How To Look At A House

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Where is the septic tank? Are you going to inspect it?

Friday, October 19, 2018

“The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank” was the title of a book of humorous stories about suburban life in the 1970s by Erma Bombeck, a popular newspaper columnist of that era. What Erma didn’t realize is that, if there’s a bright green patch over the septic tank, then it’s not functioning properly. A good septic system should not be that easy to find.

   The septic tank is usually located using a T-shaped steel probe bar. It’s held at the top of the “T” and pushed into the ground, starting where the main drain pipe exits the house, and followed out by tapping down to the top of the drain pipe, until the tank reached, and the outline of it determined with the probe, then dug up to open.

   We don’t do that. The State of Florida requires that septic tank inspection can only be done only by a licensed septic tank contractor or plumber. Plus, the septic tank must be pumped-out as part of the inspection. It’s a little like a colonoscopy: you have to clean it out in order to examine it. And that requires a heavy-duty tank pump-truck like the one pictured above.

   It’s always a sensible part of “due diligence” in buying a home to consider getting a septic tank inspection. When the house is only a couple of years old or the seller can provide proof of a recent inspection, you may opt to avoid the expense--typically $275 to $400.

    But here are a few situations in which getting a septic system inspection becomes more of a priority:

  1. If the home has been vacant for an extended period of time. 
  2. If the septic system is 30-years or older.
  3. If there are trees close to the tank or drainfield.
  4. And, yes, if Erma’s bright green patch of lawn defines the location of the septic system (a slightly greener area over the drainfield is normal).

   The report is usually a single page, reporting the size of tank, condition of system components, and if everything is functional. Most of the cost is for the pump-out.

   A septic system is a marvel of low-tech engineering, with no power source and no moving parts. It requires only healthy microbes and reasonably permeable soil to do its work; and the standard advice is that a tank needs to pumped only about every 5-years or so. 

   To learn more about your septic system, how it works and the best way to maintain it, we suggest reading this article by the University of Florida, IFAS Extension Service:

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •  

  To learn more about SEPTIC TANK SYSTEMS, see these other blog posts:

Should I buy a house with a septic tank?

What are the building code requirements for gray water reuse in Florida?

What can I add to my septic tank to help it work better? 

Why do septic tank contractors want you to get rid of your kitchen disposal?

How can I tell if a house is connected to a septic tank system or sewer?

How can I locate my septic tank?

Does a septic tank have to be re-certified if a house has been vacant for a while?

What is a grinder pump? 

How often should I pump out the septic tank?

Should I call a plumber or septic tank contractor when my septic tank backs up into the house? 

Do I have to get a larger septic tank when I build a home addition?

• Where is the septic tank? Are you going to inspect it? 

• Can a house have more than one septic tank?

• What is the difference between gray water and black water in the plumbing code? 

• Is it alright to disconnect the washing machine drain from the septic tank and divert it to the ground in the yard?

    Visit our SEPTIC TANK SYSTEMS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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