Fixing Your Plumbing To Fix Your Life

Buying A Home With A Septic Tank? Tips For Inspecting The System

For many potential home buyers, their biggest concerns are often the size of kitchen and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. However, if you're considering purchasing a home in a more rural area, there is an additional factor that deserves your attention: the septic system. Don't purchase a home with a potentially faulty septic system that will cost you thousands to fix. Instead, here are a few tips to help you inspect the tank and field:

Ask the Owner

According to Allstate, approximately 25 percent of homes in the United States feature a septic system. If you're unfamiliar with how a septic system works, it is vital to ask the homeowner the right questions. Here are a few critical questions you need to ask before considering purchasing a home with a septic system:

  • How Large is the Septic Tank? – According to the Penn State Extension, the number of bedrooms in a home typically dictates the size of a septic tank. For example, if you're purchasing a 4-bedroom home, the tank size should be at least 1,250 gallons. For a 6-bedroom home, you should expect the tank to be at least 1,550 gallons.
  • Do You Have Records of the Repair History? – Ask the owners if they have a detailed repair record for the septic system. The owner should also provide a schedule for how often the tank has been pumped. If the owner doesn't have the records or is unwilling to produce them, consider looking for a different property.
  • How Old is the Septic System? – According to Prime Property Inspectors, the average lifespan of a septic system is around 25 years. If the system very old, it may require a complete replacement, which can cost you thousands of dollars.

Signs of a Serious Problem

If you've never been on a property with a septic system, you may not know what a problem will look or smell like. Luckily, there are several very distinct and telltale signs that the home's septic tank has a potentially serious issue, or at the very least, needs to be pumped immediately. Here are a few:

  • Pools of Water in the Lawn – When a septic tank needs to be pumped or is malfunctioning, there will often be pools of standing water in the drain field and other areas of the yard. A properly functioning septic system will keep any wastewater underground and completely out of sight. If you see pooled water, it could signal a problem.
  • The Grass Looks a Little Too Healthy – Are there areas of the lawn where the grass appears a lot lusher, greener and simply healthier than others? If the area is near or on the drain field, it could be a sign that the system needs emptying or it is backed-up. When the wastewater in the system begins backing-up and a significant amount rises to the surface, the chemicals found inside will feed the lawn, leading to grass that is very healthy.
  • A Nasty Smell – As you walk around the property, both inside and outside of the home, pay attention to any nasty smells. If the smell is overwhelming, it is a clear sign that there is a potentially serious issue with the septic system.
  • Suspiciously Slow Drains – Finally, ask the homeowner if it's alright to turn on the sink in the kitchen or the bathroom shower. Watch the drains and if they are all noticeably slow, it could indicate the septic tank is full or that there is a problem.

If you're considering purchasing a home with a septic system, there are many factors to keep in mind, including the system's age and any potential problems. However, if you're unsure, the best way to make sure you're not purchasing a malfunctioning system is to contact plumbing services or a home inspector.