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  • T.J. Petito

Ask These Questions Before You Buy a Home

When you purchase a home, you purchase any problems associated with the home and a septic system often gets overlooked because of lack of knowledge from the buyer or seller. Septic systems need to be maintained and kept up with and, if not, can lead to very costly repairs. But you can worry less if you ask the following questions and take action to make sure you are not inheriting someone else's mess:

Where is the septic tank and drainfield located?

This is a simple question that often the current homeowner does not know the answer to. It's an important question to ask though to make sure that the septic tank and drainfield are clear from any structures that may have been built near or on it. Believe it or not, this happens a lot! Out of sight, out of mind means homeowners don't take the proper precautions before they make additions to their home or backyard. One of the easiest way to find out where the septic system is located is to contact the Environmental Health Department in the county the home is located to obtain the permits and drawings. This will give you a rough estimate of where it is located and any other septic installations that have been done on the property. If you want find an exact location of the septic tank and drainfield, your local septic company can provide that service.

When is the last time the septic tank has been pumped?

This is the most basic of septic maintenance to be done on a routine basis. If the homeowners can't remember, then it's probably been neglected for a number of years. The average septic tank should be pumped every 3 to 5 years and if it's not then solids can build up causing exponential damage to the system. Before you buy, make sure the septic tank is pumped and inspected to ensure proper functionality.

Has the septic system been maintained properly?

Besides a septic tank pumping, there are a number of other elements to be proactive on so your septic system can last as long as possible. If the homeowner has been flushing anything other than toilet paper or pouring grease down the drain, this can speed up the potential failure of the system. Also, filter cleanings, drainfield inspections, and remediation services should be performed routinely to catch any unwanted soil absorption abnormalities before they turn into a full blown septic failure.

How much longer will the septic system last?

This is the most important question to ask before you purchase a new home! You should ALWAYS have the septic system inspected and evaluated by a certified technician to avoid costly repairs. A drainfield can last from 15 to 40 years depending on whether the system was properly maintained and how well the soil is absorbing the effluent coming out of the septic tank. You can't know for certain how much longer the one you are buying will last but you can know if that will be a shorter or longer amount of time. A lot of septic companies will come out to give a visual inspection on the surface and call that a "septic inspection", but to catch potential problems, you must be more diligent than that. Make sure you have a septic inspection performed where the septic tank is uncovered and inspected, the lines to and from the tank are inspected, and the drainfield is properly evaluated for future life expectancy.

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