When a septic system is working properly, you should hardly even know it’s there.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a septic inspection done regularly, it will soon become unmistakable that your system is no longer functioning correctly.
So, whether you already own a home that runs on a septic tank or you’re thinking of buying one, it’s important that you understand what septic inspections entail.
What Is a Septic System?
Let’s start with the basics to make sure we’re all on the same page.
A septic system is simply designed to remove waste from a home. This includes any waste that comes from toilets, showers, sinks, and washing machines. When that water has served its purpose, it flows through pipes and into a septic tank. That tank, in turn, filters the wastewater before redistributing the sterilized result into the soil.
Aside from removing the wastewater from your home, a septic system also serves to prevent the contamination of local soil and nearby waterways.
According to the EPA, 20% of U.S. homes run on septic systems. So, while its operation may seem simple, it’s also proven to be incredibly effective.
How Septic Inspections Are Done
That said, if you’re a homeowner with a septic tank, you’ll still need professional inspections done from time-to-time.
The same goes for anyone who’s considering buying a home that runs on a septic system. We’ll go into details about the cost in a minute, but sufficed to say, you’ll need to budget for ongoing septic inspections when considering the long-term costs of a house.
Visual inspections are usually only done as part of an overall house inspection when the home is up for sale.
Among other things, the inspector may ask the current owner a few questions (e.g. about the age of the house, how old the tank is, when the last inspection was done, etc.). They’ll also check the home’s water pressure and drainage by flushing all the toilets and running water from all the taps. Finally, they’ll check the drain field for standing water to make sure there aren’t signs of a cesspool.
While a visual inspection of a septic tank is helpful, most real estate experts would recommend you have a full inspection done before actually buying a house.
Full inspections are also the kinds homeowners require. You simply can’t rely on a visual inspection to be certain major septic problems aren’t on the horizon.
A full inspection entails everything we just covered, but the inspector will also examine the actual tank itself. They’ll remove its cover to check the tank’s water level, which is the only way to know for certain if there are drainage issues.
Similarly, they’ll run water in the house and then watch to make sure that it’s properly flowing into the septic tank. If they see that the water level rises when they do this, they’ll know there’s a problem.
They may even add dye to the water in the house, so they see just how much of it ends up in the septic tank.
To finish the septic inspection, they’ll check the absorption area for backflow by running the pump. Backflow would indicate that there is an issue with the drain field. If that checks out, they’ll check the flow level one last time for any blockages and to be certain it’s still running correctly.
How Often Do You Need a Septic Inspection Done?
Visual inspections should only ever be done when you’re interested in buying a house. It’s a good preliminary step before paying for the real thing.
As far as a full inspection of your septic tank goes, you should aim for every three to five years. If you have a larger household that uses more water on a regular basis, it’s probably best that you don’t wait five years. Likewise, you should count on a three-year schedule if you simply have a smaller tank.
If you just moved into a house with a septic tank, the inspector you used before closing should’ve told you how often you’d need the full assessment done. Otherwise, have one done and ask that inspector when you should schedule another.
Always keep records of your septic inspection, too. For one thing, this will tell you when you need your next appointment. It will also help you track any ongoing maintenance problems in case you have to start saving for a new tank in the future.
How Much Does a Septic Inspection Cost?
Fortunately, the cost of a full septic inspection should only be about $350, though it depends on where you live.
In any case, paying this negligible amount every three years or so is necessary to ensure that your septic tank isn’t malfunctioning, which could lead to a number of problems. The worst-case scenario would be the septic tank backing up so that contaminated water comes to the surface of your yard. It could even flow back into your home.
Far too many homeowners wait until this type of problem emerges before finally calling a professional to take a look at their septic tank.
Unfortunately, by then, it’s often too late.
Instead of spending around $350 for a preemptive review, it could end up costing them anywhere between $3,000 and $9,500 to completely replace their septic tank. Worse, if damage has already been done to their yard or home, the costs could be significantly more.
Should You Buy a Home with a Septic Tank?
Ultimately, it’s a personal preference, but you should make sure to check your state’s rules first, so you’re 100% clear on whether or not a septic system inspection is required before the title can be legally transferred.
The same goes for your lender, which could require one even if your state doesn’t.
This is why it’s best to work with an experienced real estate agent who will understand all the ins-and-outs of septic inspections in your state.
At SimpleShowing, we’d love to introduce you to one.
Even better, if you use our platform to connect with one, you’ll automatically qualify for our Buyer Refund Program, which means you could receive up to $15,000 upon closing.
Contact us today and we’ll tell you all about it.