More than 20% of the households in the United States use a septic system to treat their wastewater. Septic systems are delicate systems that require proper planning and designing before they can be installed and used. Improperly installing a septic system can lead to serious health implications, the most serious being the contamination of the drinking water and other water bodies in the area. The World Health Organization estimates that about 1.8 billion globally use a drinking water source that is faecally contaminated. It is also estimated that about 525,000 children die from diarrheal diseases every year, making it the second leading cause of death in children less than five years old. The U.S. records an average of 369 diarrhea-related deaths per year in children under five years. The death rate here is four times high for black children than for white kids.
These sobering figures drive home the importance of hiring a septic system installation contractor near you that is professional, qualified, and experienced enough to install your septic system in line with all the relevant industry guidance, policies, and regulations. The following questions are designed to help you do this:
Are You a Licensed Septic System Installation Contractor?
The licensing requirements for septic system installation contractors vary. Some states like Texas, South Dakota, and Louisiana require mandatory state-level licensing. In many of these states, the contractors are required to be at least 18 years old and pass either a written or an oral examination. Note that in states where there are no mandatory state-level licensing requirements for septic system installation contractors, cities, counties, and municipalities may have local-level licensing requirements. You should always contact the local health department office near you or consumer protection agency to find out the specific licensing requirements for where you stay.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Septic System Installation Contractor?
Workplace injuries and fatalities are an unfortunate, yet inevitable, occurrence. It is estimated that a worker died every 99 minutes as a result of a work-related injury in 2019 in the United States. Septic system installation is a job that comes with a lot of risks. These include exposure to harmful substances and environment, and fall, slips, and trips, injuries that resulted in 642 and 880 fatalities respectively in 2019.
Before you hire a septic system installation contractor near you, make sure that the person is insured and bonded. Insurance and bonding is a double-sided financial protection strategy that ensures you are not held liable for any on-the-job injuries that may occur during your installation project and provides you with compensation if the installation is not done right.
Ensure that your contractor is covered by a policy that includes general liability and workers' compensation and that all the insurance premiums are duly paid-up. Also, find out the bonding requirements for your area of residence by contacting your local consumer protection office and make sure that your contractor meets all the necessary requirements.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
When hiring a septic system installation contractor, it is important to find out whether the contractor is skilled enough to install the type of system that is best suited to your home. There are various types of septic systems available, and these systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most common septic systems are:
- Aerobic Treatment Units: these work by injecting oxygen into a treatment tank, thereby increasing the natural bacterial activity within the septic system and providing additional treatment for the effluent nutrients. Aerobic Treatment Units are suited for homes that are close to a surface water body and areas where the water table is too high.
- Chamber Systems: these consist of interconnected chambers that receive wastewater from a septic tank through pipes. They are easy to construct and are suited for areas with high groundwater tables and areas with variable effluent volumes like seasonal inns and vacation homes.
- Constructed Wetland Systems: these work via pressure distribution or gravity flow. The wastewater flows from a septic tank into a wetland cell where it is treated.
- Conventional systems: these are decentralized systems that consist of septic tanks from which effluent is piped into underground trenches or drain fields. Although conventional systems are typically installed in single-family homes and small businesses, they are not suitable for all residential areas.
- Drip Distribution Systems: These types of systems are generally more expensive to install and maintain because they require a large dose tank in addition to a septic tank as well as electrical power to manage the timed dose delivery of the wastewater.
- Evapotranspiration Systems: these systems utilize unique drain fields that allow the effluent to evaporate into the air. Evapotranspiration systems are suitable for areas with shallow soil. However, they are only useful under very specific environmental conditions.
- Mound Systems: in the mound system, the effluent flows from the septic tank into a pump chamber. The pump chamber then pumps it in doses into a constructed sand mound that contains a drain field trench. These systems are suitable for areas that have shallow soil depth, shallow bedrocks, or high groundwater. However, they require periodic maintenance and a large amount of space.
- Recirculating Sand Filter Systems: in these systems, the effluent moves from a septic tank to a pump chamber and then into a sand filter where it is treated before being discharged into a drain field. Recirculating sand filter systems can be constructed either above or below ground, and they are suitable for areas that are close to water bodies or have high water tables.
Always hire a professional septic system installation contractor near you that can properly access your home and the area surrounding it to determine the septic system best suited for you, and also properly install it.
Who Will Do the Work?
Due to the sensitive nature of septic system installations, it is always a good idea to find out just who exactly would be working on the job. Ensure that everyone involved is properly licensed, bonded, and insured. If your contractor comes along with an apprentice, ensure that this apprentice has enough experience to assist with the job. Otherwise, insist on the apprentice having nothing more than an observatory role.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
Due to their high-level proficiency, professional septic system installation contractors near you would typically provide warranties for their workmanship. A warranty is a legally enforceable assurance that the installation was done properly and with high-quality materials. These warranties are usually valid for a specified period and under certain conditions. For example, a septic system installation contractor may provide a warranty that covers any system failures and other breakdowns for one year after the installation as long as no work has been performed on the system by a different contractor during that period. Note that although warranties can be implied or provided orally, it is always a good idea to ask for any warranty in writing. This way, all the terms and conditions of the warranty are clearly listed.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Septic system installations are projects that considerably alter the footprint of not just your home, but also the areas surrounding it. As such, you will require a permit to install a septic system in your home. Failure to do so can result in stiff penalties. Hiring a professional septic system installation near you helps with this process. This is because these contractors generally know the proper steps and procedures for pulling all the necessary permits required for the job. Note that permit requirements vary by city, county, and municipality. Therefore, it is advisable that you contact your local health department and your local consumer protection office to find out the specific septic system installation permit requirements for where you stay.
Will You Provide References?
Asking for references is a good way to ensure that you end up hiring a professional septic system installation contractor. A professional contractor should be able to provide you with the contact details of at least three clients for whom they have carried out a project that is similar to yours. You may request for references living near you to easily confirm your contractors' proficiency. If your contractor cannot produce these references, then you should consider hiring a different one.
Alternatively, you can carry out online searches for reviews on your contractor by utilizing third-party websites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review.
Do You Have a Business License?
The United States has over 30.7 million small businesses, which account for nearly 100% of all businesses in the country. These businesses typically require a business license before being allowed to legally operate in an area. Hiring a septic system installation contractor from a company or firm near you that is duly registered increases your chances of hiring a contractor that is licensed, bonded, insured, and qualified enough to handle your installation project. The requirements for obtaining a business license vary by state. You can confirm these requirements, as well as the validity of your contractor's business license, by contacting the Office of the Secretary of State in your area of residence.
What Are Common Septic System Problems?
The most common problems associated with septic system failure are:
- Septic odors in or around the house
- Slow draining plumbing fixtures
- Standing water or soft spots in the soil around the septic tank or drain field
- Clogged and backed-up toilets and drainages
How Much Does Septic System Installation Cost?
The average cost for installing a septic system in the United States is $3,000 - $8,000. The exact figure you may end up paying depends on factors like the size of your house and the type of septic system that you wish to install.
Some common septic system-related cost estimates are:
Costs by system type:
Costs by system components:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of a Septic System Installation?
The main factor that affects the cost of installing a septic system is the location of the house where the system is to be installed. This determines the types of septic systems that will be best suited for the area. The location also determines the cost of obtaining permits in the area. Other factors that affect the cost of septic system installations are the type of systems that is to be installed, the type of materials used, and how labor-intensive the installation is. For example, gravity and conventional septic systems are considerably cheaper to install than evapotranspiration septic systems and aerobic treatment units.
What Qualifications Should Septic System Installation Contractors Have?
Although it is not a mandatory requirement, septic system installation contractors are generally expected to have at least a high school degree or its equivalent. Septic system installation contractors are however required to be licensed and certified according to the specific licensing requirements of the city, county, municipality, or state where they wish to operate. In many cases, this involves passing a written examination prepared by a relevant regulatory agency.
In addition to this, many professional septic system installation and repair companies provide training courses and certification opportunities for their contractors.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Septic System Installation Contractor?
Handymen are not trained, equipped, or even licensed to install septic systems. Septic systems are sensitive and highly regulated components of a home, and they have to be installed in line with certain policies, regulations, and guidance. As such, these installations must be done by professional contractors and not any handyman near you.
What Are Common Post Septic System Installation Expenses?
After you have installed your septic system, you will be required to carry out periodic maintenance every three to five years to prevent a septic system failure. This maintenance typically costs $250 - $500. Many septic system installation contractors also provide maintenance services, and you can ask your contractor whether they do so too.
Another common post septic system installation expense is the cost of add-ons and replacing faulty parts. For example, you may wish to add a septic tank riser. This is a pipe that gives you access to your septic tank at ground level, making maintenance and repair jobs easier. Septic tank risers cost $300 - $400.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Septic System Installation Expenses?
Standard homeowners' insurance policies do not typically cover septic system expenses such as the costs of installing a new septic system, replacing a septic system, or carrying out routine maintenance. However, your insurance policy may cover sudden damages that occur to your septic system if the damage was caused by a covered peril. The most common perils that are covered by standard homeowner's insurance policies are wind, hail, fire, lightning, water damage, freezing, and theft. Combined, these perils were responsible for more than 91% of homeowners' insurance losses recorded in the United States in 2018.
You should contact your insurance provider to find out the exact perils your homeowners' insurance policy covers and whether your policy provides any type of cover for your septic system.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Septic System Installation Contractor?
More and more small businesses in the US today, including septic system installation contractors near you, are accepting Digital payment. These digital methods have the advantage of providing instant receipts and being faster, easier to use, and more secure than most other payment methods. Note that you should always verify with your contractor before initiating payment digitally. This is because some contractors may prefer non-digital payment methods. If you pay for your septic system installation with cash, you should always collect a receipt of payment for record-keeping purposes.