How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

It’s important to know for sure where everything goes when you flush the toilet in a house you are considering buying. The realtor or seller will usually provide you with a clear answer but, if their description is a little hazy or the home is a foreclosure and only limited information is available, here’s a few tips on how to figure it out yourself:

•• When the water is supplied from a well, you definitely have a septic system. Older rural houses may have a cesspit, which is essentially a septic tank that leaches directly into the ground without a drainfield. They have not been approved for new homes for many years. 

 •• Get a recent utility bill to see if there is a charge for wastewater treatment. If not, then you have a septic system. However the wastewater billing does not automatically mean the house is connected to a sewer. When the city runs a sanitary sewer system through a neighborhood, everyone gets charged for it. Most districts require all houses to be connected to the system at completion, but some jurisdictions grant a reprieve for stubborn homeowners to keep their old septic system, although still charging them for the infrastructure. A call to customer service at the utility will clarify it.

•• Contact your local building department or health department. There is usually a record of the permits necessary to either install a septic system or connect to a sewer system. A site plan or diagram if often in the file, locating the tank and drainfield of a septic system in relation to the house. 

•• If you know the house has a septic system but have no information on its location, we suggest calling a septic tank contractor for an inspection. They will locate the tank and drainfield, pump out the tank, examine the empty tank for defects, and provide you with a brief report on their findings. This service costs between $300 and $400 in our area. 

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

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 and PLUMBING pages 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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