I am looking at a property with a serious fixer-upper on it. I want to place a mobile home on the property while gutting out existing building to see if it can be renovated. My question is about the septic. I has a well and eptic, but has been abandoned for a few years now. I believe the septic will need to be updated, parts of it replaced.

Is this something I can do myself, with the help of my brothers and dad? If so, what kinds of costs am I looking at?

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    You'll have to at least have it pumped by a professional. There also might be environmental issues with this (leakage, seepage, disposal), so I would say this is probably NOT a diy project. – Tester101 May 27 '11 at 1:53
  • I'll have to agree with Tester on this one. My home has a septic system and the county had to do all of the proper inspections, of course, but also gave me a "Waste Water Treatment Permit" as part of the certification (your area may very). – Jim May 27 '11 at 3:14

Replacing a septic system is a really crappy job, you'll want to let the pros handle this one. A job like this requires special licenses, permits, equipment, and knowledge. It may seem like your just digging a hole and dropping a tank in it, but there is a lot more planning and hassle involved. It's worth paying to have this done, rather than doing it yourself and then finding out it's not right and has to be ripped out and redone.

  • Sounds like a job for Mike Rowe. :) – BMitch May 27 '11 at 2:34
  • Rather see Mike Holmes on this job! lol. – shirlock homes May 27 '11 at 10:19
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    @B Mitch @Shirlock: Mike Rowe can get in and clean it out, Mike Holmes can remove and replace it. Team Work! – Tester101 May 27 '11 at 11:54
  • sounds like that would be an entertaining show! – shirlock homes May 29 '11 at 11:55

Tester is right on this one. Most towns require several items before issuing a permit. A septic plan designed for the proposed structure, (# of bedrooms/bathrooms ), a soils study done by a soils engineer, Perk tests in some areas. and a site inspection pre-excavate and again before system is covered up. Before you consider the expense of building a new system, it would be wise to have the existing system inspected and tested. The inspector/engineer should be able to tell you it's size, capability, leach field condition and draw out the system in a form that will be acceptable to the town as a septic plan for future use. Although I have seen some hearty souls attack doing a septic system themselves, this is typically a job better left to an experienced contractor with the right heavy equipment and know how.


Also, depending on your location, you may need to be a licensed septic installer in order to have the design approved, obtain the necessary permits, etc.. (in the county I live in, this is the case). I'd definitely call the pros in on this one.


As you can see, the answer is clearly, "no."

Let me offer another option: composting toilets and a graywater system! You probably can install a composting toilet system or separate individual units, as well as graywater plumbing for everything other than the toilets. Then you can abandon the septic tank and all future septic-related expenses too (pumping can be north of $300 every couple of years). And you get free compost and irrigation water out of the bargain.

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