No RV or travel trailer comes with its own septic system. You only have the black and gray water holding tanks and a hose to get rid of waste. But if you are not temporarily camping, then a more permanent solution is needed and it is always cheaper to DIY the solution.
All you need for this task will be two 55-gallon drums. A little time and some tools as well as other parts. The hardest part will probably be digging the hole that is needed. You do not have to go very deep but the hole does need to be quite long. It will take time to get the hole just right.
To learn more about this project, just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to guide you as you go step-by-step from start to finish. It is not a difficult project as long as you have the needed space for the septic field.
The first thing that we will say here is that while we are providing instructions we are not telling, supporting, or even hinting that you should do anything illegal. We are simply providing instructions for building your own DIY septic systems.
Everything else will be on your shoulders and your own decisions. Before you begin you will need to check the zoning laws and bylaws of the county or city you are camping or living.
The tools you will need will be a shovel, PVC elbows & pipes, paper rosin, tape measure, pipe glue, and perforated PVC pipes. Don’t forget a small septic tank made for an RV.
Then step one will be to connect a 5 to 10-foot piece of PVC pipe to the sewer pipe on your RV. Step two has you measure the distance of the inlet hole to the bottom of the tank, then use your shovel and dig a hole. The hole is dug according to the figures you measured. Include the bottom of the pipe in your measurements and hole depth.
Step three attach the pipe coming from your RV pipe to the tank and make sure the connection is snug. Make sure the tank is level before filling the hole back in. Make sure the elbow faces down, and glue it on the end of the drain pipe.
Next, dig a 10-foot-deep trench along the outlet hole. Make the pitch 1/8 of an inch per foot. After that is done, you attach a pipe from the outlet hole running it to the trench’s end. Attach another elbow to the outlet hole with the elbow pointing down towards the bottom of the tank.
The next step will be for you to go to the other end of the trench and dig a 10-foot hole. Pour some stones for drainage. Then make sure the pipe ends in the middle of the 10’ hole.
After that, cover the pipe with dirt up to the bottom of the pipe and add at least 4 inches of drainage rock over the pipe. Place the rosin paper over the stones so the dirt does not get in between the rocks and fill the trench back up.
This system uses 2 55-gallon drums and you will need to do some cutting to make the drums work properly. The first step is to cut an inlet hole to match the outside measurements of the toilet flange.
Place the hole near the edge of both drums. Now attach the flanges and make sure they are flush with the top of the tank. Screw the flanges to the drums so they do not move on you.
Once that is done, move to the opposite side of this hole and go down about 6 inches and cut another hole. Make sure this hole lines up with the top hole. Then on the second drum cut 2 more holes at the same depth at 45-degree angles from the top hole.
After that is done, you will need to dig a trench 3 feet deep by 26 feet long by 4 feet wide. Place the drum with the 2 holes at the end of the trench making sure it is level and about 4 inches below the surface.
When that drum is in position. move next to it and dig a 1-foot hole the same diameter as the second drum. Fill the hole in with rocks until you get a level surface where the side hole of the first drum is higher than the top hole of the second.
Connect the two holes using a PVC pipe elbow. You may need to do some cutting or digging to make sure the holes match up. A toilet flange will be needed for the second drum’s top hole and you should have a short pipe attached to the toilet flange on the first drum.
Glue all the connections together and add a Y pipe to the first drum and securely glue all the pieces together. Add two elbows to the second drum’s holes and point them towards the other end of the trench.
Now pound stakes into the ground in the hole making the first one almost level with the bottom of the pipe when it is attached to. You pound stakes every 3 and 7/8 feet and make them a tiny bit lower than the previous pipe.
This is only for one side. When that is done you fill the trench to almost the top of the stakes. Do this evenly as the second pipe will lay directly on the rocks. One pipe will rest on the stakes.
Silicone the pipes to the elbows and flue them. Then cover the pipes up until the rocks are level with the second drum top. Then lay landscape fabric over the rocks to keep the dirt away.
Finally, you refill the trench so it is level with the surface of the ground and fill the first tank with water. Then cap that opening and you are done.
The redneck septic system is similar to the two options we just discussed. The key is to make sure you have the right slope and the right amount of drums. Plus, you should locate the redneck septic system well away from any natural groundwater like streams, etc.
You do not want to contaminate that drinking water. Even though you made your own septic system, you will need to get the system pumped every so often to keep the system working.
One option would be to add a macerator pump and hoses to the system and then run the redneck system to your house’s system. it is easy to do and you won’t have to do a lot of digging.
This pump also prevents you from having to dig a new system if you ever happen to overload this one. It is a legal option that may save you a lot of headaches if government officials want to inspect it.
This is a very basic system. All you need is a 3-foot by 30-inch in diameter barrel and dig a hole about 6 to 8 inches deeper than that measurement. Go a little wider on the hole to make sure you can get gravel around the barrel. The bottom layer of gravel should be deep enough to make the barrel almost level with the ground.
Drill holes near the bottom of the barrel all the way around 2 inches apart and up to about 12 inches high from the bottom of the barrel. After placing the barrel in the hole and surrounding it with gravel, cut the top off so you have a biog hole at the top.
After all that, you simply slide the outhouse with the toilet over the barrel making sure the toilet is centered over the hole. That is all there is to this project.
The instructions for this system are basically the same. There are a number of people posting how to dig a septic tank for an RV on the internet. The only difference between them would be the measurements for the trench, hole, and so on.
The biggest question will be, where do you buy a 55-gallon drum to make this septic tank system. There are different outlets that do stock these drums. Some are very basic in design while others are specifically made for this purpose.
There are stores that will sell black water holding tanks in the 55-gallon size and you can consider using those. Stores like Lowe’s seem to sell the basic drum that can be used for many purposes. Home Depot will be another outlet that has them in stock.
You will also find lesser-known stores or businesses that have these drums for sale. Do a nice local internet search to find one near you.
This is where this project gets complicated. The zoning laws and other environmental regulations are all geared toward traditional homes. The RV septic tank system is not given a special exemption to these rules that we have been able to determine.
This means you may have trouble getting permits to build a small RV septic system. You will have to check to see if your county or city has made those exemptions yet. If so, then all you need will be 2 55-gallon drums. You can go more but that may not be needed.
Also, the trench needs to be the right length to make sure you have all disposal guidelines covered. Because counties and cities or even states make their own rules on these issues, you need to check with your local government offices to see what the requirements are.
Of course, when you do this, you may place yourself on the map and be subject to inspections. But get the regulations first before you make your final decision. Sometimes driving a fair distance is easier and cheaper than building a septic system for your RV
The connection is probably one of the easier tasks in this project. You just need to locate the sewer pipe on your RV and get ready to connect the right parts. You do not want any perforated pipes or elbows, etc. at this stage of the project.
One option would be to attach a coupler to the RV’s sewer pipe on one end and an elbow on the other. Then you attach the non-perforated pipe to the other end of the elbow. But measure first as you will want to bury the pipe to keep it out of sight.
You may need two elbows to make sure you have the right length from the RV sewer pipe to the pipe leading to the septic tank. Make sure to use the right PVC glue to hold the connections together.
Then you can cut the pipe to size or add more pipe if needed. That way you get a good connection to the septic tank. Don’t forget to give your pipe enough pitch to get the waste to flow to the septic system.
When you are doing permanent camping, having a good septic system is important. It saves you a lot of time trying to track down a dumping station when your black water tank fills up.
As long as you build your septic system correctly, you should not have any problems. Just make sure it is well away from drinking water sources and other people’s wells. it is a good project and affordable when you do it yourself.