Some septic problems are extremely obvious. For example, if you're thinking of buying a home with a septic tank and you notice that the septic leach field is all squelchy and giving off bad smells, you'll probably hear alarm bells going off in your head. But other septic problems may need more finesse and expertise to diagnose.
If the seller tells you the septic works fine, that doesn't mean it will keep on working fine after you've bought the house. Before you buy is the time to find out if there are any pre-existing problems with a home purchase so you can negotiate for who will fix them. To do that, you need a septic inspection, not just a general home inspection. Here are four septic problems you might miss if you skip the inspection.
1. Tree Roots in Pipes
Tree roots can literally destroy water pipes, including those in a septic system. That's why all trees should be planted at least as far away from the system as the tree's mature height (and some should be kept even further away).
The issue for your situation is that when roots do get into the pipes, the seller may not even know that it's happened and that there's a metaphorical ticking time bomb in the system.
And just because the seller has never had any problems with roots doesn't mean there are no problems now. If the seller has planted any trees in the past few years (or there's been a drought, making existing trees seek water farther afield), new roots may have recently gotten into the system.
2. A Tank Full of Sludge
You'd think it would be hard for the general home inspector to miss a tank that hasn't been pumped out in decades. But there are two reasons why the inspector might miss this. First, some home inspectors don't even access the septic tank to check the sludge level. This is especially the case if the tank can't be accessed without digging.
Second, a tank may haven’t been pumped for decades but then did get pumped as soon as the house went on the market. In this case, a cursory check will seem to reveal that the tank looks okay; yet upon further investigation, the damage from years of neglect (such as blocked leach field pipes, which may need replacing) might already be done.
3. A Tank That's Taking On Water
Like ships, septic tanks should never take on water or they will basically sink. Since a septic tank is buried underground, a crack in the side can allow water to actually get in from the surrounding ground. Because a septic system can only handle a certain amount of water, this can be very bad news.
A leak that lets water into the tank can fill up your septic system with extra water, greatly diminishing its ability to process your wastewater.
4. A Compressed Leach Field
Because you didn't see the leach field's original level, you can't really tell just by looking what condition it's in now compared to when it was new. The previous owners could have used the ground above a septic system as though it were normal ground, which can easily cause the soil to compact and cause problems.
For example, a leach field can become compacted and problematic from the following:
- Parking cars, trailers, RVs, or other vehicles in the area
- Placing a picnic table, swingset, or other heavy object on the soil
- Allowing too much foot traffic (including for maintenance work, such as mowing)
- Allowing large animals, such as cows, to graze in the area
The reason this is such a big deal is because the entire septic system hinges on being able to disperse the treated water at the end of the treatment process. The leach field is the last step in the treatment process, so that's where all your wastewater has to drain (or evaporate) away. The more compacted the soil is, the less wastewater it can handle.These four problems can be easy to miss even if you have a general home inspection, so let AERO Plumbing help out. Call us today to schedule a septic system inspection, and remember, we're always available for emergency repairs 24 hours a day