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What to Know About Septic Systems: Both New and Replacement

- Friday, March 24, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction and Construction Industries - Septic System

Are you wondering what a septic system is and how it works? Maybe you are wondering what type of septic system you have.

When people look for answers to these questions, it is often because the septic system needs repair or replacement.

Do you need to replace your septic system? Are you interested in understanding the costs of septic system replacement?

If you’re considering buying a home that needs a new septic tank system or getting a construction loan to build a new property, you might need to know a typical septic system’s cost.

The costs involved with buying such a system are significant as it requires a lot of work from your contractor.

Many factors affect typical septic system costs.

Let’s examine what you need to consider when installing a new septic system and replacing an existing one.

What is a Septic System?

A septic system is an underground wastewater treatment structure most often used when a municipal sewer system is unavailable.

They are commonly found in rural areas rather than in cities.

A typical septic system consists of a tank, a distribution box, and a leach field. A leach field is also called a drain field or soil absorption field.

A septic tank will help digest organic matter and separates floatable material such as grease, oils, and solids from the wastewater.

The system discharges the liquid from the septic tanks into perforated pipes buried in a leech field, designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil.

Although the first septic tanks have been in use since the late 1800s, they did not become popular until the 1960s. Up until that time, a cesspool was typical in most homes.

Are Septic Tank Locations Public?

Yes, they are. Typically, the local health board will have an approved septic system design. The system design will show where the system is located in relation to the home.

Many older homes will not have a record of septic tank locations. In these instances, a septic professional will locate it.

Will a Septic Tank Work Without Power?

If your system has a pump, it will not work unless you have a generator as a backup power source. Not every system has a pump.

For those that do, it won’t work without power. When you lose power, it is necessary to avoid frequent flushing as the chamber will become filled.

It could potentially overflow, leading to sewerage into your home.

What Causes a Septic System to Fail?

Why Do Septic Systems FailLike many other things, septic systems will cease to function correctly over years of use. However, septic systems are designed to last many years when properly cared for.

Those homeowners who don’t treat their systems properly will see their life shortened.

Not knowing how a septic works makes it hard to maintain it well. You will want to avoid doing these things to keep an optimal septic system.

What enters a septic system needs to be broken down. When that can’t happen, it will cause septic systems to fail.

For example, you do not want to flush diapers, chemicals, or cigarette butts.

A garbage disposal should not be used as you will dispose of items that cannot be broken down easily.

For this reason, it is highly discouraged to have a garbage disposal with a septic.

Chemicals, cleaning products, and antibacterial soaps all kill bacteria. A septic system doesn’t work as intended without healthy bacteria levels.

Having an abundance of sludge can also be problematic because it can overflow into the leach field. When that happens, the drain field becomes clogged.

This is why periodic pumping is needed to keep sludge levels down. It is also essential to ensure large tree roots do not become embedded into the drain field. That could cause failure.

Treating your septic system properly can add years to its life expectancy.

When a Septic System is Full, it Should Be Pumped.

Regular maintenance of your septic tank system includes pumping. The size of your family and the age of your system influence how frequently your tank should be pumped.

As the system ages, you should expect to pump your tank more frequently. When needed, it would be best to put it on your spring home maintenance checklist.

How Much Does a Septic Tank Cost?

The cost of a septic tank depends on several factors. The most significant factor in how much you will have to pay for a septic tank is the number of bedrooms your home has. More bedrooms mean more possible occupants and a higher capacity septic tank requirement.

For a 3-bedroom home, the size of a septic tank is usually 1000 gallons. A 1000-gallon septic tank ranges from around $600-1200.

Remember that your location can change costs from one end of the pricing spectrum to the other.

You can expect the septic tank’s size to be 1500 gallons or more for homes with four bedrooms or more. You can expect to pay between $1200 and $2000 for a larger septic tank.

When most people think about septic system costs, they think about replacing a tank or installing a new one. However, this is not where the highest costs come into play when discussing septic systems.

The actual expense of installing a septic system comes from installing the leach field. When you think about installing a new septic or replacing an old one, the money will be spent installing the leaching area.

The location of your property, the soil’s quality, and the water table are some other things that could change your septic system installation costs.

The Cost of Septic System Installation

Septic System Installation CostsIt is far more crucial to understand how much it costs to replace a septic system than a tank.

Replacing a septic tank is relatively inexpensive compared to replacing a leach field.

Replacing a leach field can run anywhere from $5000 to $50,000 or more! Yes, you read that correctly.

There is an extreme variation in septic system replacement costs due to several factors, including the soil’s condition, how high the water table is, whether there are designated wetlands nearby, and the location of your property.

To determine the costs of a septic system replacement, an engineer is hired who will start by doing a land survey.

The engineer will use the land survey to determine the best location for the system’s installation. They will design an “as-built” that shows how the system is constructed.

The engineer will also conduct soil testing, including doing what’s called a perk test and deep hole test to assist in the correct location.

They use the data from these tests to design a system that will function properly.

Factors That Impact The Cost of a Septic System

Areas with gravel as their primary soil source are the best due to how easily they leach.

Having soils high in clay leads to a higher expense because they will need to be replaced by trucking in the gravel.

A high water table can also dramatically affect the pricing of a septic system. The local board of health will likely want the system to be 3-4 feet above the water table. The requirement is based on preventing contamination of the water source.

If your lot is situated with a high water table, you can expect to pay more for installation.

In this situation, your contractor must bring in large amounts of aggregate to raise the leaching field’s height. This will push up your installation costs considerably.

The cost of a septic system installation can also vary by area due to labor costs. The average septic system cost will vary by area, but you can expect it to be over ten thousand.

Who Installs Septic Systems?

A licensed company stalls a septic system for such work. Like any other business, it is imperative to do your due diligence before hiring a septic installation company.

Be sure to interview multiple firms and get estimates in writing. The cost of replacing a septic system can vary tremendously from company to company. The estimate should include fees for permitting, installation, and restoration work for your yard.

Make sure the septic installer has the proper insurance and licensing. I would recommend speaking to family and friends for references on anyone they know or have done business with.

Your real estate agent could also be a valuable source for finding a septic installer.

If you’re not having much luck, you could also do a Google search for septic system installers near me, septic system installers nearby, or septic system contractors near me. Doing this kind of online search should provide some suggestions to start.

Whether you are pricing a new septic system or a replacement, you can plan on it being expensive.

Buying and Selling a Home With a Septic System

When buying or selling a home, a septic system inspection is vital. Like a home inspection, it is a significant hurdle to clear.

Nobody wants to purchase a lemon and have the added expense of spending thousands of dollars on a septic system replacement.

In some states having a septic inspection is a legal requirement. For example, a Title V regulation in Massachusetts requires a seller to inspect their septic system. It must pass the examination for the home to be able to be sold.

Lenders will not grant mortgage financing without having a passing Title V septic report. If the septic system inspection fails, the seller has two choices.

They can either replace the system or do an escrow holdback until the installation is complete if the buyer’s lender allows it.

Doing the escrow holdback allows the agreed-upon closing date to continue without interruption. Lenders almost always will ask for 1.5 times the average of two estimates to be held in escrow.

One other vital tip: make sure you don’t misrepresent your bedroom count when you have a septic system. You could find yourself in a lawsuit when doing so.

Getting a Septic System Replacement Loan

Can you get a loan for a septic system replacement? Over the years, lots of people have asked me this question. The answer is yes, and some states will also provide financial assistance.

Here is a helpful list of where you can get funding for replacement.

You Need a Permit for Your Septic System

Before you begin your installation, you must get a permit from the county clerk’s office or the environmental or zoning department.

When is the Septic Tank Installed During a New Build?

To complete the groundwork necessary to install the septic system, your contractor must wait until the home’s framing is finished. If the hole is dug before then, it can compromise the new construction process.

It would mean any trucks on the lot must be carefully positioned to avoid the hole, which could compromise the construction and add to your costs.

Usually, your contractor will include the cost of installing the septic in your overall costs. This will likely be the case, even if they use subcontractors to do this work.

Types of Septic Tank Systems

- Friday, March 17, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

The total cost of installing or replacing your septic tank is largely dependent on the type of system you choose. Here are some of the most common kinds of tanks:

Anaerobic Septic System

Anaerobic systems are a common choice for many homeowners because they don’t require additional power or chemicals. An anaerobic system contains bacteria that do not need oxygen to survive. The bacteria break down solid waste, and the remaining liquid waste is piped out and distributed under the soil. The waste is naturally recycled as the water passes into the soil.

These systems cost about $2,000 to $5,000 (CAD 2,600 to CAD 6,400) to install.

Aerobic Septic System

Unlike anaerobic systems, aerobic systems use bacteria that do require oxygen to survive. Oxygen is pumped into the tank to activate the bacteria, which then feed on solid waste. Aerobic systems work well where the soil isn't favorable for other systems and the groundwater table is high. It's a good option for homes located near a body of water.

Aerobic systems are more expensive to install. Fixr says you should expect to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 (CAD 13,000 and CAD 25,800).

Gravity Septic System

A gravity septic system uses gravity for filtration and water flow. They need to be installed on a gentle slope to enable water flow without a pump.

Installation costs $1,500 to $4,000 (CAD 1,900 to CAD 5,100).

Conventional Septic System

The conventional septic system consists of a septic tank and a trench that acts as a drain field. The trench is constructed on stone or gravel and allows water to pass through. To prevent sand or dirt from contaminating the clean soil, geofabric is installed on top of the trench. A conventional septic system needs a large space to operate.

Installation cost $2,000 and $7,000 (CAD 2,600 and CAD 9,100).

Mound Septic System

If your groundwater is close to the surface, a mound septic system is the best choice. A sand mound is constructed on the septic system area to pump wastewater from the tank into the mound in small quantities. The sand then filters the water before it gets into the soil and groundwater. This design requires a lot of space.

They’re also expensive to install because a sand mound has to be constructed. Total cost ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 (CAD 13,000 and CAD 25,800).

Chamber Septic System

Chamber septic systems have recently become a popular choice. They’re similar to conventional systems, except plastic chambers are used in the drain field instead of gravel. These are easier to construct and have a smaller carbon footprint.

They cost $3,500 to $10,000 (CAD 4,500 to CAD 13,000).

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


How Many Years Does a Septic Tank Last?

- Thursday, March 09, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

The longevity of your septic tank will depend on the material used and how well maintained the tank is. With proper installation, inspections and pumping, septic tanks can be expected to last between 20 and 30 years. Some high-quality concrete tanks can even last beyond 40 years.

In the past, it was more common to use steel for septic tanks. However, that practice has since lost favor because steel is prone to rust and may eventually crumble. If your home has an existing steel tank, it’s likely old and in need of replacement.

How do I maintain my septic tank?

Septic service providers can perform inspections and pump your septic tank as needed. Between servicing, you can limit the wear and tear on your septic system by only flushing toilet paper and human waste down the toilet. The EPA also recommends not pouring chemicals down the drain, using trash cans instead of garbage disposals and being conscious of how the land on your drainage field is used.

For more information or information on septic installation or inspection, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Septic System Installation Checklist

- Friday, March 03, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic Tank Installation

1. Hire an Authorized and Experienced Professional

Even the keenest DIYers should not attempt to tackle a septic system installation by themselves. Septic installation is a complex plumbing project with lots of regulations, and you don’t want things to go wrong when you’re dealing with human waste.

In most states, it's required that you use a licensed professional to install the system, meet building code requirements, secure the correct permits, and pass inspections. Save yourself future headaches and hire a licensed septic installer at the start of the planning process. You don’t want to end up with a fine for a septic system that you’ve unwittingly illegally installed.

Before you hire a septic installer, it’s worth getting project estimates and advice from at least three different pros in your area. Interview them about how they would obtain permit applications, what type of system they suggest, and their estimated timeline for the installation.

2. Check Local Home Septic System Permit Requirements

The cost and application process for a septic system permit varies from one local authority to another. The price of securing the necessary construction-installation permit typically costs around $400, but this figure varies by location. You may also need a permit for pumping and disposing of waste further down the line.

A soil test and a final inspection are often part of the permit process. The soil test (often called a perc test) measures your soil's water absorption rate, and it's important to ensure that the site is suitable for the drainfield. You’ll need to check with your local authority about whether the soil test needs to be carried out by a local authority agent or if you can hire an independent contractor. On the other hand, the final inspection is conducted by local authority representatives.

3. Select Your Septic System Type and Size

There’s a dizzying array of elements to consider when selecting a septic system. Discuss the options with your professional installer to ensure you make the best choice for your home, budget, and lifestyle.

Tank size: For a one to two-bedroom home, you may only need a 750-gallon tank. Some municipalities require all home tanks to be a minimum size of 1,000 gallons, and this is a better size for two to four-bedroom homes. For larger four to five-bedroom homes, tanks as large as 2,000 gallons are available.

Tank material: Septic tanks are commonly made from concrete, but they also come in plastic and fiberglass varieties. Although concrete is vulnerable to cracking, it’s less susceptible to damage during installation.

System type: Most use installers recommend either an aerobic or, more commonly, an anaerobic system. The bacteria that develop in an anaerobic system break down the septic tank waste without the oxygen assistance, and the cost to install these septic systems is around $3,000 to $8,000. Aerobic systems are considerably more expensive, typically running between $10,000 and $18,000 for installation. However, the oxygen-loving bacteria in aerobic tanks break down the waste more efficiently than anaerobic setups, and your future drainfield expenses and maintenance will be less expensive.

4. Establish the Best Location

With the help of a pro, you’ll need to decide where to position your tank, pipes, and the drainfield. The drainfield is a shallow area of covered soil that filters the wastewater as it percolates through the soil, making it safe to be released as groundwater. Here are a few guidelines to follow when determining the best spot for your septic system:

  • Don’t select an area where surface runoff can collect. This positioning can lead to drainfield flooding and potential back ups for the septic system.
  • Flat areas work best for septic installation and don’t require major excavation. Sloping areas with a gradient of more than 10% don’t make for good installation sites as this can also lead to the collection of runoff and subsequent system back ups.
  • Avoid areas with dense tree roots that could damage the pipes.
  • Check your local authorities’ regulations for how far away the septic system should be from your home. The minimum distance is typically 10 feet.
  • Permeable soil is essential for the installation of a septic system. If the soil is dense and doesn’t have enough grit or sand, this can lead to blockages on the drainfield. Generally, local authorities will want a soil report from a state-certified expert to confirm your soil’s suitability.

5. Complete Prep Work Prior to Installation

By doing the right prep in advance of your septic system installation, you can save yourself headaches further down the line. Consider completing the following preparations:

Decommission the old system: If you’re replacing an old septic system, safe pump out and removal of the sewage in the tank needs to be completed by a licensed professional, following local regulations.

Proper excavation of the tank site: The base under the septic tank should be level, and the hole for the tank needs to be the correct width and depth based on the new tank size. You may need to hire a pro to dig trenches for the pipework.

Prepare for a water outage: For replacement septic system installation, your existing water supply can be out for as many as two to five days. Timelines vary depending on the contractor and the type of system. Stock up on water for drinking, bathing, and washing during this time.

6. Consider Drainfield Landscaping

Consult with your installer about landscaping options in and around your septic system. To avoid causing serious drainage issues, follow the installer’s advice, as well as the following guidelines:

  • Plant drought-tolerant native plants with shallow roots, such as grasses or herbaceous
  • Avoid planting deep-rooted plants or trees near the septic tank or drainfield
  • Avoid installing underground sprinklers
  • Don’t use hard landscaping or structures, such as sheds, on the drainfield

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.