Buying a house with a septic tank that needs to be pumped? Plug your nose. Things are about to get stinky in here. It is important, however, to understand what a septic system is and how it works, especially if you are about to buy a house with one.
What Is a Septic System?
A septic system is a private wastewater treatment system for rural homes that do not have access to the municipal wastewater treatment system. Both gray and blackwater are carried to the home's underground septic tank where the liquids are separated from the solids and filtered out into a leach field, sometimes called a septic drain field, before being returned to the groundwater. Solids must be manually removed from the septic tank.
Is a Septic System Included in the Home Inspection?
While home inspections are typically very thorough, they do not include more than a cursory observation of the septic system and a note in the report as to where the leach field is located. If you are considering purchasing a home with a septic system, it is a good idea to have a separate septic inspection by a licensed professional.
What if the House Needs Septic Pumping or Repairs?
Like any inspection, you have the right to request repairs, reduce your offer, or simply walk away from the transaction after you receive the results. If the inspection reveals that the septic tank has not been pumped in several years, you can request that the sellers pay to have it pumped.
Likewise, if repairs are necessary to the tank itself or to the leach field, you can request that those be made before closing as well. If the current weather prevents repairs, your real estate agent may suggest moving forward with the sale but requiring the sellers to put money into an escrow account to pay for repairs when the weather is more favorable.
How Should a Septic System Be Maintained Going Forward?
Septic tanks need to be inspected by a professional every two years. Depending on the number of people in your family and the usage of the system, you may or may not need the tank pumped at that point in time. In addition to regular pumping, make sure you do not flush any non-biodegradable items that will clog your tank, like cigarette butts, cleaning wipes, or feminine hygiene products.
While a septic system may be unfamiliar to you, it operates much like a municipal wastewater system, just on a smaller scale. Regular septic tank pumping will keep it operating seamlessly for years to come.