Septic Inspection

A septic inspection is vital for the health of all the family members living in your house and so that owners must ensure that septic systems are inspected regularly. However, because these systems are installed beneath the ground, most people forget about them until something goes wrong.

A septic system disposes and treats unwanted solids and wastewater from a building or facility’s plumbing system. Partial break down of these solids takes place in a septic tank followed by their separation from scum (grease, oil, and fat, and effluent (water). Effluent continues to exist in the tank regularly and goes into a drain field where it gets filtered by bacteria naturally and then enters into the groundwater. However, sludge and scum should be periodically pumped and must be kept away from the drain field.

Defining The Septic System

Houses, buildings, or facilities that do not have public sewers rely on septic systems for treating and disposing of their wastewater. Septic system requires a considerable financial investment. A well designed, installed, and well-kept septic system will offer years-long low cost and reliable service.

However, a failing septic system becomes a reason for pollution, putting public health at risk. Moreover, it can also cause damage to property as well as surface and groundwater pollution. It can further lead to outbreaks of various diseases. If your septic system fails to serve its purpose properly, you must replace it as quickly as possible, and it can cost you a huge sum of money. In addition to that, if you are selling your home, you must ensure that your septic system is working fine. Thus, in all situations, you must keep good care of your septic system.

Septic tanks have various types made for a diverse range of site and soil conditions. However, a typical septic tank has the following major parts:

A Septic Tank

It separates wastewater from solids, stores them, and then decompose them partially. However, the effluent or liquid goes into the drain field.

The Drain Field

Once al solids are collected in the septic tank, and the wastewater is sent into the drain field, which is also known as leach field or absorption.

The Soil

The soil present below the drain field offers the disposal and final treatment of the septic tank wastewater. Once the wastewater enters the soil, the organisms present in it treats the effluent before its percolation downward and outward and eventually entering surface or groundwater.

Should I Have A Septic Inspection?

Before you purchase a house, you have to hire an inspector to run an inspection to make sure everything is working fine and that you can seal the deal. The inspection usually involves inspecting the house and checking for any potential damages, pests, etc. However, one of the most important things to check is the septic system.

When Should A Septic System Be Inspected?

  • Whenever you notice a problem such as noticing unusual and weird odors around the drains of your toilet, weak flushing or sluggish toilets, slow draining sinks, also, when you notice the appearance of wet spots or growth of a lush plant over the surface of your drain field.
  • When you plan to add on or remodel your house, you must ensure that your septic system is in good condition. However, you must avoid any construction work above your drain field or your septic tank.

What Is Involved In A Septic Inspection?

A septic inspection is a requirement of insurers or banks before transferring a property to a new owner. In some cases, when the system is not working properly, there is a need for an inspection to locate the issues before they cause greater damage.

A standard septic inspection includes:

  • Locating the septic tank.
  • Removing the covers.
  • Inspecting the inlet, outlet baffle, also the partition wall.
  • Inspecting the operational level of sewage.
  • Locating the chamber of the pump (if required), CK pump, alarm operation, and float.

Digging test holes in the septic bed area for:

  • Determining the below-grade effluent level of sewage.
  • Inspecting the trenches’ condition.

Providing a documented on-site inspection report

Who Should Perform A Septic System Inspection?

A professional contractor performs a septic inspection, and he can also do both the tasks, i.e., pump the tank and inspecting the whole septic system. When you are buying a new home or selling your current home, you must hire an expert to do it so you can be confident about the well-being of the septic system.

What Might A Septic Inspectors Look For?

A septic inspector might look for the following things:

The last date of pumping the tank. The sludge level decides whether or not the tank must be pumped. However, if you know when the last time you pumped the tank was, you can use it as a reference.

Use a sludge judge or something similar to check the sludge level. Sludge gets collected on the bottom of the tank, and it must not occupy more than one-third of the total volume of the septic tank. Also, it must not rise and reach to or above the baffles’ level.

The drain field and septic tank must be far away from streams and wells.

Check that the septic system is enough for the size of the home it is being used for. The more members a household has, the larger should be the tank. For septic tanks of rectangular shape, length x width x depth (in feet) x 7.5 = capacity (in gallons). For rounded tanks, 3.14 x radius squared x depth (in feet) x 7.5 = capacity in gallons.

Check for ay liquid waste that has found its way to the ground surface. It indicates that the septic system is overloaded, and this condition is referred to as unsanitary. The tank must be watertight so that the wastewater is tightly packed in it and never gets a chance to contaminate the groundwater. Also, the groundwater must not enter the tank as it would overfill the tank.

Check whether or not the riser lids are in their place and secured. Also, they must be checked for any cracks.

Ensure the baffles are connected firmly to the outlet and inlet pipes of the tank.

All the drain lines must receive an equal amount of wastewater. They must be examined by opening the distribution box. If the box is clogged or tipped, it will surely allocate wastewater disproportionally, which will lead to floods in sections of the drain field.

How Do I Prepare For A Septic Inspection?

If you are preparing for a septic tank inspection and you do not know what you must do, here are three steps to prepare for a septic inspection:

Keep Designs Available

All homeowners must have some designs in hand for their septic tanks. You must have one as well. It will help you to make the process easier, and the inspection will go smoother. The designs will guide the inspector to understand your septic system and its location.

Easy Access

In some cases, the septic tank’s cover is underground, so it requires an expert to open the cover. However, if you can remove the cover yourself, it would eliminate half the effort. Septic tank maintenance service provides charge extra if you ask them to uncover the septic tank.

Find Problematic Areas

Whether you can point out any definite issue or just suspect any issue with your septic system, you can bring it up during the inspection process. Mentioned problematic areas to the inspector, and they will see if there is a need for repairing or fixing.

How Do You Test A Septic System?

There are two types of septic inspections:

Visual Inspections

A visual inspection is about asking some questions. These questions are simple such as how old the house is, how often the septic system is pumped, and when was the last inspection performed. The inspector will then process to flushing all the toilets and run water from everywhere in the house to check the pressure of water and that everything is perfectly draining or not. Lastly, the inspector will go to the drain field to see if there is any water standing that can lead to the creation of cesspool. A visual inspection is very helpful, and it is done quickly. However, a complete inspection is more detailed, and it can tell you about some issues that might not appear during visual inspection.

Full Inspections

A full inspection involves everything that we discussed above in visual inspection. But there is a lot more after all these. This type of inspection must be performed every three to five years.

In a complete inspection, inspectors will uncover the septic tank and determine the level of water. The water levels can tell whether or not the water is draining properly. The inspector will then run the water from everywhere in the house to make sure the water level in the tank is not rising when more water is introduced.

The inspector will then use a dye test as proof. In a septic dye test, a colored dye is introduced into the water that is draining. It is done to check how much this enters the septic tank.

From here, the tank will be pumped, and the inspector will look for signs of backflow from the area of absorption. The level of backflow shows the inspector whether or not the drain field has any problem. He will then check the flow level once again to ensure every part of the septic system is working properly, and there are no blockages. The full septic inspection cost is higher as compared to the cost of the visual septic inspection.

Understand the Septic Inspection Process

Locating The Tank

The septic inspector will determine the location of your tank if you already do not know where your tank is located. If you hold the original permit for a septic system that comes along a map of the installed septic system, show that to the inspector, and he will locate it.

The septic technician might also use some other equipment such as a retrievable radio transmitter and a ground probe rod flushed down the toilet to identify the septic tank’s location.

Removing The Lid

Once the inspector finds out the location of the tank, he will move on to the next step, which is removing the lid of the tank for inspecting it internally. If you can uncover the tank yourself, it will save you some money and also some time.

Determining The Sludge Level

The inspector will use an instrument to test the level of sludge. The device is usually a long, calibrated rod.

At the end of the hollow, transparent rod is a plug that allows the wastewater to enter but keeps the sludge from exiting it. The inspector uses this rod and dips it to the tank’s bottom and then retrieves the rod back.

The sludge and wastewater in the rod explain the condition of the septic tank, and it helps to decide whether or not the tank needs pumping.

Testing For Leakages

The inspector will see whether or not the tank is watertight or has any leakages. A tank that is leaking can lead to contamination of groundwater or surface. Also, it can reduce the time of separation that is required to send clear wastewater into the drain field.

The two methods used for checking water tightness of the tank are hydrostatic testing and vacuum testing, and both of them include emptying the tank and negative pressure or water pumping into the septic tank to find any leakages.

Inspecting The Baffles

In the inlet and outlet of the tank, baffles work like a regulatory valve.

The inlet baffle works to regulate the waste’s flow rate from the house to the septic tank to make the solid settle completely and for separating it from the wastewater. The outlet baffle keeps solid form going into the drain field.

The inspector will inspect these valves to see if they are working properly and that they are attached to the outlet and inlet pipes firmly. With time, the baffles might succumb, and they can wear and tear and can develop corrosion. Regular inspection helps to decide when these components must be replaced.

Checking Filters And Water Flow

The effluent filter that is present on the tank’s outlet pipe also works to keep the solids from entering the drain field that can also lead to groundwater contamination. A septic tank inspection allows you to see whether or not the filter is working well, and it needs replacing.

Lastly, the inspector will inspect the water flow pattern into and out of the septic tank. Water draining into the septic tank might indicate that there is a leakage, and water coming back into the septic tank can tell the drain field has problems.

How to Maintain Your Septic System

Make sure that the septic system remains in proper working order for a long time by ensuring that you or anyone in your house never flush baby wipes, towels, paper, tampons, or any object that will not break down smoothly when in your septic system.

Using garbage disposal for breaking down any food that has the potential to clog your pipes is better. Also, ensure that you never let grease go down your sink as it can clog your septic tank.

You must also use a laundry detergent that keeps your septic tank in good health.

A minor amount of bleach is acceptable, but you should never any sort of medication, harmful chemicals, or anti-freeze, as they can harm the bacteria present in your septic system, and it can lead to more issues.

If you have a sump pump available, ensure that it is not hooked up to your septic system. Sump pumps push a good amount of water into the system, and that can lead to adverse effects on the breaking down of the waste.

How Long Does A Septic Tank Inspection Take?

Septic inspections can have different levels of complexity and, based on that completion, and times will vary. Also, it can depend on the findings of the on-site inspector. Usually, septic inspections can take anywhere from forty-five minutes to three hours.

Inspecting Septic Tanks: How To Perform A Septic System Inspection

The reason behind the treatment of the septic tank contains the solid waste and to allow the occurrence of bacterial actions to process sewage and turn it into a filtered effluent combination, floating scum, and settles sludge in the septic tank.

A septic tank that is un-damaged and intact is usually filled with these substances. However, during a visual inspection, the inspection is at alert for finding the below-mentioned things:

  • How to perform an inspection on a septic tank to find problems before and after the tank is cleaned or pumped.
  • A septic tank inspection checklist.
  • Important life-safety warnings for people who are performing the inspections.
  • Types of tanks: homemade, fiberglass, concrete, steel septic tanks – characteristics and definitions of several types of septic tanks.
  • Specifics on inspection for each type of tank.
  • Inspection specifics for sludge, baffles, and scum levels/thickness of septic tank.

How to Inspect the Septic Tank Before & After Pumping

An effective and simple tool for septic system inspection is an extension pole which sports a mirror that is adjustable along with a bright flashlight.

The septic tank mirror that is set at an appropriate angle is combined with a flashlight’s light and allows the inspectors to perform an inspection on the interior of the tank after it is emptied.

The septic inspector will also check the condition of baffles and how clean the tank is. Also, she will see if any cracks, damages, or breaks can lead to any leakages.

A Septic Tank Inspection Checklist

Performing inspection on the surface of the septic tank area before opening it:

  • Subsidence (low areas in the soil or depression) at the location of the septic tank can lead to hazardous collapses.
  • Recent modifications, excavation, and work: Any evidence of the latest work done that requires investigation to understand the overall condition of the septic system.
  • Evidence of effluent breakout or backup at the septic tank surface area.
  • Necessary safety check: Inspecting the state of septic tank covers:
    • Overall condition and safety of the access ports (covers) and the tank.

Inspecting The Septic Tank After Opening The Septic Tank But Before Pumping

When you locate a septic tank and uncover it for pumping, you will be able to observe some additional critical information.

  • The thickness of sludge or scum levels.
  • Effluent backflow into the septic tank during the pump-down. It indicates flooded leach fields.
  • Condition of the baffles of the septic tank.
  • Level of liquid waste in the septic tank: waste passing over the baffles indicates a flooding septic system, and it will eventually lead to system failure.
  • High levels of sewage in the septic tank: It means that a drain field or outlet is blocked.
  • Very low level of sewage in the tank: It shows that the tank might have leakages, and the reason can range from the material it is made up of to the tank’s age.
  • Lower sewage levels in concrete tanks: if the septic tank is made up of concrete, it might have any crack or some other kind of damage.
  • Lower sewage levels in fiberglass or plastic tanks: once you have pumped the septic tank, find a drain plug present at the bottom of the tank because the plug can be removed because of pumping sometimes.
  • Lower sewage levels in steel septic tanks: pump the septic tank fully, inspect and clean holes. Look for any signs of rust or corrosion.

Septic Tank Inspection During Tank Pumping

During the pumping of septic tank: if you or the inspector observe or can hear septic effluent entering back into the tank from the outlet pipe, you should understand that the soil absorption or the drain field system in waterlogged. It will lead to system failure and surely requires investigation.

Septic Tank Inspection After The Septic Tank Has Been Pumped Out

Here is what you need to know:

Never lean down or enter into or over any septic tank unless you have a special breathing apparatus on you and a second worker with you for ensuring your safety as the methane gas in the tank can lead to fatal asphyxiation.

It is not necessary to enter the septic tank. Any fixing, repairing, replacing work can be performed from the outside.

After the tank has been fully pumped out, you can inspect the interior for any signs of cracks, damages, or settlement to the baffles, or even if you have to see the size of the tank, you can easily do so.

A septic tank pumper can make use of a mirror attached to one end of a pole and a flashlight to inspect the tank’s interior and see for any potential damages, leakages, or cracks.

How Do Home Inspectors Check Septic Tanks?

Most home inspectors perform septic inspections, and they do it as part of their service; however, some inspectors understand that their limited inspections cannot help to find major issues hidden inside the septic system. You must know that general home inspectors can only perform a general inspection and not a detailed one where he checks everything just like a professional. If you wish to know the actual condition of your septic system, you will need to call a specialist. A general home inspector can perform some sort of visual inspection. However, to get your septic system fully inspected, you need a professional to run a detailed or full inspection.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Septic Drain Field?

The leach or drain field is that section of the septic system which works to transport the wastewater back to the soil. The initial signs of any problem with the drain field are mostly swampy areas in your yard or some type of sewage odor on your property. The replacement of the drain field can cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.

How Much Does It Cost To Have A Septic System Inspected?

It depends on the location of your home. In most cases, when you get an inspection of your septic system, it costs you around $100 to $250, which is quite negligible if compared to the cost of replacing the drain field that costs around $2,000 to $10,000. Moreover, if the inspector removes the lid of the tank, it will cost you an additional $50 to $250. It can vary as well, depending on your tank’s depth.

How Long Do Septic Systems Last?

The septic system’s life span varies from 15 to 40 years. It is because various factors affect the septic tank lifespan, including its materials and components and whether they have been damaged due to any reason such as vehicle traffic, clogging due to roots, or flooding by groundwater.

How Long Does It Take To Replace A Septic System?

Installing a new septic system might take up to two to five days. However, it also depends on factors including soil and weather conditions, the inspector’s schedule, etc.

Can You Live In A House With A Failed Septic System?

A failed septic system can lead to the release of untreated sewage to the areas where it must not enter, and he sewage can come to the ground surface around the tank or the drain field. Also, it can flow back up in the pipes of the house or building.

What Is A Failed Septic System?

A septic system failure can be determined by observing the following things:

  • Draining problems of the toilet.
  • Sewer gas around the area of drainage.
  • Growth of lush plant.
  • A poor inspection of the septic tank.
  • Dangerous well water.

Is The Home Seller Or Buyer Obligated To Get An Inspection?

Typically, when people buy a house, they arrange a home inspection. However, some sellers prefer to get their house inspected before they list it for sale. It is done to find out whether there are any issues in the house that might push the buyers to reject the deal. During a pre-listing inspection, if a homeowner finds problems, he might be able to fix them in time and win a good deal.

Is It Hard To Sell A House With A Septic Tank?

It is not as hard as people think. You just have to keep your septic system in good working condition and perform regular inspections on it so that you will know issues while you have time to fix them. Otherwise, if you have avoided your septic system issues and have listed your house for sale, the buyers will find out about them when they get the house inspected, and this can cause problems for you, such as you might lose a good buyer.

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