Difficulty of adding or enlarging a cistern on a house for sale?  

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Tiamichaud
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January 29, 2017 7:37 pm  

Hi, my husband and I are looking at houses to buy, but some of them have small cisterns. How expensive/lengthy of a process would it be to add on a nice big cistern (on St. Thomas)?


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Afriend
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January 29, 2017 8:41 pm  

Can't really answer your question with any certainty. It depends on size, location, ability for heavy equipment to access the intended location, whether you intend to add on to the existing cistern or just build a separate one and a host of other unknowns. Suffice to say, building a cistern is a bit like constructing a swimming pool. I'd estimate a cost of somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000.

Best to consult with a local contractor to get more accurate estimates.


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Gumbo
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January 30, 2017 12:06 am  

I've been told 3.00 per gallon.
Mine is about 12000 gal. Usually I have plenty of water. During last year's drought I bought 10,000 gal.


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mtdoramike
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January 30, 2017 12:17 am  

Usually cisterns are commensurate with the size of the home built. If you have a large cistern, you really need to have a large roof area to capture the water. To me, it would be more cost effective if you learned to conserve water rather than looking to build a bigger cistern. This ain't the states where water in most areas isn't a premium. I have learned like when bathing to get wet, turn OFF the water, soap up and then turn the water back on and rinse off. Also not flushing the toilet every time someone goes to the bathroom for a #1. Also, put enough water in the sink to rinse your dished instead of constantly running the water. Lastly, plant drought tolerant plants.

But if you choose to blow out your cistern, I'm sure you will find a contractor with the ability to do it.

mike


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Tiamichaud
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January 30, 2017 12:51 am  

Thank you for all of your replies! The house we are looking at has a cistern of 5,000 gallons. I take baths, and one of my chiefest pleasures in life is my large bathtub. My husband doesn't conserve water; if I can't teach him to put a towel back on a rack when he is done with it, I am not going to hold my breath for him to learn to live greener. We will also have 2-3 children living with us at any given time.
I was thinking 15-20,000 gallons would give us enough to not have to worry about water too much??


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East Ender
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January 30, 2017 1:10 am  

Excuse me while I go make some popcorn...;)


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Exit Zero
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January 30, 2017 2:45 am  

It may be easier to use the large plastic/fiberglass containers --
http://www.tank-depot.com/product.aspx?id=3721

if the cistern you have now rarely overflows where would you get the water to fill another one from?

Once you start having water truck bills to pay often enough it may be easier to encourage conservation and maybe limited bathtub days.


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fdr
 fdr
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January 30, 2017 8:28 am  

If conserving water is not an option for your family, you will have an interesting time adapting to many aspects of living on St Thomas. Make sure your house also has a generator for when WAPA goes out - no power = no water pump = no water.

I'd be very surprised if a house with such a small cistern even HAS a bathtub as opposed to just a shower, so you are probably figuring on adding one. You said "large", so let's figure an average of 70 gallons per bath, or 1,400 a month assuming you take a bath 5 days a week (2,100 gallons a month if you take one every day). The average person uses about 100 gallons a day without conserving (not including your baths), so 100 x 4 x 30 = 12,000 + baths = 13,400 - 14,100 gallons per month.

So, whether 20,000 gallons for cistern capacity will be enough depends on how much it rains, how much your roof space captures, and how willing you are to pay for water when it doesn't rain.

I used to love taking baths in the states. Here we have this wonderful thing called the Caribbean Sea that I float in when I want to relax in a lot of water. It's way better than a tub.

As others have mentioned, you need sufficient roof space to collect adequate water and enough buildable land to add the new cistern capacity. A large Tuff Tank won't add enough capacity for what you're talking about, although it's the cheapest option.

Get several quotes from reputable contractors before making a decision on buying this house (check references - some tend to bid low and charge high). And what Exit says is very true -- water conservation becomes second nature when you start facing the consequences (financial and otherwise) of not having any.

Let us know what you decide!


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vicanuck
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January 30, 2017 11:11 am  

In the years that we've lived on STX, we've learned to use water very conservatively. One of the things that made the biggest impact was when we had new larger gutters (eaves-troughs) installed. Now, when it rains, we collect considerably more water than we used to and this had made a big difference.


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FL Barrier Islander
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January 30, 2017 5:51 pm  

In addition to the comments shared already, based on our research, cistern cost should be $1/gallon in most of the world including the continental US. BUT, to buy or build a cistern/water storage container on St. Thomas, it's 3x to 5x that much. Cost of concrete is much higher than fiberglass or plastic. Concrete....make sure you get references and GO LOOK at the builds that were done by the potential contractor. Fiberglass or plastic - you need to verify the materials are safe for potable water. If you go with "one nice big cistern", you introduce a single point of failure plus one cistern makes cistern maintenance more complicated. We have earthquakes/tremors in the territory. Concrete can develop cracks. Fiberglass can be patched. Plastic.....I dunno. There's also the consideration of cistern footprint and if you have enough space to put it on your property. And, consideration of placing a cistern where it is shielded from the sun. And finally (well, maybe not "finally" as I'm sure others have more knowledge / experience they can share), if this is your forever home....ok. If it's not, don't expect the property value of your house to exponentially increase.


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FL Barrier Islander
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January 30, 2017 6:01 pm  

Exit Zero, did you purchase from Tank Depot and they shipped to STT? Or, did you just have them deliver to port in FL and you handled getting it from FL to STT? ....or none of the above...LOL


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SunnyCaribe
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January 30, 2017 7:10 pm  

If you want to take a bath, go down to the sea. There's more to consider than cistern size where excessive water use is concerned. If you're not on a WAPA sewer line you'll quickly overburden your septic system.

I would never build a concrete cistern on St Thomas if I didn't have to. All my STT and STJ friends have had plastic cisterns and have done well.

But the point is moot. If you cannot learn to conserve water yourselves you will not be happy here. I think most of the comments here agree that we've all seen this before and it always ends the same way. Conserve or leave.


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mtdoramike
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January 30, 2017 7:31 pm  

If you want to take a bath, go down to the sea. There's more to consider than cistern size where excessive water use is concerned. If you're not on a WAPA sewer line you'll quickly overburden your septic system.

I would never build a concrete cistern on St Thomas if I didn't have to. All my STT and STJ friends have had plastic cisterns and have done well.

But the point is moot. If you cannot learn to conserve water yourselves you will not be happy here. I think most of the comments here agree that we've all seen this before and it always ends the same way. Conserve or leave.

Very well stated, The Islands may not be for you. One thing most folks learn quickly in the Islands is leave your old life behind. You will find that doing without will either become a hindrance to you or an obsession. But either way you really do need to decide whats most important and those long baths are unrealistic in the Islands


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Exit Zero
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January 30, 2017 9:19 pm  

Exit Zero, did you purchase from Tank Depot and they shipped to STT? Or, did you just have them deliver to port in FL and you handled getting it from FL to STT? ....or none of the above...LOL

I only used that site as a reference point for an alternative to building a concrete structure - no idea about shipping -- personally I have never bought water in my 37 years in this house - on cistern overflow rainy times we do take luxurious baths instead of just letting the water flow out the relief pipes and down the mountain.


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Alana33
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January 30, 2017 9:35 pm  

Just make sure, if you must have the bath, water your plants with the water when done. People tend to conserve water here because we're depending on rain to fill our cisterns. You quickly learn not to flush after every time you pee. You can reduce the amount of water in toilet tank to flush by placing a couple bricks or filling a half gallon plastic jug with water and placing it in tank, cut down on how many loads of laundry you do weekly, you can use your dish water to water plants, you don't let the water run when brushing your teeth or doing dishes, etc.

You'll either adapt or will be buying truckloads of water.
That runs about $375 for 5000 gallons.

Personally, I prefer a concrete cistern but I also have a 600 gallon fiberglass tank that I can use if cistern needs cleaning or repairs or for watering plants. It has a separate water pump and is plumbed so it can be directed for household use, if needed. It's a good back up, especially considering the extreme drought we experienced 2 (?) years ago.

I don't think I'd go with plastic tanks but don't know enough about them in terms of longevity and care, if they get brittle, allow algae to form, must be located in shaded area and not exposed to direct sunlight, all day, etc.

Anyway, good luck to you with whatever you decide.


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vicanuck
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January 31, 2017 2:17 pm  

My cisterns have thick vinyl liners in them. Too many earthquakes here to trust concrete alone.


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Gumbo
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January 31, 2017 3:32 pm  

My cisterns have thick vinyl liners in them. Too many earthquakes here to trust concrete alone.

Now that is a great thing. Being that it's dark in a cistern the vinyl liners should last a very long time. They last about 10 years in an outside due too the sun. No more recoating.

Who installs them and what costs are involved?


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Jumbie
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January 31, 2017 4:47 pm  

My cisterns have thick vinyl liners in them. Too many earthquakes here to trust concrete alone.

Now that is a great thing. Being that it's dark in a cistern the vinyl liners should last a very long time. They last about 10 years in an outside due too the sun. No more recoating.

We went this route in 2010 after multiple small leaks through the cinder block/concrete walls. All leaks stopped after the liner was installed and cistern refilled.

I have no idea of who installs but whomever it is would have to measure your cistern, drain it, clean it, order the liner/materials and install it.

Jumbie

Keith Crilow


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vicanuck
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January 31, 2017 4:47 pm  

I'm not sure who installed them because they were there when we bought. But, i think any good pool company can manage them. They're just thick pool liners.


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FL Barrier Islander
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February 1, 2017 3:57 pm  

We had a 5,000 gallon cistern collapse (concrete) and are now shopping replacement. Fortunately we had 2 but being down to 1 that was built out of same materials in the same timeframe as the one that collapsed is not a comfortable situation to be in. A couple years ago we purchased vinyl liners - measured and ordered online, shipped from States, installed ourselves and no leaks (well....except for the major failure) after installing vinyl liners. If you have a concrete cistern, I give strong recommendations for vinyl liners. Replacing the concrete cistern like for like is.....a ~$30,000 expense. So, I think we're targeting a fiberglass tank (or two). Again, as mentioned by Alana33, plastic over time...shorter lifespan. Plus, fiberglass can be patched.


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Alana33
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February 1, 2017 5:39 pm  

Wow. That must've been a shock, FLBI!
I've never heard a a cistern collapse, previously.
They can get leaks from tremors and I once had a rubber tree root invade my cistern requiring it to be cleaned and resealed. Tree removed. No more problems. You do have to be careful of types of trees one plants close to house/cistern. Rubber trees and Ficus will hunt down any miniscule flaw in a cistern wall to invade.


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speee1dy
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February 2, 2017 5:57 pm  

if you want to take a bath, take a bath. if you cant get your cistern enlarged, you might have to replenish from time to time through a water delivery service.


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Gumbo
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February 2, 2017 11:41 pm  

if you want to take a bath, take a bath. if you cant get your cistern enlarged, you might have to replenish from time to time through a water delivery service.

You can buy lots of water for the cost of building a cistern. I've got friends that are life long islanders. They make it fine with a 5000 gallon cistern. They have lots of plants as well. They flush the toilets and take showers everyday. They just aren't wasteful.


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Exit Zero
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February 2, 2017 11:49 pm  

@ GUMBO
"I've got friends that are life long islanders. They make it fine with a 5000 gallon cistern."

That may well depend on what part of the island the house is located on and the amount of rainfall in that area.
They also mentioned they may have 2-3 children living there.


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Gumbo
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February 3, 2017 1:14 am  

@ GUMBO
"I've got friends that are life long islanders. They make it fine with a 5000 gallon cistern."

That may well depend on what part of the island the house is located on and the amount of rainfall in that area.
They also mentioned they may have 2-3 children living there.

Actually they raised three children there. Not the wettest or driest part of the island.
They are Frenchie and when they told their kids to take a 3 min. shower they meant what they said.


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