Moving to Family: The Septic Tank Saga

So part of moving home involved getting a well and septic.   We don’t want to skimp on them.  For our well we ended up with a 42 foot deep bored well that was filling at .7 gpm and ended up costing us just over $12,000 with the well pump and everything – though we haven’t gotten the water test back yet, so it may need a softener or reverse osmosis system….

The next thing was the septic.  We ended with an aerobic system.  It’s basically a water treatment plant in the ground.  It has a motor built in that keeps everything moving and a chamber with chlorine.  There is electricity running to it and it will need serviced each year.  It was approximately $5500 with the power hooked to it.

Now we are facing the settling… So that I have been handling with a shovel to fill in the gaps.  Ultimately I hope to get some fake rock looking covers also to hide the tops of the tank.

While putting everything in we have been finding all sorts of old metal parts to the farm.  We’ve found old bike handle barns, parts to tractors, fences, and more!  Sometime in the future I think a metal detector will be fun!

I was lucky and got people here pretty quickly.  For the well I had to call several people, using the local map on the Illinois Water Survey Site that shows all the wells and who the well driller was.  We ended with a different provider for the well versus the well pump, but they are both now in.  The septic took a while also to find someone that wasn’t too busy, but we ended with the father of a friend from grade school.  (He is a licensed installer)… The only real issue was getting the supplier for the aerobic tank to install the motor and the correct lids. We finally have them now though!  So all is ready.

Building a shoestring so far….

I can honestly say that building has been eventful so far and I do fill a little alone, as the one with the past history of having lived in the country before.  This isn’t helped though by the fact that I moved off to college at 18 and have lived in a populated area ever since….  Things to deal with that I have to get used to are sun, dirt, mice, bugs, and the whole different ways of doing things. We are still plodding on though.

Our plans are pretty simple: to build on the farm that my family has been at since I entered second grade.  My parents bought part of the farm from a distant cousin and the part we are building on was purchased from another cousin years later.  The land is the land that my ancestors lived on and more recently my grandmother Mildred Eldridge Richter’s brother Ernest Eldridge had his house on and then his son James Eldridge.  My father buried the house for my great Uncle Ernest in the 80s.  – I have to admit I don’t remember ever being in the house, but I’m sure I was at one point or another while we live just down the road. Currently I’ve been picking up blocks and bricks from the dirt and adding them to a pile with a plan to reuse them in some way.

In the woods behind where we are building is a pig barn.  To make it more fun for my youngest, I’ve been calling it a secret hideaway, and it is very secret.   Years ago that area had pigs and horses – and I’m sure lots of other livestock running around, so it’s no surprise that there is still an old barn hidden in the woods.  Currently we have found a fold up chair sitting in it, and it looks like at some point someone has run some lighting out to the barn.  It doesn’t look immensely secure, but as a kids playhouse/hideaway out in the country it does look fun!  It makes me a little excited to imagine all the possibilities to explore with our youngest and his friends once we get moved in!

Getting a construction loan worked out was a little complicated, but we do have it set up.  Our plan is still to sell our house in Kentucky and pay off the construction loan, so we are juggling budgets.  The loan is worked out though, but to save money we haven’t surveyed anything. So as long as we can work out selling our current home before the construction loan reaches a year, we are find.   The tough part doing it this way is that we are so reliant on everything timing out well, and so far it’s really stressful!  Having a son that has autism makes for a little more need for structure and makes change a little tougher. We have been preparing him for the time that we will retire to Illinois for his whole live, so he isn’t having too hard a time with it – but moving and leaving his friends is tough anyway.  So we are trying to stick as closely as possible to the timeline to make life less stressful.

On the spot where we plan to build, a cousin previously had a trailer.  It was last occupied in the 80s or early 90s and is now just a home for what got left behind – and a lot of mice, ants and other wildlife.  The wheels that were previously under it have no way of being used anymore and my father had the county drop a huge pile of dirt in from the of trailer also so that no one could get in from of the frame even if it was possible.  All the copper, lines, furnace and anything useful had been removed from the trailer, so my mothers preference was to just light it on fire and then move the frame that was left.  Some friends were willing to come and cut the frame pieces off to have them recycled, and the frame would be all that was left – with a plan to cut it up later also…   It ended up with only the frame pushed up into the woods by the spot that a shed is being stored until the house is delivered.

To store some of our items, we did get a shed delivered. Other than the house down payment, house insurance and the amount for the loan , it was one of the first purchases.  The shed has two lofts, a metal roof and windows the open besides a door that locks.  It was probably an extravagance, but so far it seems worth it.

We have also had a friend excavate some area for driveway and had some large rock hauled in for a driveway base.  It isn’t great to drive on, but at least we have something.  Soon we need to have a smaller crushed rock added on top of the large rock.

Foundation :

Our modular includes the foundation – 4 blocks high, so the company was to do the foundation. Getting the date and time for when though was tough!  We ended up with the foundation contractor coming a week after the house had been promised to arrive.  Kind of discouraging when you are trying to stick to a timeline for a special needs child.  They did finally show up with any a few snafus. The person from the home sales place had originally told us that they would arrive about 3 hours later than when they actually showed up and that they would call when they got close – instead they arrived before we got there and were parked on an old well.  They did get the foundation footers poured – with the cement truck almost driving into the old septic tank!  They showed up later to do the foundation walls after I had already headed back to our house in Kentucky.

The foundation has a drain in the corner, a vapor barrier, insulation, vents, and pea gravel covering. We ended up with it two blocks under ground on one end and one block deep at the other end.  The also spread dirt out… They will use the dirt to backfill the foundation later. – Which they did just show up this week to put insulation board in and boards across the top of the foundation walls. They have backfilled, but we haven’t seen what it looks like yet, since we weren’t there at the time.

The Well:
In our area a bored well seemed the way to go. There were previous wells, but they weren’t of high quality, or we couldn’t find them.  Water is pretty important.  I’m not completely sure how my husband is going to do with the well, but first we had to get a well.  Drilled wells were a lot cheaper, but had a lot less chance of being productive.  Ultimately I decided to break down and spend the money for a bored well.  We found that many of the well known well drillers in the area wouldn’t return phone calls.  I was able to find the local well map and called a few of the recent well drillers and went will a company that had done some recent wells and seemed to be really responsive to questions.
At first while drilling it seemed we were hitting a dry well, but after giving it some time to sit we found that it was filling with water.  It appears to be filling at .7 gpm – fast enough! our next step on the well will be to get the pump and storage tanks hooked up.

For septic, we were going to use the old system.  We had located an old 750 gallon tank, but ugh, it turned out to have pipes that were busted when the foundation went in, so now we are going to have to price a tank and plan a leach field… Next Step. We are looking at a chamber system for the leach field.


For the electric, we’ve been lucky to have an electrical engineer in the family – so I’m really hoping that the house arrives in time to get help hooking power up to the house.  Right now our fingers are crossed!

The modular company though wasn’t able to tell us anything about the plumbing for the house until the last minute when they let us know that the plumbing needs completed under the house.  It would have been great to know ahead of time to plan, but at least we found out before we moved in!


Finally for the gas/propane, we have arranged for a company to come hook that up.  They are just waiting for the house to arrive. Finally something simple!

Building on a Shoestring

Building on a Shoestring

We are getting ready to move home.  The plan had been to build in another year and a half, but we are looking at going ahead and moving a year early.   I had been looking at what we wanted to do for a while, pricing houses and looking at options.  To retire, we want to be debt free.  We already have all our cars paid off and are doing well in that way.  We do have one younger son, and two in college, but other than that we are doing pretty well.

The tough spot being 1. downsizing – it’s amazing what we have collected and 2. selling our current home.  But our plan is to build with the equity in our current home.  I’ve looked at stick built, manufactured, modular, and buying in other locations….  Buying a home was eliminated pretty quickly with our time frame because there isn’t anything available that meets what we want in a school district that we want right now. – Part of the issue of retiring with a child still in elementary school.  Modular seem to rank higher than manufactured and have more options, so they are a little higher on the list.  In my price range many of the builders pretty much turned up their noses at me.  I did find one that is willing to build for the price that we want to spend.  So we must choose from one stick built builder and a modular home.

The stick built design in the price range we want is about 6 to 700 sq feet smaller than the modular we are looking at in the same price range and isn’t as turn key.  Turn key being we can walk in and it’s done.  That being said, as the stick built is being completed, we would have more options to make changes… but those would most likely come at a cost.  The builder would be willing to work with us.  We could do some work ourselves to save money, but we also would have to do some work ourselves – and it’s not that easy for us to just run up and finish something quickly…

To budget everything, I’ve also tried to get in touch with contractors that do well and septic systems.  What I’ve found so far, is that most don’t like to return phone calls.  I’m not sure if it’s because of me being and individual calling or if it’s because they just have too much work to do, but I gave up on one well company  after leaving many messages.  Another septic company, I left several messages, including one explaining I would be in town that weekend.  They only returned a call after I called back the next week to leave a message that it was too late.  I gave them a second chance and they didn’t show up or call for that either.  I’ve finally cut ties with that contractor under the assumption that if they can’t handle returning calls or showing up when they say they will – or even at least keeping people up to date they aren’t going to service their products.  The bonus of one of the modular builders is that they will act as general contractor for no cost and handle getting septic and well completed.

Even with my plan of building on a small budget though, I do want to keep from skimping on a few things.  We don’t want to cut corners on things like our septic tank and then have toilets or sinks that back up constantly and need visits to be cleaned out.

Living out in the country though will be a ‘new’ experience, despite growing up there. I moved to the city to go to college, over 30 years ago and haven’t lived at home since.  – That was more than half my life ago…  living on the farm again will bring back silence (if you count crickets all night and dogs barking as they chase raccoons as silence), neighbors not being next door, mice everywhere (that’s a constant battle), possums in the trash, coyotes in the yard, and even deer walking past randomly.

Right now we are watching the weather to decide if we can visit, and plan out the next step….

It’s time for a new adventure!