A septic system contains an underground septic tank made of plastic, concrete, fiberglass, or other material to treat and dispose of sewage. This system is designed to provide an individualized wastewater treatment option for commercial and residential areas. Although you can install your own septic tank, we recommend professional installation due to the amount of expertise and specialized equipment needed.
In this article, we’ll discuss the types of septic systems available to homeowners and the process and cost behind installation.
Who Needs a Septic Tank?
In densely populated parts of the country, a home’s plumbing system usually connects directly to the municipal sewer line. For more rural areas, municipal sewer lines aren’t available so sewage is treated with a septic tank. If you’re moving into a new construction home or onto land without a pre-existing tank, you’ll be responsible for installing a septic system.
How to Prepare for Your Septic Tank Installation
To ensure septic tank installation goes smoothly, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Receive Multiple Estimates
Prior to any excavation or signed paperwork, receive estimates from licensed septic tank installers and read reviews about each company using trusted, third-party consumer reviews. Ensure the contractor you select holds the proper insurance and licensing and includes necessary preparations like excavation and drain field testing in their estimate.
Test the Soil and Obtain a Permit
Septic systems rely on permeable soil surrounding the tank to absorb and naturally treat liquid residue so that it doesn’t contaminate runoff water or leak into the water table. This area is known as the drain or leach field.
Before installing a septic tank, you’re legally obligated to obtain a percolation or “perc” test. This test confirms the soil meets requirements set by the city and local health department. Usually, the soil is required to have adequate amounts of permeable contents like sand or gravel. Once the land passes the percolation test, you’ll be able to obtain a permit and start the installation process.
Note: If you want to put a septic tank on a piece of land, it must pass the percolation test. We recommend ordering a test before purchasing the land you want to use for residential purposes.
Plan for Excavation
Heavy equipment is needed to excavate the large amount of land necessary for a septic tank. If you currently reside on the land, make sure to budget landscaping costs to fix any damage incurred during excavation.
If you’re building a new home, schedule the excavation at a time when it’ll have minimal impact on the construction process. Typically, this is before paving the driveways and sidewalks, but after the main frame of the home is built.
The Cost of Installing a Septic Tank
From a percolation test to emptying the septic tank, there are a few installation costs and other fees associated with installing your new septic system.
Depending on the size of the land and soil conditions, a percolation test can cost anywhere from $250–$1,000. Typically, professionals only dig a few holes in the proposed leach field area, but if a land survey is needed to determine where to excavate, your test’s cost can increase.
Building Permit Application
To build a septic tank on your land, you’ll need to obtain a permit. Permit pricing varies from state to state, but they usually cost around $200 and are typically renewed every few years.
Excavation and Installation
After passing a percolation test and receiving a building permit, your septic tank is ready to be properly installed. The price of your new septic system is based on the size of your home, type of system selected, and your septic tank material. Below is a list of various treatment systems and tanks available and the standard prices associated with each.
Types of Septic Tank Systems
Conventional septic system
A conventional septic system uses gravity to move household sewage into the septic tank. From there, sewage is separated into layers, with solid waste settling at the bottom and liquid sewage rising to the top. When liquid sewage rises to the level of the outflow pipe, the liquid waste flows into the drain field where it’s decomposed further. These conventional septic systems are usually the most affordable, with an average cost of around $3,000.
Alternative septic system
An alternative septic system collects sewage in the same way as a conventional system, but it breaks down the sewage in the tank using oxygen instead of naturally occurring bacteria. Drain fields for alternative systems generally need less land and release cleaner wastewater. However, this benefit comes at an increase in cost, with systems usually priced around $12,000.
Engineered septic system
Engineered septic systems are the most complex and are generally needed due to poor soil or the home being situated on an uphill slope. Just like alternative and conventional septic systems, engineered systems collect and separate waste in a tank. Instead of relying on gravity to drain, the liquid waste needs to be pumped into the leach field so that it’s evenly distributed throughout the land. These systems generally cost around $8,000.
Types of Septic Tanks
- Concrete—Concrete septic tanks are durable and rust-proof but are hard to repair if damaged. Depending on the size, concrete tanks can cost up to $2,000.
- Plastic—Plastic tanks are cost-effective but prone to damage. They cost around $1,200.
- Fiberglass—Fiberglass septic tanks are stronger than their plastic counterpart but can be shifted or displaced if the water table rises too high. These tanks can cost up to $2,000.
Read More: Septic Warranty Coverage and Costs
Using Your Septic Tank
When using your new septic tank, make sure to care for the land around the leach field and regularly inspect your tank using its lids. Never use a garbage disposal with your septic tank, as it can clog up the system. Additionally, avoid driving over the ground that houses the septic tank or placing heavy machinery on your septic tank or drain field.
Typically, you’ll need to schedule for the system to be cleaned and pumped after five years of septic system use. This prevents solid waste from building up and leaking into the surrounding soil or groundwater.
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