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8 Things to Consider When Buying a Home with a Septic Tank

  • Ryan Tollefsen
  • June 20th, 2019

8 Key Considerations When Buying a Home with a Septic SystemWhen home buyers start looking for a suitable property, they will come across many homes with septic tanks. These properties do not connect to the sewer, so they have standalone waste processing systems in charge of that task. As septic tank care and usage requirements differ greatly from sewer systems, homebuyers must educate themselves on what to expect before buying this type of property. They can get started in learning all about these systems with this helpful guide on seven things to consider about properties with septic tanks.

Age of the Septic System

When looking at properties with septic systems, homeowners must ask about the age of the septic tank and its related systems. The average septic system only lasts up to 30 years before requiring replacement. Some can last as little as 15 years, especially if it was used improperly or did not receive regular maintenance. If homeowners purchase a property with an aging septic system, they could have many repair and replacement costs in their near future.

Distance from the Well

If the property has a well, homeowners must verify the septic tank is far enough away to prevent serious repercussions. To prevent cross-contamination and ensure the property passes inspection, the well must be at least 50 feet away from the septic tank and drain field. If these two systems are too close together, the household could suffer ill effects from microbial contamination.

Proximity of Tall Trees to Septic System

Trees can cause problems as their roots grow through the drain field and around the septic tank. Generally, if the trees are closer to the septic components than they are tall, their roots can wreak havoc on the nearby components. If the property has twenty foot tall trees, for example, they should be located at least 20 feet away from the septic tank. If not, then homeowners might be wise to pass on the property.

Quality of the Current Setup

The quality of the septic tank, drain field and other components all play a role in how well the system functions. Parts quality also influences overall durability of the system and its overall repair needs. Unfortunately, unless the previous homeowner kept and shared detailed records of the install, it is impossible to tell the quality of the system without testing. Thankfully, homebuyers can work with a septic system inspector to check the quality and function of the tank before making a purchase.

Tests to Check System Function

Although it is not required, homebuyers can elect to have a septic inspection and dye test performed before buying a property. They will need to hire an expert to perform this important task. The septic professional will flush a special dye through the system to check that the waste flows through the pipes, tank and drain field properly. If the system has any leaks, the dye will reveal the exact location of the problem.

Past Service Schedule

Before buying a property, homebuyers need to consider how well the past homeowners cared for the septic system. They can inquire about past service records to verify the septic system has received the maintenance it needs to remain in good condition. They should look to see if the previous homeowners had a professional pump out their septic tank at least once every five years. It is also important to verify the system has received all annual inspections since its initial installation.

Current Maintenance Needs

While reviewing the past septic maintenance records, homebuyers should verify the current maintenance needs of the system. If the septic system is past due for any maintenance, they can ask the current homeowners to complete the tasks before closing. Anything that does not get addressed before closing will end up the responsibility of the new homeowners.

Proper Use of a Septic System

Homebuyers must be prepared to use their septic system properly to keep it in good condition for years to come. Septic systems cannot handle the same things that sewer-connected systems can. Septic systems are not always well suited for garbage disposals, for example, as excess food waste can offset the balance of bacteria in the tank.

Other things that should never enter the septic system include:

  • Grease
  • Coffee grounds
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Dental floss
  • Chemical toilet cleaner
  • Antibacterial soap

West Terrace homeowners even have to make sure they purchase brands of toilet paper safe for use in septic systems.

By taking these items into consideration, homebuyers can decide if they are ready to purchase a home with a septic system. They can then move forward with buying their new home, confident in their purchase decision.


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