What is a Septic System, and do I need an inspection?

If you live in a rural area, chances are you have a septic system. For those of you who are not familiar with septic systems, here is some background information. It is basically an underground container (round or rectangular) made of fiberglass, plastic, or concrete.  It takes water and waste from the washer, sinks, showers, and toilets and filters it. The system then redistributes it into the ground. The entire process helps to decrease water and soil pollution. 

You can make sure your septic system lasts longer by making sure to never flush tampons, paper towels, baby wipes, or any foreign objects that cannot break down easily. Use a garbage disposal if possible and never put grease down your sink. There are even specific laundry detergents that are septic friendly. If a septic tank is not cleaned on a regular basis, toxins and antibacterial substances build up and kill the important bacteria that is meant to break down the waste. This slows down the decomposition process which leads to blockage and overflow. Over a period of time, soil, sludge, excrement and solid waste build up. Eventually the septic system gives up and backs up completely. I don’t know about you but that sounds disgusting & smelly 🙂  

Experts say you should get your septic tank inspected and pumped at least every 3-5 years. The best way to clean your septic system is to hire a professional. It usually costs around $150 to pump the tank. You also want to consider how many people are living in the home. If there are just 2 people living in the home, the system will not be as “worn” as one that has 6 people living in the home. Each septic system will also have its own Septic Permit. Be sure you find out how many rooms the septic system is permitted for and where the drain field is. Your Realtor can research this for you.  An important thing to remember is that you should not build any structure on top of the drain field—so if your goal is to add a pool, patio, gazebo, etc. make sure you verify which area would be appropriate.

If you are thinking about buying a house with a septic system you should do your due diligence and definitely hire a septic inspector. A septic inspection in Wake Forest costs around $375.00–money well spent that can uncover issues which could end up costing thousands of dollars. Our ‘go to’ septic inspector is Dan Piner with NC Septic Inspections. His attention to details and easy to read reports that talk in layman’s terms makes him stand out above the competition. Septic inspections are super important to your health. It is never a good idea to risk your family’s safety and future to save a few hundred dollars–waterborne diseases are serious. Since septic systems are buried in the ground, that makes them out of sight & out of mind. We all know what that means. No one thinks about them until something goes wrong.

Do you want to know what a septic inspection entails? Well here is the deal…the inspector will remove the cover to the septic tank and check the water level. The water level shows whether the water is draining correctly. The inspector will run water in the house to make sure it is flowing properly from the house to the septic tank and to make sure the water level within the tank does not rise when they add more water. The inspector may use a dye test during this part of the inspection. The inspector adds dye into the water that is being drained. This allows them to see how much of it enters the septic tank. Next, the septic tank will get pumped and the inspector will check for any backflow. The backflow level reveals to the inspector if there is a problem with the drain field. The flow level is then checked again to make sure every part of the septic system is in working order and there are no blockages.

Ask the owner of a home the following questions:

  • How old is the house?
  • Is the property occupied or vacant? If occupied, for how long and by how many occupants? If vacant, for how long?
  • How long has the seller owned the property?
  • When was the septic tank last inspected and pumped?
  • Has the homeowner had any back-ups or standing water issues over the septic tank?
  • Has there been any repairs to the septic tank?
  • Can they provide a copy of the septic permit? 
  • Where is the drain field located?

When you are out with your Realtor looking at Wake Forest homes that have a septic system, here are some basic red flags that you should look for:

  • Standing water or damp spots in the yard.
  • Grass is greener over the septic area compared to the other areas of the yard.
  • Foul smell around the septic tank or drain field.
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system (try flushing the toilets and running faucets).

A septic system is not a bad thing and nothing to run away from. Septic systems can last up to 25 years if you keep a regular maintenance schedule. Just remember to do your due diligence before you sign, have your agent negotiate repairs for you, and you don’t forget about taking care of the system.  If you need a new septic system, it will cost you an average of $6,000-$12,000. Depending on the placement of the system and the terrain of the land that the new system is installed in, it can skyrocket up to as much as $25,000!! 

I hope you were able to pick up some new knowledge and tips about septic systems! You can never know too much about the system that makes your life much easier 🙂

Keri Nelson
Client Care Manager

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