The Truth About the WikiHow (NOT to Build a) Septic System
And why you should avoid using it if you want a dependable, inexpensive, and DURABLE DIY septic system...
Since you’ve found your way to my website, you’ve obviously been researching how to build a DIY septic system, and you might’ve seen this page pop up during your search:
I know this is an old cliche, but it fits perfectly here and it goes like this: If I had a dollar for every question I get about that system I’d be rich.
Well, maybe not rich, but I’d certainly have around 30 - 40 extra dollars in my pocket every day. I’m not kidding—I receive that many emails each and every day, 7 days a week asking about that specific septic system.
I call it the “WikiHow NOT To Build a Septic System”...
Here’s the truth of the matter, or at least a big chunk of it:
That website—WikiHow—is an old site and most people know it (or have at least heard of it).
It has a lot of content and, unfortunately, Google chooses to hoist those types of websites to the top of the results when people use their search engine, even if the content of those sites definitely falls into the Quantity Over Quality section of the Internet.
In fact, it's the first website in Google's search results...
Note: You should also be weary of other types of online information about septic systems and you can find out why on this page.
The WikiHow septic system has multiple problems
1 — The “tanks” are not the proper tanks, and they are way too small and inadequate for the total size of this system.
2 — The toilet flange is installed incorrectly for this type of design and can easily cause the waste layers in the “tanks” to be disturbed. This can easily cause filtration issues in the leach field.
3 — The system isn’t deep enough in the ground and could easily cause the surrounding ground to collapse.
4 — The design uses PVC glue (that evidently comes in a cartoon tube with the word “Glue” scribbled on the side) to secure the pipes to the plastic drum which will not seal properly in this application.
5 — The drain lines are sloped. Not only are they sloped, the slope that is called for is 1/4 inch per foot, which makes the design that much worse. Sloping the field lines like this WILL cause problems.
6 — The “trench” is 4 feet wide, 26 feet long, and 3 feet deep. A depth of 3 feet is too shallow and will not allow you to bury the drums as shown in the plans (you will need a depth of at least 4-5 feet).
This is a massive amount of digging to do by hand, and you will most likely need to rent equipment or even hire a contractor which will easily add hundreds of dollars to the cost.
7 — But what’s worse, the “plans” instruct you to fill the entire trench with gravel. That means you will need approximately 416 cubic feet of gravel (4’ x 26’ x 4’ = 416 cubic feet).
To fill this trench with gravel as shown in the illustrations, you will need around 15.5 cubic yards of gravel. The average cost of a cubic yard of gravel is around $45 (and that’s usually on the low side).
So, you will have to spend around $700 just on gravel alone! If the gravel cost is closer to $55 per cubic yard (which is very common—I’ve even seen gravel easily cost upwards of $70 per cubic yard), the cost will be closer to $850!
8 — The total cost of this system will easily reach the $1,000 - $1,500 range.
My DIY Septic System costs just a tiny fraction of this and is easier to build, more durable, and, most importantly, designed correctly using the proper materials.
9 — In the WikiHow septic system very important steps are not explained or they are missing entirely.
Steps that cover safety precautions, proper land prep, properly locating the system—I could go on for another whole page—are all missing, and this could easily lead to very serious and very dangerous conditions.
Those are the most potent problems shown in this horrible design, I’m not even getting into all of the other issues...
As you can see, the WikiHow septic system is poorly designed, will cost you at least $1,000 (and probably even more), and will most likely fail eventually
You are going to be burying this “system” in the ground and all of your waste water (black and maybe grey as well) will be draining into it.
Do you really want to take a chance and install a flawed system that could very easily (and most likely will) leak raw sewage on top of the ground where you/your family/your pets walk?
Septic systems that have serious design flaws might work for a while (maybe even a few years) or they might not work correctly from the get-go.
Either way, one thing they will certainly do eventually is FAIL.
This is an actual photo I took just a few weeks before writing this article. If you look closely, you can see the wet “black” sludge that is just starting to seep up into the top layer of soil—a very nasty and hazardous situation. This failed system was removed and replaced with my DIY Septic System.
Unfortunately, since most people don’t know any better, and because of the actions of the Google search algorithms as well as irresponsible “bloggers” and “YouTubers” (see here)—who should definitely NOT be giving advice when it comes to something as important as a septic system—many people have probably built this exact WikiHow system.
What’s worse, because the instructions are so incomplete and skip very important details, all of these systems are built incorrectly.
Don’t make the same mistake...
I have replaced many failed septic systems over the years, including two systems that were modeled after the WikiHow system.
The bottom line is this:
Don’t waste your time and effort installing this highly-flawed and unnecessarily expensive system.
Not only will you waste your money buying all of that gravel (which isn’t needed), you’ll also waste your money when you have to call someone like me to come out and dig up the system when it fails.
Then you’ll have to pay to have a properly-designed system installed.
As you can surely imagine, digging up a failed septic system is one nasty and EXPENSIVE job, and trust me when I say that’s a situation you don’t want to ever find yourself in...
Just a few reviews of my (properly-designed) DIY Septic System:
Excellent step-by-step Guide
By CP on February 19,
I tried to build one from a couple videos online but felt like I didn’t no what the hell I was doing so I picked up this book. It was exactly what I was looking for, a step-by-step guide that just told me exactly what to do. It came with all the info I needed including a detail list of all the materials. I feel like my septic tanks and everything will last for years. If you are trying to build a diy system get this book. You will need it.
One person found this helpful
Good even if you don’t have any experience.
By Ricky S. on November 2,
I have zero experience working with plumbing, especially toilets and such. I didn’t know the first thing about waste disposol or septic systems before reading this. The author did a good job explaining how septic systems work and how to install his DIY system.
This book saved me a lot of money...
By Alan Gaston on August 19,
I needed a new septic system but the guy I called wanted $5,500 before even starting the work. Unfortuantely where I am there’s not a lot of options for contractors because its so remote out here. I am a senior and live alone so I knew I didn’t need anything fancy and I figured that there no reason for me to pay so much money for a bigger septic system. Once I got this book my two sons were able to install the entire system in the book very fast. It only cost about $150 for the whole thing so it saved me a lot of money. Others should at least look at this book before spending so much money on another septic system.
5 people found this helpful