Thinking of buying a new home? If you’re considering purchasing a home that has a septic system instead of a sewer, you need to understand how septic systems work and how to maintain them.
Neglected septic tanks can create major pumping issues inside and outside your home. The best thing to do is get a septic tank inspection before you purchase a home.
How much is a septic tank inspection? It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think. In fact, it’s a pittance compared to the cost of replacing a septic system.
When Do You Need a Septic Tank Inspection?
The most obvious time to get a septic tank inspection is when you have plumbing issues. You’ll know you’ve got an issue with your septic tank if you notice a pungent smell coming from your plumbing system.
Another indicator of septic distress is backed-up waste in your toilets, sinks, and showers. You should also be on the lookout for water pooling in your yard and spongy bright green grass growing over the leach field.
Other times you might need a septic tank inspection include:
- When selling your home
- When buying a new home
- When planning new construction on your property
- When the local board of health asks you to
Ideally, you should get a septic tank inspection every few years and perform regular maintenance. This will help you avoid major septic problems.
Experts recommend getting a septic tank inspection every one to three years. If you have a larger septic tank, house, or family, the more often you get your septic system inspected the better.
Septic Inspections for Home Transactions
When a home transaction occurs, a septic inspection is often mandatory within a certain time frame. In some circumstances, a septic inspection isn’t necessary when the homeowner has had one done in the last two years.
Keep in mind that septic tank inspection requirements vary between states, cities, and counties. You can learn more about the requirements by consulting with your local real estate agent.
When buying a new home, your mortgage lender might request that you get a septic tank inspection. This is usually a good idea and can save you from getting an unfortunate surprise later in the homebuying process.
When buying or selling a home, septic inspections are usually required at the time of the contract. It can happen anytime before the closing. However, it’s always a good idea to get it done sooner than later.
If there are any issues, doing the inspection sooner gives the buyer and seller time to negotiate.
Some sellers choose to do a septic pre-inspection before selling a home. This gives the seller time to make the necessary repairs if they choose to do so.
Disclosing issues on the home report for buyers is always a good move. It shows honesty and integrity.
It also saves you the time and stress of dealing with surprise issues that come up later on in the home selling process. Often these types of issues can affect the closing costs.
Before New Construction
If you have any plans to start a new construction project on your property, getting a septic inspection will help you determine where it is safe to build.
You’ll also find out whether you need to upgrade to a larger tank to accommodate the amount of waste your household produces.
When the Local Health Board Asks
In some situations, the local board of health may also request a septic inspection. This may happen if they get complaints about your septic system or otherwise suspect there may be an issue.
What Happens During a Septic Tank Inspection?
During a septic tank inspection, a septic expert will assess the condition of your septic tank and check for any issues. The most common things to check are the size of the tank, leakage, sludge level, and the drainage field.
Checking for leaks is very important. Leaks can cause your system to malfunction and create a very big mess. Your septic professional will check the water level inside the tank.
They will also check for tree roots, broken pipes, and anything else that might be clogging your system.
While they’re inspecting the tank, the septic expert will also make sure the sludge level does not exceed one-third of the contents of the tank. They will also check that the size of your tank is adequate for the size of your home.
If your septic tank is too small for the use it gets, the expert may recommend you get it pumped more than the standard amount every three to five years.
Next, the expert will assess the flow of wastewater to the drainage field. If it doesn’t appear that the water moving toward the drainage or leach field is flowing properly, they will recommend a repair.
Finally, the septic professional will check whether your septic system is installed the proper distance away from any bodies of water. It is crucial that septic systems are not allowed to contaminate the local groundwater supply.
How Long Does a Septic Tank Inspection Take?
A septic system inspection should take about two hours. It can take longer if you have a larger tank, a longer yard, or if any other issues that come up during the inspection.
Whether you’re a homeowner or a home buyer, it’s a good idea to tag along and observe the inspection. You’ll learn a lot of important information about proper septic maintenance.
What Does a Septic Tank Inspection Cost?
The average cost of a septic tank inspection varies depending on the purpose of the inspection and the type of inspection. The cost can range from anywhere from $100 to $900.
The most basic type of inspection is a visual check-up. This will usually cost between $100 and $200. It includes a dye test to check for leaks and pressure as well as a visual inspection of the septic system.
The next step up is a basic check-up. This will cost between $200 and $300. It includes a visual inspection, simple system tests, and measuring the sludge and scum layers of your septic tank.
A basic check-up should also include excavation to provide access to the ports in the event your septic system doesn’t have risers.
A full-check up will cost between $300 and $600. It is the most in-depth type of septic inspection. A full check-up includes a visual inspection, simple tests, and excavation.
It will also include pumping and measuring to determine you are on the correct pumping schedule.
Keep in mind that the cost of a septic inspection when buying or selling a home will average $250 to $500 depending on what is required.
When there is a problem the inspector can’t easily identify they made need to snake a camera into the tank. That can incur an added cost of $250 to $900.
Some septic tank inspectors may charge extra for excavation. Make sure to check whether it is covered in the cost of the inspection. The size of your tank can also affect the cost of the inspection.
What Makes Septic Tanks Fail Inspection?
The majority of septic systems fail inspection because they haven’t been properly maintained. In other circumstances, the cause might be a design flaw. But most often the system has just been neglected by the owner.
It is important to perform regular septic maintenance like pumping and inspections to keep your tank in good condition.
Other reasons septic systems fail can have to do with inadequate soil, excessive sloping on the property, and high groundwater tables. These circumstances can lead to mechanical problems and contamination.
Who Can Do a Routine Inspection For a Septic System?
Septic tank inspections are a common add-on during a home inspection when you are preparing to buy or sell a house. It’s always a good idea to use an experienced inspection service or a certified inspection company.
You don’t want to cut corners when it comes to the condition of your home septic system.
It’s also not a great idea to try to do the septic inspection yourself, though some sellers will try to. You won’t be able to do a thorough inspection, plus it risks the integrity of your system.
How Often Should You Conduct Septic System Maintenance?
The cost of replacing a septic tank is enormous. It is a huge and expensive job costing between $3000 and $9000.
Septic replacement involves emptying the system, excavating it, removing it, and disposing of it. So, it’s best to try to avoid having to replace your entire system.
The best way to avoid septic replacement is to conduct regular septic inspections and get it pumped on schedule. The average cost to pump a septic tank is $400 and it should be done every three to five years.
Pumping a septic tank means removing all of the liquid waste from the system. In some cases, it is possible to get your tank pumped and inspected at the same time. Always do the inspection before pumping.
Additional Septic Maintenance Tips
If you get your septic tank pumped and inspected as recommended, you will avoid the most common septic tank problems.
Other ways to avoid major septic system maintenance and repairs include avoiding the use of chemical products to unclog drains. Chemicals kill important bacteria in your septic tank that break down waste.
You also need to be mindful of what you put down your garbage disposal. Septic tanks can’t handle coffee grounds, eggshells, cooking grease, or medications.
Finally, incorporate septic treatment products regularly. They help to promote good bacteria and enzymes your system requires.
Getting a septic tank inspection before buying a home is a great way to avoid any surprise problems and expenses after closing. As the owner of a septic system, it is important to practice proper septic maintenance.
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