Buying a home is a big decision as you never fully know exactly what you're getting yourself into - even more so when the home has a septic tank. You really have to understand how it works and how to inspect it to ensure that it is in a good condition. If you're really sold on the home, but the septic system needs some TLC, be sure to ask the current owner to take care of this before you sign on the dotted line.
Septic System Inspection Prior to Buying a Home
In order to detect any defects and to avert any potentially costly and dangerous defects with the septic tank and leachfield, ensure that the following steps are taken:
1. Question the current owner
Before you call a septic contractor, you should ask the current owner a few questions to help you ascertain specific information to relay to the inspector. The questions are framed in a relatively open, vague manner so that, instead of suggesting answers, you can find out whatever they know. Remember that whatever they don't know, can also be helpful to you.
- How old is the home?
- Has the property been occupied or vacant, and for how long?
- Where is the septic system located?
- What type of system is it?
- When last was the tank pumped?
Occupancy is important, as it will tell you how often the system should have been pumped. If they had been living at the property for years, but do not know where the tank is, it has obviously never been pumped, which causes concern for the leach field. On the other hand, an easy-open access cover could mean that it is pumped unusually often.
Find out if the tank is conventional, with a drain field and what material it is made of - concrete or steel? You should find out how big the tank is, and whether there are separate seepage pits and drywells. That might indicate that the owner was concerned about the capacity of the leach field.
The pumping history will tell you a lot too. Regular pumping is good, while no pumping might indicate that the leach field may be in trouble. A new tank connected to old fields could also be a cause for concern. A complete new installation means you have won the septic tank lottery.
2. Perform a visual inspection
Your next step is to perform a visual inspection. Find out where the tank and leach fields are located and check for active failures. Just because the grass is greener over the leaching are, does not mean there's a problem - just that it receives better fertilization... But look out for the following:
- a depression in the sewage disposal area - That would indicate a tendency for collecting run-off rainwater. Look for a swamp near the leaching system.
- the elevation of the system - Is it at the same elevation as nearby wetlands?
- steep slopes or ledge outcrops that may reduce the area available for leaching purposes
3. Call for an inspection
You could call an independent septic engineer or contractor to perform a visual inspection and a loading and dye test. They will also pump the septic tank and do additional investigations to ensure that it is in perfect order.
Get in touch with Anta Plumbing to discuss your septic system requirements. We regularly perform septic tank inspections, installations, services and repairs.