Can A Homeowner Install A Septic System?

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante

It is tempting for any builder-owner to take on DIY projects and save money. Some large projects, such as septic tank installation, are often best left to professionals. So, can a homeowner install a septic system?

A homeowner can install a septic system, but professionals recommend against it. You must excavate the land to install a septic system which requires that you rent special tools. Homeowners must perform a percolation test, obtain a permit, and adhere to local building codes when installing a septic system.

Stick to local building codes so that you can eventually sell your home in the future. You can also incur expensive fines if you install a septic system that isn’t up to code. Follow along as we explore how a homeowner can install a septic system.

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Can A Homeowner Install A Septic System?

It is not recommended that a homeowner installs a septic system without professional help. With that said, a homeowner can install a septic system as long as they comply with building codes. Let’s take a look at the most important factors in installing a septic system.

1. Perc Test

You must perform a perc test to determine your soil’s drainage before you install a septic system. This can help you figure out how big your drainage field needs to be based on the soil drainage. Soil with poor drainage needs a large drain field, for example.

You need a large drain field if it takes an hour or more to drain 1” of water. High-quality soil can drain 1” of water in 5 minutes or less in most cases. In that instance, you only need a drain field that measures 400-450 square feet. It is much more manageable to install a septic system in a yard with a small drain field.

2. Septic Tank

Septic tanks cost a minimum of $2,000 in most cases, but prices fluctuate based on the size. You could spend up to $7,000 on a septic tank large enough to accommodate 2-3 bathrooms. Septic tank size varies based on how many toilets and plumbing fixtures you have.

It costs an average of $11,000 to hire a professional to install your septic tank. That means that it may be worthwhile to hire a professional if you need a large septic system. The tank itself is only one cost of installing a septic system without professional help.

3. Building Codes

Your septic system won’t be considered useable if you don’t build it according to local codes. A poorly installed septic system can incur fines and create a health risk. Common problems include a leaking drain field or foul sewer odors.

Professional contractors are equipped to install a septic system according to building codes. You can install a septic system without help if you adhere to building codes closely. However, it is easy to make mistakes along the way which can render your septic tank useless.

Refer to local and national building codes when you install your septic tank. Building codes have stipulations that refer to the drain field and distance from your home. You will have a hard time selling your home later on if you install a septic system that isn’t up to code.

4. Permits

It generally costs $250 to obtain a permit for a homeowner to install a septic system. Licensed contractors are often able to get a permit for a septic system for $125. This is another reason why it is preferable to hire a contractor to install your septic system.

You cannot legally install a septic system without a permit. Homeowners risk expensive fines and penalties for unpermitted septic system installation. Contact your county permit office to inquire about permit requirements and costs.

Types of Septic Tank Systems

The size and design of a septic system can vary widely across your county, or even your neighborhood, due to a number of factors. These factors include soil type, household size, lot size, site slope, weather conditions, local regulations, and the vicinity to sensitive water bodies.

  • Conventional Septic System: Conventional systems use gravity to transfer waste. The sewage separates once it is in the tank and rises to the top. Once the liquid sewage reaches the level of the outflow pipe, it escapes into the drain field where it decays further. This type of septic system tends to be the most popular and affordable – around $5,300.
  • Alternative Septic System: With an alternative septic system, sewage is collected in the same manner as a conventional system. However, oxygen is what breaks down the sewage in the tank, not bacteria. The drain fields for alternative systems typically require less land and distribute much cleaner wastewater. Though, this option is much more expensive – approximately $12,000.
  • Engineered Septic System: These are the most complicated types of septic systems and are generally required due to poor soil or a home being positioned on an uphill slope. Just like the aforementioned options, waste is collected and separated in a tank. However, instead of using gravity to drain, the liquid waste has to be pumped out into the leach field. That way, it can be evenly dispersed throughout the land. These systems usually cost roughly $8,000.

Septic System Vs. Sewage System

While they serve a similar purpose, septic systems and sewage systems are unique from one another in several ways. Sewage systems are much more common in widely populated areas, like urban and suburban communities. Unlike septic systems, sewage systems cannot be installed by homeowners.

Septic System

  • Septic systems must be pumped every 3-5 years
  • Waste is retained by holding tank until it breaks down
  • Requires little maintenance beyond pumping
  • Any necessary repairs fall on the homeowner

Sewage System

  • No maintenance required
  • Any damage or necessary repairs are fixed by the sewage company, not at the expense of the homeowner
  • You must pay for water and or sewage monthly ($35 a month on average)
  • All waste in the septic system is delivered to a waste facility via a series of pipes

Unfortunately, homeowners don’t have a choice in the matter between septic and sewer systems. It is ultimately a matter of whether or not your location supports a sewage connection or not.

Do You Need a Septic System Installation or Replacement?

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What Did We Learn?

A homeowner can install a septic system without professional help. It is ideal to hire a septic contractor for installation to avoid problems. Septic tank installation costs $7,000-$15,000.

You can professional install the leach field for $4,000-$10,000. Installing a septic system as a homeowner is cheaper, as you can install a leach field for $2,000 on your own, and purchase a septic tank for $2,000-$7,000. If you are going to install a septic system on your own, check your local codes to see if you need some form of certification to do septic work.

If you don’t want to fully install a septic system yourself, you could always consider doing the excavations and prep work yourself to save money on professional installation. That way, you get to save a little money and ensure your septic system goes in correctly.

Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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