Category Archives: Septic

May 1 News Update! (baby picture inside)

Firstly, I want to apologize on behalf of Grace and myself that we haven’t gotten to the interesting part yet (you know, the actual construction). Better people than us, I’m sure, would’ve already laid the cornerstone by this point. But we are not that efficient.

News of the Past Few Days:

First, we’ve come up with an architect who is experienced at working with ICFs and thrown a list of requirements at him. He’s going to convert these into a sketch. We’re going to critique the sketch. He’s going to produce another one and so on until both sides are happy. (Well, until we’re happy, anyway. Hopefully, he will be happy as well.)

This is literally all the proof I have that the septic engineer wasn't a figment of my imagination.

This is literally all the proof I have that the septic engineer wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

Second, we’ve talked to a septic engineer. If there are any high school age kids out there reading this, this is a great career path: he came out here, dug a hole, poured water in it, wrote something on a piece of paper, collected $600 and drove away. That was Monday. This morning, we got a big envelope in the mail with a bunch of maps and stuff. Good news: he pretty much drew it the way we were envisioning it in the last post. In case anyone needs a septic engineer in Central NY (Madison/Chenango counties), here’s his contact information:

Wayne Matteson
Phone: 315-662-7146
Cell: 607-423-4321
E-mail: wmatteson at frontiernet dot net

Third, in exploring the whole field of ICF construction, I came across the Green Building Talk forums. Talk about a wealth of information. Lots of knowledgeable people on there and the archives are full of good stuff. I felt a little intimidated asking about our 25’x30′ foot cottage when other people were discussing the construction of malls and health clinics. But I didn’t lose any limbs and even gained some enlightenment.

Our dog Shark. Darryl's dog is the same breed (Great Pyrenees)

Our dog Shark. Darryl the Contractor’s dog is the same breed (Great Pyrenees)

One of the folks on there ended up e-mailing me after he saw that I was located in New York State. His name is Darryl Thomas and he is an ICF contractor and ICF block distributor covering most of upstate New York. We ended up chatting on the phone and he sounds like a pretty awesome guy. Definitely someone who knows what he’s doing (at least, I couldn’t come up with a question to stump him) and very open to the whole idea of working with self-builders like us. Grace and I are strongly considering having an experienced contractor help us for some of the crucial steps in the process and he’s on the short list just based on that conversation.

We discussed the possibility of my shadowing him at a job site just to see how things are done and he said he would let me know if/when he had any builds in our area. (When Darryl says he covers most of New York, he’s not kidding: he currently has builds going on in Niagara, Port Jervis and Keesville out on the Canadian border.) His number, in case you’re looking for an ICF contractor / consultant and he sounds like a fit, is 518-312-0486.

Oh, he also owns a big white dog just like ours.

That’s about it for news. And now, baby picture. This one was the work of famed photography duo Matt & Grace and is entitled “We Waited Too Long”:

"We Waited Too Long"

“We Waited Too Long”

About the Site (the building site, not the website)

Well, we have our “bit of earth”- about 3/4 of an acre of property, and about half of that is a sunken marshy area with a cattle pass leading onto it. There are no cattle there nowadays, but due to it being low ground we can’t build there anyway. So that leaves us with about 1/3 of an acre to build on, and we have to do some careful measuring and juggling to fit some key elements onto it.


The view looking from the road (and the corner of the trailer)

First- a well needs to be dug. We need to find out just how far from the road/property line it needs to be, according to code.

Second- a septic system needs to be put in. Per the building code, the septic tank needs to be at least 50 ft away from the well and the leach field needs to be at least 100 ft away, for pretty obvious reasons.

Third- a house needs to go up! Lengthy discussions and sketches and “bring-a-tape-measure-outside-to-see-exactly-what-this-will-look-like” sessions have led us to the conclusion that this house will be “compact”- not tiny per se, but certainly not sprawling. This is actually just what I was hoping for, but my gosh did the outline look tiny (TINY) when we measured it out!

Property map

Property map

The septic system is going to be on the lowest part of the property, and the well on the highest part, so there’s no possibility of septic runoff into our well area. So, looking at the diagram, you can see that there’s really only one way to set this up while adhering to the code.

Also, see that trailer sitting there, right on the site of our future well? That’s gotta go, either as a whole or in scrap pieces. It’s a bit of an uninhabitable wreck, but there are definitely some salvageable pieces on it if we do decide to scrap it. Our neighbors have assured us they will be oh-so-happy to see it go, and so will we 🙂