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Buying a Home with a Septic System – Things to Consider

When buying a home, you’ll have a long list of things to consider before signing along the dotted line. You’ll need a house that’s big enough, is in a good neighborhood and doesn’t have any structural issues.

If you’re considering purchasing a home with a septic system, there are a number of additional things you’ll need to consider. If the house has municipal water and sewage, you won’t have to worry about a septic system.

If the home you’re considering buying is in a rural area, there’s a good chance it will have a septic system, and it’s a good idea to have it inspected by a professional plumber.

Why You Need to Inspect the Septic System
Without a properly-working septic system, waste water can back up in the area around the septic tank and into the home, creating unpleasant odors and unhealthy conditions for your family.

The typical septic system is made up of four main components:

  • The main waste line: A drain line leading from the home to the septic tank
  • The septic tank: A buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, steel, fiberglass or polyethylene that holds wastewater and facilitates decomposition of solid materials
  • The effluent distribution pipe: An underground pipe that directs the flow of treated wastewater, known as “effluent” from the septic tank to the leaching system.
  • Leach field / Drain field: Perforated underground pipes surrounded by rock or septic gravel that allow the effluent to leach into the surrounding soil where it is absorbed and evaporates.  The soil in the leach field provides the final step in the treatment of wastewater by removing viruses, nutrients, and bacteria from the effluent. Fine-grained, sandy soil is ideal.  Soil that has a high clay content or is too compacted can create problems.

What’s Included in a Septic System Inspection?

A thorough visual inspection of the septic system requires that the tank be pumped out.  The interior and baffles of the dry tank are then inspected for leaks and obstructions.

It’s also important to know the age of the system, and type of material the septic tank is made of.  The actual life expectancy of a given septic tank depends on a number of factors, including its level of use and how well it is maintained.  In general, however, concrete, fiberglass and plastic septic tanks last for 40 years or more before needing to be replaced.  Steel septic tanks are prone to rust which significantly reduces their longevity.  A steel septic tank of between 15 to 20 years old has likely rusted to the point that it should be replaced.

For more helpful information, check out:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brochures and Fact Sheets about Septic Systems for Homeowners

The Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Guide to Buying or Selling Property with a Septic System.

Need more information?  Contact Evergreen Plumbing at (401) 256-5688 to learn about our plumbing services in Rhode Island.