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SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SEPTIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS
SEPTIC D-BOX INSTALL REPAIR
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE
SEPTIC FAILURE SIGNS
SEPTIC INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE
SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY
SEPTIC SUPPLIES & PARTS
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN BASICS
SEPTIC SYSTEMS, HOME BUYERS GUIDE to
SEPTIC SYSTEM SAFETY WARNINGS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
SOAKAWAY BED FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS, SEPTIC
VIDEO GUIDES: Septic Videos
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WASHING MACHINES & SEPTIC SYSTEMS
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Advice for Home Buyers who are buying a property with a private septic system. In order to help buyers obtain Information that addresses these concerns. We have put together this guide to help in making informed decisions regarding the potential problems and costs associated with a property's septic system. This document gives a simple overview of the questions to ask and tests and inspections to order if you are buying a property with a septic system.
If you don't really want to know much about septic systems but you want to know how to inspect and test this costly and buried system when you're buying a property with a septic system, septic tank, septic fields, then read this document.
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If you prefer a complete, detailed guide to how to determine the condition of a septic tank, drainfield, leach field, soakaway bed, piping, etc. before buying or selling a home, see our buyer's guide to septic systems beginning at HOME BUYERS GUIDE to SEPTIC SYSTEMS.
If you need to know still more about septic system components, septic system maintenance (such as tank pumping and septic additives), or details about septic system inspection, diagnosis, repair, and alternative septic designs, Our main septic website page provides in-depth articles about these topics.
In simplest terms, a septic system consists of a holding tank which retains solid waste and grease from household waste water, and an absorption system or "leach field" which disposes of liquid wastewater or "effluent" which leaves the septic tank for absorption below ground into soils at the property.
The septic system is a relatively expensive and buried system which does not have an infinite life. Eventually drain fields fail and sometimes septic tanks, especially steel ones, rust out and need replacement. Also, old septic tanks, cesspools, and drywells, especially site-built or "home made" systems and systems in certain soils, can collapse, forming a very dangerous site hazard.
While no septic inspection and test can guarantee 100% that all septic defects have been found, properly conducted, these procedures can reduce the chances of a dangerous or costly surprise at your new home.
You can do steps 1 and 2 yourself. If you hire an expert to inspect and test the system (some home inspectors can provide this service), the inspector will also perform step 2 and 3.
Pipes settle and break or systems can be improperly installed. If the tank was pumped immediately before your inspection you should be suspicious, and you might defer the loading and dye test as it may be unable to put enough water into the system to test the drain fields. The dye itself is just a coloring agent to identify water that may appear at the yard surface. It's the test volume of water that's important.
Additional steps which are not normally done but which may be performed if there is evidence of system damage or failure are listed next. These steps would ordinarily be performed by a septic contractor who installs or repairs septic systems. Some septic pumping companies also perform septic repairs and field investigations. A septic engineer may be needed if you are expanding a system or if you require design to repair a system on a difficult site.
More basic information about how septic systems work is in this document after this section. More in-depth information about the steps in the procedure outlined above can be read at the following online articles:
It is important to realize that, once a septic system has been installed, only one of the above factors can be controlled by the homeowner. The homeowner can control how much water is actually being discharged to the system. Since each system has a set maximum capacity, it behooves the homeowner not to exceed that amount.
If a system starts to experience difficulties, what are some of the common symptoms?
What can a prospective purchaser of a home do to gather as much information as possible relative to the present condition of a system and about possible future expenses associated with the septic system? Here are a few suggestions:
It is our opinion that when buying a home, especially one that is old and does not have a sewage disposal system that meets today's standards, the fundamental questions that should be answered are:
If accurate soil test data is not available through the local health department the only sure way of answering the question is to actually perform all the deep hole testing and percolation tests required by code.
As you can understand, most sellers would take a dim view of prospective buyers wanting to tear up their property to perform then tests. Therefore the more information a buyer can obtain, the better able he or she will be able to judge the adequacy of the existing system and what will most likely be required to repair the system, when needed. In that way, the buyer will not be caught unaware when that day arrives, since it was part of the financial assessment establishing the value of the property at the time of purchase.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books