Question? Just ask us!
Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
InspectAPedia ® Home
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER FILTERS, HOME USE
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL CHLORINATION & DISINFECTION
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Well Foot Valves:
This article describes the foot valve used on well piping for water well Pumps & Water Wells: we explain what a foot valve is, how they work, why they are used, and how to diagnose troubles with this special in-well check valve found at the bottom of well piping in some wells.
We provide advice about loss of well pump prime due to bad foot valves and what to do when things go wrong with the check valve.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
An Explanation of Well Piping Foot Valves
Carson Dunlop's sketch (left) shows the main parts of a one-line jet pump well installation. Nearly all well pumping systems, one line jet pump, two line jet pump, or submersible well pump, require a foot valve installed at the bottom of the well piping.
A Well Piping Foot Valve is a one way or anti-siphon valve which is installed on the pick-up end of the water pipe near the bottom of the well.
Foot valves are also used on deep well installations to help protect against loss of prime in the well piping system.
Since you won't normally see the foot valve on well piping (it's down in the well) we have included a photograph of a well piping foot valve at the top of This article .
Watch out: without a working foot valve, a shallow well jet pump is likely to lose prime and will stop working properly, risking loss of water supply to the building and even damage to the pump itself.
As you may guess, a foot valve is basically a check valve combined with an inlet strainer (visible in our page top photograph). The strainer prevents picking up large debris that could clog or jam the foot valve in its open position (or that might damage the water pump itself).
The check valve is a one-way valve that lets water flow up from the well and into the well piping. The spring loaded check valve closes when the well pump stops pumping.
Closing the check valve prevents water in the well piping from falling backwards into the well when the pump has stopped running. We need this function to keep the well piping and water pump filled with water - otherwise the well pump may lose prime, leading to loss of water in the building.
If the well piping foot valve is leaky and water runs back into the well we increase the wear on the water pump as it has to run more often, and pretty soon
the water pump will lose its prime (water inside the pump mechanism) and it may be unable to retrieve any more water from the well whatsoever.
Foot Valve Clearance from Bottom shows that the well piping and foot valve are inserted into the well some distance from the very bottom of the well (inches to a few feet). We need this clearance to reduce the tendency of the well pump to pick up mud and debris from the bottom of the well.
Reader Question: do jet pumps come with a built in check valve or do I need a foot valve or both?
I have model pkg 1-54AP 2" single pipe jet kit for a sta-rite sld-l 3/4hp jet pump. Does the jet package come with a built-in check valve and if it does, do I need a foot valve? Thanks! - David
David take a look at the page top photo - if your kit didn't include something that looks like that, you don't yet have a foot valve.
Yes some jet pumps include a built-in check valve.
It's true that some jet pumps include a check valve in the nose of the pump; and it's also true that some experts recommend only using a single check valve. If your well is quite shallow, say less than 27 ft. you might get away without a foot valve. But if I were installing new equipment including piping into the well, I'd put in a foot valve - as the most reliable component, and because it's easy to do now and more trouble to add later.
Also see our discussion of the WELL PIPING TAIL PIECE that protects well pumps from damage in a low-flow poor recovery rate well.
Other things to check when losing well prime
If you are having trouble losing well prime and suspect a bad foot valve or check valve, also see
CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY about above-ground check valves in the water system
Foot Valve Troubleshooting
Pump runs but is not pulling any water
(Apr 9, 2014) ashok said:
I have 2 water lines connected to an above ground water pump which is attached to a tank. last winter i could not get water and i checked the pump and found it had a crack at the impeller housing. I got a used pump and attached the lines to it. The pump works fine but is not pulling any water.
Also there is no place to pour water to prime the pump so i installed a T with a shut off nut. I did pour plenty of water in this T at times i get some pressure , maybe for a second and then nothing. I am wondering if i may have switched the pipes supply to discharge or vice versa. please advice
Ashok, you might have switched lines, or the same freezing that cracked the pump may have cracked a well line leading to leaks or loss of prime. Check out our alternative methods for how to prime the well pump by starting at
Pump used to
Possible well piping leaks vs foot valve malfunction
(Apr 3, 2014) keith watkins said:
I installed a new deep well pump,which came with a new pressure switch,a new pressure tank & a new foot valve.The switch is a 20/40 and I dropped 2psi on the tank which made it at 18psi,and this was 18psi BEFORE I installed the tank.My water looses its prime,but by only a glass of water or so.It quits flowing water after a couple minutes,and then I have to prime again.
The foot valve is off the bottom.The foot valve is below water level.My well is about 25ft deep until it comes to water level and the the foot valve is below water about 15ft.The only thing that is not new is the long pipes going down the well.Can you help?
Given all the new stuff this sounds to me as if there is a leak somewhere or the foot valve is sticking or leaking a bit before it closes.
Foot valve to pick-up for lake water
(Mar 30, 2014) William said:
I have a shallow well jet pump 1.5 hp with a sealed supply line to a lake. It was cycling too frequently and going on and off every few seconds with poor flow to house. I have replaced the pressure control unit (set to kick in at 30 psi and out at 52 psi, and does) and replaced the filters between the pump and the storage pressure tank (80 liters/pressure is fine in the tank at 28 psi empty) with success in that the cycling is gone.
But, when I run water (hot or cold), the system only gives about 3-4 gallons of water (rated to give 7-8 gallons at least) and, after the pump kicks in at 30 psi (appropriately), the pump just does not seem to be able to keep up the water flow.
The flow in all house taps slows by half and the pump keeps running until the tap is turned off. It then takes the pump twice or more as long as it should or 10-15 minutes to fill the pressure tank again, (the motor gets hot, though it shuts off appropriately at 52 psi). I suspect I have a problem with the pump. such as needing to replace the impeller. But, would like some advice before I get a new impeller, seals, etc. and take the pump apart. Thanks for your advice!!
I should add, I am in an isolated location 2 hours+ from any plumber or city. The pump is 10 years old.
William, usually the foot valve installed at the end of a lake pick-up is the screen against picking up debris into the pump system; ou'll want to investigate where the pick-up is in the lake and whether it's sitting in muck or algae or weeds.
Do you mean that the lack of water flow could be just the pump is unable to draw water due to foot valve blockage, even with such a strong motor? If so, I will postpone taking the pump apart until I can check and clean the foot valve. (It does have a coarse mesh cover.)
Yes William, on occasion we have to scrape the crud off of the foot valve and check that it's up a bit off the bottom - I've done the same thing with a friend who had this system at Lake George in NY. He also invented and we installed a typical over-engineered system that pumped air back down the water line in winter so that he could turn water on and off into his home during times when the lake was freezing.
Question: Water pressure loss after electrical power outage - lightning strike & lost well water
Hi,after a power outage that lasted the entire day, I now have no water at all. I'm new to all of this, so please bear with me. Although, thanks to your very informative site I'm learning. I have a single line jet pump and am not sure what the depth of the well is.
I tried to re prime with no success, so had a well person check it out. He spent over an hour adding water, turning the pump on and off, gradually bringing the water and pressure back up to the top. Right as he was ready to give up it worked, and water was flowing strong out of the faucet. It didn't last long though, and he said there must be a crack or hole in the piping of the well, which is letting air in.
What I don't understand is I had water before the power outage with a supposed cracked or damaged pipe. So since he got the water back up to the top and flowing, why wouldn't it continue and keep the prime since it was before?
He advised that since the well is older (25 years) and the cost to find out what is wrong with it would be $1500 plus the cost of repair, that I would be better off having a new well dug, which is $3800.
Reply: check for bad foot valve and replace it; refer to details of well pump priming procedure, check valves, foot valves
Indeed, Valora, a lightning hit can burn up electrical wiring, controls, pumps, and can even damage plumbing pipes. But your description sounds as if there was a loss of prime and difficulty re-priming the pump. If the water system has a bad foot valve (located on the bottom of well piping) and power stays off for some time, you are more likely to lose well prime. The proper repair is to pull the well piping and replace the foot valve.
The reason this problem shows up after a power loss is that even though the foot valve may have been leaking for some time, as long as you had electrical power, when the foot valve leaked the dropping pressure at the water tank caused the pump to turn on by itself, restoring water, pressure in the water tank, and prime before so much water was lost that the pump couldn't recover by itself. But when power was lost for hours, so much water drained back into the well that the well could not re-prime itself when it started again.
Continue reading at WELL PIPING CHECK VALVES or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
Suggested citation for this web page
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: warm well water
(Apr 29, 2011) Anonymous said:
my well water is geting hot in the well line go to the wall
Sounds odd unless the piping is exposed to sunlight or your water source is geothermal.
Question: how to pull a stuck foot valve
(Dec 22, 2011) walt said:
pulling a stuck foot valve from the well
Walt, if your note below is a question, perhaps asking how to pull the stuck foot valve out of the well, the procedure is to open the well casing and remove all of the well piping - the foot valve should be attached to the bottom of the well pipe.
If you are asking about how to retrieve a foot valve that fell off of the piping and is at the well bottom, you'll want to call a local well driller who has object retrieval tools that can be lowered into the well to try to grab and pull the item out.
Question: pump goes on for no reason
(Jan 24, 2012) Marion said:
I have a 280ft well. The pump is going on without water use. I hear a hissing sound (like water running) inside the pipe that runs from the water tank to the well outside. When I turn off the valve located between the tank and the outside the noise stops. What could this be? Leaky foot valve? Water pressure is fine. Can I leave this valve closed until I can call a well man to save on wear and tear on the pump? Of course will need to open to use water in the house.
Marion the diagnosis & repair you want to read is at WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING
If you shut off the whole system you may lose prime completely and thus lose all water supply.
Question: how do I get the well piping, pump, foot valve out of the well? Pulling well piping.
(Jan 30, 2012) Mike said:
How do I pull the deep well piping as I suspect the foot valve is leaking? I can pressurize the system through an external water supply and the system will loose pressure and priming. It has (2) 3/4"PVC pipes at the pump that are separate and going into the ground. I have dug down about a foot and seems as though there is no well casing.
(Jan 23, 2013) Sandy said:
Our well is about 20 feet deep. We're trying to get the pvc pipe out of the casing. Can only pull about 8 ft out then it gets stuck. Any ideas?
(May 10, 2014) pete said:
how to replace piping , check valve and foot valve?
Everyone: you need a crane or a winch and hoist assembly to pull deep well piping.
Short lengths of shallow well piping an often be pulled by hand.
I agree that the symptoms you describe could be a bad foot valve. In fact if I pulled a well pipe I'd put on a new foot valve out of principle anyway, having gone to the cost and trouble of disturbing everything.
For stuck components or stuff dropped into the well, also see WELL RETRIEVAL TOOLS
Question: water pressure is good, then stops
(May 17, 2012) Rena Spencer said:
When water starts good pressure then water stops for couple of seconds and returns.
Rena search InspectAPedia for "How to Diagnose & Repair Poor Water Pressure or Lost Water Pressure at Buildings " to read at the starting point of our diagnostics. I suspect a sticking pump switch or a pressure sensor that is clogged.
Marion, search InspectApedia for "Intermittent Water Pump Cycling When No Water is Running, Diagnose & Cure " to read the diagnosis of the problem you describe.
Question: lake water pump loses prime, air discharge, pump keeps running
(Aug 13, 2012) Pump will loose its prime and pu said:
We bought this house on a lake it had been sitting for 2 years it has a shallow well the first week the pump started acking up it kept cycling and got hot I shut it off a few hours later i turned it back on an it started working, sevral weeks later when we would turn on the water at any faucet it would blow a lot of air then one morning the pump was running but not shutting off and was to hot to touch, i shut it down I replaced the pressure switch, then it seamed to work ok for a couple days and now i have to prime it with about 5 gal. of water to get to build up pressure and sometimes it still wont start and i have to wait a couple hours and then it will start when I prime it still with several gals. of water, then one person can take a shower and it will recover ok but if we dont run water within an hour then it looses its prime and starts getting hot. please help
This sounds like a leak in well piping. See WELL PIPING LEAK DIAGNOSIS
Reader comment: thanks for helping solve my water problem
(Aug 25, 2012) donald galletti said:
gee i would like to thank you people for helping me solve my water problem as you know my pump was comming on and off with no water being used i found the problem that you instructed me to check and you were right it was a faluty foot valve i had to drain the well but the new foot valve stopped the pump from running i am very thankful for your website god bless don galletti
Thanks so much Don.
Question: sudden loss of water pressure
(Aug 26, 2012) Linda said:
Water was fine yesterday and last night there is hardly any pressure/water coming thru. I have a well but I know NOTHING about them. What would cause a sudden drop like that?
Question: failed check valvce at the bottom of the well, pump jammed in the casing
(Aug 28, 2012) Chet said:
My well is 800 feet deep. I have started having problems that indicate the foot valve/check valve at the bottom of the well has failed. I had a well company come out to diagnose the problem and they agree. However, when they tried to pull the pump, it is apparently jammed or wedged into the casing. They told me the only way to fix this was to drill a new well, but I don't have the $20K they said it would cost. At the time the problem resolved itself (jiggling the pipe when trying to pull it may have helped) but now the problem is back. Can I dig a pit around the well head, cut the casing and install another check valve nearer the top of the well? I would have a well company do this if it is possible. I could install the check valve inside the house, but then the outside hydrant would not work. The well is about 11 years old.
It is dangerous for me to second-guess someone more experienced and who was on the scene, but surely everyone realizes that lkosing a pipe, well, tool, or other stuff down a well happens all the time, including jamming (usually because someone made a mistake).
Before rewarding the guys who jammed your pump in your well, call some other well drillers to find someone who has experience with retrieving lost pipes and pumps - there are special tools and procedures for this process.
Search Inspectapedia for "Submersible Well Pumps for Drinking Water Wells " to read about how to fish a lost pump out of a well.
Also see WELL RETRIEVAL TOOLS
Question: creek water pump for gardens loses water
(Sept 8, 2012) craig said:
hi i have a pump running to creek to a davey pump 10 year old iuse just for gardens how build up the psi as it will not hold it or is it to do with the creek drying up
Check for a clogged foot valve or foot valve not under sufficient water - a dried up creek
Question: pros and cons of adding a second foot valve or check valve
(Sept 28, 2012) Peter Templeton -- pktempleton@b said:
What are the pros and cons of putting a second foot valve directly on top of a 1 HP 10 GPS pump in a well 360' deep?
at a companion article CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY (links at the end of this article) you'll read some problems with multiple check valves. I understand, and have yielded on occasion to the temptation to add a second valve, but the correct and reliable repair is to get one check valve in the right place and that works.
Question: small well piping problem
(Nov 4, 2012) Rob said:
Couldn't the problem be that the piping is smaller than the foot valve. As in the foot valve has been bushed down from 1" to 3/4" piping?
I don't think so.
(Dec 7, 2012) Raja said:
I am currently working on a project which employs a 20 hp motor with 1500 rpm with a suitable pump to pump up to an overhead water tank of 30m high. Initially it worked fine but eventually there was no enough pressure to pump up the water from a shallow depth well. Kindly advise.
Question: complete loss of water pressure "fixed" by tapping the pressure control switch
(Dec 17, 2012) Katrina said:
I'm having trouble with my well. We loose water all together but if I tap on the "points" on the top of the pump it kicks back on and we will have water again for a couple hours, strange thing is it only happens when it rains or the ground is wet, what could be causing this? We aren't even sure what needs replaced
Corroded, burned contact switch points in the pump pressure control switch, or debris clogging in the pressure switch water pressure sensing port can cause the symptom you describe. I suggest changing the switch
(Jan 5, 2013) Scott said:
We have an approx. 80' deep well and have just recently (within the last month) replaced the pressure tank. We suspect the failure of the last tank was our fault. We failed to heat the pump room on a particularly cold night and think the pressure valve froze open. This caused the pump to continue to run and probably blow out the bladder in the pressure tank. Solved and fixed that problem on my own. Yay me. The new tank has worked fine for the past month or so however recently, within the last two days or so, we have stared to get air in the lines. At first, it was only a little air but now it is getting progressively worse. My wife says that what looked like 'rusty water' came into her bath last night. I suspected yet another broken pressure tank however the tank is holding pressure just fine. Also, there is no water that comes out of the pressure valve on top of the tank. I suspect (actually, hope, since this is one of the cheaper options to repair) either a bad foot valve or a hole in the pipe coming from the well pump to the pitless adapter. The one thing that is causing me to doubt that though is there is no 'short cycling' of the well pump. The system hold pressure but when you run the water down until the pump kicks in there is a large amount of air that comes out. If there is any other information that is needed please, let me know.
Question: solid yellow light on well pump control means what?
(May 19, 2014) Bill Mobley said:
I have a well in the mountains of NC. The well dried up a couple years ago. Working with a reputable well man, I learned that I had burned up my pump, 900 feet down. It was replaced, and at the same time I put in a reservoir outside since it appeared the well ran low, but maybe not dry, and we could use the reservoir while the well refilled, at times. We also placed a Pump Tech box. After all this, well was still inadequate, so I fracked, and since then all has been well x 2 years.
Now I have a solid yellow light on the pump tech box suggesting low amperage. The water column in the casing is about 1-2 seconds down, so I don't think the well is low now. Could a faulty foot valve be causing the problem? How can check to see if the output pipe (running into the reservoir) is clogged? Will I need to pull up 900 feet of pipe to check the pump intake? Any advice appreciated. My pump man has advised waiting 24 hours to see if the well fills up, but the height of H2O in the column suggests to me the well has water.
We need to know and then review the brand and model of your pump controls, but usually a low current draw indicates either that the pump is cavitating or pumping air, or that perhaps the motor is disconnected from the impeller.
A faulty foot valve screen might admit debris and damage the pump, or if clogged might keep enough water from entering the pump.
Question: lawn watering system pressure surging
(June 1, 2014) Jerald Bulifant said:
lawn well pump is surging and random water flow
take a look at
to see if that describes the symptom and its diagnosis.
Question: distance from pump and pressure tank to the suction line
(June 8, 2014) Anonymous said:
I am currently building a cabin and have a question about the well and pump setup. I have a 25ft deep well located approx. 25ft from where the cabin foundation will be. I would like to put the pump and pressure tank in the basement. My question is would this be to far to run my suction line ( I plan to run 1 1/4" suction line)...Thanks-frank
That distance is not likely to be a problem - keeping tank and pressure control switch close is recommended however
Question: pump is primed but not getting any water
(June 28, 2014) Pete needs help said:
I have a deep well with a two line jet pump. 1 hp . I have water at well head and water in pump . pump is 2 ft away from well . but pump will not pressureize. I split pump to check impeller. it is fine and free of trash spins freely when pump is turned on, well is ten years old . 360 ft deep foot valve is only 6 months old and is 50 ft below water level which is 30 ft below ground level
If you have water in the well and the pump is primed but won't produce pressure, and assuming the pump runs, I suspect a damaged pump impeller assembly.
Other explanations include a leak in well piping or very low voltage.
Question: suspect clogged foot valve or well at end of life
(July 2, 2014) Mike said:
We have a shallow well that is down about 21 feet. Recently, we had to replace the well pump and all of the pipes, T's, etc. The new pump holds prime but we continue to lose water pressure in the house after 10 mins of using the shower. The air tank was checked as well and it is fine. We lowered the psi to 20/40 and the pump will come on when we flush the toilet as well. Since everything within the house has been replaced, we are now thinking that the well itself may be the issue. It was installed 26 yrs ago. We think it may have a clogged foot valve or the well itself may have come to the end of its lifespan. Should we spend the time digging 5-6 feet below ground to see if there is a bad coupling since we are guessimating that the well is 150 feet from the house. Any help would be appreciated
Replacing "all of the pipes" did not, I take it include well piping and foot valve?
A shallow well can give good water supply for many years then conditions can change that drastically cut the well flow rate. At a NY well that was 27 feet deep and gave plenty of water since the 1920's, when the town road crew came by and blasted on Vassar Road as part of reducing the radius of a curve in the road, the well's bedrock water supply was disturbed, silted, and reduced.
Wells can also clog and lose flow rate over time even without an external influence as mineral deposits clog rock fissures.
If your system has normal pressure and the pump works normally - able to reach the cutoff pressure - then you run out of water after a time, I suspect a reduced well flow rate.
Well piping leak effects tend to be consistent rather than appearing only after a period of time.
Question: black specs in well water, small & flat
7/21/2014 Hillard said:
I have a very deep well (160 feet+). Though the water is hard it is good tasting, does not stain or smell. The well is at least 40 - 50 years old (I've had it 38 years). In the past I have had to pull the lines due to a split in the line and another time pull the lines to replace the foot valve. Neither time a fun job. This morning I am noticing black specks or flakes coming out of my cold water line at the kitchen sink. This is coming through the little filter at the end of the faucet - which I removed. The specks still come out. Tried other outlets and now same thing out of a bathroom cold line. Did not notice them in hot water - though suspect as water in tank is used the new cold water may show them up there. Also so far have not noticed any in the commode.
The specks are black, small and flat. When I have filtered some through paper towel I can rub them and they seem to break down - so probably not metal. I recall seeing very large black flakes in the commode bowl when the foot valve went out, also it totally lost the prime. I still have good pressure. Suggestions on what to tackle first - or do I just wait and see if more things develop. Could it just be a bunch of dirt stirred up in the well? We are 6 inches under in rain fall this year, though have been getting rain the last few days.
Not a happy thought to pull those lines again. If I do, any suggestions for replacements or are the black plastic lines the industry standard? I do have copper lines in the house to all the outlets. Thanks for any directions. I do 95% of all my own maintenance so can usually tackle about anything if need be.
Could be debris from the well bottom, including rust from corrosion of the well casing, but I'd have expected some variation in debris particle size & color if this were the source.
Is your well pump an above ground 2 line jet pump? If so, check for a damaged impeller or bearing.
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
Search the InspectApedia website
HTML Comment Box is loading comments...
Technical Reviewers & References