Intro to Cisterns

In the past twelve years we’ve probably done more cistern installations and repairs than anyone in the Four Corners area.  You have to make a major decision when you need a cistern. Cement or Plastic.

When you go into your kitchen to get a drink of water, why don’t you have cement cups?  Why do you have plastic cups?  You don’t have cement cups because you wouldn’t want the taste of the water from the cement. You wouldn’t want to set the cement cup down to fast and have it crack, and you wouldn’t want to have to lift the heavy cup up to your lips.  On the other hand, you like plastic cups because they don’t give the water any funky taste, they are indestructible and light, and they clean easily.

Guess what?! It works the same way for cisterns. Since 1999, we’ve repaired a lot of cement cisterns. If you can get past the part about how the water leaches the cement additives out from the walls of the cisterns, then pray that whoever installs the cistern preps the ground perfectly so that it won’t crack and break at some future time. Then you need to hope that the person who applied the seal just under the lid of the cistern did it properly so that you won’t have roots growing into your cistern trying to get to the water. The picture of the cement cistern above is one that needed to have a sealed manhole riser installed on it, and it needed to have tar and plastic put all over it to make sure that the top of the cistern didn’t leak.

The best and only reason we can think of to install a cement cistern is that the top of the cistern can be a floor to a pump house . . . that you probably don’t need. If at all possible, you don’t want a pump house here in Colorado. First consider the sheer cost of building a building, then painting it every several years, then the continual cost of heating it. Every year we switch over pumping systems to our innovative systems that don’t need pump houses – and their continual costs.

The Ace Roto Mold Plastic cisterns we sell are the heaviest cisterns made. Period. We know, we see them all. The ‘roto mold’ part comes from a huge mold that is heated to a precise temperature, then the plastic is added, then the mold is rotated by computer so that the plastic melts around the surfaces of the mold to the exact thickness needed. There is no seam in these cisterns. They are one piece and flat don’t and won’t leak. Ace Roto Mold took our suggestion years ago and made a large flat area for large tank adapters in the fronts and backs of the cisterns. This has been a wonderfully responsive company to work with.

Plastic cisterns have to be installed properly.  In a couple of hundred installations we’ve had problems with only three cisterns. We pre-build the cisterns in our shop where we can keep the cistern clean and control our – and your – costs. Then, these days, we usually excavate the hole and install it ourselves. The three cisterns we’ve had problems with in the past twelve years have had excavators that didn’t or wouldn’t excavate as we asked. They didn’t get the drainage right, and the clay ground swelled and the cisterns buckled and twisted. No one was happy.  We will only work with excavators that we know and respect and there are very good excavators in Pagosa and Durango. If we work with an unknown excavator or if you as a homeowner are going to excavate, our cistern contract with you will have a provision that if the initial dig, the backfill, or the drainage is not done properly, you will pay for us to come back in and straighten it up. Sorry for being hard-nosed about this, but if you hire us to put your cistern in, it’s gonna be right.

There is another decision you need to make if you want a plastic cistern installed. Do you want to have a plastic / cement cistern combo?  Quite often these days, we are installing the plastic cistern in a precsion dug hole, conecting the water lines and power, filling it with water and pressure testing everything. Then we order a cement truck full of ‘flow-fill’. This is a inexpensive low grade of concrete that we backfill around the plastic cistern with. You get the best of both worlds. You have a plastic lined cement cistern after we’re finished.

The combo plastic/cement cistern is another one in the long line of inovations we offer. We’ve never seen anyone else do this.

Jeep on Cistern

Back in 2002, we heard that one of the subdivision boards had said that they weren’t going to allow plastic cisterns to be installed in their subdivision because they weren’t stable and didn’t hold up. Hmmmm. What to do?  Here’s what we did . . . Even these Norwesco cisterns are indestructible!

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