Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

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Cost to Replace a Septic Tank and Drain Field: What to Consider

- Thursday, February 29, 2024
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic Tank

The cost to replace a septic tank and drain field can have a broad price range due to several key factors. While the national average is around $6,000, differences in local labor rates, system size and type, and material choices can influence regional averages.

Septic Tank and Drain Field Size and Type

Size and type are two of the most important factors to keep in mind when homeowners are budgeting for the cost to replace a septic tank and drain field. To start, larger septic tanks and drain fields typically cost more to replace due to the increased labor, time, and materials needed. Additionally, larger septic tanks tend to be heavier and more difficult to install than small septic tanks, causing most contractors to charge extra for the additional installation challenges. Finally, there are several different types of tank systems and drain fields to choose from, all of which come with unique advantages and price points.

Labor and Permits

Replacing a septic tank and drain field requires significant physical work, including excavating, placing the tank, and laying out the drain field. The labor cost to replace a septic tank and drain field accounts for approximately 60 percent of the entire price.

Local permits are necessary for septic system work to ensure legal compliance and safe handling of wastewater. But costs for permits widely vary, depending on local regulations. Homeowners may need to budget as much as $2,000 for a septic system permit, though the fee can be as little as $400. It is not advised to start any sewer system work without the proper permits in place.

Site Accessibility

Not all septic system sites are equally accessible, and this element will affect the total cost. Steep terrain, narrow entry points, and remote areas are examples of locations that are more difficult to access. Challenging locations such as these require additional time, labor, and potentially special equipment to get the job done.

Site Inspection

Septic systems typically require at least two professional inspections during construction no matter if they’re new systems or replacements. Certified professionals conduct these inspections to ensure the system meets safety standards and local regulations.

Inspections will verify installation steps, system functionality, and environmental safety. They can identify potential issues before the system is complete and prevent costly repairs or failures down the road.

Percolation Testing

Percolation testing assesses the soil’s ability to absorb and filter water. This test is typically required before installation or replacement of a septic system leach field, especially if an existing field has been used for several years.

Before installing a septic system and drain field, it is critical to conduct a percolation test to determine the soil absorption rate, which affects the design of the system. Site topography, drainage, and proximity to water sources should also be evaluated to ensure compliance with environmental and sanitary standards. Finally, clearing the site of obstructions and obtaining the necessary permits are important steps in preparation for installation.

The test result can help determine if a replacement drain field can remain in the same location and operate as needed or if it requires relocation. Percolation tests can help prevent serious issues like groundwater contamination and system failure.

Additional Costs and Considerations

In addition to budgeting for the main factors in replacement septic tank costs, homeowners are advised to consider other possible expenses as well. These may involve tree removal, engineering, or installation of new septic lines.

Contact Morse Engineering and Construction for more information.


How Long Does It Take to Replace a Septic Tank?

- Thursday, February 29, 2024

It’s not as simple as just cracking into new ground. There are a lot of moving parts and a little red tape.

Testing Before Installation

Time: Two to Three Weeks

Your septic tank works in conjunction with a leach field, also known as a drain field. If your septic system is leaking waste and contaminating the area around the tank, you’ll need to replace both components—at minimum. If there is extensive damage, you may need a full system replacement. This will push the job into the four- to six-week range (not to mention the cost of a new septic system can exceed $11,000 on the high end).

For this reason, contractors run a percolation test before they replace your tank. This will give them insight into your soil’s texture, volume, consistency, and ability to filter wastewater. It’s an essential part of prep and takes around two to three weeks.

Obtaining Permits

Time: Varies

Before your contractor can replace your septic tank, they’ll need to obtain a permit. Typically, permits are issued by your local health or environmental department—and you’ll typically need one or more building permits.

Sometimes, homeowners also need a permit for pumping and disposing of waste if they don’t already have one. Depending on your local government, this could take a few days or weeks and usually require the percolation test and an inspection.

Planning and Excavation

Time: Two to Three Weeks

During this phase, a septic system engineer will plan the replacement. This could be simple if they just need to swap out a tank, but it could take longer if they also need to plan for a new leach field or entirely new system (to dig safely, they’ll need to map out underground utilities).

Once the plans are finished, the excavation begins. A team will need to dig out your old septic tank and any other components that you plan to replace. Overall, planning and excavation takes around two to three weeks, but it could take more or less time. If the ground freezes or the weather is poor, it will push the project back.

Tank Installation

Time: Five to Seven Days

Installation is typically the quickest part of the job. During this phase, your contractor will install your new septic tank and other components. If you’re installing an aerobic tank, this could mean additional electrical circuitry. If you have a pumped system, this could mean replacing the dosing tanks. It all depends on the type of septic system and the condition. Generally, installation takes five to seven days. It could take longer if you hit a snag like poor weather conditions.

Contact Morse Engineering and Construction for more information.


Septic Tank Installation: 8 Steps to Installing a Septic System

- Thursday, February 29, 2024
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic Tank

Learn all about septic tank installation requirements and how long each step takes.

1. Assess the Soil and Property

Getting a perc test is essential to understand your soil type, layering, and how quickly or slowly the soil absorbs water. A home buyer or real estate agent can request a perc test through the local health or environmental department. You can also have a local septic tank installer handle it for you. The perc test results are vital in determining if you can use a conventional system or need to install an alternative septic system.

You also need a site survey from your municipality to determine your property's:

  • Topography
  • Proximity to bodies of water and other environmentally sensitive areas
  • Available space for a drain field
  • Well location (and that of neighboring wells)

Approximate time to complete: Two to three weeks, from scheduling the perc test and site survey to getting the results

2. Select a Septic Tank Installer

Most municipalities require a licensed contractor to build a septic system, as it is a complex plumbing project that must adhere to many local codes. Licensed contractors must pass professional exams about state codes, septic tank installation requirements, construction processes, and safety considerations.

Septic systems must be specifically designed for your property and location. If a septic system fails or is improperly installed, it can be expensive, not to mention a health hazard. Septic systems need to pass inspection once they're built. If the system isn't installed to code, you can incur fines or experience leaks and structural problems on your property.

Contact at least three local licensed septic tank installers to ensure you hire a knowledgeable installer. The contractor will come to your property to assess the project and give you a quote. Septic systems cost $3,500 to $11,400 on average but can be higher for properties that require alternative septic systems.

Aim to work with an experienced contractor who understands your local code and has built the type of septic system you need. Verify that the contractor has favorable reviews.

Approximate time to complete: Two weeks

3. Design the System

Your septic tank installer should take time to plan the best system for your soil and property. Your contractor should follow local codes as they determine the essential details of your system:

Type of Septic System

If one or more types of septic systems are possible, your contractor will present the options to you. Most installers recommend a conventional septic or mound system if an alternative is necessary. There are other alternatives, such as recirculating sand filters and aerobic treatment systems. Each system type has pros, cons, costs, and maintenance requirements. Review the details with your contractor to decide on the plan for your property.

Location of Your Septic Tank

Most local codes dictate that the septic tank has to be at least 10 feet from your home, though some require it to be further from your foundation. Local codes also provide guidelines on where the septic tank can be in relation to property lines.

Tank Size

You may only need a 750-gallon tank for a one- to two-bedroom home. Some municipalities require a minimum of 1,000 gallons for home tanks, the average 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

Concrete septic tanks are the most prevalent, but some are plastic or fiberglass. Although concrete is vulnerable to cracking, it’s less susceptible to damage during installation. Contact your local health or environmental department if you’re replacing a septic system and need a copy of your septic system design. They can often provide an “as-built” drawing.

Approximate time to complete: Two to three weeks

4. Apply for and Obtain Permits

Your contractor must pull permits from your municipality (local health or environmental department) before breaking ground on your septic system. The city approves the contractor’s plan, including details such as septic tank placement. A septic system permit's cost and application process varies from one local authority to another but usually falls around $400. Most contractors include the price of the permit in their quotes. You may also need a permit for pumping and disposing of waste further down the line.

Approximate time to complete: One to two weeks

5. Prep the Site h3

Your contractor must prepare the site before installing the septic tank and system.

Decommission the Old System

If you’re replacing an old septic system, your contractor will pump out and remove the sewage in the tank. They'll also need to remove any pieces that won't be a part of the new system. In most cases, the contractor must turn off the water supply for two to five days.

Excavate and Prepare the Land

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 tank size. Your contractor will level the ground and dig trenches for the pipework.

Approximate time to complete: One to two weeks

6. Install the Septic System

Your septic tank contractor will install your new tank and build the system to code. The contractor will set up the pipes, drain field, and any other components of your system.

Approximate time to complete: One to two weeks

7. Landscape the Area

Your contractor will cover the septic system with appropriate layers of soil and gravel. Your installer can recommend the best septic tank landscaping ideas, such as grass or ground cover. It's best to avoid putting deeply rooted trees and plants near your septic system, as it can cause damage, clogging, and drainage issues.

Time to complete: One week

8. Get a Professional Inspection

Most local authorities require an inspection before using a new septic system. Your contractor should schedule this with your local municipality. The inspector ensures you’ve met all septic tank installation requirements. They’ll test to ensure the system works properly and that there are no leaks, mechanical issues, flooding, or draining problems. If there are any issues with the tank, drain field, or pipes, your contractor can help fix those before you use the system.

Approximate time to complete: One week

Contact Morse Engineering and Construction for more information.


When to Replace Your Septic Tank

- Thursday, February 29, 2024

A well-maintained septic tank could last 20 to 30 years before it needs a replacement—but rest assured, that day will come. If your septic system is failing, there are usually a few signs. You might need to replace your tank if:

    You notice sewage backing up into toilets, sinks, showers, and bathtubs.
  • Your sinks, bathtubs, and showers drain very slowly.
  • You see standing water or notice damp spots around your septic tank.
  • You smell sewage around your septic tank.
  • The grass around your septic tank is noticeably darker or more vibrant than the rest of your lawn and feels spongy (sewage can actually act as fertilizer).
  • Proper septic tank maintenance is the best way to increase the life span of your system. Inspect your system every one to three years and pump your tank every three to five years. If you notice any issues, call a septic tank repair service near you and fix the problem sooner than later.

Contact Morse Engineering and Construction for more information.


Protecting Your Septic System From Heavy Rain

- Friday, February 09, 2024
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic Tank

If you've been experiencing frequent rain, it is natural to be concerned about your septic system. During heavy rain, drainage systems often get overwhelmed and streets flood. But can the same be said for your septic system?

Heavy rain shouldn’t damage your septic system or cause major drainage issues if it is properly maintained. However, you may experience problems if the rain causes your drainfield to flood.

A flooded drainfield won’t allow wastewater to drain properly, often forcing it back into your home’s drains.

Ways Flooding Can Affect Your Septic System

If the heavy rains in your area cause flooding, you may notice a few septic system issues. During a flood, the following problems can occur:

Drainage backup. When your drainfield gets clogged, excess wastewater gets pushed back into the septic tank and your home. This backup causes sewage to appear in drains.

Flooded drainfield. During a flood, your drainfield will become heavily saturated. You’ve especially got a problem on your hands if there’s standing water above your drainfield.

The drainfield’s purpose is to filter the remaining wastewater into the soil. When the ground above your drainfield is too soggy, it can’t filter properly. This sogginess can cause a whole host of problems like sewage backup, foul odors, and gurgling pipes.

Groundwater contamination. If wastewater can’t be filtered properly, it will leach out of pipes before it has been purified. Then, the wastewater mixes with the groundwater, trickling into nearby water sources.

Reasons Your Septic System Can Fail in Heavy Rain

The likelihood that heavy rain will damage a properly maintained septic system is slim. However, if you’ve been neglecting your septic system recently, you’ll be more susceptible to excess damages from rain.

The following are a few problems your system may be experiencing, causing it to crack under pressure:

Physical Damage

If any element of your septic system has sustained damage, it won’t work as it should. Several different situations can cause damage to your system, such as tree roots growing into the system.

If you drive over the area where your system is installed, there can also be significant damage. Whether there’s heavy rain or not, damaged pipes cannot filter wastewater at their usual rate and efficiency.

Irregular Inspections

The average septic system should be inspected every three years. If it’s been more than a few years since you’ve last called a professional, this is a problem.

Inspections are necessary to catch and fix small problems as they occur. Getting regular checks will ensure that your septic system can survive day-to-day activities and heavy rains.

Waiting Too Long Between Pumpings

The average septic tank should be pumped every three to five years. Waiting longer can spell disaster for you and your home.

Your septic system will stop filtering water as well as it should. The buildup of sludge in your tank will also clog your pipes.


Clogs can be a result of waiting too long between pumps or sending improper things down your drains. Sludge can clog your pipes after years of neglect. However, sending other forms of waste down your drains can create massive clogs much faster.

Cigarette butts, sanitary napkins, and diapers should never be sent down your drain. If it isn’t biodegradable, don’t flush it. You should also avoid using your garbage disposal, as food scraps accumulate and form clogs quickly.

Inadequate Installation

If your septic system was installed improperly, this could cause you lots of problems in the long run. Improper installation can include poor construction and system design, or installing in impermeable soil, thin soil or heavily-saturated soil. Any form of inadequate installation can make it hard for your septic system to function, especially in heavy rain.

An Overloaded System

A septic system is built to handle a specific amount of water at a time. If you’re always running your dishwasher, shower, and washing machine at once, this can overload your system.

Avoid using too many appliances at the same time during a heavy rainstorm. The combination of your overloaded system and flooding can cause sewage backup into drains and groundwater.

To prevent an overloaded system during a storm, take shorter showers and only run full loads of laundry and dishes. Overall, do your best to conserve water by limiting non-essential use.

Contact Morse Engineering and Construction for more information.

5 Reasons Your Septic Tank Fills Up Quickly

- Friday, February 02, 2024
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic Tank Overflowing

Septic tanks don’t require a lot of maintenance. If your septic tank is appropriately sized for your household, you won’t have to worry about getting it serviced frequently. Septic tanks that are good fits for their respective homes only need to be pumped every three to five years.

So, why then is your septic tank already at capacity even just a few months after it was last pumped? Is there something wrong with it? The truth is that there are several possible explanations for why your home’s septic tank filled up so quickly. Let’s discuss them in greater detail below.

1. Your Household Wastes Too Much Water

A septic tank filling up quickly is not an automatic sign that it has issues. It’s entirely possible that the septic tank reaching capacity has more to do with your habits.

For instance, showering causes plenty of water to flow down your plumbing. Now, the members of your household showering multiple times a day is not an issue. What can be problematic though is if huge amounts of water are wasted whenever someone showers. Some members of your household may keep the shower running even when they’re not rinsing off yet. In that scenario, the water is running for no good reason.

Water can also be wasted while someone is doing the laundry. Yet again, the issue here could be related to someone leaving the faucet on even when the water is not needed.

Maintaining those wasteful habits can lead to your septic tank filling up faster than expected. Avoid them as much as possible if you want to avoid placing an unnecessary strain on the tank.

2. Improper Waste Management

The way your household handles waste will also play a huge role in determining how the septic tank holds up. To be more specific, you can cause real problems for your septic tank if you don’t dispose of waste carefully.

For example, flushing big objects down the toilet is not a good idea. Even if they get past your pipes without clogging things up, your septic tank will have a harder time processing them. Those large objects will just take up space in your septic tank.

Pouring grease down the drain is also not advisable. Fat cannot be processed easily by the bacteria in the septic tank. The fat you dump down the drain will just continue to accumulate until a thick layer of scum is created. Toxic substances such as gasoline and paint should also not be poured down your plumbing. Those substances can kill the bacteria in the tank. Once the bacteria are eliminated, the wastewater will no longer be processed as intended.

Make a concerted effort to manage your household’s waste better. Both the environment and your septic tank will be grateful for your efforts.

3. Leaks along Your Plumbing and Septic Tank

Leaking could be one of the reasons why your septic tank is consistently flooded. One might think that leaking would actually ease the burden on the tank, but that’s not the case.

Leaks that form on the tank can let water out, but they may also act as entry points for the wastewater. Water may be entering the tank faster than it is being expelled. That can lead to an imbalance forming in the tank and flooding will be the result.

A leak forming along the tank is not the only thing you have to watch out for. Leaks along your pipes can also cause excess water to move into the tank. Any leaks that emerge must be patched up right away. Failing to address the leaks in time will lead to your septic tank reaching capacity quickly.

4. Heavy and/or Sustained Rains

Plenty of rain causes flooding so you cannot be surprised if that weather phenomenon also affects your septic tank. A sudden and massive downpour of rain can force excessive amounts of water into drainage pipes. Those drainage pipes will then transfer all that water into the septic tank thus causing flooding in the process.

Heavy rain is not the only issue. Sustained rain can be bad for your septic tank too. The problem with sustained rain is that it soaks the soil surrounding your septic tank’s drain field. Wet soil can prevent the drain field from doing its job. That can eventually lead to liquid that should have been expelled backing up into the septic tank.

5. Problems with the Drain Field

Speaking of the drain field, that too can be the reason why your septic tank is flooded. Drain fields that are clogged or damaged won’t be able to expel liquid like normal. Because of that, you can expect the septic tank to fill up faster.

Tree roots are notorious for damaging drain fields. Make sure you account for how the trees grow in your yard before you get the drain field installed.

The Signs That Your Septic Tank Is Already Full

You cannot just open up your septic tank and check how full it is on a whim. Septic tank inspections are more complicated than that. Most homeowners even rely on professionals to check up on their septic tanks.

Is it still possible to tell if the septic tank is full without opening it up? Keeping an eye out for the signs detailed below will help you sniff out a possible problem.

Slow Draining

Slow draining is probably going to be the first sign you’ll encounter if your septic tank is full. You may notice this when your bathroom floor ends up flooded while you’re showering.

You can check if the septic tank is the problem by first trying to unclog your drain. If the flooding persists even after your attempts at unclogging, you probably have a septic tank problem.

Foul Odors Emerging

Along with the wastewater, the unpleasant odors that accompany sewage also end up in the septic tank. However, if the tank is already full, even those gases will be denied entry. They will have to find a different way to escape.

Sometimes, those gases will escape via the drain openings in your bathroom or kitchen. They could also escape through the drain field. It’s hard to miss those foul odors. Don’t ignore them and instead take them as signs indicating that you need to take action as soon as possible.

Water Pooling on Top of Your Yard

Too much solid waste inside the septic tank can cause draining issues. If it’s working properly, the tank should drain the water into the surrounding soil.

Due to the abundance of waste, however, the water may not exit out of the designated spots. What you may see instead is water pooling in certain locations. Inspect your yard to see if there are any pools of water that have formed. The pools of water may also be obscured by growing plants.

Plants will thrive off of the wastewater being expelled onto the surface of your yard. That’s why certain patches of grass may appear brighter than normal.

Sewage Backing Up

The most unpleasant sign that your septic tank is full is the sight of sewage backing up through your fixtures. Hopefully, you were able to take action before things even reached this point. You may also end up having to spend more if the issues with your septic tank get this bad.

Contact Morse Engineering and Construction for more information.