What Should You Know about Owning or Buying a Home with a Septic Tank?

When someone buys a home, it is either served by public sewer or a septic system.  For properties that are more rural, it is normally a septic system.  We spoke with Shane Broyhill of Broyhill Solutions recently regarding septic systems.  Shane has been in the septic business for over 16 years and recently started his own company.  His company services the Triad and surrounding counties.  They install new septic systems as well as maintaining, pumping and inspecting existing systems.  He reminded us that it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it besides Mike Rowe!  Whether you are a home owner with a septic tank, or looking to buy a home with a septic tank, this post should be very informative for you.  Take it away Shane!

What is a Septic System?

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about septic systems. Hopefully this brief overview will help to clear some of these up and help keep your system working correctly for many years to come.  The full NCSU article can be found at the bottom for further reading.

septic tank

There are a number of different types of septic systems.  The most common is set up with three main parts:

  1. The septic tank
  2. The drainfield
  3. The soil beneath the drainfield.

 

The image below is is your typical septic system in North Carolina and the Piedmont Triad area of NC. YOUR system may not look exactly like this, but chances are that there are major similarities. Everything flows from your house to your tank.

Septic System field

The Septic Tank - (Most of) the Poop 💩 Stops Here 🛑

The image below shows what happens to everything that flows into your tank. Depending on the year your tank was installed, the tank may or may not have one or more of these properties. Upon pumping, you should ask the operator what kind of tank you have and the condition of its components.

septic tank diagram

 

The Septic Drainfield

The water that flows out of the tank is then dispersed into the ground water via a drain field. There are still waste particles in the water when it leaves the tank. There are 1-6 inches directly below the drain field called the biomat that absorb some of the particles. Neglect of maintenance on the tank can cause the biomat to be overloaded, thus hindering its ability to filter wastewater into the ground water. This inability to absorb water will lead to ground surfacing and/or backing up into the tank. Pumping is the best form of maintenance and located below is a table to help you know how often to have your tank pumped.

Septic System Diagram

 

Table 1. Estimated septic tank inspection and pumping frequency (in years).

Septic Tank Size (gallons)           Number of People Using the System

                                                               1           2              4              6             8

900                                                        11           5              2              1           <1

1,000                                                     12           6              3              2             1

1,250                                                     16           8              3              2             1

1,500                                                     19           9              4              3             2

 

This normal maintenance of your septic tank will help to ensure a long, healthy life for your system.

Tips for Maintaining Your Home's Septic Tank

As a homeowner, it is necessary to maintain the components of your home, including the septic system, to protect the value of your home.  A new septic system can range from $3,000 to $30,000, so it's especially important to maintain your current system.  Here is a list of some good tips for your tank, to lower the chance of problems now and when your are ready to sell your home.

  • Do not put too much water into the septic system; typical water use is about 50 gallons per day for each person in the family.  
  • Do not add materials (chemicals, sanitary napkins, applicators, and so on) other than domestic wastewater.  
  • Restrict the use of your garbage disposal.  
  • Do not pour grease or cooking oils down the sink drain. 
  • Make a diagram showing the location of your tank, drain field, and repair area.  
  • Install a watertight riser over the septic tank to simplify access. 
  • Have the effluent filter in the septic tank cleaned periodically by a professional.  
  • Have the solids pumped out of the septic tank periodically.  
  • Maintain adequate vegetative cover over the drain field. 
  • Keep surface waters away from the tank and drain field.  
  • Keep automobiles and heavy equipment off the system.   
  • Do not plan any building additions, pools, driveways, or other construction work near the septic system or the repair area.

 

People often ask what they can put into their tank to help, but often it’s what you keep out that can provide the most help.

What to Know When Buying a Home with a Septic Tank

When buying a home with a septic system, there are several things you should find out about.  You should ask the homeowner, or their agent, what they know about the septic system.  Some things you should try to find out include:

  • How old is the septic system?
  • What type of septic system is installed?
  • What is the service or repair history of the septic system?
  • When was the septic system last pumped?
  • Are there any drawings of the septic system?
  • What is the past performance of the septic system?
  • Are there any service records?

You should also find out the location and make a visual inspection. This is an essential step.  You should especially look for wet areas, check the smell, rocky areas, areas of recent excavation.  Once you know the location of the septic system, be sure to note distance to nearby streams, private wells, ponds, buildings, property lines, and rocky areas, and areas of trees and shrubbery.  [Warning: be very alert for any evidence of sink holes or subsidence. Do not walk over anything suspicious; you could step into a collapsing system.

Lastly, you should consider any tests and/or inspection by an expert.  A typical home inspection does not include a septic inspection.  That should be done by a Septic expert like Broyhill Solutions.  More details about buying a home with a septic inspection are at the link below.

What to Ask When Buying a Home with a Septic Tank 

 

I hope this article has proven useful and informative.  Now go call your local pumper!

 

- Shane Broyhill, Broyhill Solutions

Email: shanebroyhill@gmail.com

Cell: (828)308-6007

NCOWCICB License #61631

https://www.facebook.com/broyhillsolutions

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/septic-systems-and-their-maintenance

Publication date: June 1, 2016

AG-439-13