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Old 04-02-2009, 11:57 AM   #1
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Default I would like some advice re: septic drain field repair

Anyone who has expertise in this area, I need your help. My septic tank drain field isn't working properly, and I've gotten a quote from a local company to fix it for $4100.00. That means digging up the old lines and attaching 100' of new drain lines to the ends. Does this sound cheap/reasonable/outrageous? The company I'm using has done work for me before, including replacing my water line, and they seem both honest and reasonably priced, but I'm a n00b in this area so any knowledgeable opinions would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 04-02-2009, 12:22 PM   #2
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All I know about septic systems is that the drain field is the most expensive thing to replace. We have one now, so I've been doing a bit of research with what not to put down the drain.

With anything like this, get three quotes to compare. If the company you know and trust is in the range, go with them. Good luck.

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Old 04-02-2009, 12:38 PM   #3
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-How old is this system?

-What type of soil do you have?

-Have they opened the tank and verified that waste is properly moving to the tank from the house?

-Has the tank been pumped regularly and/or recently?

-Have they done any exploratory work in the field lines to assess them?

Things are tight economically, and while removing and replacing the whole drain field should ensure it works properly again, finding out WHY there is a problem an WHERE it is may show that complete replacement isn't all that necessary. But they would LOVE to just do the whole system.

+1 on getting multiple quotes but don't just say that you NEED the field replaced or that's what they will want to do. Ask them what is wrong and what it takes to fix it. If you take your car to the shop and tell them you want something replaced they will do that; but if you take it in and ask them to fix it, they may take a different approach to the job and save you bucks. They LOVE it when you make calls that you don't understand. I know of a guy that took a Chevy Silverado in for work and said 'replace the transfer case it's stuck in 4 lock'. So they did, for more than $1500, but the actual problem was the electric actuator on the front axle, which was $100, which they ate for the labor bill on the replacement, but they kept the transfer case. I know this because it's now in MY truck. I got it free from them.

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Old 04-02-2009, 01:02 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Henry Hill View Post
-How old is this system?
~23 years

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-What type of soil do you have?
Primarily red Georgia clay.

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-Have they opened the tank and verified that waste is properly moving to the tank from the house?
Yes, everything on that side is working correctly.

Quote:
-Has the tank been pumped regularly and/or recently?
Yes, it was pumped about a month ago and is now backing soapy water from the laundry/showers up into the garage, esp. when it is raining.

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-Have they done any exploratory work in the field lines to assess them?
Yes, and they appear to be draining, but much too slowly to handle the load placed on them. We've lived in this house for about 3 years and this is the first time we've had any work done on the system. I don't know when it was serviced previously, if ever.

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+1 on getting multiple quotes but don't just say that you NEED the field replaced or that's what they will want to do. Ask them what is wrong and what it takes to fix it.
That's what I did in the first place, and the initial step towards fixing the problem was pumping the tank and hoping that was all it needed. Now it's backing up again, aprx a month later.
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Old 04-02-2009, 01:37 PM   #5
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Tying into the end of an existing lateral field that has been fowled is of little use, if this is what they are going to do, I would say it is a waste of time. Once soilds get into your lateral field and creat a bio mat, your laterals will stay clogged unless they have a rest with no water going into them for an extended period (months, maybe years) at wich point they can be reused. If on the other hand they are going to relocate your lateral field to a new area of the yard with clean soil and install new chambers or new gravel/pipe system you probably have a pretty fair price. You could install a bull head valve where you have the new system installed and let your old system rest for like 6 months to a year then open it back up and you have doubled your system. Here where we are 100' of lateral would not be sufficent. In our county you have to have a sanitary engineer or a registered sanitaria provide specs for installation to be sure you are putting in sufficent lateral for your soild type. The county health department may have recommended spec information for your soil types. In some of the smaller counties in Texas where there are not large population ceters there is no sanitarian or egineer required they still have guidlines to provide to homeowners & installers.
this site has lots of info applicable to georgia
Division of Public Health

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Old 04-02-2009, 01:58 PM   #6
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$4,100 doesn't seem high to me given the amount of permitting Lawrenceville is likely to make you go through. At a minimum they will require a soil scientist to come out and do a permeability test on your soil to adequately design the length of the field for the amount of finished floorspace your home has.

Janet is right on the money and I don't see how extending your drain field is going to be a significant help. If the site conditions allow, I would suggest abandoning the old drainfield and constructing a new one.

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Old 04-02-2009, 02:03 PM   #7
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Here where we are 100' of lateral would not be sufficent. In our county you have to have a sanitary engineer or a registered sanitaria provide specs for installation to be sure you are putting in sufficent lateral for your soild type.
Thanks for the replies, everyone! I greatly appreciate it.

Janet, the county sanitary inspector has been out to see the lay of the land and has OK'd installing 100' of line. To my layman's understanding, this is how it appears: the current lines are not blocked or crushed, but they are not draining efficiently because they are so old and the soil is saturated. So, adding another 100' of line will give the effluent somewhere to go (new soil, gravel, etc) while giving the existing soil a chance to "clear" and restore usability over time. My yard has a pretty steep slope from right (where the tank is located) to left, so there will be significant gravitational forces at work.
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Old 04-02-2009, 02:29 PM   #8
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When we were house shopping a few years back we looked at a house that had supposedly failed inspection previously and we were told we would have to have it dug up and redone. The quotes I was getting were from 7-10k, but that is here in NJ though.

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Old 04-02-2009, 02:31 PM   #9
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Sounds good. If it wasn't clay, you might have been able to blow CO2 into the field and loosen things up.

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Old 04-02-2009, 03:16 PM   #10
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I just finished digging up my septic and repairing it. The wife had been complaining about the smell ever since we moved in two years ago. I had been dreading having it fixed and the money I would have to spend doing it. It ended up costing me $850. The backhoe guy charged me $450 to dig it out and he was very helpful and knew all about septics. He dug up the tank and followed the drain lines until we found the problem. It was a collapsed drain pipe leading from the tank to the distribution box.
I had my honey dipper guy pump the tank to give me some time to fix it and still use our bathrooms. I then replaced the drain line with 4" schedule 40, installed a new 6" cleanout pipe and my buddy filled it back in with his Kubota. It's all good now.
I have pics of the whole process if you'd like to see. I guess you could call it pooh porn.
It's not as nasty of a job as one would think either. Even if you had to replace the entire leach field, I don't think it would be that bad.

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