The MEK Memorial Screened Porch: Step -2

The grass is always greenest over the septic tank– until they rip it up!

In the Myers Briggs personality assessment test, I am a J. I’ve taken it three times, and that is by far my strongest personality trait. For those of you who are not clued in to this newfangled way of casting horoscopes, J is for “judging,” although I’m not sure why, and it means that you like schedules. J’s start projects in advance and pace them out. J’s are not spontaneous; they are orderly, and they expect things to be done properly. This can be a problem if, say, you live on earth. However, God is good to me, and has not left me in my boring little world. He married me to a P, the exact opposite trait. P’s are freewheeling, easy-going people, not bothered at all by surprises and procrastination.

The Lord has also given me ample opportunities to develop patience, and home renovation is just the latest on the list. Waiting is very difficult for me, and renovation projects involve a whole lot of waiting. Before we started this, I thought you picked a contractor, told him what you wanted, and he eagerly jumped to it. I am such a dreamer.

First of all, I Googled contractors in my area, and found a bunch of them listed on (This is not a recommendation. At all.) I looked at the reviews, and chose four. All of them came out to look at the project for bidding. During this time, we had architectural and engineering drawings done, which took a few more weeks. Then we gave the contractors an opportunity to tighten up their bids. Most of them came back within a few thousand dollars of one another, with just one outlier.

Once we chose Greg, we entered into the Land of Governmental Oversight. I was under the impression that a permit was just a way for the government to get money every time you wanted to do anything to your house. The government is under the impression that you have to pay them money every time you want to do something to your house, and then they get to decide whether or not you can do it. You just think you own your house. We had paid our fees, and everything was chugging along nicely, when a couple of weeks later, just as we were ready to pick up the permit, the inspector said, “What about that septic tank?” Greg told me this on the phone, and of course I argued. “We’re not putting in a bathroom! We’re not even putting in an extra sink! Why do they need to worry about the septic tank?” It turns out that you can’t have a septic tank within five feet of a structure. We had to make an appointment for a septic inspection. After another week went by, Greg and the inspector came out to our house to find our tank, and—you knew it—it was two feet away from our proposed porch footer. (As a side note here, I will interject that “water witching” is a real thing! The inspector found the line by walking with two thin metal rods in his hands. When they turned toward one another, that meant there was water underground. I thought that was just in novels about witches!) Everyone said that the best option would be to move the tank for “only” $2,000.

I snapped, “Forget it. I won’t build the porch, then.” Over the next day or so, I comforted myself with visions of the gorgeous kitchen cabinets I could now buy that I hadn’t been able to afford under the porch plan, and now I would even have extra money sitting in the bank at the end! My husband reminded me that the original goal had been to have space for people to come over, and that I would regret this decision. Greg agreed with him. Men. Teaming up.

They were right, of course. I recalled my longtime dream of sitting on the porch with David after a hot summer day, clouds building up in the late afternoon, breaking into a spectacular thunderstorm, rain beating down on the porch roof, breezes blowing the heat of the day into the cool of the evening. I could never get that out of pretty cabinets.

So, we called the septic company, who fit us into their first available slot: two weeks later. Now, I have had a septic tank for most of my adult life, and it’s rarely been an issue. We compost all of our non-meat food scraps, so we don’t need a garbage disposal, and the system does its thing, and all is well. Now, however, I am extremely knowledgeable about replacing and installing septic tanks.


First, they find the old tank by pushing a rod into the ground until they hit a solid object. Then, the guy with the backhoe digs above the area until the old tank is revealed. After they drain it, they hit it with the backhoe until it breaks and collapses in on itself! This shakes the entire house for about twenty minutes, during which I prayed that our foundation was solid. They fill in the hole with dirt, move to the new location, and dig a huge crater for the new tank, which very much resembles a concrete coffin for an elephant. Afterwards, they hook up the line and bury the new tank.


At the end, they left me with a vast area of red clay where we used to have the nicest grass in the yard. The good news, though, is that I now have a brand-new septic tank that I didn’t need, and it only cost me an additional two thousand dollars! No, wait. I’ll get a grip on my attitude here. The good news is that we can now have a back porch. Yes, that’s it.


Of course, we need to tear off the old one first. Stay tuned!


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