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Installation of a Septic System A-Z

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

What to expect from design, permitting and installation of a new component or full system.



You just found out that a component of your septic system (or your whole septic system) has failed. What’s next?

First things first, once you determine that you need a new septic system or component, limit your water usage until the problem can be fixed. This will help limit the risk of septage backing up into your home or leaking out into the surrounding area and causing a public health issue. You may need to have your tank pumped every 1-2 weeks while going through the permitting and construction process. Consult your septic contractor for their recommendations during this time.


Ready to start the process? Finding the right designer/engineer and contractor are key. Most companies only offer one service, and you will be required to select a soils technician, an engineer and an installer. Our company is one of the only companies in Colorado that does all of this for you! It is important to do a site visit with the engineer that you select so that they can help you determine where the best place would be for your new component or system. They will need to make sure that the new placement meets all of the required setbacks to your well, property lines, buildings, and water ways, detention ponds and pools, etc. If you are planning any additions to your home, make sure to let them know!



The time it takes to complete the project varies greatly depending on what component(s) are being replaced or installed. No matter what kind of repair you are doing, the longest part of the process is typically getting the permit. This process can take longer for work that includes a Soil Treatment Area (STA or Leach Field) replacement, installation or expansion because soils testing is required.


The permitting process includes:

· Some companies require a down payment before the process begins to cover the cost of permitting and materials.

· Soils Tests (for an STA replacement, installation or expansion).

· Compiling the application. OWTS Permit Applications can range from 10-40 pages depending on the design and scope of work. It can take a few days to complete an application, especially during the busy summer months.

· The application is submitted to the county health department and the permit fee is paid.

· Once the application has been submitted, the county health department will do a Preliminary Site Visit. This typically happens within 3 business days after they receive an application. They do not let the homeowner or contractor know when this will take place, but they will need access to the area where the septic is located.

· Utilities are located and marked. This also happens within 3 business days after the request has been made. They do not let the homeowner or contractor know when this will take place, but they will need access to the area where the septic is located. They will not enter any property if a dog is outside, so make sure your pets are indoors!

· After the Preliminary Site Visit, the county will review the design in depth and address any issues with the engineer/contractor.

· Once the permit has been issued, it is time to schedule with the certified septic contractor.


The Work: How long will it take?

The time it takes to complete a project depends on what kind of work is being done.


· For a tank replacement or installation, the work itself typically takes about 1-2 business days. Typically, the household will need to use no water for about 4 hours while the flow is plumbed to the new tank. Once installation is complete, the county health department is required to do a Final Inspection before it can be backfilled. Total, it takes about 1-3 business days for a tank replacement or installation.


· For an STA replacement, installation or expansion, the work itself typically takes 2-3 business days. A pressure dosed STA takes longer to install than a gravity STA due to the added components and complexity. Once it has been installed, the county is required to do a Final Inspection before it can be backfilled. Total, it takes about 2-4 business days for an STA replacement, installation or expansion.


· For a full system installation or replacement, the work typically takes 2-4 business days. A pressure dosed system takes longer to install than a gravity system due to the added components and complexity. Once it has been installed, the county health department is required to do a Final Inspection before it can be backfilled. Total, it takes about 3-5 business days for a full system installation or replacement.


How will I be affected during construction?

· The disruption to your water use should be very limited. Typically, there is a period of 2-4 hours where water cannot be used while the new component(s) is being tied in.

· Utilities are located and marked prior to the work to limit chances of hitting a utility during excavation. Even with the utilities marked, it is possible that a something may be accidentally cut during excavation. When this happens, the repairs are made as quickly as possible.

· If there is irrigation in the area of the septic, sprinkler lines may be clipped during excavation. If this happens, the lines are repaired prior to backfill. There may be an additional cost associated with sprinkler line repairs.


What will my yard look like when the work is done?

· The system is backfilled once the county health department has done their final inspection and given their approval. A good backfill should be even across the work area. It may be crowned some over the STA (leach field) in order to divert water away and avoid pooling.

· Ultimately, your yard will be mostly dirt. The contractor should minimize the disruption to the surrounding area as much as possible, but even for a tank replacement there is a large amount of dirt that will be displaced and put back.

· Most septic companies do not offer re-landscaping. A landscaper will need to be hired to replace the landscaping, if desired.

· It is important to know what kind of landscaping you can do around your septic system. STAs should never be irrigated over and should only have native grass planted, or a mulch or rock bed. Trees should be planted well away from all components of your septic system, as their roots can damage your system over time. Pine trees have shorter, shallower roots and can be planted closer than deciduous trees, but should still remain at least 10 feet away from your septic system.


Summer Todd-Rhoads

Installation Manager

Permitting Specialist




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