Sarratt Septic

Septic System Shared With Multiple Properties By Easement


I'm going to answer your email then give you my thoughts.

You wrote: --I have a property I’m vetting to purchase in Glenville and came across an septic easement that has me scratching my head. I am hoping to purchase lot 100 of the attached plat.

My reply: ~~Glenville is a nice area. You know the lingo so you are an experienced home buyer, real estate agent, contractor, or somehow in the industry. Correct?

--It appears the initial septic field easement is on the lot 101 next to mine.

~~Yes, that is correct.

--My question is assuming the city approves a new 3 bedroom permit of a standard system.  Is there significantly more cost to run the drain field to the neighboring lot?

~~You would be working with the county, not city, for septic. Specifically Jackson County Environmental Health (JCEH). It is also likely that there is a septic permit already on file with JCEH. The fact that a septic has been drawn out on the plat means the septic permit which was created is good indefinitely. If the septic wasn't drawn on the plat the permit would only be good for five years. This is somewhat confusingly noted in the 1900 rules (attached) (its boring). Search for the words "plat is provided" in the document. If there turns out not to be a septic permit on file with a plat like this, that would be very surprising.

--Additionally, the buildable space for the lot is a triangle. Would there be any concern from your opinion on where to put a tank since the unpaved road cuts through the lot?

~~You are smart to get the opinion of a septic installer in the beginning before the house and tank locations are set. And, there is little good advice I can give you unless I physically see and walk the property. I can go out with you today and possibly tomorrow if you are in the area. If not, it will have to be in a few weeks, as I am going out of town for a funeral (sad times in the Sarratt household; it is what it is).

It is possible to put septic lines under a dirt road (or even a paved road), but we have to use concrete pipe or ductile iron pipe under trafficked areas--think +$300-$600 in materials cost + labor. The county can allow a cheaper solution, such as PVC with cover, but I wouldn't even get in to that debate if they said ductile iron; it is more hassle than it is worth.

--Any guidance on installation cost and concerns so I negotiate the right price would be greatly appreciated. I promise to reach out when I’m ready to build!

~~Normally you have 3 (maybe 5) installers come out and look at the property. You give them as much information as you can (permit and home locations) and collect bids.

My thoughts are below. Thanks for the questions!

After viewing the plat you attached....  Interesting.

I have not run into this in Western North Carolina, but I saw a similar situation with a multi-house (15+) drainfield out on the Inner Banks of Eastern North Carolina. When I went to talk to the county about the property--I am obsessive about getting all the information I can before making a purchase, they knew the exact subdivision to which I was referring. It had been a difficult install.

This situation is much smaller.

Have you signed a contract? In other words, are you in a due diligence period for a purchase? It is easier for me to be direct if you don't have a signed contract because it is possible for me--as a septic installer, to be sued by a seller for interfering with a real estate transaction. I can tell you the facts, but I can't criticize.

But, if I am working for you as a consultant--to help you understand a property's drawbacks and benefits before you make a purchase then I can be more direct.

So, at this point, I am going to be careful with what I say and just stick with the facts.

You are smart to do your homework.

I'm guessing you have physically set foot on the property and like what you see? If you have not, that would be first on my list.

If I were you I would look at the actual deed--the book and page number, for all four properties. Jackson County has all their deeds online. If you have problems locating anything the register of deeds office is good in person and on the phone.

I would also read the deed restrictions for the property you are looking to purchase and the deed restrictions for the subdivision. I would want to know if there is an HOA already in place and how often they meet.

Now I would pull the septic permit that is on file with Jackson County Environmental Health ph 828-587-8250. The permit may be a few pages. JCEH can scan it in and email it to you or it may be easier for you to pick it up in person.

The permit for that property details the type of septic system the county or soil scientist (more likely) suggested for the site. That suggestion, although not set in stone, likely gives you an idea of how much you will be in bed with your neighbors.

And more importantly, that permit will give you an idea of the costs. Four septic tanks--one per house, distributing to a large conventional drainfield [plastic chambers (cheapest) or rock and pipe] is one cost. Septic normally runs $3000-$5000 per house in this area provided there is no pump tank or hand digging required.

One thought, you might (m-i-g-h-t...) be able to save a few bucks by having one large septic tank for two houses rather than a tank for each house. This depends on how the land lays and to some degree the desires of the county.

At the high end, if four houses are distributing to a drip system--that can become costly for some homeowners. Starting cost for drip will be at least $25,000 per house with maintenance fees of at least $150 per house at least twice a year. It is likely that an installer and an operator will bundle their services for multiple homes, but you will pay.

Again, the septic permit tells all....

After having looked through the aforementioned information I would bring it with you (digital or printed, doesn't matter) and walk the property with me (or another septic installer).

Why do plats (surveyed lots, sites) like this get created? In my opinion the contractor cut it up wrong. But from a contractor's perspective they were looking to maximize their profit potential and so they cut it up like this then had the soil scientist do some work to come up with a viable solution for a septic system. It is all a matter of opinion. The date of the plat is 2008--the housing boom, everything was selling like hotcakes. It didn't matter what was undesirable about it. People bought properties in this area sight unseen. Oy-vey!

An aside: If you don't cut the lots up well buyers have a hard time seeing the potential of the property.  That is why I recommend you involve a surveyor and a septic installer in the process of dividing a property into smaller parcels.  A knowledgeable septic installer can also give you an idea about when a licensed soil scientist (LSS) also needs to be involved.  Smaller lots, beach front lots, lots near water or on the tippy tops of mountains with little soil depth, get ready to involve a LSS.

Is it worth it to buy land in this neighborhood? It all depends on your desires and where the neighborhood is located. On the side of a nice mountain with a great view...I get it. Near a lake. Yep! Lakes and mountains plus a nice view. Oh yeah! Sweet cool little neighborhood up next to Cashiers (I like Cashiers!). That's what I'm talk'n bout! Then the price of the septic or the potential hassle of a shared drainfield may not be such a big deal.

Or maybe the price on the land is cheap. The property I am developing for my own home was like this: the contractor did not do a good job of cutting up the lots in the subdivision and as a result, the two lots I purchased had been vacant (unpurchased) for 20 years. That drove the price down. I came along and saw the potential and snatched up the two lots. Thank God all those other people didn't do their homework and overlooked my property!

Potential drawbacks that I see for the property you are considering include:

The neighbors can build on the drainfield areas illegally--think non-permitted workshop or an RV carport. Then if a septic repair drainfield is ever needed, at a minimum, a heated debate will occur. It is what it is.

A neighbor could ruin the drainfield areas by putting dirt on them, removing dirt from them or by grading them. Then you can wind up with a drip system.  And that is they way it is.

Like I mentioned earlier, you are in bed--a septic bed that is, with your neighbors.

If one or more of the neighbors does not treat their septic system nicely it can ruin the four houses' drainfield. Nicely means conserving water--too much water overwhelms the soils ability to process wastewater (we call it hydraulic overloading). Harsh, or too many, cleaning chemicals messes up the bacteria in the tank. Too much grease or oil clogs the drainfield and will make you have to use the repair area.  Even milk, or milk products, are a bad idea (not kidding).  Dairy raises the biological oxygen demand (BOD) of a septic system.  Pour grease and oil in a can and throw it in the garbage or compost pile.  Do the same with milk.  Orange juice also is bad for septic systems.  PPP!  Pee, poop and paper--if it is not pee, poop or paper it doesn't belong in a septic system.

Another question, if the drainfield needs to be replaced who pays for it? What if the other homeowners say--despite what the easement requires or the HOA says, "man I just don't have the money".  Now you got a problem.  It's like sharing the same butthole with four other people. There are gonna be problems!

And what's up with lot 99? There is an easement to put the drainfield on that person's property, but they are not involved in the multi-property septic system. This is unusual to say the least.

There are other problems, but those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

If there are not houses on the other lots can you just put in a bid on all four lots or lots 100, 101 and 102? Can you buy more than one lot so you control the majority of the septic activity? I have bought a number of properties. Cash money always talks.

Keep me posted on what you find out from the register of deeds and the septic permit police.  I don't mind walking the site with you and giving you my opinion.  No charge.  This is very interesting.

Thanks for the question!


--I can't thank you enough for all of the details and expert insights. I know enough to know this was going to be a unique one that could get me in trouble. I'm going to read your email 3 more times, gather my thoughts and let you have a weekend. I'm down in XXXXXXX and plan to be up that way again to do final check list in the next few weeks. I have a scheduled trip to Cashiers for late November but I'll likely need to come up sooner.

Believe it or not I'm still going back and forth with Jackson County.  They produced a newer septic permit that is on the same property unlike the plat. Hopefully it's an affordable solution. This one expires in January. Now they're trying to determine which one is valid. Right now I don't have plans to be in the area until November 23rd.

--I would be interested in your thoughts. This solution doesn't appear to be [a] shared [septic system]. I'm just confirming that if nothing has changed I can get this version of the plan/permit reissued. Here is roughly how the home will sit on the lot. To the left is a mountain and lake view.


[Given the new septic permit you sent me,] the land for the septic site has a long-term acceptance rate (LTAR) of .6 (we just call that a 6). LTAR Numbers range from .1 to 1.0. A 0 LTAR doesn't PERC (or PERK); this means the soil doesn't pass through, i.e., percolate, wastewater--instead the wastewater will pool above the soil and eventually come to the ground's surface.

When you pick up sand at the beach you are holding 1.0 LTAR. The clay potters use (which comes out of veins in the ground--similar to a gold vein), or the clay kids use from the creek side to make animals and ashtrays and stuff can have an LTAR as low as .1 or even a 0. It takes water a very long time to percolate through a .1 LTAR. You actually can put a septic system into a .1 LTAR soil, but you must have a VERY LARGE drainfield.

So the soil at your site is .6 or a little above middle of the road.

On the permit--remember the permit tells all, it says 45-55 degree slope (top left corner). This type of slope will likely--almost definitely, have to be hand dug. Hand dug septic systems take more time to install and are more expensive.

How much more expensive? I don't know. Septic on sites on which you can use an excavator (and not hand dig) are $3000-$5000. So a 20% increase? 50% increase???

For hand digging, I talk to a few friends (about 4 or more) and see if they bite for $15 an hour; if not I bump it up to $20 and cross my fingers. Next I add lunch. Then beer. Then maybe more money.

It is doubtful that an excavator can be used to dig the trenches on that site. And, I don't know until I see the site. It also may be that some of it can be dug with a tracked trencher. And, I don't know until I see the site.

By the way, you can't trust the contour lines on the county's GIS system too much (or on Google maps for that matter). Just like you can't trust the survey lines on the county's GIS system. You have to put boots on the ground and get out the deed and the survey to get an accurate understanding of the site.

For example, I have a piece of property in the Eastern part of the State. My property line, on the county's GIS system, goes right through my neighbor's trailer. But when you walk the property and locate the surveyors "large iron marker"--its an old piece of railroad rail shoved in the ground, then shoot the property lines and use your measuring tape, the neighbor has done nothing wrong. The lines computers overlay on the ground don't accurately show what the land is like. It's close sometimes, but it is not as accurate.

The permit you sent me stipulated 10" large diameter pipe (LDP). LDP is the method of choice for many steep slope septic systems. Unfortunately homeowners are not allowed to put in LDP; it has to be a certified North Carolina septic installer.

The size of the drainfield you need at that area is determined by the county when they give you the construction authorization (CA). You have an IP--an improvement permit, but you need a CA to start construction.

My hunch is it will probably be about 240 feet of 10" pipe; rock is not required. AND, figuring out trench length is really the domain of the health department. So if they come out and say "do 300'" or "you can just 200'" I would go with what they say. They do this all the time and are arguably more experienced than installers at certain areas of the business. They also work the county more than me and see the failures that occur and understand why. Put in the length of LDP that they say. I am about to call different purveyors and find out LDP prices for you.

Here is how I came up with the 240' feet of LDP: ((360/.6)/(2.5))

This is from page 32 of the attached 1900 rules:
(c) The design daily sewage flow [360'] shall be divided by the long-term acceptance rate [.6] to determine the minimum area of nitrification trench bottom. The total length of the nitrification line shall be determined by dividing the required area of nitrification trench bottom by the trench width, not to exceed 36 inches. Trenches shall be located not less than three times the trench width on centers with a minimum spacing of five feet on centers.

This is from page 35 of the 1900 rules:
Nitrification area requirement shall be determined in accordance with Rules .1955(b) and .1955(c), or in Rule .1956(6)(b), Table III(a) of this Section, when applicable, with eight-inch tubing considered equivalent to a two-foot-wide conventional trench and 10-inch tubing considered equivalent to a two and one-half-foot-wide [2.5'] conventional trench.

More later. I've got to go buy a birthday gift for my fiance.


--Thank you Eric, I feel much more confident now that I have a good understanding what’s involved in getting this system in place. I know the steep grade can add some cost but knowing that work would be on my own system and property makes up for it! I’ll reach out when it gets closer to my trip up there to see if we can nail down a date to walk the site together. I am still working with the power company but I’m hopeful I’ll have everything I need to make an offer soon.
Have a great weekend,


I noticed I made an error in an earlier response to you: This neighborhood was created just after the housing market crashed, not during; the crash began in 2008. My hunch is the neighborhood was in process and so they continued with their business deal. That doesn't change any of the information I have given you; I am just correcting the misinformation I gave you on the date.

And now back to your email and answering your questions:

You are welcome.

What issues are you running into with the power company? I am getting my public utilities contractor license. I like to learn everything I can.

FYI, normally the permit process goes like this: Land development permit (just additional county fee gouging in my opinion--just pay it if it is required).  Next, you are allowed to get a septic improvement permit.  Then comes the septic construction authorization.  After you have the septic CA in place you are only then allowed to get temporary electric on the site and a building permit.  In other words, the county doesn't let you get temporary electric or a building permit with just a septic improvement permit.  You need to have the septic CA to progress further down the permit yellow brick road.

I spoke with two different sellers of 10" LDP pipe, McNeelys and Crumplers. I will also drop by Pioneer in Waynesville when I am over that way.

The prices below do not include some of the necessary couplings for connecting 4" PVC to the LDP and for connecting LDP sections together.

McNeely's: ADS No-Rock 10" diameter is $69.46 for 20' sections. $833 for 240' of pipe. Can pickup in Sylva at that price.
Crumpler's: 10" pipe is $2.98 per foot. It is sold in 20' sections--this is an unshipped price from Roseboro, NC (West of Fayetteville). So that is $715.20 for 240'.

I already can tell you that shipping for Crumplers will make these prices nearly identical OR McNeely's will be cheaper. McNeely's operates a branch in Sylva. I did considered driving to Roseboro with my truck and trailer--I have a house just West of Charlotte, but the distance to Crumplers makes it financially unfeasible.

There is no discount at McNeely's for septic folks that I have found and I have looked. Their price is for everyone.

Given McNeely's price on LDP, I stand by my total installation price of $3000-$5000 + extra costs for digging. If you decide to buy the property (read on for my thoughts) and if you decide to hire me (prudence says get 3-5 installers' quotes) I will give you an exact quote before starting the installation with one caveat....

I'm not trying to freak you out with the following information. I only am trying to avoid the surprise factor of "You didn't tell me about that!" should any of these issues occur:

My only exception to my quotes is unknown underground issues, namely a spring or a large amount of rock. If while digging the septic's drainfield we hit a spring, things have to be moved. The county will be back out. All septic components must be 50' from water. Yes, it is possible to hit a spring which runs close to the surface, but cannot be seen from the surface before we start digging. This issue with springs also happens with house foundations by the way. If I hit a spring on a property I would jump for joy! Springs are a blessing. That is free water!

Rock is just a reality in the mountains. Ideally we leave it in place and add a few extra feet of LDP.  Next, in rough order of increasing expense: (1) We pipe around it, (2) We dig it up with the excavator, (3a) We break it up with Dexpan [like dynamite, but with no explosion :_(] and pipe over it, (3b) We break it up with an excavator and then pipe over it.  My hunch is there will be no cost changes for your installation, but I like to be upfront.  I do not know what is under the ground.

Logically people at this point ask, "So why would the county put a septic drainfield where there is rock?"

Answer: They didn't know the rock was there. When we probe, do auger borings and dig pits to examine the dirt for a septic system we only do a few holes where each of the drainfield lines will be. So on a 100' run only three to four 3" borings may have been made. There is a lot of space in that 100' length where a large rock can be under the ground.

Here is a question I would ask a real estate lawyer. You may want to do this BEFORE you even sign a contract with a real estate agent. Ask the attorney, "If I install my own septic system on this property do the neighbors still have easement rights to my property for their septic system?" You may be able to figure out the answer to this issue for yourself by reading the deed restrictions, the HOA agreement (if there is one) and deeds for each of those four properties. AND, I would then check out what you have found with a real estate attorney.

The minimum septic tank size in NC is 900 gallons. But you can generally only buy a 1000 gallon tank because nobody sells 900. If you are NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER going to build bigger than 3 bedrooms put in 1000. If there is even the slightest chance that you will expand expand to 5 bedrooms put in a 1500 gallon tank. The difference is only a few hundred bucks. Also, if you have two dwelling-units on a property, like a separate mother-in-law house, you need to use a 1500 gallon septic and a larger drainfield.

If you are going to put in a workshop with a bathroom on the property at some point ask the county when they are out doing the CA if you should get a tank larger than 900. You may or may not need a larger tank, but I would ask.

***I wouldn't mention the following information to the county when they are doing the CA: Under the building code an extra building (workshop) may be seen as a multi-family dwelling and require a 1500 gallon septic. Technically, any "structure" which is more than 10' from the original structure makes the home a multi-family dwelling. But, if you connect the original structure to the workshop by a covered walk way it magically turns the structure into a single unit (a non-multi-family dwelling). 10' is the magic number. I honestly don't think the septic folks know this because it is specific to the building code, not the septic code, but you never know. Shhhh.***

The State's rules figure people use 120 gallons per bedroom. Your IP is for three bedrooms or 360 gallons per day. Thus your drainfield is sized to 360 gallons per day.

As long as your tank is downhill from your house and your drainfield is downhill from your tank--which is what I think you have on this site. You can use gravity septic.

BTW: Ideally, before you put a shovel in the ground it is best to determine your drainfield's exact location and your tank's location. Now site your house. If you move any of these locations it is best to bounce it off of a septic installer or a knowledgeable contractor. What people sometimes do unknowingly is set themselves up for a pump system, where they have to pump from their septic tank to their drainfield because the drainfield is uphill, slightly uphill or a long distance from the tank. There is nothing wrong with pump systems, but they cost more money. In North Carolina homeowners cannot do their own repairs on a pump system. There is also a learning curve to pump system repairs. Pump systems are expensive to repair.

If you site the house properly you can get away with a concrete septic tank. You have to have access for the septic tank's installation truck (its big) to get near the hole for the tank. If you move the tank's location too far off the road you need to use a plastic septic tank. Both are good septic tanks.

You want to site the septic tank's location to make it accessible to the septic pump truck. Most pump trucks carry 100' of suction tubing. If you are further away the truck may need to bring extra tubing.

With LDP the trenches in the ground must be 2' wide even though pipe is only 10" wide. Digging in the winter can be difficult if the ground is frozen. This depends on how cold it has been and when winter arrives. We only get mild winters with snow a few times a year here, but the ground can freeze 6-8" deep or more.

It is better to install septic when the ground has not been wet (And, septic systems can definitely be installed in the winter, no big deal). North Carolina's wet season is from fall until the first leaves pop out on the trees. During this time the water table is higher and the ground is wetter. The day the leaves pop out IS the exact day the ground water table drops.

It is important to wait a few days after a rain before installing septic. Wet soil smears easily. Smeared soil interferes with wastewater moving through the soil and being purified. Smeared soil can result in premature drainfield failure. Generally we tell people you get 20 years out of a drainfield. And, if you really take care of your septic system it should last longer than 20 years. Clean your filter once per year, pump your tank when needed and don't put junk down the drain (baby wipes, grease/oil, too many cleaning chemicals, milk, orange juice, paint, solvents--only poop, pee and toilet paper).

Your repair drainfield is specified on the permit as permeable panel block system (PPBS). This is used as a cheaper alternative to drip dispersal septic installation. PPBS looks like concrete blocks glued together.  The difference is PPBS is aircrete (Google it). The blocks are filled with and covered with sand. PPBS is a good system.

If you decide to buy the property and don't get to it by 2020, so what.  Prices go down on property in winter.  I would just decrease the cost of a new permit on your offering price.

The email from the county noted that you could get a new permit provided there were no changes to the site.  In other words, if someone has graded the area where the drainfield will be the county cannot reissue a permit for that site.  I guess if there was a small landslide (it is the mountains) in that area that would mess up another permit there too.  I wouldn't worry about getting the septic permit reissued.

For buying property AND putting in a septic system, November 23rd to January 1st is a small window of opportunity.  Real estate transactions normally have a 4 week due diligence period.

In my experience the real estate attorneys are the ones who mess up the process.  The due diligence is there for the homeowner to check out the property and find out about any difficulties such as easement issues or co-owner issues--usually from a divorce or multiple family members who own a property (Again, you were wise to do due diligence before you have a contract with an agent). But a lot of attorneys wait until the last minute to do their part. So if you have some odd deed issue--that you could probably solve on your own, it messes up or delays the sale. When the sale is delayed the seller gets mad at you when in reality it is usually the attorney.   This happens because the attorney packed their calendar to tightly or they did not give themselves enough time to do the deed work at the beginning of the four week period.

Keep me posted on your travels to North Carolina.


Hey Eric,

I’m struggling to set up a time with the power company to have a staking agent out to quote a price on running power to there property.  There’s transformers around the property, the neighbors have electricity and the well has power but I don’t know where they’re pulling from.  Additionally, running it from one of the green electrical boxes I found would need to work around the proposed septic drain field.  Again, I just need the warm and fuzzy feeling this isn’t a $10,000 project!

Great call out on the easement concern.  I’ll make sure that is clarified for closing.  I only intend on having a 3 bedroom and 3 bath home on the lot. Honestly I don’t think I could fit more.  There’s a workshop area carved out in the basement in the house plans.  In my limited septic knowledge, the tank is put pretty close to the house.  If that’s the case it would make the tank above the drain field and across the street for that matter.  Out of curiosity I assume you would normally cut through the road to get to the other side correct?

Rock outcropping were also one of my original concerns so your thoughts on that were extremely helpful.  Is it common to clear the drain field completely of trees during a hand dug installation?  The area in the first picture I’ve attached to the left of the road shows a glimpse of the vegetation and grade over the proposed drain field.  The second picture is looking down the road from the Cul-de-sac so the home would be on the left and drain field on the right.

Have a good one!

Here’s the view I’m going through all of this for!


So it is underground power....  Nice.  My neighbor dug his own trench and the power company came out and laid their own power cable in his trench.  They charged him $500.

Mind you this was 15 years ago.  The power run was 200 yards (that is a guess).

Asking the neighbors how they got power and how much it cost may be a good way to go.

I know licensed public utility contractors can do this--I'm not one...yet. Honestly, your home contractor and maybe even a NC licensed electrician could do this.

I am interested to know what you find out about the power.  I truly have no idea on cost.  I would do a lot of talking to people in the area who have underground power.

A call to David Iezzi (828) 508-2011 might give you some direction on underground power costs.  He is one of the best contractors in the area.  He does high end homes in Glennville, Cashiers and Highlands.     iezzicustomhomes@gmail.comIzzy

Yes, the tank near the house is fairly standard. Usually no closer than 10' to the home.

You can go under the road (horizontal drilling) or cut through the road (probably best) with the septic line to the drainfield.

Your property looks like my own.  You have the better view.

Normally, we cut trees for the drainfield.  I have some ideas for keeping trees if that is your interest--with the help of some tree root growth stopping fabric and an arborist.  We can talk about this when we meet.



I hope all is well.

I checked the prices of LDP at Pioneer in Waynesville.  $56.57 per 20' section of 10" pipe (as of 9/27/2019).  These are Crumplers.  The end caps are $11.75 and the 10" to 4" adapter is $11.75.

Pioneer is cheaper than McNeely's.

Additionally at Pioneer, a 1060 gallon plastic infiltrator septic tank is $699.50.  That includes the septic tank filter.

A 1530 gallon septic tank is $1150, but you really only need a 900 gallon for a 3 bedroom.


Sarratt Septic

Serving Western North Carolina,
Charlotte & The Foothills
and The Inner & Outer Banks

Ph 828-447-5184