As one might expect, we get this one a lot. When we first started installing septic systems, a simple septic tank and three trench design could cost less than $1500.00. That would get you the test holes, the Health Inspectors visit, the excavating work, drain rock, second visit by the Health Inspector, and back fill. You also got a hastily scribbled site plan if you were fortunate showing how many foot steps from the old Cherry tree to the septic tank.
Well, a septic system costs a lot more now. For one thing, the Health Inspectors are no longer part of the process. They no longer make site visits, or consult and collaborate on the design and siting. That now falls on the shoulders of the septic system designer, or planner. The design is a multi day undertaking that takes many elements into consideration. Much more weight is now placed on the treatment aspect of a septic system, and getting this part right is much more challenging than disposal aspect. This costs time and money, and since a planner can no longer point the finger at the Health Inspector if things go sideways, there is a much larger burden of risk on the part of the designer. Most Registered Onsite Wastewater practitioners who design and install septic systems now carry insurance to cover them for the potential of errors and omissions, and this also costs money. Septic Expert currently charges between $2200.00 and $2800.00 to design a septic system, including preliminary site work, AutoCAD design work, and Health Authority filing. Please note that this design fee is not a part of the installation costs listed below.
What will Septic Expert charge you?
If you are looking at a property and wondering what it will cost to have the septic system installed, consider the following rule of thumb: the larger the house and the smaller the lot, the higher the cost. The opposite is also generally true: the smaller the house and the larger the lot, the lower the price.
Septic Expert has generally, four groups of pricing. The first is for a simple type one system that does not require a pump of any kind. These systems are much more difficult to design any more as rural home construction moves more and more to the steeper and more difficult terrain on the hillsides. If we find a lot where one can be installed, they range from $8000.00 at the low end to perhaps $14000.00. We are limited by regulation from installing them after the home reaches a certain size, so for a large home even on a very favorable lot they are often not an option.
The second price group would be for a simple pump system. When a design requires an effluent pump there is an immediate jump in price as there is now a second tank, a control panel, two or more electrical circuits, and the pump itself. Pump designs also require a completely different piping network in the disposal field which is more costly and time consuming to install. Type one pump systems including sand mounds for smaller homes range from about $15000.00 to $25,000.00 for a large system.
The third price group is for sand mounds. They are considered a type one system and are very common in the flood plain of the Fraser Valley and on larger hillside lots with poor soil. Sand mounds usually cost between $15000.00 for a smaller installation, and can be closer to $30,000.00 for a very large home.
The fourth range of prices is for very big homes on small lots, or just properties with issues. If you are looking at a steep view property you will definitely want to know the cost of the septic system before you commit to buying. Many of these properties have difficult access, steep slopes, multiple creeks or other tough setbacks, or in some cases not a scrap of soil on the lot. Island properties with no road access also fall into this category. We can build a system for almost any property, but some of them are very challenging and expensive. Most of the more expensive systems use a secondary treatment system to clean the waste water to a very high degree before it is applied to the soil. There are many systems available, and they can add from $5000.00 to $15,000.00 to the cost of the installation. On the plus side, the use of these treatment systems usually means that a much smaller septic field is being used, so that part is less expensive. Still, when all is said and done, a septic system using secondary treatment will set you back somewhere between $20,000.00 and $35,000.00 in most cases.
Things to think about. There is far more to it than the price!
Septic systems are not as glamorous as a new kitchen, but it is not an area to cut corners or look for economies. Of all the systems in your home, the septic system is the one you want to have installed correctly.
When seeking quotes from septic contractors, it is important to only compare quotes that appear to be similar in scope. If you receive two quotes for a type two system, or a sand mound, and a third quote is substantially cheaper and suggests a simple trench system for much less money, then the third contractor may have considered only disposal and not treatment of the waste water in his proposed design. The disposal is the cheap and easy part. It is the reason that we used to be able to install a complete system for under $1500.00. But we now recognize that treatment of the waste water is far more important than simple disposal. And treatment is the part that costs money. Just remember that it is you the home owner who will be drawing up well water to drink from the same ground water in which you are disposing of your waste water. It will not be the contractor who sold you a cheap, poorly designed system in order to land the job.
Most homeowners are sophisticated buyers, and quite willing to pay the going rate for good work. What homeowners do not want is uncertainty. Ask your contractor the tough questions, and they should be able to provide you with clear definitive answers. Get firm quotes in writing with details on exactly what is included and what is not. We have all been in this business long enough to know exactly what is involved in installing a septic system, and what it will cost to do an excellent job and make a reasonable profit. A quote for a septic system should be preceded by whatever site work is necessary to ensure that the quote is accurate for the property and the proposed house. It should specify treatment level, and a reasonable estimate of drain field size and tank sizes. It should also define who is responsible for electrical components and connections, permits, excavator charges for installation and preliminary site work and for final landscaping.
If secondary treatment is being proposed, ask about maintenance requirements. Some systems use air pumps with a lifespan of literally months. A few thousand dollars saved at installation time can be quickly eaten up with costly pump replacements or repeated service calls to address odors, noise complaints and alarms. If the designer and installer do not perform post installation maintenance, be sure to have the name of the person who will, and ensure you are comfortable with the timing and cost of the service visits, electrical operating costs and the price of replacing components over time.