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Are DIY Septic Systems Legal? Do I Need a Permit?

underground water septic tanks

If you’re looking for a way to dispose of wastewater and the property doesn’t connect to the local sewer system, a septic system seems like the perfect solution. But while it might be just what you need, there are still tons of rules and regulations you need to follow.

You’ll want to read this guide before you start trying to build and install your septic system. The last thing you want is to put in all the work only to realize it’s illegal and you end up facing fines and spending even more money to pull it out of the ground. DIY septic systems have different laws depending on what state or district you live in however a permit is always required. We discuss everything you need to know about DIY septic systems.

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Are DIY Septic Systems Legal?

Because the laws surrounding septic systems vary from state to state and county to county, it’s challenging to say whether a DIY septic system is legal in your area or not. However, no matter where you live in the United States, you need to get a permit to put a septic system on your property.

The exact permits you’ll need varies from location to location, but you can’t build a septic system on your property without getting the necessary permits and scheduling the necessary inspections, regardless of where you live.

And in most places, you can’t build your own septic system without any additional certifications or courses. So, before you start building any septic systems for your property, check out the local laws and regulations for your specific state and county.

Septic system instalation
Image By: trufero, Shutterstock

What You Need to Do to Build a DIY Septic System

If you’re looking to build your septic system, there are a few things you need to do to build a successful system and stay on the right side of the law. The first thing you need to do is research the local laws and regulations around septic tanks for your state, county, and city.

There are typically government websites that will break down all the different rules and laws you need to follow, and these sites are your best source for accurate information. But typically, these are the steps you’ll need to follow to build and install a DIY septic system!

concrete septic tank
Image Credit: Natalia Kokhanova, Shutterstock

The Steps for Building a Septic System

Start by evaluating the land where you want to put the septic system. You should have evaluators come out to ensure there aren’t any buried lines in the area, and you need to ensure you have adequate space for a septic system.

Next, you’ll need to have a professional site evaluator come out and look at the site. They’ll inform you if the area is suitable for a septic system or your options if you can’t install one there.

From there, you’ll need to determine the necessary size for the septic tank and the trench, which comes down to the size of your home and how much water you use in your home.

Once you have an idea of where you want to put the septic tank and what kind of system you need, it’s time to start creating some drawings. The drawings need to show exactly how the septic system is going to work and it needs to meet the needs of the local health department. The drawings should show buildings, sidewalks, property lines, retaining walls, locations of test holes, and anything else your local health department might require.

You also need to break down the drain field layout and how the drain field itself will work. This includes piping, flow control valves, and more.

Now that you have a detailed drawing that breaks down everything you plan to do for your septic system, it’s time to take the drawings to the local health department for a building permit. They’ll review the drawings and let you know if it’s something you can proceed with.

Only after meeting all these requirements can you start the process of installing your septic system. It’s quite the process, but following all these steps will ensure you don’t open yourself up to fines or costly repairs, or removals.

Big plastic septic tanks system
Image Credit: Artem Bruk, Shutterstock

Do You Need a Permit to Install a Septic System?

Yes! Even if you’re not building your septic system and installing one someone else built, you still need to go through the permit process to install a septic system. The exact process will change quite a bit depending on whether you already have a septic system there or if you’re installing a brand-new septic system.

It’s usually far easier to replace an existing septic system than to install a brand-new one. However, it’s important to note that either way inspectors will want to look at the new septic system to ensure it meets all the necessary requirements to prevent a negative environmental impact.

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Final Thoughts

While you might not be able to DIY your septic system in most states, if you take your time and follow the right steps, you can usually install your own septic system. Don’t skip steps though, and bring up any questions you might have to your local health department so they can give you the most up-to-date information about what you need to do to get a septic system on your property.

Featured Image Credit: Hamik, Shutterstock


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