Septic: How do I obtain an on-site soil evaluation?

Most county health departments recommend that a certified septic installer purchase the soil evaluation permit.  The homeowner or builder needs to provide a copy of the plot plan or survey, showing the dimensions of the lot to be evaluated.  
The survey must show the approximate location of the house, driveway, garage, pool, deck, barns and/or any other out buildings or structures.  If other public utilities are not available, then the survey must also show the location for a cistern or well and propane gas tank.  The survey must also show all ponds, creeks, streams, drain ways and sink holes.  There are strict code requirements for the installation of septic systems which mandate specific distances from each of the above-listed things, so it is very important that the installer be made aware of all of these before installation begins. 

Some counties are also requiring that test holes be dug in order to better determine the absorption quality of the soil.  This is done with a backhoe, which will add to the cost of the evaluation.  However, some health inspectors will use a hand auger to perform the evaluation.

Septic: How much do the evaluation and permits cost?

Costs can vary from county to county. Typically, the on-site evaluation costs from $100 to $400, and permits have similar range, so you must purchase a septic permit and have a soil evaluation in order to build.

Septic: Should I build my house before I get a soil evaluation done?

You must get the soil evaluation and septic permits from the local county health department BEFORE you are able to get your building permit. It is also wise to have this done prior to construction because installing the septic system in the best area on the considered property should be a high priority. I have seen too many buildings erected on the site in the prime place in which the septic system should have been installed, creating a host of problems which could have easily been avoided, if the placing of the septic system would have been considered first.

Septic: Why is a soil evaluation necessary?

This determines the kind of on-site sewage disposal system (or septic system) required by the local health department. It also determines the size of the system depending on the number of bedrooms of the house. If the structure is a commercial building, the size and kind of system would be determined by the number of people estimated to be using the system on a regular basis.

Septic: My wife and I are considering building a house on an undeveloped piece of property where sewers are not available. What would be the things I need to do to begin the process?

If sewers are not available, the first thing that is necessary before purchasing the property would be to have an on-site soil evaluation done. A permit is necessary to do this and it is the recommended procedure to select a certified septic installer to obtain this permit from the local health department.

Two other permits are necessary, which are the septic permit and the building permit. These permits are obtained in this order. After the soil evaluation is done, the health department determines the kind of system to be installed, at which time the septic installer obtains the septic permit, which outlines the details of the installation. Only after this is done, can a building permit be obtained by the homeowner or builder, who takes the actual construction plans to the planning and zoning commission where it is stamped, and a building permit is issued.