One very practical matter that must be considered regarding placement of a log or timber frame home can be summed up in four words: no perc, no house.
“That’s why it’s extremely important to be sure the land you’ve selected for your new log or timber home will pass a “perc” test,” said Ethan Birdwell, sales representative at Honest Abe Log Homes’ National Headquarters in Moss, Tenn.
Birdwell explained that a test to determine whether land will percolate is required for all buildings not connected to a municipal sewer system.
“If you have selected land but you have not already contacted the regulatory entity in the county where you plan to build, it’s definitely time to do that,” Birdwell said. “Usually, permits are issued by the local health department, so that’s a good place to get started.”
Why is percolation such a big deal? Traditional gravity-fed septic systems only work if the soil in the leach area is sufficiently permeable to absorb the liquid flowing into it. In general, soils with high sand and gravel content drain the best, and soils with a high clay content or solid rock are the worst.
Most soils fall somewhere in the middle with a mix of course sand and gravel particles, small silt particles and minuscule clay particles. To get a rough idea before investing time and money in testing, Birdwell suggests digging below the top few inches of topsoil (loam) to the lighter soil beneath.
“If you can take a handful of the damp subsoil and roll it into a thin, flat shape or worm shape that holds together, and it has a sticky firm texture, the soil has a high clay content and will probably fail a standard perc test,” he said. “Of course, if this is the property you love and want or property you already have, there are alternatives.”
The local health officer will be able to discuss options and can often provide contacts for experienced earthworks contractors, civil or geotechnical engineers and other professionals who can help overcome this initial challenge to prepare for the building project.
Plus, new types of septic systems are being introduced into the market as developers strive to meet the demands resulting from people’s desire to build in more rural local.
Birdwell said that he or any of the sales representatives at Honest Abe’s model homes as well as Honest Abe independent dealers across the country are available to help navigate the permitting process.
“Give us a call,” he said. “We’ll help you determine what to do in your county to meet this requirement.”