How to Install a Septic System: Beginner's Guide

How to Install a Septic System: Beginner's Guide

This is for informational purposes - always check with your permitted authority or regulatory body first.

A septic tank is often a critical and essential aspect of a home. Without one, many homes would be unable to function and would essentially be unlivable. 

So, how does this vital piece of a home get there in the first place? How do you install a septic system?

This guide will answer these questions. It will cover the septic system installation process and explain some details related to its function. 

Related: When Do You Need a Permit to Work on Your House

What Is a Septic Tank?

Before getting into the details of how to install a septic tank, it is important to understand what a septic tank is and how it works. 

Essentially, a septic tank is a way to deal with household waste in a home that is not connected to a sewer system. The house could be unconnected because it is not near sewer lines or because it was never connected to those lines for one reason or another. In these houses, the waste and water from toilets, sinks, and any other drains still need to go somewhere. So, this waste and water go into a septic tank. 

However, the septic tank isn’t just a giant tank where all this material sits. If it were, it would fill up way too quickly. Instead, the tank contains a filtration system that reduces the amount of waste within and releases filtered water into the soil. This way, the tank is able to handle all of a household’s waste for a long period of time. 

Septic tanks do require work after their installation. They need to be emptied every three to five years. Plus, you should be on the lookout for any signs of failure, as these could lead to problems. 

Installing a Septic System

Installing a septic system is a multi-step process. It starts with a planning period in order to determine how the system will even be installed. Then, the process of installing the system will take some time. 

Initial Planning

House with a torn up yard

The first step in installing a septic tank is to take care of legal requirements. Most places will require specific permits in order to construct a septic tank, and some will require the soil to be tested. There may also be local regulations relating to whether you can install a septic tank at all. 

Once you’ve determined that it is possible for you to install a septic tank, you need to decide where it will go. This is critical because a septic system cannot just be placed in any location in a yard. The drain field needs to be in an area where the soil has better drainage; otherwise, it will prevent the entire system from working effectively. Meanwhile, the tank needs to have enough room, which isn’t possible everywhere. On top of all of this, any digging needs to avoid interfering with underground systems that may already be in place. 

The results from soil tests can give you some guidelines in this regard, as soil with better drainage is essential for the drain field section of the system. In addition, if you are working with professionals, they will often provide you with suggestions. 

If you want, you can even have a site plan of your property drafted. This will allow you to look at the entire property from above and see what is already there. Then, you can use this information to determine where the parts of the system will go. 

Related: General Contractor vs. Subcontractor: What's The Difference?

Picking a System

Now that you are aware of the laws surrounding septic systems and are knowledgeable about the property, it is time to pick a septic system. Septic systems are not universal. There are many different types out there, and the one you should go with will depend on your situation

A conventional system is the most common type of system. These have a tank with excess water leading to a drain field. This drain field has trenches with gravel and sand that help filter the water out further. This is similar to a chamber system, which uses chambers instead of gravel and sand. 

A drip distribution system is great for yards that cannot accommodate a large drain field. This is because drip systems require less than a foot of depth in the soil. However, these systems will require additional room near the tank itself to regulate the dripping. 

A yard without enough depth for another system may require a mound system. With this, a mound is built above the ground to accommodate the septic system. 

On top of these, there are several other types of systems out there. These include sand filter systems, evapotranspiration systems, community systems, and more. However, these are less common and are mostly found in specific situations. 

Installing the System

The process of installing a septic tank takes several steps and requires some knowledge of the process and industry. Because of this, it is best to work with a professional while going about the process. Doing so will make things easier, as they will be able to guide you and give you advice. 

Once you have sites picked out, the first actionable step to be taken is to dig. As the entire system is located underground, digging is a critical step. 

The drain field will require several trenches where drain pipes will go. These will need to be lined with gravel and sand, which will help with the dispersal of water and its absorption into the soil. Meanwhile, the tank will require several feet of depth, which will likely require some professional machinery. 

Related: A Complete Guide to Dirt Removal

Finally, the entire system needs to be installed. This step in the process will almost always require professional help. With this step, the entire system is put into place, attached together, and then buried back into the earth. At the end of this step, the system is installed and is ready to function!

Once the system is in place, it is important not to disturb it. Remember where it is when you start your next landscaping project. The last thing you need is to dig right into your septic system’s drain field. 

Installing a Septic System the Right Way

Man and woman discussing a plan

The septic system installation process is intense and involves several steps. You need to plan for it and examine the site, determine what type of system you need, and then physically install it on the property. However, once you complete these steps, your new system is ready to go!

Previous Post Next Post

  • Ryan Crownholm