On-site sewage facilities, or OSSFs, are the choice for approximately 20% of all new homes built in Texas. Also known as a septic system, the OSSF is the system that most people will choose when no city utilities are available. For that reason, if you’re considering purchasing a piece of land with no city utilities, it is helpful to know the pros and cons of a septic system.
Pros of a septic system
For those who like the independence of being “off the grid”, a septic system is the way to go. Even though most counties do require a permit and minimal ongoing maintenance, the day-to-day ownership cost has traditionally been very low and consistent over time. In most counties, an annual or semi-annual inspection is required just to make sure no malfunctions have occurred. That annual inspection usually costs less than a fancy dinner for two. In addition, here are some other benefits to a septic system:
- Once it is in, it usually doesn’t require much time or thought. Unless there’s a problem, it just does what it’s supposed to. So it’s low maintenance.
- It can give you a nice lawn where your drain field or spray fields are.
- It can be installed in remote locations. No matter how far you are from a city or local utilities, you can usually install a septic system.
- It gives you some freedom and flexibility as far as grey water and green practices are concerned. The water from the laundry, for instance, can be redirected to help water your flower beds if desired.
Cons of a septic system
Of course everything has a few cons, and a septic system has some too. Depending on which system the Septic Engineer designs for you, yours could be different. However, here are a few common ones:
- You own the system. Over the life of the system, some maintenance will be required and eventually new pumps and other equipment may have to be replaced. Nothing lasts forever.
- You must be conscious of what you put down the drain. Harsh chemicals can damage the natural system at work in the septic tank. Sometimes house guest do not keep this in mind.
- Requires a location on the site that is designated for the septic and can interfere with other site amenities such as swimming pools. Heavy equipment needs to be kept off of the area, and vegetation will need to be kept under control. You don’t want to compact the soil or let roots get out of control.
While there are pros and cons of a septic system, the biggest pro is that it allows a home to be built on a site even when it doesn’t have the option for city utilities. If you are debating between a site which does have city utilities and one that does not, the septic issue can come into play. To learn more about septic systems in Texas, read about the official requirements here.
The primary issue in any site selection is proper planning and taking into consideration how the different systems will need to relate to each other. As long as everything is laid out in advance with proper attention to permitting requirements, the cons will be minimal. For more insight regarding planning out and selecting a home site, check out What to Consider When Selecting a Lot.