Questions to Ask During Septic Tank Inspections
Because a septic system is out of sight and buried underground, they are often forgotten or the last thing on a homeowner’s or buyer’s mind. But the septic system is a crucial working part of the property and as such, needs proper attention when purchasing or selling a home to make sure it is in good condition.
What is a septic system?
Septic systems to some people may feel like a special system only found in homes far from civilized society. In actuality about one in five homes in America runs on a septic system. It is also surprising to realize there are a large number of Americans who are unaware of what a septic tank system is or how it operates.
A working septic tank takes water and waste from different areas in a home such as the washing machine, toilets, dishwasher, sinks, and showers, and filters it before re-distributing it into the ground. This process decreases water and soil pollution and allows gray water or used water to exit your home and again become groundwater.
When water goes into the drain pipes of your home it flows to the septic tank and is collected there. When this gray water is collected in the tank it settles at the bottom where a system of natural bacteria begins to break down waste within the water. The purified water rises to the top and goes into an absorption area. The absorption area is a series of pipes running from the septic tank into a drain field.
The drain field is a layer of gravel that filters the water even further before it enters the ground/soil around your home. This filtering system allows water to become usable as it enters the rest of the groundwater source in the earth.
How should a septic inspection be performed?
Septic tank professionals encourage homeowners to have their systems inspected every 3 to 5 years. They should be done as routine maintenance regardless of your plans to stay in your home or sell your property. This inspection should be coupled with a professional tank pumping to keep the system healthy and in peak working condition.
Unfortunately, some homeowners forget about needing to maintain the septic system and only ever give it attention when something goes wrong. In some cases, this could require a complete replacement of the system which could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
How is a septic inspection performed?
When it comes to septic system inspections there are two different types. There is the visual inspection which is most often conducted when purchasing a home to give the system a quick look and make sure it is running well. There is also a full inspection which performs all the acts of a visual inspection but also looks deeper into the system by removing the cover of the tank to check the water level and make sure that it is draining properly.
A full inspection will also make sure that water is run within the house and properly flowing to the septic tank and that the tank is not collecting more water than designed to do. During a full inspection, the inspector might perform a dye test where they put dye into the water drain from your home to see how much water goes into the tank. At this time the tank will also be pumped to check for any backflow in the absorption area this helps the inspector to know how the drain field is working. They will also check to make sure there are no blockages in the system.
Good questions to ask when purchasing a home with a septic system
When buying a home with a septic system it is good to know the answer to the following questions and be informed about the condition of the system. The best questions to ask about the septic system include:
How old is the house?
Have there been any backups or standing water issues with the system while you have owned the home?
When was the septic tank last pumped and given a full inspection?
Have any minor or major repairs been made to the septic system?
When hiring a third-party inspector to look at a property with a septic system it is always a good idea to ask them about their knowledge of septic systems and if they would recommend bringing in a septic specialist to get a more in-depth look at the system.
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