Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Much Does a New Septic System Cost?

Septic System Cost
Here is information for homeowners to estimate the cost of a new septic system.  I wish I had this information available to me when we were establishing a realistic renovation budget. Although the information below is applicable to Kenosha County, State of Wisconsin, and the costs are from the year 2009, it will give you an idea of the type of costs you will incur and figure out how much it costs for a new septic system.  My goal is to give you enough information to ask the right questions and receive a complete quote, avoiding extra costs you did not anticipate.

Soil Test (Mound System) $500.00

Soil Testing in location of future mound

Soil Samples

Mound System Design $325.00

State of Wisconsin, Dept. of Commerce fee $175.00

Revised Mound System Design due to changing location of Mound $200.00
*The original quote was for the design that located the new septic tanks in my backyard. I failed to make it clear that I did not want tanks in my backyard near my patio. I wanted the tanks in a more remote area to avoid sitting on our lawn chairs and smelling gasses from the tank. Be thoughtful where your septic location will be placed and make sure it is communicated to the designer. And, make sure it is a fair distance from your well.

State of Wisconsin, Dept. of Commerce fee $80.00

Kenosha County Permit Fee $775.00

Register of Deeds fee $30.00

Old Cast Iron Pipe
*The old cast iron pipe that went from the basement to the old system had to removed and replaced. The basement wall needed to be sealed with hydraulic cement inside and out and the outside coated with tar in the area to be patched. Ask if there is an additional charge for plumbing or electrical work.

Extra Heavy Tank Covers
*There is a maximum cover depth of 4 feet on the new septic tanks. If you select a location that requires the tanks to be deeper because of the pitch on the pipes, then extra heave tank covers are required. $360.00 for all three.

Floor Drains or New Drainage Pip for Water Softener
*Water softener discharge should not go into a septic system. Either utilize the existing floor drain or hook up a by-pass to another absorption system using a 4" PVC pipe. $400.00 if needed.

Abandon Old System -
*Pump existing old concrete septic tank, filling with stone, collapse tank, fill, topsoil, grade flat with contour of landscaping. Make sure this is specifically included in the quote.  Your municipality will want certification that the old system is abandoned in an approved fashion.  Inspection will take place before your new system gets the OK.

New System
*Install new system, construct 4-bedroom mound system using washed stone aggregate for the bed media above approximately 143 cubic  yards of sand. Mound is to be capped with clay fill, topped with topsoil, seeded and mulched. All topsoil over trench and tank locations is to be stripped and stockpiled, not trucked off-site. The site between mound and house is to be graded flat, with all deep rutting caused by trucks and equipment filled and graded with topsoil. Miscellaneous materials, labor and machinery charges included. Low and high voltage wire between house and pump chamber and connection to serves are included. $15,000.00

Make sure you take photos of the piping of your septic path for future reference.

Repair to Driveway
*If necessary, repair damage to existing gravel driveway. $369.00
If necessary, repair damage to existing concrete or blacktop driveway. Obtain quote.

Replacing an Old Septic System - Should I?

Should you spend money replacing an old septic system when you renovate?    

If you find yourself asking this question, you will benefit from reading about our experience.

Hey!  The toilet flushes fine.  If it's not broke, don't fix it.

Flush the toilet.  Our old septic worked just fine.  It was installed in the 1960's and the system was grandfathered, which meant we were not required to abide or upgrade to the current regulations.  As long as we kept the same number of bedrooms and only increased square footage minimally (defined by county code) we were not required to install a new system.  Yippy!  Why spend the money when it was not a requirement?  What woman wouldn't prefer to put the money toward hard wood floors and pretty cabinets vs. a septic system?  No-brainer.

But.......not so fast!

 What kind of system do you have?  How to Find an Old Septic System?

We did not have a mound system.  We had a holding tank, which by the way, was never pumped.  Newer systems typically have access lids that are visible from ground level.  My ancestors put an old cooking pot (without handle) over the access pipe and covered it with dirt.  Grass grew over it and you would never know half the back yard had a tank underground.  Had I not remembered this information as a little girl, there would be no evidence of where it was located.  Additionally, there were no county records of installing the system.  No site maps.  No permit issued.  Since there were no county records, there were also no requirements for pumping or inspection.  Not good.  This is not uncommon in rural areas where vintage farm homes still exist.  If you are looking at buying an old house, I warn you that ignoring these issues will cost you LOTS of money eventually.  Be informed and get the facts so you can make a good decision.

You will want to know:

§        where is the underground tank:  backyard, floodplain, overlapping the neighbor's lot line, underneath a shed

§        what is the size or capacity of the underground tank

§        how old is the system - does the county have a record of installation

§        are there records of the last time the tank was pumped or inspected

§        where is the access pipe located

§        where do the agriculture drain tiles drain into - ditch or creek

§        are there odors or spongy, wet areas

§        does it comply with current county code

If it's not broke, don't fix it?  Why we decided to install a new system anyway.

Landscaping.  We planned on re-landscaping the backyard.  Our plan was to install a concrete patio, a fire pit, install a concrete approach pad to the garage, move our propane gas line, and reconfigure our driveway and parking.  All of this re-landscaping went over and around the existing buried old septic tank.  Should the tank "give out" and fail with the added stress of more bathrooms and more people, all of the landscaping would have to be destroyed and replaced.  Why?  You cannot abandon an old septic tank "as is".  The cover must be removed with a backhoe, pumped clean, and it must be crushed, filled, and inspected before it is covered.  Did we want to gamble?  Did we want to face an emergency install in the middle of a Wisconsin winter?. Did we want to pay for landscaping twice?   No.

Re-Sale.  Since we owned the property for many years our septic was grandfathered. That would not be the case if we wanted or needed to sell the house in the open market.  Have you watched the HGTV channel programs on buying homes?  No one wants a home with a septic that does not meet code requirements.  Banks would not lend with code violations.  Additionally, the new owners may not be able to take occupancy until a new septic was installed.  This would be a huge obstacle in selling the house.  Not good.

The message of this story.

           Think ahead.

Read This If You Are Installing New Windows

Cracked Window Frame after Installation

It is the little things, ya know? 

Read this if you are installing new windows.

During construction, it makes sense to do a walk-through, daily if possible.  Catching problems early means they are easier and less expensive to fix.  No one wants to rip apart a finished product only to have to re-build it over again. 

We ordered Anderson double hung windows.  The interior is primed wood (highly recommend you order primed wood directly from the factory) but the exterior is vinyl.  I did not intentionally go out to inspect every window.  It didn't occur to me.  It just so happened I was looking out this particular window and noticed the crack.   It is easy enough to miss.

H-m-m-m-m-m-m.  If there is one problem window, are there more?

This crack may have occurred any time from the factory to delivery to our construction site.  It also may have cracked when the window was lifted to position, or when the contractor was nailing it in place. 

Do not accept a cosmetic repair.

You may be told that the crack is minor, only a hairline crack, but I have a counter-point.  The window had to be jarred with enough force to create the crack so after the warranty has expired, this may be the first window to loose its glass seal.  At that point, window replacement is your expense.  I requested a replacement, which was granted.

There is no need to accept damaged materials.  Stick to your guns!!