I decided to take on the very difficult task of building a house on top of a hill. The hill is mostly made up of limestone, and digging is incredibly difficult. We need to run a water line from the road, to the top of the hill about 300ft high. There is no path to dig from the road, to the house, and going by the driveway is not an option.

We are going to try and do a straight line path from the road, to the house with the water line, but there's no financially feasible way to dig. I know I've seen different types of lines running above ground, but rarely.

Things we've considered:

  • A PVC sleeve, like running a 3" pipe with insulated PEX tubing inside of it.
  • A Metal pipe with insulation, and PEX tubing inside of it.
  • We've considered running a fence along the property line and attaching the line to that fence, but because of the giant boulders everywhere, a fence would be difficult, but not impossible.


  • How would we attach this to the ground so it doesn't move around (if we don't go with the fence method)?
  • How do we stop animals from running into it and breaking PVC?

I can't seem to find anything on the internet for common ways to run water above ground. The only information I can seem to find on above ground pipes is for large oil lines. Some non-concerns we have are freezing, and pumping. We'll need a little bit of insulation, but it only drops below freezing here two of three times per year, and not for very long (less than a day). And the water tower that our water is coming from is above where our house is going, so we've been told no pump will be needed.

  • 1
    It's not commonly DONE above ground in freezing areas. In non-freezing areas, it's trivial. There are plenty of tools that will easily cut limestone (It's not a particularly hard rock.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 6, 2022 at 16:56
  • Thank you for the comment (and the answer). I've been breaking up limestone a lot with feather/wedge, and also cutting it some. I'm glad this is common, and I'm not doing something ill advised. There's reasons I don't want to cut into the limestone more (it's really massive pieces, much larger than a house that go from about 8 feet above ground, and no telling how far into ground). But running it on the ground as you mentioned seems like a great solution. Nov 6, 2022 at 17:32
  • "but it only drops below freezing here two of three times per year, and not for very long (less than a day)" How long do you think it takes a pipe to freeze solid??? I get where you feel flummoxed and helpless about what to do about pipe freeze, but the problem has to be dealt with, and can't be arm-waved away . Nov 6, 2022 at 18:36
  • Is there enough pressure on the main pipe? Are there other houses nearby at a similar altitude?
    – PMF
    Nov 6, 2022 at 18:54
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    @PMF yes, we had the water company come out and tell us what our pressure would be (I don't remember the exact number), but they assured me that we'd have enough pressure at our altitude. And yes, there are several other houses at the same altitude that have no problem. Nov 7, 2022 at 0:28

1 Answer 1


If it really freezes that little, run it on the ground (or on the surface of the rock after digging to that level) and pile 6 inches or so of sand/dirt on it - haul in sand/dirt if needed. That will provide better protection from damage and animals than an above-ground sleeved solution, and all the insulation your described freezing amount should require, as well.

Good odds it will cost less than sleeving pipe and pipe insulation, as well.

Use polyethylene "well water" pipe - it's much tougher than PVC pipe, and can withstand freezing without breaking if that ever becomes an issue. If you need to go 300 feet, you can get a single coil with no joints up to 1000 feet easily. If you need to go up 300 feet over some much longer horizontal distance you have't specified, you might need some couplings between rolls of pipe. The 160 or 200 PSI rated versions have thicker walls and are more damage resistant than the 100 PSI stuff is. Black poly is not damaged by sunlight.

Our "summer camp water system" was black poly well pipe laying on the surface of the ground/marsh (not attached to the ground, no need for that) for the line that got pond water for most uses, Drinking water was carried from a spring. The pipe had no protection at all and animal damage was an exceedingly rare event. So you could try that and see what your local damaging animals think. We pulled that and rolled it up before winter, and rolled it out again in the spring.

That also matches what I've seen many places for water distribution in rural non-freezing areas.

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    One potential "gotcha" that nobody mentioned is the vertical distance. PSI per foot of vertical water is .433333. So 300 ' vertical would mean about 130 PSI at the bottom, just to get ZERO pressure at the top. So to get decent pressure (say at least 40 PSI for domestic use) would mean having to supply it at the base at 170PSI. That's high. I won't say it can't be done, but you'll have to over-engineer this for good reliability. Also larger pipes are less frost prone than smaller pipes, but of course more expensive..,.yeah that's obvious and may not prevent frost. Nov 6, 2022 at 21:06
  • ...continued: I assume you'll be on a well, so water usage probably isn't a major concern, so you could install an electrically operated valve connected to a thermostat that would open the valve (metered down to a slow flow of course) when the temps got near freezing. Nov 6, 2022 at 21:10
  • @GeorgeAnderson question states supplied by a water tower that is higher than the house location (how much higher, not stated.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 6, 2022 at 21:36
  • Dang it! I missed that last sentence. Thanks! Nov 6, 2022 at 23:10
  • On the farm they had one of the cold water faucets running very slowly when it went below freezing with the thought that moving water does not freeze. Just thinking!
    – Gil
    Nov 7, 2022 at 0:24

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