A septic tank acts like an important wastewater solution for your business or home if it attaches to a municipal wastewater system, and it’s essential that you take careful stock of your septic tank cost when you budget for it so you can get high-quality installation to prevent yard contamination or leaking and a lot of maintenance costs. The last thing you want is for your system to fail and leak toxic wastewater flood into your raised garden beds. There might also be local regulations or rules in place that a professional would know regarding your septic tank, so it’s important to factor any permits into your septic tank cost.
If your home is one that isn’t attached to your municipal sewer plant, then you’ll have to have a septic system in place to handle your home’s collection, treatment and disposal regarding your wastewater. You’ll need an underground septic tank to hold your household’s wastewater, and there has to be a soil absorption system in place to put the cleaned wastewater back out into your land. The septic tank cost can be on the higher side to install or replace it, but it’s always better to replace a failing system then wait until it breaks and fills your yard with waste. Tank material, size, permitting requirements, soil makeup, and installation charges can all factor into your final septic tank cost.
On average, you’ll spend between $3,000 to $10,000 for your total septic tank cost, and this is a very broad range to try and budget for. To install a standard system with a 1,000-gallon tank, you’ll typically pay around $6,000. This is big enough for a three bedroom house. If you want a smaller system for your three-bedroom home that uses a plastic tank, this will typically cost around $1,500. If you use a bigger system made out of fiberglass or concrete, you’ll pay up to $20,000.
For a tank itself, you’ll pay between $600 and $1,000. The rest of the septic tank cost goes to labor for installation and the various permits. You want to get several quotes before you settle on one company to ensure you get a nice balance between cost and the grade of the final installation and product. There’s no reason why your septic tank can’t last for decades with proper installation using high-quality materials. This guide will outline the biggest components to a septic tank cost to give you a rough estimate of what you need to budget for.
Understanding how important your septic system is and how much it can cost to replace shows you how important maintenance is. You can get a system that could last for decades, but it has to be powerful enough to keep up with your needs. Septic System by Adam / CC BY-NC 2.0
How Septic System Type Influences Cost
One of the first things you have to do when you’re trying to figure out your septic tank cost is to pick out a type. There are many types of septic system tanks available, and the following will outline the cost for the tanks themselves, excluding the installation costs.
This type of septic system is popular with homeowners. It uses a host of bacteria that have to have oxygen to survive to eat the solid waste in your system. To activate the bacteria, this system will pump oxygen directly into the tank. The septic tank cost is more expensive to maintain and install, but it works very well for full houses where other systems can’t keep up. They do well in small lots, and in spaces where other septic systems won’t work due to soil conditions, or if the groundwater is too high. The average septic tank cost for this type of system ranges between $10,000 and $20,000.
This is a very common system as well, and it won’t need additional power or chemicals to run. It uses bacteria, but they don’t need oxygen to eat the solid waste and thrive. The system will pipe the liquid waste out and distribute it under your soil. The water will then run through your soil and filter the waste products out naturally. This septic tank cost will average between $2,000 and $5,000.
A chamber system utilizes a gravelless drain field to work. It also comes with a smaller carbon footprint, and they’re easier to make and install. This makes them extremely popular for people on a budget. If you don’t have a consistent wastewater flow like at a seasonal residence or cabin, this is a solid pick. This septic tank cost will range between $2,000 and $5,000.
Better known as a cluster system, this setup will serve multiple households or at least two buildings. If there is a lot of space in a rural subdivision, this is the tank you’ll have. They’re very efficient and cost-effective, and they’ll vary from setup to setup depending on the number of homes or buildings on the system and the type. On average, you can expect this septic tank cost to range between $9,000 and $16,000. For each home that connects to the system, there is an additional cost that ranges between $3,500 and $5,000.
This setup will resemble a wetland when you get it set up, and it can work well by your pond. The septic tank drains the waste into a wetland cell. These cells use a liner with sand, gravel, and wetland plants to help filter it. Thp plants are always wet, so you have to choose them with care to keep them healthy. The water goes into the cell before the gravel, sand, and plants work to filter out any waste. The water will then go to a drain field, and it can use a pump or gravity. The septic tank cost for this setup ranges between $6,000 and $10,000.
Small business or single-family homes are the two biggest residences that use this setup. This is a slightly older design, and it has a septic tank with a trench line that will double as a drain field. The trench uses stone or gravel in the construction, and there is a geofabric installed on top of the tench that allows water to flow through to the stone while preventing dirt or sand from getting into the clean soil. This can take up a big amount of space, so it’s not suitable for smaller lots. You can expect your septic tank cost to rise by $2,000 to $5,000 with this pick.
You won’t need a large amount of soil for this system because it’s very dynamic. It uses tubing in long lengths or drip laterals that get installed six to twelve inches below the soil. A tank will distribute a large amount of water using a pump on a timer. You’ll need power and a big area for this system, and the average septic tank cost ranges between $4,000 and $10,000. However, more advanced technology can push the cost above this threshold.
There is a unique design with this septic system, and it uses an open-air tank that allows the water to evaporate. The tank has a watertight material lining it that is very durable, and this ensures that no water leaks out and gets into your soil. You have to live in the right climate to install this system, like a desert climate. It has to have a lot of sun, be hot, and have an arid feel. The system can fail with too much snow or rain, and it’ll bring your septic tank cost up between $10,000 and $15,000.
Gravity-based systems use gravity to encourage strong water flow and good filtration. It doesn’t need a pump to work well, and it should come with risers-to-grade to help with the maintenance costs. There should also be effluent filters that will help screen larger particles out of the water before it goes out of the tank. You’ll need to put this system on a gentle slope so the water uses gravity to flow without having a pump. This system is more cost-effective, and the septic tank cost willl run between $1,500 and $4,000.
If you have shallow bedrock or soil or high groundwater, a mound-style system could work. You’ll get a sand mound constructed where you want your system to go. There is a pump that will push the wastewater out of the system into the mound. The sand then filters the water before it gets into your groundwater or soil. It needs a lot of space, and the mound can be as big as 200-feet long for a three-bedroom house. For bigger homes, you’ll add 30-feet for each bedroom to this original 200-foot length. This is a more expensive septic tank cost that ranges between $10,000 and $20,000.
You’ll need two feet for distance between the water table level and the bottom of your system. This is great if you have a high water table, and you get a pump chamber that will push the water out and distribute it across the set area. Since it has a pump, it can force water uphill. However, you have to have good control over your pump’s on and off action. They can help overcome gravity barriers, but you’ll pay more for it. The septic tank cost will start at $5,000 and go up to $7,000.
Recirculating Sand Filter
You can install the sand filter part of this system below or aboveground. Effluent water or liquid waste will get pumped to the top of your sand filter. The sand filter uses PVC or concrete in the construction. The waste will filter though a stone or sand layer before it goes into the ground. If you live near surface water or have a high water table, this is a great system for you. The septic tank cost ranges between $6,000 and $10,000.
Septic Tank Material Prices
Although there are several materials you can get for your septic tank, three main ones come to mind. Each material comes with benefits, and some work better for different uses, climates, and soil types. The following costs are tanks that are suitable for a three-bedroom home at 1,000 gallons.
This is the most common material used for septic tanks, and they’re very durable. This durability will ensure your system has a long life, and this can help justify your septic tank cost. It can easily last for over 20 years. However, you’ll need to bring in heavy equipment to install it because it’s so heavy. If it comes reinforced with rebar or if it’s precast, this will also influence your septic tank cost. The average septic tank cost you’ll pay is between $800 and $1,500.
Fiberglass isn’t a porous material, and this allows very little room for algae to grow. It won’t deteriorate underground, and it’s very durable. It’s lighter than steel or concrete, and this makes your installation costs drop. Fiberglass also won’t crack like concrete can, and the average septic tank cost will range between $1,500 and $2,000.
Despite being plastic, it’s more durable than you may originally think. While they don’t crack a lot, and they creak if your soil conditions start to shift or change. They’re much lighter than other materials, and this helps to control your septic tank cost for installation. This is a budget-friendly option, and you’ll spend between $800 and $1,400 to install it.
Prices for the Different Septic Tank Sizes
The building or home size you have will dictate your septic tank size. The number of bedrooms in a house is one of the easiest ways to narrow down the correct size for your new septic tank. The following septic tank costs will give you a rough estimate on how the different tank sizes change.
Two Bedroom House
You’ll need a minimum of a 750-gallon septic tank for a two-bedroom house. You do want to check your local municipality office because many require you to have at least a 1,000-gallon septic tank. If you can get away with a 750-gallon tank, your septic tank cost will range between $700 and $1,200.
Three Bedroom House
At a minimum, you’ll want at least a 1,000 gallon tank for a three bedroom home, and many state governments require you to have at least a 1,000 gallon system. This system is large enough to handle around 360 gallons of water every day. To calculate your home’s water usage, estimate your water flow. Once you have it, multiply it by 1.5. The average septic tank cost ranges between $800 and $1,300.
Four Bedroom House
For anyone who has a four bedroom house, you’ll need to instal a slightly bigger tank. A home of this size means that you need to have at least $1,250 gallons. This will give it enough power to handle between 480 and 600 gallons a day. This septic tank cost will range from $1,200 to $1,600. The tank material will play a role on the price
Site Preparation Costs
Since the above costs were just for the system itself and not the site preparation, you’ll want to know how preparation will influence your total septic tank cost. The amount of digging the crew will have to do will influence the price. It can impact your low-maintenance landscaping, and you may find yourself updating, replacing, or repairing it after they finish the installation process.
The number of plants and shrubs the crew has to remove will influence your excavation costs, how hard the soil is, the type of machinery they’ll need for the project, and the terrain’s quality also play roles. On average, excavation will influence your septic tank cost by increasing it between $1,000 and $4,500. Most companies will add site preparation costs into the total installation prices. This way, you may end up getting a lower rate overall for the excavation process.
Septic Tank Costs for Installation
Once you pick out a type of septic system, material, size, and prepare the site, it’s time to figure out how installation will impact your septic tank cost. Depending on the system type, the installation costs can be high. Since you have to make every connection perfectly to reduce the chances of leaks and the grade of depth has to be exact, it’s a good idea to hire a professional. There are multiple steps to cover to ensure your system works and doesn’t fail on you.
Hiring a professional can increase your septic tank cost by $1,500 to $4,000. This includes designing your system, filing your permits, excavating the site, and installation. For a professional to draw up a design, you’ll pay between $600 and $800. Your location will determine your contractor prices per hour, and they range between $150 and $200. A typical installation process without any major setbacks should take between two to give days and 16 to 40 hours from start to finish.
You’ll also have to add soil testing to your septic tank cost, and your permits are another thing to think about. The permit cost will vary by area and municipality, but they usually fall below $1,000. A site inspection may also be necessary, but they’re usually free.
There are several phases to the septic system installation. An inspection is the first step in the proces. This inspector will determine which design will work best for your space and if they need soil testing. The contractor will then design the system. Next, they’ll apply for all of the necessary permits. Once everything is good to go, they’ll start the installation process by starting to excavate the area. The entire installation process can take between two and five days from start to finish. When they get the system installed, an inspector will have to double-check it before they backfill the soil. Finally, they backfill it and finish the process.
Labor will make up a decent portion of your septic system installation cost. The prices per hour will be area-specific, and this is why it’s important to get multiple estimates. Septic System Installation by David / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Cost to Replace Parts of Your Septic System
As your system ages, parts may start to fail or not work correctly. This can add to your septic tank cost, but it’s always more cost-effective to replace parts than the entire system. Hiring a specialist or plumber to complete this replacement process will take your septic tank cost up between $45.00 and $200 an hour. The location will help determine the hourly rate.
Replacing a baffle can be enough to fix a problem without having to go in, dig out the tank, and completely replace it. The baffle’s function is to prevent scum from building up and clogging the inlets or outlet pipe. Replacing this part if it starts to fail can help save your tank, and this can help you control your septic tank cost by saving thousands. You’ll spend between $300 and $500 for this part.
Drain or Leach Field
The leach or drain field is the part of your system that takes the wastewater and puts it back in the soil. The first sign that you could have something wrong with this part is that you’ll get a wet and swampy area in your yard. There could also be a strong odor of sewage in your yard. This can easily drive your septic tank cost up by $2,000 to $10,000.
The lid allows you to access the tank and provides cover for it. The lid can rust on metal tanks and require replacement. Although this is a slightly minor repair that will only increase your septic tank cost by $30.00 to $70.00, you have to do it quickly to avoid accidents. You’ll have to pay installation costs if you hire a professional to replace it for you. If you have a concrete lid, the cost will go up because you’ll need equipment to remove and replace it.
Finally, your septic tank could have a pump. Most systems do if your setup is below the drain field because the pump will have to push the wastewater up to it. This is a more expensive septic tank cost, and a failed or failing pump can cost between $800 and $1,500 to fix. Also, you’ll have to pay to pump your system every two or three years to get rid of any solid waste. Pumping out your system costs around $400.
Get Professional Estimates for Your Septic Tank Cost Near You
Since it’s so important to have a professional come in and design and install your septic system, you want to get a few estimates around your local area. You can start your search with the following links to help control your septic tank costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do heavy rains damage your septic system or cause issues?
Heavy rains can cause damage or issues for your septic system because it can make your drain field flood. If this area floods enough to saturate your soil, and wastewater isn’t able to drain correctly. This can cause tank flooding or large backups.
2. How long will a new septic system last?
Most septic systems can last between 15 and 40 years with proper maintenance, and this can help you justify your septic tank cost. The drain field and the tank quality are the two biggest factors that determine how long it lasts. A concrete tank can last 40 years while a plastic tank can last 30 years. Slacking on maintenance can make it break down faster.
3. How much space do you need for a septic system?
Your space will also dictate your septic tank cost. The smallest area you’ll need is at least a half of an acre, and aerobic systems work well. Other systems will need at least an acre, and mound systems need at least 200-feet.
4. What components do you need for a septic system?
There are four main components to most septic systems. You’ll get the pipe that runs from the home, the tank itself, the drainfield, and the soil. There are microbes in the soil that will break down the waste products as well.
The costs to install and replace your septic system will vary depending on a range of factors. We’ve outlined the biggest ones, and you can take a look and see which ones will apply to your situation. When you settle on a material, size, and type, you’ll have a rough estimate you can take to local companies and see which ones offer you the best deals to ensure you get a high-quality system without breaking the bank.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.