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PERC TEST DATE NIGHT – The life of a septic wife…

When you are married to a guy in the septic industry this time of year means PERC TEST DATE NIGHT!  I mean WHO DOESN’T LOVE watching water absorb into the soil on a gorgeous summer evening?!  I often joke with my customers about how my husband and I have our “romantic septic talks” every night….but to some degree it is no lie.  Every night…candlelight or not….we talk septic!

But given it is “installation season” this also means perc tests…thus, perc test date night! So, what are perc tests and why do I feel the need to write about them?  Let me elaborate….


If you’re building a residence in the country, something you might not know is you have install your own wastewater system for your home – or a place for all your wastewater to go.  In town, there is plumbing and city sewers to take care of all that, but if you build in the country you have to provide your own sewer system!  The most popular types of wastewater systems are septic systems.


Septic systems work in conjunction with Mother Nature.  The largest part of a septic system is the drain field (also known as a lateral field or leach field).  The drain field is the portion of your septic system that uses the soil to absorb ALL of the water that comes out of your house.  Every time you flush, do a load of laundry, take a shower, run the dishwasher, wash your hands, etc., the water drains out of the house and eventually ends up in the soil right outside.  Therefore, as a septic installer we have to find soil that likes to absorb water in order for the septic system to function properly.  We find that good soil by conducting the percolation test (perc test for short).


This is where my date night begins….as it is the most romantic process ever….a certified installer (i.e. my husband…) comes out to your land and drills holes (usually 3-6 holes 30 inches deep) in the ground.  Next, he fills them with water.  Then he watches the water absorb into the soil.  It is a two day process in which we watch the water absorb into the ground.   The holes need to be dug the day before and saturated….that’s when my date night happens!  Just me and the hubs driving through fields, drilling holes and filling them with water.  If you don’t think this sounds like a hoot, you might not want to double date with us.  Fun or not, it is the process we have to conduct to find out if a septic system can be installed on your land.


If the per tests “passes,” a conventional septic system can be installed.  If it “fails,” you have to look at other options (i.e. lagoon, polishing pond, or engineered system).   The bigger issue here is this:  where ever that perc test was taken, if it passes, THAT AREA AND THAT AREA ONLY is where the drain field portion of your septic system needs to be installed.


What exactly do I mean by that?


Let’s say you’re purchasing a 3 acre plot – which is pretty common in our area.  If you have a passing perc test on that lot, it does not mean that ALL THE SOIL on that lot is good.  It only means the soil where the test was taken is good.  The crazy thing about soils is that they change fast.  In one 3 acre plot, you can have up to 4 different types of soil flowing through it.  So, when you get a passing perc rate, bear in mind, that it’s only where that test was taken and NO WHERE ELSE.  We have seen people build right on top of the only good soil on their lot which is terribly unfortunate.  When we conduct a perc test, we not only mark our holes with flags, but we give you a GIS map with the results so you can see where the test was taken.


So, though you may question our definition of romantic or date night activities….conducting a perc test is vital and important when installing a conventional septic system.


Hope this is helpful!  Until next week!