What is a Septic Inspection?
A septic inspection examines your home’s septic system — a private, on-site waste disposal system that handles a home’s sewage and wastewater output. A septic system might be shared between multiple homes, or it may only be linked to an individual home. The main purpose of a septic system is to safely collect and disperse wastewater to prevent any contamination of your property’s soil. A septic system is independent of any private well that may provide drinking water to one or more homes.
What is a Septic System?
A septic system comprises of a septic tank and a drain field. One of its primary functions is to separate solid waste from the wastewater. A septic inspection will help you understand how well your system is functioning (if at all) and allow you to address any issues with your septic system. If the system is properly distanced from any drinking well and is not contaminating the immediate area, then you’ll be cleared through the inspection.
If you are purchasing a home that is in fact connected to its own septic system, you should do your best to remain informed of the system’s condition. You should have your septic system inspected before purchasing your new home, in case there are any pressing issues with the system. Big repairs to or replacement of a septic system can be very expensive. The inspection itself will cost you some extra money, but it is still best to have it completed. Septic systems can be damaged for extended periods of time without any knowledge of it because they are buried underground. Problems left unchecked will only make things worse and be more expensive in the long run. To learn more about how a septic system works, click here.
Who Conducts the Inspection?
The first step in finding the perfect company for you is to ask your trusted friends and family. This will give you a nice list of companies to start with. Afterwards, you can research other companies if you feel as though you need to. Many local health departments also offer septic inspections or can refer you to an adequate wastewater professional. You can also check Angie’s List for well-regarded septic inspectors (or repairmen, if necessary) in your area.
When Should the Inspection Happen?
Professionals recommend that you have an inspection done before buying the home. Ask the sellers about their home’s septic system and if they would be open to you arranging a septic inspection on their home. This information can be very useful when deciding which home to buy.
What Happens During a Septic System Inspection?
The answer depends on the inspector. Ask for a full inspection when hiring a professional septic inspector, as opposed to the visual review a traditional home inspector might conduct. A visual inspection is not thorough enough to identify any serious issues, so it may not be worth your time or money. A thorough septic inspection will involve locating, opening, and examining the tank itself.
The inspector starts first by locating the septic tank, using a probe or through a radio transmitter. Some properties have a map of the property that details the system’s location. If you already know the location of the septic system and how to uncover it, your inspector will likely charge a smaller fee than if they had to find it themselves.
Opening and Examining
A certified inspector will use a Sludge Judge or similar device to determine the levels of solids and liquids in the tank once they have uncovered the septic system. This would allow an inspector to determine whether or not there are any clogs or leaks in the tank. The best method to remove excess sludge, and thus address clogging or leaking, is to pump out and partially drain the septic tank.
Homeowners should be wary of using any chemical products to clean a septic tank, as these can damage the system. These products may claim to break down sludge and scum inside the septic tank, but pumping is still your best bet. On average, a septic tank should be pumped every three to five years. The entire tank is pumped during the inspection unless the tank is new and has no solid-waste build up.
Septic System Maintenance Tips
If your septic system clears inspection and is working well, that’s great! It is important, however, to have your septic system properly maintained. Here are some maintenance tips to keep your septic system working perfectly:
- Only flush toilet paper down the toilet. Dispose of items like paper towels, cigarette butts, feminine hygiene products, and diapers in the trash.
- Never flush gasoline, paint, medication, antifreeze down the toilet or dump them in the sink
- Avoid parking your car near the septic system’s drain field. The weight of your car can damage the drain field’s piping.
- Only plant grass above the septic system. The roots of flowers, trees, and other plants can cause damage to the septic system. This contributes to an accumulation of solids.
- Fix any leaky faucets or toilets immediately upon discovering them.
- Conserve water when and where you can. Not only does it help your septic system, but it is also a healthy and cost-effective way to live.