Installing Our Homestead Septic System

At long last, after years of planning and dreaming, we were finally ready to clear our homestead property and get our septic system installed. This would be the all-important first step in converting the raw land we’d purchased into a place we could eventually call home. After all the setbacks we’d faced, we could only hope everything would go well now that we were ready to begin the actual transformation of our property.

Hiring The Right Help

Thankfully we had found a great contractor to help us start to turn our homesteading dream into reality.

On a rainy Tuesday morning, we met with Benton Tucker of Tucker Farms LLC and his associate Jason Huggins at a local diner for breakfast to go over the details of the job they’d be doing for us the next day. They immediately made us feel welcome, and we knew we were in good hands.

Over breakfast and between a few laughs we explained what we were hoping to accomplish. Since we had only seen the property a few times ourselves, it was hard for us to describe exactly what we wanted, but Benton assured us things would become much clearer when we were all on site together. So, after breakfast, we all headed to the lot to take a look.

Reviewing the Septic Permit

The first order of business was determining where we’d need to clear for the septic system according to the inspector’s permit. The approved permit shows where the inspector conducted the percolation test on the property. This, in turn, told us where on the property the tank and drain field would need to be. 

Once the location of the septic tank and drain field was determined, decisions could be made about the placement of other elements of the homestead. We needed to decide where we’d put our cabin and the driveway leading to it. This would then dictate where our water and electric utilities would have to be run.

As we walked the property with Benton and Jason and listened to their valuable insights of things we should consider, we started to get a clearer picture of what was possible for our homestead. We could hardly wait to get started the next day. Things were finally about to get very exciting!

The Clearing Begins

On Wednesday morning, after a short delay due to a flat tire on one of their trailers, Benton’s crew arrived and immediately got to work. Looking at two overgrown acres was overwhelming to us, and we had our doubts they could finish everything in one day as they’d promised. But we watched as Jason got busy with the forestry mulcher and started, literally, to see the light through the trees.

Before we knew it, the hole was being dug for the septic tank, and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. Work was progressing nicely!

Septic System Specifics

As a licensed septic installer, Benton took care of all the details of ordering our septic tank, arranging its delivery, and scheduling the state inspector to come out to sign off on the installation. This definitely saved us a lot of work and headache.

The inspector arrived much earlier than planned and decided to hang out with us for awhile while the digging and measuring continued and wait for the septic tank to arrive.

We had purchased a 1,000 gallon Low Boy concrete septic tank. It was to be installed with a gravel-less drain field system as approved by the State Environmental Health Inspector.

These tanks need to be buried at least 6 feet deep and set in level to ensure proper drainage. For accuracy, Benton used a transit to measure the depth as the hole was being dug out by the excavator.

When properly installed, the top of the tank remains close to ground level. This provides easy access to the tank when it comes time to pump it out to remove waste. The inspector informed me that our tank would more than likely only need to be pumped out once every 10 years or so since there would only be two of us living full time on the property.

Gravel-Less Pipe

Around noon the truck with the septic system arrived on-site. The work then began to lower it into place and make sure it was level. 

Once the tank was in place, it was time for the excavator to dig another trench for the drain field piping and gravel-less pipe.

The permit called for 110 feet of gravel-less pipe which would stretch across the front of the property. This would allow any liquids accumulated in the septic tank to flow through the pipe out into the drain field and be absorbed into the ground. The piping and the ground filter the liquids, rendering them harmless.

In the photograph below, you can see the gravel-less pipe in the foreground. It is nothing more than flexible, perforated piping wrapped in a mesh sleeve and then wrapped in black plastic. Gravel-less pipe replaces the need to haul in gravel to put in the trench for the absorption process in waste treatment. It is generally less expensive than a truck load of gravel and a lot easier to work with.

Septic Tank Installation with Gravel-less Pipe in the Foreground

Drain Field Trenching

Once the tank was installed in the ground, our contractor had another excavator operator, Cody, begin digging the trench for the drain field piping. According to our permit, the trench needed to be 110 feet long and a few feet deep. This would eventually tie the drain field to the septic tank via a section of PVC pipe, allowing liquids to reach the drain field for absorption.

Just for reference, drain fields are also commonly called leech fields, so don’t be confused if you hear that term. They are the same thing.

Drain field trenching begins
Up close view of the trench

Once the trench was completely dug, the tree roots were cut out using a reciprocating saw (Sawzall).

The trench was also cleared of larger rocks and any other debris.

This provided a level bed for the quick and easy installation of the drain field pipes.

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Final Inspection

Once a septic system is in the ground, the local Health Department Inspector needs to sign off final approval on the installation. This is to ensure that the system meets code and will work properly. Once he approves the septic system, the inspector issues a Certificate of Completion.

Since the inspector was on site for our entire septic system installation process, we received our Certificate of Completion without a hitch. In the state of Tennessee, that Certificate of Completion on the septic system was required before we could apply for our electrical permit.

Once the septic system passes inspection, the tank can be covered up. Our contractor created a mound over our tank that will help provide some insulation to the tank during winter.

The Completed Septic Installation Area

A Productive Day

During the hours when our septic system was being installed, Jason had continued to work around the property with the forestry mulcher. Although we’d been skeptical when the day began, Benton and his crew did finish everything they set out to do in a single day. And we learned what a difference a day can make in your homesteading dreams!

A Final Word About Septic Systems

If, like us, you are starting your homesteading dream with raw land, be sure to check your local building codes or with your local Health Department to find out the requirements for sanitation on your property. You can be sure that if you don’t follow codes and are ever found in violation of septic system/human waste removal codes, you will face heavy fines and penalties.  Please do the right thing and install an approved septic system. Everyone’s health depends on it!