Homes in rural areas without centralized sewer systems rely on septic systems to treat wastewater from bathrooms, the kitchen and the laundry facilities. Typically, a septic system consists of a septic tank and a drainfield, located underground and out of sight. A septic system should be inspected every year, as well as when a home is put on the market. Annual inspections will ensure that the system functions properly, prolonging its lifespan and preventing serious health hazards posed by the waste it processes. Regular maintenance can prevent more costly issues, such as cleaning up a contaminated yard or a backed-up plumbing system. Inspecting the septic system will cost less than replacing or repairing it, and protects the value of the home.
The septic tank is both a home’s most expensive feature and its most dangerous. In many areas, septic tank inspection is outside the scope of general home inspection and requires specific training. Only a licensed professional, such as A&T Burrow Septic Tank and Sewer Service in Hayden, Alabama, should inspect and enter a tank. If the tank requires pumping, only a professional septic tank pumping service should remove solid waste.
What inspectors look for
Septic tank inspectors check for a variety of potential problems, including:
The sludge level in the tank, which should not account for more than one-third of the tank’s total volume.
The distance of the tank and drainfield from wells and streams.
The size of the tank, which must be large enough for the home; for instance, a four-bedroom home requires at least a 1,200 gallon tank.
Any liquid waste that has leaked into the ground surface, an unsanitary condition that indicates an overloaded system.
The amount of wastewater flowing through drainlines into the drainfield.
Preparing for the inspection
Homeowners should locate and dig to uncover the buried septic tank covers, pump chamber covers, etc., before the inspectors arrive. Some inspectors may include digging up the covers in the cost of the inspection, while others charge extra for making them accessible. Confirm the requirements and costs with your inspector beforehand.
Expect the inspection to take 2-2.5 hours. The inspector should coordinate with the septic pumper if necessary at no additional cost.
Depending on the home’s location, most septic system inspections cost $100 to $250 — a negligible amount compared with the cost of replacing a drainfield for $2,500 to $10,000. If the inspector uncovers the tank, that can cost an additional $50 to $250, varying based on the depth of the tank.