Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

Can Home Construction Be Started in the Winter?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, November 08, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Repair

YES, you can start a construction project in the winter under the right circumstances. There are even some advantages to starting a project in the winter. Here are the pros and cons of starting a project in the winter months:


The subcontractors still need to work during the winter so you may be able to get a better price during the winter.

The subcontractors are less busy so they are more likely to meet your schedule.

By starting in the winter you will be off season of a typical construction schedule and therefore the subcontractors and suppliers may be less busy throughout your project. Example: lining up a foundation company is easier during the winter than in the spring or early summer, and finding a framing crew is easier during the winter than during the summer.

Subcontractors can continue to work while it snows verses rain.

The government agencies will be less busy so you can get your permits quicker.


Site work companies will need to be very conscientious about not letting frost get into the ground after the excavation is done and before the foundation is completed. This involves watching the weather very closely and covering the ground with thermal blankets if needed.

The days are shorter and colder and therefore the subcontractors have to work shorter days.

There could be more weather delays.

The site may have to be plowed and shoveled, which could incur some extra cost.

It can be harder to get large trucks in and out of your project.

You may need to use temporary heat to heat your home, the workers themselves, or some of the ground so you can dig.

Suggestions for starting a project in the winter months:

If your site gets a lot of sun you will have an easier time of starting a project in the winter.

If your building site gets very little sun or no sun at all, it is probably best not to start a project after the ground has frozen.

Cut some trees down to get more sun on your building site.

Make sure you have your excavation and foundation companies scheduled very close together so you have less chance of frost getting into the soil under the foundation.

Once the foundation and concrete floors are in, the major obstacles of starting in the winter are over. Sometimes the concrete floors can be poured after the house has been framed and temporary heat can be added to the area.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Other Types of Septic System Inspections

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, November 01, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Inspections, Fiskdale, Sturbridge, MA

New Construction and Upgrades

A new or upgraded system does not require inspection. These systems receive a Certificate of Compliance from the local Board of Health. This certification exempts the system from the inspection requirement for any transfer of title within the next 2 years. This exemption continues up to 3 years, provided that system pumping records demonstrate that the system was pumped at least once during the third year.

Condominiums and Large Systems

The condominium association is responsible for the inspection, maintenance and upgrade of the system or systems serving the units, unless the association’s governing documents provide otherwise.

Condominium systems should be inspected once every 3 years. Condominium developments with 4 or fewer units should also have their system inspected every 3 years, or within 2 years prior to the sale of one of the units.

Large systems serve a facility with a design flow of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons per day. Large systems must be inspected on the basin schedule shown in 310 CMR 15.301(6), and then every five years afterward.

Changes of Use and Increases in Flow

These situations require a system inspection only if the modification requires a building permit or occupancy permit. For example:

  • adding a bedroom to a house
  • adding seats to a restaurant
  • changing the type of business operating at a commercial location.
  • Check with your Building Department or Board of Health to find out if your modification meets these requirements.

Any change in the footprint of a building also requires an inspection to determine the location of the system, to ensure that construction will not be located on top of any system components or on the reserve area. Check with your local Board of Health.

State and Federal Facilities

Title 5 applies to state and federal facilities as well as homes and businesses. MassDEP is the approving authority for state and federal facilities, so the inspection forms are submitted to MassDEP (310 CMR 15.003).

Cross-State Ownership

If a property is located in two states, with the house in one state but the septic system in another state, the state where the septic system is located has jurisdiction and the owner must follow the regulations for that state. For example, if the septic system is located in New York, but the house is in Massachusetts, the property is subject to New York's laws and regulations.

Voluntary inspections

A system owner may choose voluntarily to have an assessment of the condition of the system even if there is no requirement for an inspection. Results of these voluntary assessments are solely for the use of the owner, and do not need to be submitted to local Boards of Health or MassDEP.

For more information on septic tank inspections, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Pros and Cons of Mound Septic Systems

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, October 18, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Mound Septic Systems

A mound septic system is an alternative to other septic tank systems. It rests near the top of the ground and does not use a container for the waste. This type of septic system disposes the waste through sand, and the ground will absorb the waste. The mound septic system has many good points and bad points. Below are the pros and cons of the mound septic system.

Protecting the Water Table

The purpose of a mound septic system is to keep the waste product away from the water table. The water table has to be maintained, and a damaged septic tank is a quick way to contaminate it. The mound septic system does a great job of protecting the water table and sometimes more so than other septic tank measures.


The mound septic system is easier to install than the other kinds of septic systems. The mound septic system is essentially a matter of excavating the area and installing pipes and filters. Other septic systems will involve casting concrete or metal to act as holding tanks. Once the holding tanks are filled, a professional needs to come out to empty it. This is not the case with a mound septic system, as the waste leaches into the sand. With the mound septic system, there are no costly repairs that you have to worry about. The ground merely needs to be turned over and then dug out again in order to reset the mound septic system.

The Mound

A mound septic system is very descriptive of what it actually is. Once a mound septic system is installed, you will be left with a mound of dirt that is easily seen by anyone looking at the area where it is placed. The mound can be as high as five feet. It is possible to landscape the mound but, in the end, you still have a mound to contend with.

Space Limitations

One main issue with having a mound septic system is the space needed to properly dispose of the waste. With other kinds of septic systems, a large container is placed underground and buried. It costs a great deal of money to install these systems, but they can be placed anywhere. A mound septic system has no container, and digging too far gets you too close to the water table. This means instead of digging down you have to dig out. This causes a problem because you need a larger space for the trench. This limits where you can place a mound septic system, let alone if you can even have one.


Most septic systems you will not know is there because they will not smell. There is a possibility that the normal septic system container can overflow, but it doesn't happen often. The mound septic system is placed near the surface, which means you are not far from the sewage. If the waste does not leach fast enough through the ground, it can find its way to the top.

For more information on septic system design, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


How Often Should a Septic System Be Inspected?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, October 12, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Repair

Inspect and Pump Frequently

The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected more often, generally once a year. A service contract is important since alternative systems have mechanized parts.

Four major factors influence the frequency of septic pumping:

Household size
Total wastewater generated
Volume of solids in wastewater
Septic tank size

Do you have a service provider coming? Here is what you need to know.

When you call a septic service provider, they will inspect for leaks and examine the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank.

Keep maintenance records on work performed on your septic system.

Your septic tank includes a T-shaped outlet which prevents sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling to the drainfield area. If the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet, or if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, your tank needs to be pumped.

To keep track of when to pump out your tank, write down the sludge and scum levels found by the septic professional.

The service provider should note repairs completed and the tank condition in your system’s service report. If other repairs are recommended, hire a repair person soon.

Maintain Your Drainfield

Your drainfield—a component of your septic system that removes contaminants from the liquid that emerges from your septic tank—is an important part of your septic system. Here are a few things you should do to maintain it:

Parking: Never park or drive on your drainfield.
Planting: Plant trees the appropriate distance from your drainfield to keep roots from growing into your septic system. A septic service professional can advise you of the proper distance, depending on your septic tank and landscape.
Placing: Keep roof drains, sump pumps, and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drainfield area. Excess water slows down or stops the wastewater treatment process.

For more information on septic system inspections, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Extend The Life of Your Septic System

Joseph Coupal - Friday, October 05, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Repair

If your home has a septic tank, follow these 4 tips to extend it's life.

Most homeowners over-stress about owning a septic system. There's no reason to stress over owning a septic system.

By and large maintenance is easy. You just need the correct information. So here's a quick break down of my rules for avoiding being that over-stressed homeowner.

Here are four ways to extend the lifespan of your septic system.

  1. Know the specifics about your system

    Know where it is, how many gallons the tank holds and when the last time it was pumped. If you have the original plans, permits, and maintenance records that makes it easier, but if you don't, it’s not too hard to get you up to speed. A quick call to the local health district or agency’s septic system permit office will get you the original permits, as long as it was permitted, and those will provide answers for the first two things.

    When was the last time it was pumped? Either you know that or you don't. If you don't, you really want to get the tank opened up so we can measure the scum mat and determine how close it may be to being ready for pumping.

  2. Follow the time table

    Your septic system’s individual pumping schedule is based upon factors that are not identical from system to system. There are handy tables available that tell you - based on the number of people who live in your home and the size of the tank - how often you're due for pumping.

    Set a reminder for the next time your due in your personal calendar. Then be sure to schedule out your pumping when you get your reminder and don't be lax about it. Note that using the garbage disposal regularly will add solids to your septic tank and will increase how frequently you need to pump by up to 50 percent. So, if you are a heavy garbage disposal user, stop being one or pump your septic twice as often.

  3. Make it accessible

    This is by far one of the most confusing things to understand about your septic system. The septic tank that gets pumped out is buried on your property. Following the installation of the septic tank, it usually stays out of sight and out of mind.

    But one of the best things you can do is install risers to bring your septic system’s lids to the surface. The most obvious and critical reason to do so is that the pumper truck needs them exposed so they can clean the tank out for maintenance. If you've ever had to dig them up or pay for it, you don't ever want to do that again. It costs money to install risers and it sure beats the price of locating and digging them up every few years.

  4. Check with your health district or agency before landscaping or adding new feature

    Most health districts or agencies have regulations about how close landscaping or other features can be installed to the septic system. They might sound like bureaucratic nonsense, but those rules are really in place to preserve to structural integrity and life span of your septic tank and leech field.

    As a rule of thumb, bushes and grass have short roots and are about the only landscaping acceptable in a ten foot radius of your system. Roots will always find the closest source of water even if they have to bind up your leech field and break open your tank to get it.

Pools close to your system require a barrier to avoid chlorine getting in and killing the septic system. Driveways should never been over any part of your system, as the weight will crush the tank and pipes over time.

Landscape and other companies usually don't take septic systems into consideration when put together proposals, so it’s up to you to ensure that there's nothing they are doing that's going to affect your septic system.

For more information on septic systems, contact Morse Engineering and Construction

Buying or Selling Property with a Septic System

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 27, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction, Fiskdale, MA

If you are buying or selling property with a septic system installed, an inspection of the system may be part of the process. Certain types of ownership changes have different requirements.

When are system inspections required?

  • Within 2 years before a sale. If weather conditions prevent inspection at the time of a sale, the inspection must take place within 6 months afterward.
  • When there is a proposed change to the facility which requires a building or occupancy permit.
  • Any change in the footprint of a building, to make sure that new building construction will not take place on top of any system components or on the system’s reserve area.
  • For large systems with a design flow of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons per day or more at full build-out, on the basin schedule shown in 310 CMR 15.301(6), and every five years thereafter.
  • Every 3 years for shared systems.
  • When the property is divided, or ownership of 2 or more properties is combined.
  • When MassDEP or the local Board of Health orders an inspection.

For more information on septic system inspections, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


About Septic Systems

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 13, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Repairing a Septic Tank, Fiskdale, Sturbridge, MA

A septic system is one way of dealing with wastewater after it is flushed down your toilets or washed down your drains. Septic systems, unlike sewer systems, are privately owned and maintained. They’re common in rural areas where municipal sewer systems do not exist.

Septic systems consist of two parts: a septic tank and a leach field. Sewage enters the septic tank from a large pipe running from the house. Once in the tank, the sewage is allowed to separate, with solids settling to the bottom and clearer water rising to the top. That clearer water is eventually sent to the leach field, where the remaining solids are removed and the water reenters the earth.

Pros of Septic Tanks

  • No monthly cost - There are no monthly costs associated with a private septic system, as there are with municipal sewer systems.
  • Better for the environment, some say - Proponents of septic systems argue that they’re better for the environment, although the topic is hotly debated. Septic systems do not contribute to contamination of groundwater caused by aging and leaky sewer lines.

And if they fail, they damage is limited to one area; it’s not catastrophic.

For more informtion on septic tank construction, repair, replacement, or expansion contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Soil and Perc Testing

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 07, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

Traditional septic systems only work if the soil in the leach area is sufficiently permeable that it can readily absorb the liquid effluent flowing into it. Also, there must be at least a few feet of good soil from the bottom of the leach pipes to the rock or impervious hardpan below, or to the water table.

Less commonly, a site can fail because the soil is too permeable, allowing the effluent to reach the groundwater before it is fully treated. Very steep slopes are also unsuitable for a conventional leach field.

The specific standards vary from town to town, but any of these characteristics can prohibit the use of a standard gravity-fed septic system. In some cases, a more expensive alternative septic system may be allowed. To determine is a building site is suitable for a septic system, a percolation test (typically called a “perc test’ or “perk test”) is required.


On rural sites without municipal sewage systems, a failed perc test means that no house can be built – which is why you should make any offer to purchase land contingent on the site passing the soil and perc tests. As prime building sites become increasingly scarce (or prohibitively expensive) in many parts of the country, rural sites that will not pass a percolation or perc test are increasingly common.

In general, soils with high sand and gravel content drain the best and soils with a high clay content or solid rock are the worst. Most soils fall somewhere in the middle with a mix of course sand and gravel particles, small silt particles, and miniscule clay particles – the smallest.

To get a rough idea before investing time and money in testing, dig below the top few inches of topsoil (loam) to the lighter soil beneath. If you can form a small lump of damp subsoil into a long, thin ribbon or worm shape that holds together, and has a sticky firm texture, then the soil has significant clay content. A ribbon 2 in. or longer in the ribbon test indicates that the soil has high clay content and may fail a standard perc test.

The two main tests used to determine a site’s suitability for a septic system are a perc test and visual observation of the soil in a test pit, sometimes referred to as a deep hole test. Testing requirements vary greatly from state to state and often from town to town, as most states allow individual towns to establish separate rules within state guidelines.

So make sure you talk to your town health officer about what tests are needed, when they can be done, and who should perform them. Whether or not a licensed professional is required, a good idea to hire an seasoned expert with local experience as many of these tests have a bit of wiggle room.

For more information on percolation testing, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Septic Tank Repair and Construction: What You Need to Know

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 30, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

We often get asked questions about the repair and construction of septic tanks. We thought we would share some FAQs on some common topics and areas of concern.

Q. I am thinking about adding living space to my home (family room, garage, etc), but am maintaining the same number of bedrooms. Am I required to have a Title 5 inspection to get a building permit?
A. A system must be inspected upon any change of use or expansion of use for which a building permit or occupancy permit is required. However, if the change of use or expansion does not increase the existing design flow, the requirement is for an assessment only, in order to determine the location of all system components, including the reserve area. This will ensure that the proposed construction is not placed on top of any system components. The requirement for an assessment can be waived if an official record exists that shows the location of system components as they relate to the proposed construction. (310 CMR 15.301(5).

Q. Can a Board of Health require the replacement of an undersized septic tank?
A. Yes, if its continued use will jeopardize the soil absorption system or the environment. Any tank smaller than 1000 gallons may be judged to be too small, depending on individual circumstances.

Q. A property owner with a failing septic system is in the process of obtaining local approvals for an upgrade. In the meantime, the system is experiencing breakouts of sewage onto the ground. What should be done in the interim?
A. Breakout of sewage onto the ground is a significant threat to public health and the environment, and the Board of Health should take immediate action to address the situation. Interim steps could include requiring the system owner to seal off any discharges from the septic tank and begin a pumping program with a licensed septage hauler. Ultimately, responsibility for the failing system falls on the system owner, but Boards of Health have primary responsibility for enforcing Title 5 in order to ensure public health and safety.

Q. Does a Board of Health have to issue a Disposal System Construction Permit (DSCP) for the replacement of a single component such as a Distribution Box or septic tank?
A. Yes. Title 5 allows system components to be replaced without replacing the entire system, but requires a DSCP and a Certificate of Compliance once the work is done (see Conditional Pass).

For more information on septic tank construction and repair, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Types of Septic System Repairs

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 24, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction, Fiskdale, MA

Septic tank repairs range from replacing the bacteria inside a system to replacing broken pipes or digging a new drain field. Due to the nature of a septic tank and what it does, septic repairs are serious projects best left to licensed, insured professionals who fully understand the construction and composition of the system. Here are three common types of repairs and what they entail.

Broken Pipe

Septic systems use pipes to carry household waste to the tank and wastewater from the tank to the drain field. Pipes may break when wayward tree roots grow into them, the soil surrounding the pipe shifts, or the pipe material deteriorates. If not repaired, a broken septic pipe leads to bigger — and costlier — problems. The costs of these repairs vary depending on the location of the pipe and the extent of the damage.

Drain Field Failure

The septic system's drain field — the section of land reserved to filter water from the septic tank — does not last forever. If the top and bottom layers inside the tank grow so thick that they leave little space for water, grease and solid waste will slip into the drain field. This clogs the soil in the leaching area, which lets contaminated water and waste rise to the surface. Sometimes naturally occurring microbes clog the soil to such a degree that the only option is to dig a new drain field.

Replacing Bacteria in an Aerobic Unit

Aerobic septic treatment units use an aeration system to break down waste faster than traditional anaerobic units. The bacteria in these units sometimes die when they go unused for a period of time, forcing homeowners to replace the bacteria so the system works properly again.

For more information on septic system repairs, contact contact Morse Engineering and Construction.