Requirements for Installing Septic Systems

Installing septic systems are often the only option when building a home if you are building in an area not serviced by municipal sewers. Typically, your local health department determines the requirements for installing septic systems. This agency also handles permitting and inspection of septic system construction.

Considerations For Installing Septic Systems

A conventional septic system is composed of a septic tank and a drain field. The septic tank is a large concrete or fiberglass tanks that holds and treats wastewater. The drain field is a series of perforated pipes buried in sand or gravel that filter and distribute treated water. Before you can install a septic system, you'll need to consider the following requirements:

  • Know the local code. Local septic system building codes vary greatly between municipalities. Sometimes, even towns that are next to each other have different and conflicting codes. Before you can install a septic system, you'll probably have to submit an application to your local health department, which may require that a certified engineer sign off on the plans as part of the application. A quick call to your local health department or building inspector will get you up to speed on what is required for a septic system application.
  • Percolation test. One of the primary considerations when designing a septic system is how much water the soil on your property can handle. A percolation test (sometimes called a "perc" test) involves digging a deep hole in your soil and testing the soil at depth. As a rule of thumb, a hole filled with water should drain completely in 20 minutes for the soil to be considered suitable for a septic system.
  • The water table. The depth of underground water is also a factor in a successful septic system installation. The deeper the water table, the more effective wastewater filtering becomes. In general, you need a water table depth of at least four feet for a proper septic system installation.
  • Room to grow. A septic system typically needs at least one acre of land to be installed properly. Other factors, like the size of the home and the quality of the soil can increase the amount of space required.

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