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What You Need to Know about Polyethylene Septic Tanks: An Interview with James Kuykendall of Sunset Construction & Excavation

By James Kuykendall

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

At Sunset Construction & Excavation we mostly install and repair septic systems, in Hays, Travis and Williamson Counties. We began in 2005 with the ambition of educating our customers and trying to guide them to the best, most cost effective solution possible. We want them to know as much as they are willing to absorb; from having them involved in the selection of the area to put the system, and teaching them how to maintain and operate it, even if they chose not to.

Kindly enumerate some differences among the polyethylene, concrete, and fiberglass septic tank?

Technology of septic systems is ever-evolving. As few as 5-10 years ago, concrete tanks were the primary choice due to their longevity and price. This mindset has evolved because of the expanding technology of polyethylene (plastic) and better fiberglass tanks. While concrete tanks are made of concrete and rebar, polyethylene tanks are made of injected plastic and cooled to harden and some poly tank manufacturers include steel to strengthen the plastic even more. Fiberglass tanks are made of fiberglass material and most manufacturers have increased the sidewall thickness to maximize strength and longevity.

What is the most advantageous type of tank to use and why?

In determining the correct style of tank to install, the designer, installer and homeowner need take into consideration access and location. Trees, accessibility and lot size play a huge role in determining what style of tank is most feasible. Concrete tanks aren't difficult to install, but they are cumbersome, due to the installation method. We use a flatbed truck with a crane attached to set these tanks in the ground. It seems that houses are getting bigger and lots getting smaller; which is helping drive the market to make the poly and fiberglass tanks better. Most poly and fiberglass tanks can be manipulated easily, by turning them on their side, moving them with a few people or a small piece of equipment.

What do homeowners have to do to prepare for the process of installing the polyethylene septic tank?

There are essentially three parts to the installation process.

First, determine the area that would be the best suited for the drainfield. The tanks usually get the most attention, from homeowners, but the drainfield takes up the most room by disposing of the water inside the tank(s). Once the location has been determined, profile holes (formally known as Perk-Test Holes), have to be dug so the type of system can be determined. All soil types in Texas have a classification, which assists us in determining the method of effluent disposal.

The second step will be for the designer to design a septic system that uses the site's topography, size and soil type (to name a few) in the most feasible way. After the system has been designed the permitting authority will review the design, in a checks and balances type of way, recommend any necessary adjustments then issue the permit to construct.

Then finally comes the installation of the septic system. To us this is the most important part because just about anything can be drawn on paper, and our job is to bring it to life while keeping the aesthetics of the final product in mind.

In terms of price, which type is the most cost-effective to purchase and use?

While there are benefits to every style of septic tank, right now polyethylene tanks are the most cost effective to install. Infiltrator Systems, Inc., has made a bold statement in this regard by offering a rebate, through the middle of 2015, which has made their poly tanks more affordable than concrete or fiberglass tanks. Installation should also be less expensive because no cumbersome trucks have to be used and less destructive to existing objects on the property.

What is your favorite advice to give your clients when it comes to septic tank maintenance?

The best advise we can give homeowners is to keep foreign objects out of the system. These objects include, but are not limited to, raw food put down a garbage disposal, baby wipes, grease, hygiene products and contraceptives. The bacteria in the tanks are designed to breakdown food that has been processed by the human body first. Secondly, pump the tanks regularly. This will be determined by usage and the type of system that's installed.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

Our website is full of information, www.sunsetconstructionaustin.com, but calling or emailing us at 512-565-3793 and sunsetconstjk@gmail.com. We are here to answer questions and bring owners up to speed about how to care for their number one appliance on the property, because not every situation calls for a new septic system to be installed.

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About The Author

James Kuykendall owns and operates Sunset Construction & Excavation.

Phone: 512-565-3793

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