How Much Do Perc Tests Cost?

What usually interests you in terms of buying a real estate property? Is it the potential of the site? The location? The existing structures? When you think of acquiring a piece of land, you would think of all the reasons why you should push through with the deal, not knowing that the reasons why you should not can be equally compelling, if only you give it some thorough thought.

The percolator test or simply known as perc or perk test is a type of soil testing that checks the rate at which water drains through the soil. This test is required in any part of the United States that are not being serviced by a centralized sewage system especially in the rural areas where a “no perc test, no house” policy is being implemented.

But the question is how much does percolation test cost and what are the factors affecting the pricing of the test.


Average Cost of Percolation Test

According to, the average reported cost of soil test is $1,175 with most home owners spending around $755 to $1,642 but could range from as low as $600 to as high as $2,200, depending on the type of soil testing required. But there are several types of soil testing which include fertility testing, a la carte testing, and the percolator testing or simply perc or perk testing.

In terms of percolator testing, the reported cost range is around $400 to $1,500 depending on who would perform the test, the location, the extent of the work, among others.


However, if you just need a personal assurance that your property is capable of handling a septic system and do not need a permit to install one anytime soon, testing your own lot the DIY way can be feasible. Typical cost for this type of project ranges between $25 and $100.

These are the tools and materials you would need:

  • Shovel
  • Timer
  • Tape measure
  • Water

For the complete step by step procedures on how to do the percolator testing yourself, please check out’s website.


What are Included

The cost of perc test typically includes digging a hole or holes on the ground, pouring water into that hole, and observing the level of water absorption. The more precise percolator test would typically use a specific quantity of water and specific dimensions of the holes in order to make accurate observations.

The percolator is usually done during the wet season when the soil absorption can be very difficult. This is when the experts would want to measure the soil’s capability to perform despite the difficult conditions to ensure that it can function well when the septic tanks are already placed.


After the activities have been completed, the expert or the professional who conducted the test would give the verdict on whether your property has passed or failed the test. The perc test would be a success when the rate is at an inch drop per hour but different localities set different levels of rate and can sometimes be more tolerant than others.

Most of the test typically last about four hours, but about half of that period is covered by the backhoe operation in cases where that equipment is needed.

soil in hand

Additional Costs

Large properties may sometimes have more than one type of soil present which can at one point affect your lot’s chances of passing the test and can add to your expenditures for the simple reason that it would need to a few more holes to be dug instead of the usual number of holes.


Why is that so, you may ask? That is because some strict localities would depend their verdict on the worst performing hole among the set. But it is not always the case as some would give consideration to the parts that perform well.

There are locations that need the help of a backhoe operator and an engineer to supervise the activity. The operator would cost around $300 to $500 and around $150 to $500 for an engineer.

Also, take into consideration that some tests may also require inspection and consultation. These typically cost $260 per trip and $130 per hour, respectively.


Depending on the state or local requirement, a perc test result is usually valid for two to five years. After which, you are required to renew, thereby obliging you to pay for another cost of perc test. Since it can’t be said about other locations, it is wise to ask your health department if what their requirements are.

Shopping for Percolation Test

When looking for someone to do the percolator test, you must first consult with the local county Health Department if they require that the test be performed by a licensed engineer or someone from their office who is a local government employee. Also, it may require some more things that you would need to be able to conduct the activity like the need to hire a licensed excavator to do the digging ahead of time.


You may check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC’s website for the locator of various state and territorial health departments. These health departments may even refer you to some of their accredited experts and professionals who conduct percolator and other soil testing services.

Factors Affecting Cost of Perc Test

The amount of work – this is a factor that is often dependent on the requirement of the government body issuing the permit. Your cost would be higher if the health department would require more test than what they are usually requiring which sometimes depends on where your property is exactly located.


Location – the prices of services differ per area, even in government. This is due to the mandate of the local government on the pricing of goods and services, as well as cost of doing business and cost of living in that particular area in case of private companies.

The size of the property – more often than not, how much does percolation test cost is directly proportional to the size of the property because naturally, when the land is large, several holes are likely to be dug in order to create reliable samples.


Who would perform the test – upon checking with your local health department, you would be immediately informed who they prefer to do the perc test. Their choice of whether the test be carried out by some independent professionals or anybody from their group would spell a huge difference in terms of cost of the perc testing.

If equipment is needed – as mentioned, there were instances where the task is too much to handle bare hands that the use of equipment is sometimes preferred especially in large and complex properties.

If an engineer is needed – certain situations call for the service of a civil or geotechnical engineer such as when your land is located in an area with high water tables, de-watering is likely to be required. This involves strategically placing trenches and sub surface drain pipes so that the water would be drained. This might be a complex activity for someone who is not an engineer, hence the need to hire one.


Soil type – some types of soils are more difficult or take longer to test than others. Sandy types of soils are typically the fastest types to test while those clay locations can even take overnight to test to get results.

Health Department requirements – there are certain situations and land conditions that may be required by the health department to conduct more than just a percolator test but a more extensive one such as soil evaluation. In this kind of test, the soil drainage, permeability, topography, and ground water are determined and not just limited to water drainage alone.

Additional Information


Failing a perc test can be frustrating especially after you have invested so much in the property. That is why it is so important to make offers to buy a piece of land contingent on their passing the test.

But don’t fret yet. There are several things you can do after a failed test. Some of these are the following:

  • Ask the Health Department if you can appeal after a failed perc test or what are your options if this happens
  • If you know any of the previous owners, you may ask them of any documentations or instances where the property passed the perc test. In cases where they are no longer reachable, ask the Health Department for any records of the property as there may be parts of the lot that can pass the test.
  • If the Health Department failed to consider certain conditions which may have influenced the failure like the soil drainage rate as some areas can have higher rate depending on the season. Ask them to consider it or ask them to re-test some other time.


  • What are the odds that your property would fail a perc test when it is surrounded by residential areas? If this is the case and it still failed the test, ask your neighbors what they did in order to pass during their turn.
  • When everything else fails, there are still alternatives you can do with the property like investing on some advanced engineered septic tank system if you still really want to build a house in that location. But if not, you can still use that property for other purposes such as turning it into barn or orchard; or if it is feasible for mining and drilling. It can even be a camping or hunting site or station.


A renowned home improvement expert with almost 20 years of experience in building and repairing beautiful homes in the USA. He's a civil engineer by profession.

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