This Busy Massachusetts Father-And-Son Installer Team Turns Away as Much Work as It Takes On

From a startup in general excavation and site work, Luke Rotti developed a thriving specialty in onsite wastewater treatment

This Busy Massachusetts Father-And-Son Installer Team Turns Away as Much Work as It Takes On

 Luke Rotti is behind the controls of a John Deere 130G excavator during a septic system installation. (Photos by Scott Eisen)

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Luke Rotti grew up around excavation equipment. His grandfather was an equipment operator. His father always had tractors and other machinery around. So after high school in 2007 Rotti went to an equipment trade school. Two years later he and his dad, Tim, launched a business doing small landscaping and backhoe jobs. 

But then something changed. They began installing septic systems in 2012, and now it’s the company’s specialty. “I just enjoy the science of onsite treatment, how it all works,” says Luke Rotti. “I don’t like doing something if I don’t have a full grasp of it. 

“There are guys doing site work who know a lot more about it than I do. On the septic side, I know as much as anybody else around here. That’s the side I really understand. I enjoy doing it. I know all the players involved with it, they’re all good people, and I like dealing with them.”

Today the company, Rotti and Son, has six full- and part-time team members, working out of Templeton, Massachusetts, in a fast-growing exurban area about an hour west of Boston. Onsite installation, including repairs and replacements, accounts for about 70% of the business. General excavation comprises 15%, and the rest is perc testing, time-of-sale inspections and snow plowing.

The business saw 33% overall growth and 55% septic installation growth from 2020 to 2021, and the pipeline is steadily full. “We’ve got more work lined up ahead of time than we’ve ever had in the past,” Rotti says.


After finishing trade school, Luke Rotti went to work for an excavation company. Then the recession of 2008 put him out of work. “I went home and decided to give it a shot on my own,” he recalls. “My mother and dad helped me get the business started and put me in touch with a lawyer to draw things up. 

“We started out just doing landscaping and small backhoe jobs. I worked for myself in the morning and then worked second shift at a local ski hill, doing painting, cleaning and carpentry in summer, and in winter anything from cleaning the building to running the Sno-Cats. That paid the bills for the first year or two.” 

Tim Rotti started by helping his son on weekends and as he had time, and was always available to work through business strategies and financial decisions. After retiring from his job in electrical engineering and safety in 2021, he took a more active role, maintaining equipment, assembling materials for jobs and doing onsite system inspections. Luke takes care of project quotes and oversees fieldwork. His mother, Janice, keeps the books; Earl Baxter is a laborer and equipment operator; Derek Boudreau is an equipment operator and CDL truck driver. Rick Makela is a part time CDL truck driver. 

The business started with one mini-excavator and one skid-steer. They upgraded the equipment steadily as they grew, and now the inventory includes:

  • 2017 John Deere 130G excavator 
  • 2019 Kubota U-55 mini-excavator
  • 2016 Kubota SVL-75 tracked skid-steer and Paladin Power box rake
  • 1997 CASE 580 Super-L backhoe
  • Two dump trucks (1998 Mack Rd-690 tandem with a J&J dump body and 2018 Ram 5500 with a Crysteel dump body)
  • 2019 and 2012 Ford F-350 pickup trucks
  • 20-ton equipment trailer (Econoline Trailers) and 8-ton tilt deck equipment trailer (PJ Trailers)


Luke had plenty of help in the transition to onsite: “I was lucky enough to have a local installer, an engineer and a health inspector mentor me and spend time showing me how to put systems together.” He is a licensed system inspector (as is his father) and soil evaluator. Installer licenses in the state are issued by individual towns; Luke is licensed in about two dozen within the compact service territory centered on Worcester County.

“I got on the board of health in my town (Templeton) and was involved in onsite from that side,” Luke says. “We just made it our niche. There are quite a few companies here that do septic systems, but most of them do it as part of their other work; they don’t specialize in that side. Being a soil evaluator really gives me a leg up because most installers don’t have that license. It puts me in a position to be involved from the very beginning to the actual installation.”

The service area consists largely of bedroom communities that have seen a building boom. “Ten or 15 years ago, we were on the outer edge of where property values started to go up.” says Luke. “As the towns east of here get built up, more and more people are moving this way. There’s a lot of new construction, but most of what we do is replace systems at existing houses.” The new homes are typically 2,000 to 2,500 square feet with three to four bedrooms on lots two acres or larger. 


“We have a lot of glacial till where there can be a huge difference in soils from one lot to the next,” says Luke. “Then we have river valleys where there’s really nice sand and gravel. The majority is glacial till with a relatively high water table, around 3 feet.” 

The majority of systems are traditional stone and pipe because the large lots allow room for them. On tight lots, such as for replacements at older homes, Enviro-Septic passive treatment systems from Presby Environmental Products, a business of Infiltrator Water Technologies, come into play. They allow some reduction in leachfield size and also work well on slopes.  

The company does not install aerobic treatment units, which are uncommon in the area: “We do quite a few pump systems, usually at existing houses where we can’t get the pitch to work with the offset between the groundwater and the trenches.” 

Most such systems use Liberty LE41 pumps with three floats: on and off for the pump and an alarm float connected to a panel (SJE Rhombus) in the basement. Luke’s brother-in-law Jeff O’Connor, a licensed master electrician, does the wiring. Septic tanks come from local precaster Graves Concrete. Plastic risers are typically from Polylok. 


Massachusetts onsite regulations are strict. The state code requires a 4-foot separation from the water table to the bottom of the leachfield trenches. “So we end up with a lot of raised systems where we bring in 200 to 500 yards of septic sand to make the groundwater separation,” Luke says.

On top of that, each town has its own board of health and can enact regulations stricter that the state’s. “Most go strictly by the state code, but some towns have 10 pages of additional town-specific regulations.”

Not all towns require effluent filters, but Rotti and Son always includes them. “I’ve had some people push back on it,” says Luke. “But I explain that they would rather have a filter clog up than have all those solids make it out of the tank and in 10 years plug up the leachfield. We have a sheet we give everybody with pictures that show exactly how to clean the filter, how often to clean it, and how to re-install it in the tank.” Effluent filters are Polylok PL-122 and PL-68. 

Soil evaluations are detailed. They include two observation holes 8 to 10 feet deep and one perc test in each proposed leachfield location. “On an existing house where we’re replacing the septic, if there’s no perc test on file from the last 10 to 15 years, we have to do a new perc test. So on an existing house, we do two deep holes and one perc test. On new construction we do that process twice, because we have to plan a primary leachfield and a reserve where a replacement could be installed in the future.

System replacements are common because the area has many older homes with systems installed before the current state code was adopted in 1995. Failures are often detected during time-of-sale inspections. The state requires inspectors to complete a standard 17-page report that spells out specific failure criteria. 

“We document everything,” says Luke. “We take pictures. We run a drain camera and locator (RIDGID SeeSnake) down the line. If a system fails, we make sure it’s well documented why and how it failed.”


Most of the company’s business comes through word of mouth and good relationships with engineers, real estate agents and board of health inspectors. Other leads come through sponsorships of community events and from contact information painted on trucks kept looking consistently sharp and clean.

Rotti also built connections by serving three years on the Town of Templeton Board of Health. While he has left that position, he now serves on the Town of Barrie Conservation Commission, which enforces local wetlands protection regulations. 

Good word of mouth comes from treating people well. “We try to be a little more caring toward our customers,” says Luke. “When I write up an estimate, it’s a full page explaining exactly what’s happening. A lot of people appreciate that. We take time to explain what is involved, why it has to be done, and what the code requires.

“If a system needs an extra load of loam to make it look good, or if we quoted 300 yards of septic sand and it took 350 yards, nine times out of 10 I’m not going back to the people and telling them we have to add to the price.”  

One key challenge is hiring and retaining quality people in a market where it’s difficult to compete with big companies that offer higher pay and rich benefits. “We try to create a good working environment where everybody gets along,” says Rotti. 

There’s every reason to be optimistic about the future as the area continues to grow. Says Luke, “There is so much work around here. I’m 32, and most of the guys who are doing this are in their 60s. It seems there’s more and more work and less people doing it. 

“I’ve probably turned away as much work as I’ve done over the last couple of years. If I can find some good people who can help me get more done, we can really keep growing.” 


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