Friday, November 5, 2010

More Septic Issues and Shifting Gears on Our Plan

This whole septic drama is getting a bit out of hand, and I realize that we really weren't properly prepared for this and could have done things so much differently. Along these lines, the excavator even said if you build three houses in a row, you build them differently every time because you are constantly learning from your mistakes.

That said, we now know that the most important thing before you even begin to build a house is deciding where your toilet is going to be. This will determine where the septic pipe will leave the house, and thus the location of your septic tank. Everything else about the house should come after that.

I know my Mentor is shaking his head and can't wait to say, "I hate to say I told you so, but... " which for the record, is simply not true, because I know that he loves to say "I told you so." Either way, we were warned from day 1 that we needed to figure out where the bathroom would be, and then indicate where we wanted the septic tank. We then proceeded to ignore these warnings and try to move forward.

Now we are suffering for our sins. The problem is (there's always a problem) that we had a design that the engineer worked with, and once the plan was finished and the design approved, we went ahead and changed it. This, of course, was because we hadn't planned properly. The original design had the septic outlet coming out the south side of the barn. This meant that the septic tank could be right next to the barn, which would then be adjacent to the leech field. A straight shot from beginning to end.

When we changed the plan, we wanted to put the tank more in the back of the barn, on the east face. This would enable us to put a bathroom in the back/middle of the barn, thus completing our preferred design. However, this also meant that the tank would be farther away, and as we've learned, we're operating on margins over here. Because of limitations on how deep the leech field can be, we don't have unlimited distances. The leech field is set, and the excavators work backwards from there.

To go that extra 50 feet would have meant that they would have decreased the pitch to the point where it was basically level and the flow would have been difficult. Plus, because there has to be a gradual incline, the pipe and tank would have been very close to the surface. This is why they had to get blueboard, which I'm wondering if they still need.

Anyway, the problems all started from bad planning, and now we know, the next time we design and build a house, which will hopefully be never, you have to start with the toilet and septic tank, and then go from there.

In light of these problems, and because the excavators were standing there waiting for an answer and we had to come up with one on the spot, we had to shift gears on our plan and move the bathroom. Now, we're going to just use a couple of trees out back, and leave a pile of leaves for toilet paper. Vermont living at its best.

Actually, we decided to take the path of least resistance and go back to the original plan. The septic tank is now adjacent to the barn, just to the south, and the pipe exiting the barn is located on the south wall, as pictured here.

Sure, it isn't optimal, but we'll work around it and figure things out. We'll meet with the plumber as soon as possible and show him the new setup and hopefully get some answers. When R and I talked about it afterward, we were pretty sure that we didn't have a huge number of options given the space and layout of the land. Our final choice was probably the best one we had without using pumps and electricity, which we wanted to avoid.

All in all, it makes me wonder how houses ever get built. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

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