Homemade Low-Use Septic System

Building a scaled-down version of a septic system may be appropriate for low-use structures such as a vacation cabin that is only used several times each year or a house with one bedroom. Since there is limited use, a smaller system can handle the volume because of minimal use.

Acquire a site map of the property.

Identify on the map a potential location for the septic system. It should be 10 feet from all structures. Avoid running pipes near trees or other obstacles that will cause difficulty digging trenches.

Identify the depth of the water table. Septic systems must be at least 4 feet above the water level.

Dig a 6-foot trench at the proposed drainfield location.

Call the health department to come out and do a soil classification.

Draw up plans according to the soil classification. Once plans are approved and permits are acquired, then you can start the installation process.

Locate the main sewer drain pipe outside of the building.

Attach a 10-foot section of 4-inch PVC pipe using a coupling. Glue all joints

Dig a hole for the tank. The hole should be wider than the dimensions of the tank. The depth will be according to the size of the tank.

The tank should fit with the inlet (sewer drain) snug in the inlet hole.

Level the tank and fill dirt in around the sides of the tank.

Attach an elbow to the end of the inlet pipe facing down toward the bottom.

Dig a 15-foot trench from the bottom of the outlet hole pitching down at a rate of 1/8 inch per foot.

Install PVC pipe starting at the outlet hole and continuing the entire length of the trench.

Attach and glue an elbow onto the outlet pipe facing down in the tank.

Dig a hole 10-feet deep and 3-feet wide at the end of the PVC pipe.

Fill the hole with stones up to the bottom of the PVC pipe.

Install a 2-foot length of 4-inch PVC perforated pipe onto the end of the PVC solid pipe and pitching down 1/8 inch per food.

Fill stones around the pipe and 4 inches above the pipe.

Place rosin paper on top of the stones. Ensure that all of the stones are covered with the rosin paper.

Place the lid on top of the tank.

Fill in the dirt on top of the pipe and stones and grade level with surface.

Things You Will Need

  • Plastic tank
  • 4-inch PVC pipe
  • 4-inch PVC elbow
  • Crushed rock
  • 4-inch PVC perforated pipe
  • Rosin paper
  • 4-inch PVC Coupling
  • PVC Glue
  • Level
  • Backhoe


  • Tank can be purchased at any local hardware or plumbing supply.
  • A backhoe and operator can be rented for the day in many locations.
  • Mark tank lid for future maintenance.


  • Be careful to fill dirt in slowly on top of the pipes in order not to crush the pipes.
  • Mark the top of the lid and block off, so that vehicles drive over it.
  • Consult your local municipality for regulations and permits.
  • Glue all joints.

About the Author

Elijah Reno is an entrepreneur working in the SEO marketing field. Prior to starting his own business, Reno worked as a civil servant. He began writing technical documents such as Phoenix Sky Harbor Data Package and Boston Logan Technical Package in 1993. He holds a bachelor's degree in information and computer science from Stockton State College.