Switching from septic system to sewer system

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simplytoocrafty

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Hi everyone! First time poster.

I am interested in any opinions and experiences regarding switching from a septic system to a sewer system. Things such as if you're from a rural or suburban area, the price it costs to switch, the timeline of the project, and any other things to consider.

I am planning on moving into a suburban area, specifically in LA county and the location has a septic tank system. I've read some of the pros and cons but I'm still not too thrilled about the septic system. Any thoughts, comments, preferences, experiences about either system would be appreciated!
 

Snoonyb

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Welcome.
The 1st thing is find out if there is a lateral on you property.
 

bud16415

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Welcome to the forum.



I have lived with both and there are good and bad to both.



First a lot of rural homes have both well and septic and that adds a second layer to conceder.



Years ago around here if you had 10 or more acres it was very simple you were automatically granted a septic permit. Over the years the rules have changed and become more complex and the areas people wanted to build on became smaller and on less optimal for septic systems. The main factor now is passing a percolation test and then the drainage field is what they call a sand mound system. All septic systems have a holding tank and that is where all the wastes are broken down and what leaves the tank should only be what is called gray water. That water enters the leach field / sand mound here. and is absorbed into the ground or evaporates into the air or a combination of both.



The trouble is with an older home and depending on the town old systems can be grand fathered in and can be any condition. There are ways to make them look good for a sale even by having the tank pumped and not using it for a time to allow a wet leach field time to dry out etc.



When they are designed and maintained properly they will work for many years with only a small amount of work on your part.



It is hard for us to know what you will get and some inspection should be done before you buy. Some counties like mine do an inspection and do not trust that as all most of them are is a way to charge you some money. Here they do it as a drive by inspection.

If you are buying a house with a well that should be inspected and tested also.
 

Sparky617

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Are public sewers available? Typically, when public sewers are available you're forced to connect. Costs to hook up vary widely depending on how much the city charges each homeowner for the connection plus the labor cost to digging the trench, running the pipe and making the connections on both sides. Soil conditions will drive that cost. Is there a lot of ledge (rock) that needs to be broken through to get the lateral out to the street?

Typically the septic tank can be abandoned without pumping it out. That is up to your local jurisdiction. If you have to remove the tank it will run a couple of grand to pump it, dig it up, remove it, back fill and dispose of the tank.
 

simplytoocrafty

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Are public sewers available? Typically, when public sewers are available you're forced to connect. Costs to hook up vary widely depending on how much the city charges each homeowner for the connection plus the labor cost to digging the trench, running the pipe and making the connections on both sides. Soil conditions will drive that cost. Is there a lot of ledge (rock) that needs to be broken through to get the lateral out to the street?

Typically the septic tank can be abandoned without pumping it out. That is up to your local jurisdiction. If you have to remove the tank it will run a couple of grand to pump it, dig it up, remove it, back fill and dispose of the tank.
Public sewers are available, but the previous, previous owner did not hook up to the public sewer and the previous owner moved in and kept the tank. There are some concrete, about 20ft of it on the side of the house on the patio.

Since you mention about abandoning the tank, I plan on getting it crushed and filled, but would I be able to build any additions to the house above a crushed/abandoned septic tank?
 

68bucks

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Public sewers are available, but the previous, previous owner did not hook up to the public sewer and the previous owner moved in and kept the tank. There are some concrete, about 20ft of it on the side of the house on the patio.

Since you mention about abandoning the tank, I plan on getting it crushed and filled, but would I be able to build any additions to the house above a crushed/abandoned septic tank?
Here you have to collapse the tank and fill it with gravel to abandon it. I don't know if you can build over one or not. If I had to guess I'd say no. As for tieing into a sewer system vs owning a septic system, I would tie in in a heartbeat unless there is no way I could afford it. I have had 2 homes with septic and 1 with sewer. Far less worries with a sewer vs maintaining a septic system, IMO.
 

Sparky617

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My parents built an addition on my childhood home after the sewers were put in. The tank was of course in the way of the foundation for the addition. The contractor had the tank pumped and the foundation was built on top. This was over 40 years ago and the house is still standing. though we haven't owned the house since a few years after the addition was built. The tank was concrete and resting firmly on bedrock, we did fill the tank with non-organic construction debris as I recall. Codes of course change over time, so you may have to get it crushed and filled. To build on top of it everything would need to be compacted. You'd have to put in a few inches (maybe 6") of stone, compact, more stone, compact, repeat until you reach the top. This assumes your foundation would be resting on the former tank location. If it was in the middle of the space it would probably just need filled.

The main issue with septic tanks isn't the pumping, it is the leaching field will eventually need a rest, which involves a second field or complete replacement. The cost of replacement will easily equal the cost of connecting to the sewers. Around here developers will get their future development annexed into the town so they can do public water and sewers. This allows more density (smaller lots) as a septic field takes some space and wells need to be a set distance away from the leaching fields. Typically here you need over a half acre for well and septic. You normally only see well and septic in new construction for "estate sized" lots of over an acre on million dollar homes.
 

mabloodhound

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Sewer is the way to go. We are currently in the process of getting a new septic & leach field at a cost of $28,000, good for maybe 20 years. We've lived here 23 years and have our current tank pumped every year for $200. That is no longer acceptable if you sell the home which we are doing.
 

Sparky617

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Sewer is the way to go. We are currently in the process of getting a new septic & leach field at a cost of $28,000, good for maybe 20 years. We've lived here 23 years and have our current tank pumped every year for $200. That is no longer acceptable if you sell the home which we are doing.
My wife is a Relator and has to deal with septic systems every once in a while. They typically get the tank pumped for an inspection as part of the buying process. Some will try to save money by just dipping the tank to see how deep the sludge is in the tank, penny wise and pound foolish IMHO given the cost of replacement. Things like RID-X don't negate the need to pump the tank. There are things in the sludge that just won't break down and they will build up over time. If the sludge reaches the leach field lines you've just bought yourself a new leach field. $200 a year to pump the tank is cheap insurance and less than I pay in sewage fees over the course of a year. But as you're finding out, the pumping is only one part of the cost, the operating cost. The capital expense of replacement is huge and even with the best care can't be avoided forever. I've heard you can install a second leach field and switch between the two to extend their lives. I have no personal experience with that though. All of my homes have had sewers.
 

bud16415

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Just my personal experience. My first home I lived in for over 30 years it was a 1880s house with well and septic. The myers jet pump has worked all that time delivering water and it was in the house when we bought it. The only well work I have done was to replace the foot valve once. The septic was a small 1950s 3 tank deal with a grease trap tank before the leach field. I have no idea how old the leach field was but started having a little wet area and decided to build my own mound system a couple weeks before the unified code came in. I used a tri axle load of stone making a rock pile 14” thick I laid drain pipe covered it with straw and added 6” dirt and grass seed. It has worked great for 25 years now and I always pumped the tanks every 3 years.



The new place is also an 1880s home that was converted to city water and sewer about 10 years ago before we moved in. it has a grinder pump and it all works great. The cost is right around $130 each month as a combined bill. So it is costing me roughly $1500 a year for the service and I own the grinder pump and someone told me that was a big dollar item if it fails. $1500 x 30 years = $45,000. I built my mound myself at the old house and something you might not be allowed to do now and the code would make it harder and more expensive, but I had nowhere near $45k in the old place all those years pumping, repairing and even building a mound.

The thing isn’t what worked best for me though it is what the new buyers want and most don’t want to maintain a system even though I is pretty simple to do.
 

Sparky617

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My combined water/sewer/trash/recycling bill runs around $85 a month. Our heavy clay soil doesn't perk well and I'm within city limits with a relatively large 1/3 acre lot. Newer homes my size are coming with lots half my size. I back to a sewer easement so my lot looks much bigger than it actually is. Two of my homes were townhouses where individual well and septic are impossible. There is a nearby community that is surrounded by Raleigh and Cary but in neither. They have septic tanks and a community well. My town looked to involuntarily annex them and put in sewer lines at a cost of around $20K per house. They ultimately backed down, residents there do occasionally get hit with a $20K plus rebuild of their septic systems, and their county tax rate is higher than mine, but it is lower than my combined town and county tax bill. The homes all date from the 1970s and they generally have larger lots, most are a half acre or larger. A lot of raised ranch/split level homes in that neighborhood, though plenty of mature trees.

Sand mounds were a solution for lots that won't perk test. But they are getting harder to get approved.
 

bud16415

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Yes septic systems belong out in the country where people have min 5-10 acres and are miles apart. In the little town I moved from in the 50s-60s a lot of half acre subdivisions came in and they all got a septic system and city water. Now they are all going bad and there is no solution within code. There is this guy you call Sam and he does what they call the midnight special. He digs a hole and dumps 5 yards of stone in during the middle of the night runs your gray water line over and covers it with dirt and grass seed. They are good for 5-10 years and then you call the guy again.



There are a few subdivisions here where everyone has a septic tank and then there is a lift station for a dozen homes and it pumps it quite a distance and they have a big community leach field / mound.

I always thought cities would do better if every house had a tank to be pumped of solids and then just sewers for processing the gray water.
 

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