Common Septic Questions from Home Buyers
1) How Do Septic Systems Work?
Septic systems use naturally occurring processes and gravity to treat the waste that enters your system.
Once in the septic tank, the waste and wastewater are feasted on by bacteria. The bacteria help break down the waste particles to remove some solids. From there, the solids sink to form a sludge layer at the bottom of the tank while the wastewater is pushed into the drain field.
In the drainfield (or leach field), the wastewater is released into the surrounding soil for its last treatment. Any remaining particulates or contaminants are filtered out as they sink through the surrounding soil into the groundwater table.
As the sludge layer grows in your tank, you will eventually need to remove the layer during a scheduled pump-out (every 3-4 years).
2) How Much Does it Cost to Maintain?
When it comes to septic systems, a maintained and well-taken care of system can mostly be ignored. For that reason, it’s up to you to keep costs low.
You can expect maintenance costs associated with the scheduled pump-out (costs vary depending on tank size and access) and average wear-and-tear replacement items (like effluent filter replacements).
By following the Do Not Flush Rules and taking care of your system, you can keep the costs down.
3) Do I Have to Change Any Habits?
Septic systems have a set of unique requirements when it comes to usage.
While sewer systems can handle an influx of various items, septic systems are more delicate. It’s important not to overuse anything that could kill the bacteria (like chlorine bleach or Drano) — you should only flush waste and toilet paper. You want to manage your water usage not to overload the system. Lawn care and landscaping also have certain restrictions (like trees with strong roots and heavy lawn decorations).
It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your home or yard with a septic system; it requires a bit of recognition and adjustment.
Questions Home Buyers Should Ask About Septic Systems
Before purchasing a home with a septic system, you’ll want to schedule a septic inspection. This will give you an intimate look at the health of the system and its size and layout. During this inspection, there are a few questions you’ll want to make sure you get answered.
1) How Old is the System?
Septic systems can last up to 20-30 years, depending on maintenance and care. When it’s ready for replacement, that can be a hefty cost to cover right after purchasing a home.
Find out how old the system is and how many years you have left. If it already needs replacement, you could potentially negotiate that into the purchase of the home.
2) Where is the Septic Located?
You’re going to want to know where your septic system is located. This shortens the time (and cost) of septic repairs and maintenance appointments, and it helps you plan your landscaping.
It’s suggested to avoid recreating and planting on top of near your septic tank and drain field.
3) Is the Septic Tank Correctly Sized for the Household Size?
Septic tanks sizes are determined by household size — and that’s not just the size of your home. The number of bathrooms and the number of people living in the house determines how large your septic tank will need to be.
Make sure the septic tank is appropriately sized for your household — and that it was correctly sized for the previous owners. An overworked system will not last as long and can shorten the life of your septic system.
4) Does the Yard have Drainage Issues?
Your drain field needs the surrounding soil to perform the last filtration process. The released wastewater won’t be appropriately treated if that soil is oversaturated.
Ensure the property has proper drainage set up so that the rainwater runoff is away from the septic system.
5) What is Covered by the Homeowner’s Insurance?
Don’t blindly assume you know what septic costs will be covered by your insurance company. Many companies don’t cover common repairs or maintenance unless caused by an outside force.
When you have the bill in hand is the wrong time to learn that information.
Purchasing a Florida Home with a Septic System
Don’t let a septic system deter you from purchasing your dream home. Knowing the answers to common septic questions from home buyers can help take the mystery out of septic. Knowing what to expect is half the battle!