What Homebuyers Need to Know About Septic Systems

Posted by Lauren Schneider on Thursday, December 9th, 2021 at 7:55am.

What Homebuyers Need to Know About Septic SystemsBuying a home in rural and some suburban areas mean there is a higher possibility the house comes with a septic system. Owning a home equipped with a septic system requires different maintenance and repairs than it does when living in an area with a municipal water and sewer system. By researching the best practices for owning a home with a septic tank, anyone can enjoy the perks while minimizing the drawbacks. Keep reading to learn all about the pros and cons of buying a house with a septic system.

What is a Septic System?

A septic system is independent of community systems. They are designed to capture wastewater from toilets, sinks, washing machines, and garbage disposals. One of its primary components is a tank typically made of steel, concrete, or fiberglass. The tank's function is to store any solids while liquids exit into an underground drain field, usually filtered with gravel. Over time, solids sink to the bottom of the tank and will need to be periodically pumped out.

Pros of Septic Systems

Many homeowners prefer having a septic system over being a part of a municipal system due to the many benefits. One of the most significant benefits is cost-efficiency since there is no utility bill or taxes associated with sewer costs. Well-maintained, a tank can last forever since it's highly durable.

Other pros include that septic systems are self-maintaining if used correctly and safely. If an issue emerges, the problem is isolated from local events that can negatively impact homeowners. When properly maintained, septic systems are one of the more sustainable building options since homeowners are more personally invested in the consequences of misusing the system.

Cons of Septic Systems

As with anything else in life, septic systems have a few drawbacks. It's essential to track when the tank was last pumped to ensure too much time doesn't pass. Other disadvantages include being responsible for repairs if the system breaks or the drain field develops. If a substantial problem occurs, it could affect groundwater by seeping into a nearby well, contaminating the water.

The age of a home may also be problematic since zoning laws change over time. Older homes zoned for smaller tanks may no longer be sufficient if bedrooms/bathrooms were added or seasonal dwellings were converted to year-round. The problem is, if new zoning laws were enacted, they might prohibit larger tanks from being installed if homes are too close to one another. Be sure to research septic tank care tips to minimize the cons.

Checklist of Things to Know About Septic Systems and Tanks

Buyers should consider having a septic system inspection done before offering a home. If a standard inspection doesn't cover it, it's probably worth the extra money to hire a professional third party to ensure the system is in good shape and draining correctly. Other considerations for buyers include:

  • Asking the seller to see records of previous septic inspections.
  • Learning local laws to ensure the septic is up to code before buying the home and knowing what restrictions should upgrades or expansions be planned.
  • Planning for septic tank inspections and scheduling it to be pumped approximately every three years.
  • Avoiding flushing "extras" down the pipes, such as wipes, hygiene products, hair, dental floss, and other bulky items that can clog up the system.
  • Being conscious of what is run through sinks, garbage disposals, and showers as grease, oil, chemicals, cleaners, and other items can potentially upset the system's balance or interrupt healthy bacteria.
  • Self-inspecting septic fields periodically to look for puddles of water or other flooding problems – this is a warning sign something isn't right, and the longer one waits, the worse a problem can get.
  • Watching out for events such as slow drainage, backflow, or another unusual occurrence inside the home.

Septic Tank Pros Can Outweigh The Cons

A poorly maintained or problematic septic can lead to years of headaches, which can get extremely costly. If appropriately maintained, septic systems can last for decades. Getting a home inspection is also critical because it can reveal common red flags to be aware of. Owning a home with a septic tank can be more affordable and more manageable than citywide alternatives.

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