System Site Plans: Next Steps After You Win a Bid

After getting the job, begin these final preparations to ensure the septic installation goes smoothly

System Site Plans: Next Steps After You Win a Bid

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If your bid was accepted, the next step for larger onsite system installation jobs may be construction planning and staging (typically within a month of starting construction of the system) and then job scheduling (within a few days of start of construction). 

Construction planning and staging starts after the bid is won and the first payment is secured (if applicable). This stage is usually accomplished at the office within a month of the start of construction. Construction staging is the term that is used to plan how to handle the elements of the site to accomplish the installation of the onsite wastewater treatment system. This step is usually accomplished in the office within two weeks of the start of construction. 

Permits - One of the first things an installer does once a contract is secured is apply for a permit, or in some jurisdictions have the property owner apply for the permit. Other permits may be required, and it may or may not be the installer's responsibility to acquire them. Sometimes several agencies are involved in the approval of an onsite wastewater treatment system design plan. Once the permit(s) is secured, the installer can start planning the schedule for construction. The finalized schedule should be shared with the owner, subcontractors and others involved at the site. 

Utility lines - As part of the scheduling procedure, the installer should contact the utility-marking agency to identify and mark the utilities at the site. The locations of these utility lines are important and may be found in the records of the utility offices. Some utility-locator agencies have a time limit for the marking of utilities. Once the expiration date has passed, the utility locator agency needs to be notified again so that the installer’s liability is minimized. 

Inspections - Part of the schedule should include any required visits from the approving jurisdiction or designer. Some agencies require multiple visits at the completion of certain stages of construction, such as the bottom of the soil treatment area, prior to covering any component and after final cover. Failure to schedule these visits may prolong the job and increase costs, which undermine your profits. 

Other professionals - Other professional services may be needed to complete construction of the onsite system. These may include landscapers for clearing and final restoration, an electrician, excavation services, irrigation, pumping services, parts ordering and delivering, media delivery, tank delivery or crane/lifting services. Some components may require manufacturer’s representatives be present during installation and/or startup. Scheduling with these subcontractors ensures that the job timing transitions are smooth and that the time to complete the job is minimized. 

If the site is new construction or a large-scale remodel, there are other contractors present at the site that are competing for storage space, spoils areas and such. Coordination and scheduling with the general contractor and others present at the site ensure that there is sufficient space for storage of materials, equipment accessibility and maneuvering, and storage and transport of spoils. Additionally, sufficient space is needed for equipment to avoid driving over the area reserved for the soil treatment area. 

Preassembly - For some system designs, the installer can assemble parts at the shop during off hours or during rainy days to save time. In other cases, some components may require assembly at the site. The installer, especially when dealing with innovative alternative technologies, should contact the manufacturer to determine whether the technology needs to be assembled or has other components such as piping that can be assembled at the installer's shop. The storage and construction of these parts or components that require assembly needs to be scheduled.

Ordering components - All components need to be ordered and scheduled to be delivered either at the site or to the installer’s shop. Some installers carry many items in stock and replace those as the inventory becomes low. 

Safety plan - Construction plans need to include a site-specific safety plan. All safety plans are part of the general safety procedures of the installer’s company but should focus on specific risks for the site. 

Payment plan implemented - Implementation of the payment plan, if not already in place after wining the bid, typically starts at this stage. This is mostly a personal business practice. 

Material issues - The materials storage can now be clearly defined as well as the spoils collection area. Materials storage may include all piping required, previously assembled components and parts, and other components of the system. Most often the media to be used (gravel, crushed clean stone or specialty sands) are not stored at the site because there is greater chance of the media being contaminated. If stored at the site, the installer must provide for some losses if the media will be resting directly above soil. The media in contact with the soil should not be used for any component of the onsite system. The installer needs to plan for removing and disposing of the contaminated media. An estimated 5-10% more media may have to be ordered to accommodate for soiled/contaminated media. 

Excavation practices need areas reserved for spoils. These areas also need to be clearly defined and may need to be away from the materials storage to protect them from contamination from the spoils. 

Water availability – With some installations water is needed at the site. The installer may need to have water available to fill tanks in areas of high water table during installation to avoid floatation. Water is used to conduct watertightness testing of the installation. Water may also be needed to wash media, clean backhoe buckets, or install clean media. In new construction, the water line may not be in place. During construction staging, identify the  or make plans for bringing in water from off site. 

Electricity - Electricity needs to be available at the site. If there is no electricity available, plans need to be in place to inform the owner of an electric hookup. If electricity is not available at the curb or property line, the installer might plan to rent or bring a generator to run electrical tools and to test the installed components. 

Weather - Weather cannot be predicted effectively. However, it should be considered when planning an installation in high groundwater tables or when fine-textured soils are present. Fine-textured soils (silts and clays) are prone to smearing and compaction. Soil treatment areas constructed in fine-textured soils should not be built in periods of rain or during the wet season. Scheduling construction of the soil treatment area during these periods places an unwarranted liability on the installer that should be avoided. 

Components and tools - During construction staging, the installer should verify that all components have been ordered, scheduled for delivery, and scheduled for assembly, as appropriate. Also, the installer should verify that all necessary tools are available for the job. This check is just a reminder that everything needs to be in place. Even a single tool missing can place a burden on the job staging step. 

The job will go much smoother if all logistics are in place at the site to begin and complete the installation.

About the author
Sara Heger, Ph.D., is a researcher and educator in the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program in the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota, where she also earned her degrees in agricultural and biosystems engineering and water resource science. She presents at many local and national training events regarding the design, installation and management of septic systems and related research. Heger is the President of the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association and she serves on the NSF International Committee on Wastewater Treatment Systems. Ask Heger questions about septic system design, installation, maintenance and operation by sending an email to

This article is part of a series on site planning:


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