Buying A Home With A Septic Tank: 6 Important Things For First-Timers To Know

Buying a new home is complicated enough, but if you've never dealt with a septic system, it can be even more confusing. Especially if you've lived in urban areas with public water and waste facilities, you may even be a skeptic of septics. Don't let it keep you from the home of your dreams, though, because a little knowledge goes a long way as a homeowner, and septic systems, when taken care of, shouldn't be a problem.

1. The Septic System May Require A Separate Inspection

Depending on your local laws, any home you're thinking of buying may need a separate inspection just for the septic system. Since no lender wants you to borrow money for a home that could require a lot of money in repairs and no town will tolerate septic system short-cuts, someone will have to check it out in depth. Ask your realtor about the specific regulations applicable to your area.

2. The Way They Work Is Fairly Simple

Septic systems are not complicated, but each element of operation is essential to proper function. You should be aware of how they work so you have a better understanding of what can possibly go wrong and what symptoms of problems might be.

An underground tank sits below your home, connected by pipes to the outgoing flow of wastewater. Within this tank, solids will sink to the bottom, eventually needing removal by a professional, and the liquid will seep out (via underground channels) into a designated area, called the drainfield. So when a toilet is flushed or a sink drains inside your new home, both solids and liquids will hit the tank and then be separated accordingly.

3. Your Potable Water Is In No Way At Risk

There being a drainfield in your yard doesn't mean your family's potable water is at risk of contamination. The water well should be a certain distance from the field, and you can have that checked during the inspection.

4. As A Homeowner, Septic System Care And Monitoring Are Essential

While you don't have to really get your hands dirty as a homeowner, septic systems do require consistent care and observation. Be careful what anyone flushes or rinses down the drains to avoid clogs, and don't apply any DIY septic cleaner that isn't approved by a professional plumber. Harsh chemicals can threaten the helpful bacteria that live in the system (and actually consume the sludgy waste).

Watch your system for the signs of stress or strain that may indicate you have a serious, up-and-coming problem:

  • Clogged toilets and/or slow drains.
  • A growing stench in the yard, especially around the drainfield area.
  • Water pooling above the septic system.
  • Tree roots creeping too close to the tank.
  • Any unusual activity with your plumbing.

5. A Septic Tank Cleaning Service Should Be Hired

Your tank will require cleaning at regular intervals which will depend on the size of your field and tank and the water usage of your household. Most likely, for preventative maintenance, a service such as John Manning Plumbing should come clean the tank every couple of years; however, if you notice anything out of the ordinary or indications of a problem, contact a plumber long before scheduled maintenance. They'll inspect, diagnose, and solve your issue so it doesn't evolve into something major.

6. Your Grass May Be Greener!

The old saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," may not actually apply to you when you have a septic system. That's because liquid waste from the tank seeps out into the ground, fertilizing the area, albeit from a buried location. For some, this may mean having a richer, lusher lawn. Be on the lookout, though, for the grass immediately above the septic bed appearing too much greener and fuller than the rest of your yard, as this could indicate you have a leak brewing.