Homebuyer’s Guide to Septic Tanks & Septic System Inspections

It is important to understand the difference between a city sewer system and a septic system. When a home is connected to “city-sewer” you really only need to remember to pay your utility bill and make sure your connection to the sewer system is maintained properly. When a home has a septic system there are several other items to consider. Here are some important guidelines when purchasing a home with a septic system.

Is there an Improvement Permit or Septic Permit for the Property?

Depending on the record keeping of the local health department, some permits may be easier to locate than others. If you are able to find the permit that will give you most of the information you need to understand about the construction and location of the system. Once you have this information, you should ask your agent to schedule a septic inspection (more on that later). If you are unable to locate a permit, don’t worry, you can still schedule a septic inspection to answer the questions needed about the system.

There are several licensed septic inspection companies in the High Country. During the inspection technicians will locate the septic tank, uncover the lid, assess the level of fluids and locate the drain field. Once they have completed those tasks, they will pump the tank.

What are Septic Systems?

The Septic Tank

The septic tank itself is the holding tank for all of the liquids and solids that leave your home. The septic tank gets everything from the showers, bathtubs, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and of course the toilets. It is important for the tank to be operating at the correct level. The technician will be able to asses the level by inserting a camera inside the tank. The camera will reveal if the system’s ability to intake solids, break them down over time, and then dispense them in fluid form into the drain field.

The Drain Field

The drain field is a series of lines or ditches that allow the liquid (effluent) from the tank to naturally and safely percolate throughout the soil. There is a specific design and formula used to create the field and it depends on the number of bedrooms in the home (usage), the soil quality, proximity to water sources and to permanent structures. Once the technician has done all of those tasks, they pump the entire tank and examine the condition of the tank itself. During this time, the technician can appropriately asses if the tank is in good working condition. Then the tank is cleaned and refilled with water to the correct operating level. The customer will receive a written report with all of the information needed to understand the system. Our firm encourages all buyers to conduct a septic inspection if the property is not connected to “city-sewer.”

Overwhelmed by the ins and outs of the home buying process? 828 Real Estate is here to help. Contact us for more information on home inspections in the High Country of North Carolina.

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