Is a Septic System Inspection Necessary When Buying a Home?

Is a Septic System Inspection Necessary When Buying a Home?

Published on December 04 , 2013

There are many things to consider when you are in the market for a new home. A home is more than the rooms inside it; you have to consider the exterior, the roof, garage, and the surrounding property. One aspect of home buying that is often left out is a septic system examination. Septic systems are not in common use in urban areas though rural areas and even some of the older suburban areas of the country are likely to have septic systems in common use.


Septic system basics

A septic system provides a convenient plumbing solution to homes that are would not be well-served by municipal utilities, usually for reasons of distance. At a glance, the plumbing system connected to a septic tank performs much like any other residential plumbing system. The difference is that, rather than flushing gray and black waste water into municipal pipes that transport it to a water treatment plant, the waste water is stored and naturally treated in an underground tank.

A septic tank is more complex than a simple holding unit. The waste water from the house enters the tank

where liquid and solid wastes are separated. The solid waste will begin to decompose; however, bacterial activity will only impact around half of the waste matter present. Remaining waste will settle at the bottom of the tank. A second compartment within the tank allows additional settling and decomposition.

The water remaining after the settling and bacterial activity, now called effluent, will exit the tank into the drainfield. The drainfield is a network of pipes buried in the ground next to the tank. The pipes are surrounded by a layer of washed gravel on top of the original soil. Small holes in the pipe allow effluent to gradually trickle through the gravel layer and will receive a final treatment by the microbes living in the soil. The treated water can now re-enter the water table.

Septic system maintenance

The two chamber tank described above gradually accumulates so much solid waste that adequate settling is not able to take place. A septic tank should be emptied every three to five years; if periodic emptying does not take place, the system will cease working correctly. Waste water will back up, effluent will not experience the primary stages of bacterial treatment, and potentially hazardous water may begin to enter the local water table. The drainfield can become overwhelmed and cause extensive property damage. Pipes, gravel, clay, and soil may all need to be replaced after a septic system has broken down.

Make sure the system is inspected

A septic inspection is going to tell you what you can expect from any particular septic system. When considering whether or not to buy a home, make sure that you get an accurate and up-to-date assessment of the septic system. An independent evaluation will tell you whether or not the tank, perforated pipes, and drainfield are in good working order. If they are not, the evaluation can tell you what will need to be done to make the system perfect again and how much that is likely to cost. An inspection will also let you know how full the tank is; this will allow you to anticipate having the tank pumped at a future date.

Getting the inspection done right

While there are some simple tests that experienced septic system owners can do on their own to determine how full the tank is, unless you are already familiar with the ins and outs of septic system care and maintenance it is best to let a professional handle the evaluation. An experienced septic system inspector can:

  • Complete the job quickly and professionally
  • Give you an estimate on the cost of any repairs or maintenance work that needs done
  • Bring years of experience to the examination process
  • Provide an inspection statement that can be relied upon for accuracy
  • Identify lesser-known problems and suggest helpful solutions
  • Bring all the equipment necessary to get the job done right

When you buy a house you want to be certain that you know what you are getting. You can feel more confident about your property choice when you have a septic system inspection performed by a professional. This information may give you additional leverage when negotiating the price of the home. Most importantly, a septic system inspection will help you become familiar with this vital home system. If you are considering buying a home with a septic system, do not hesitate to arrange for an inspection.

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