary place, unless you think spiders & cobwebs are groovy. I do NOT. But the desire to search will outweigh the, umm, "apprehension". Lol!
It occurred to me, also, that our (Dad trained DH, he's RLS, now) field of work could make our advice & opinions useful to someone - property line questions, etc. I'll post that offer soon, so many have been helpful to me!
Thanks, again!

RE: old cistern info

If you manage to clean it out you will likely need a submersible pump to move the water (unless you want to go the bucket and pulley method).

RE: old cistern info

Or put in a hand pump. I have one in my kitchen running to my spring cachement basin to use when the electric is out. They'll pull to 25 foot depth. Some even come with threaded nozzles to use with hoses and have mechanisms to smooth out the water flow between pumps. Photobucket

RE: old cistern info

We've been puzzled by a large ceramic pipe that extends out from the dirt under our house near the center of our cellar. It appears that someone filled the pipe with concrete, but just beneath the pipe a channel seems to have opened and water pours under the pipe and into our cellar floor when it rains. Judging by the foot or so of the pipe we can see, it seems to run toward the part of our foundation where there's a nearby downspout. Could this be part of a cistern? If so, would the cistern be somewhere around where the pipe ends? It's dirt there now (or I should say, mud). We need to either figure out a way to use the incoming water or stop it from coming in, as it's keeping our cellar area wet--not a good thing. Advice anyone?

RE: old cistern info

It's hard to tell, Debbie. It might be the remnants of an old soil pipe for household sewerage. Most water catchment cisterns are buried on the exterior of the foundation, and I can see no reason to put it inside, unless it is located in a part of the cellar under an add-on. If you have an old farmhouse, it also could have been where spring water was piped into a trough for diary cooling purposes but I doubt that is the case if it is large. My spring pipes are old cast iron ones about two inches in diameter.

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