Living France - - The Essentials -

QMy wife, Kay, and I are hop­ing to buy a prop­erty that we’ve iden­ti­fied in the Dor­dogne area. We are French prop­erty first­timers with a lim­ited knowl­edge of the lan­guage and need some as­sis­tance to tie down our bud­get. The tar­get house re­quires, among other things, a new fosse sep­tique (it presently lacks even ba­sic toi­let fa­cil­i­ties) and we are strug­gling to iden­tify who is prop­erly qual­i­fied to un­der­take the spec­i­fi­ca­tion and in­stal­la­tion of a new fosse, and therefore ob­tain an ac­cu­rate cost for our over­all bud­get. We are un­will­ing to make an of­fer on the house un­til we’ve ob­tained fig­ures for the new sep­tic tank, and hence we are at an im­passe. How can we find a trades­man who will sup­ply and fit a suit­able and com­pli­ant fosse sep­tique?


A Non-mains drainage in­stal­la­tions ( as­sainisse­ment non col­lec­tif) com­prise sev­eral el­e­ments. Pipe work takes waste from the house to the fosse tank, which ‘pre-treats’ the waste be­fore it’s fil­tered out through a drainage field ( épandage). The sys­tem needs pri­mary and se­condary ven­ti­la­tion, and if the fosse is sited away from the house a grease trap ( bac à graisse) is put in be­tween the house and the fosse. Drainage work is done by ‘ ter­rassiers’, and you can search ‘ ter­rassier as­sainisse­ment’ in yel­low pages ( pages­ to find lo­cal firms.

In­stal­la­tion costs vary ac­cord­ing to the size of the prop­erty, bound­aries, ac­cess and the sub-soil. For three- to five-bed­room houses, I’ve seen bills from €6,500-€10,000; dif­fi­cult sites or larger prop­er­ties will cost more. You are go­ing to need some­one bilin­gual to help you through the sys­tem, prefer­ably some­one with knowl­edge of the process.

Mairies del­e­gate drainage ap­provals to spe­cial­ist agen­cies, usu­ally called SPANC. Ap­pli­ca­tions are made to SPANC, with de­tails of the prop­erty and the pro­posal. They visit the site and work out what size of in­stal­la­tion and in par­tic­u­lar what type of post- fosse drainage field would be suit­able. Soil tests may be re­quired. Your ter­rassier quotes ac­cord­ingly and good firms will also take charge of the ap­pli­ca­tion process. SPANC in­spect dur­ing and at the end of the works be­fore is­su­ing a con­form­ity cer­tifi­cate. SPANC fees vary across the coun­try.

In Dor­dogne, you can find out about which SPANC cov­ers your com­mu­nauté de com­munes area by vis­it­ing the site: dor­­sainisse­men­t_non_­col­lec­tif/ vous_etes_un_usager/694-1.

Each com­mu­nauté (group of com­munes) has its own web­site, with a sec­tion on ‘ as­sainisse­ment’, where you’ll find the ap­pli­ca­tion forms, de­tails of lo­cal of­fices and of­ten lists of ap­proved firms.


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