Bringing Water INTO the Cabin – Part II

By JohnyMac

Part II

I wrote about bringing water to the cabin back on my site in July 2012 titled Bringing Water to the BOL. I gave it a rewrite and posted Part I here on American Partisan last week. If you haven’t had a chance to read the article, please do so to understand the scope of this ongoing project. Since then we have been bringing our drinking and toilet water into the cabin one bucket at a time till 2015.

Typically, we had three, 5-gallon Home Depot buckets in the bathroom for flushing. Plus, five, 5-gallon blue jugs of water stored under the kitchen sink for use as needed for drinking and cooking. The water under the kitchen sink was pumped from each jug using a Whale marine foot pump. Our water usage was 1-2 toilet buckets and one drinking water jug a day. Obviously, more people at the cabin meant more water usage.

During the winter we just let the 1,150-foot long poly pipe delivering our water from the well up the mountain to our outside faucet run free so the pipe wouldn’t freeze. The water rate at our outside faucet is approximately 5-gpm. This rate changes through-out the year depending on how full the well is.

This process of filling buckets and jugs had worked well from the winter of 2011-12 till fall of 2015. In truth, lugging in buckets and jugs of water when it is snowing with single digit temperatures, was becoming a pain in my right hip. So, it was time to add running water to the cabin.

Below is a list of what I wanted to accomplish bringing water into the cabin:

  • The power for the water pump had to run off our solar battery bank which was 12-volts,
  • I liked the PEX plumbing system. This system has been used in Canadian housing industry since the mid-1960’s and in the States since the early 1990’s. PEX was first used in the States in the boating industry. Catalina sailboats were the first. Now most USA made boats and RV’s use it exclusively,
  • Had to be able to drain/bleed the system easily if we left the cabin vacant during the winter, and
  • Use a propane on demand water heater (AKA, Tank-less water heater) that could be ran off an inverter for when the electric went out, as it does often on the mountain.

Once I had those goals set, I bounced them off MrsMac, my brother and his wife. To help in the “sell” I put together the schematic below. Last, I priced out the installation to see what we were getting into.

Water System Schematic

The estimated price was $2,500- complete with cold and hot running water. In the beginning, the plan was not received well by “the wives” but heck – Who was carrying in all this water after all.

Due to the lack of interest of the proposed water system by “the wives” due to the cost, the plan got spiked until the fall of 2015. Bottom-line, as I mentioned earlier, I was tired of carrying two, 40-pound buckets & jugs of water into the cabin one in each hand, while the snow was blowing horizontally and temps in the single digits.

Knowing that Part II would be the cheapest step and would probably be met with minimal negative noise, I started there. I gathered the below mise en place and started the project.

> 55-gallon plastic food quality drum,
> One, 12-Volt marine grade water pump capable of 4-6 gpm and up to 60 psi,
> One, 10-nipple ¾-inch PEX manifold with ball-valves
> I had the 12/2 wire but I need some connectors and fuses,
> Assorted hose clamps, boiler valves, thru-hull fitting’s, wall clamps, screws, et cetera,
> Plywood (5/8″, 4×8’, cut to 4×5’),
> Concrete screws,
> 2×4’s,
> Sink faucet
> 8-inch frost free outdoor water faucet,
> 15-feet of ¾-inch blue PEX pipe,
> 100-feet of ½-inch blue PEX pipe, and
> Assorted PEX tools, fitting’s, clamps, etcetera.

Over several weeks, I collected the projects bits & pieces. Once all the pieces were gathered, I started to put them together not unlike a 1,000-piece jig saw puzzle of Hillary Clinton in an Orange Jump Suit.

Based on where the propane entered the cabin and the kitchen & bathrooms were located, I decided where to put the control panel for the water system in our basement.

With the right spot chosen, using cement anchor screws I put up three 2×4’s that would support the water control board and ran 120-volts to the panel for the tank-less water heater to be installed in the future.

Ready to start plumbing

Once that was completed, the 55-gallon water drum was drilled for the thru-hull fitting’s and boiler valves being attached to the fittings. The bottom fitting was for water out-take from the system and the one at top was for overflow.

Now it was time for the 12-Volt marine water pump installation. In order to help the pump function, I elevated the water drum on two chimney blocks topped off with a square piece of plywood for stability.

Whale Pump and cold-water manifold, set up

The rest of the cold-water part of the system went together easier than installing a new fore grip on an AR. With that accomplished it was time to pull wire and hook up the water pump to the 12-Volt control panel across the basement.

Our solar power plant is located in our bunkhouse about 15-feet from the side of the cabin which I will write about in an up and coming article.

During the summer of 2012, I dug a ditch between the cabin and bunkhouse, ran 10/2 cable for the power from the bunkhouse to the cabin through 2-inch Schedule 40 conduit. This setup served our 12-volt needs in the cabin well. The connection between the pump and the 12-volt, 6-gang, electrical control panel box was easy albeit time consuming. The important thing though, when I was done hooking up the water pump to the 12-volt control box, I flipped the pump switch on and the pump purred like a kitten. YEAH!

Next to the last step was to connect the outside faucet to the drum in the basement. This involved first drilling a 1 1/4-inch hole through the sill of the cabin. Inserting in and then locking down the frost-free faucet. Once completed I took some ¾-inch irrigation poly pipe I had on hand left over from Part I of the project. Affixed both ends of this pipe with female hose fittings. Once done, one end of the pipe was screwed to the outside faucet and the other to the frost-free faucet at the cabin. Last was to hook up a stretch of pipe from the basement end of the frost-free faucet to the drum. Easy enough right?

My Dutchie supervising the installation of the outside filling station

It always amazes me how long something actually takes verses what you think should just take minutes. This task believe it or not, took all morning. The sill on the cabin is 6-inches thick as the cabin log walls sit on the sub-floor, which is made up with four, 2×10-inch treated planks bolted together which acts as the cabins sill.

With the above set-up it would work great during the summer but not during the winter; Consequently, we needed a weatherproof filling plan. I designed a system that is easier to show in a picture then to explain. The system used 3-ball-valves, some threaded barb connections, and of course hose clamps. Below I have tried to explain the process used in the winter and summer.


In the winter we leave ball-valve “A” and ball-valve “C” open all winter so that the line does not freeze. When I want to fill the barrel, I close ball-valve “C”, open up ball-valve “B” and the frost-free faucet attached to the cabin. Once the barrel is filled, I close ball-valve “A” and open up ball-valve “C” to drain the pipe going into the house. If not done the water left in the pipe will freeze. Once the pipe is dry, I close the frost-free faucet and ball-valve “B” and reopen ball-valve “A” to allow the free flow of water. Clear as mud…Right?

A quick note here: I pre-marked the water barrel into fifths. It takes approximately 3-minutes to fill each fifth of the barrel or 15-minutes in total. During the fill time this frees me up to do chores like… Bring wood in for the wood stove, open a bottle of home brew hard cider, take a leak…You get the idea. MrsMac has accused me of being an “A-Type” personality and could not sit still for five minutes if my life depended on it. Nah, the women is delusional.

The last step on this project was to run ½-inch PEX piping to the kitchen faucet and 1st & 2nd floor toilets. Which was a snap with all of my previous experience of drilling and pulling wire.

Once the PEX pipe was in place and connected first to the cold water manifold and the appropriate water dispensers, I opened the drum’s ball-valve, turned on the pump switch at the 12-Volt control box; hollered up to MrsMac to open the kitchen faucet and then opened up the cold water manifold ball-valve for the sink faucet. Viola! I heard my wife holler, “we got water!” Asked her to flush the toilet and then opened up the manifold ball-valve and VOILA! No more lugging buckets inside for me anymore.

Once the water ran steady with no captured air, I opened up the 2nd floor toilet. Checked for leaks at each junction. There was one and I tightened the connector with a pipe wrench and all was good.

The final cost for Part II came in at a total of $587-.

I had kept the project from my brother and sister in-law till when my brother came up to the cabin for deer season – He was blown away!  So, blown away he did the dishes most nights.

Before he left to go back home at the close of deer season, he said, “I know you are raring to install the hot water portion of this project but hold off for a bit…OK? Money is a bit tight.” I just smiled.

Now I ask my readers: How long is “a bit”? By February I figured I had waited long enough and started on the next and final phase of Bringing Water to/into the Cabin by making the water HOT. Part III will be published in a few weeks so let the questions and comments fly…Until then.

Freedom Through Self-Reliance©




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