Are you thinking about purchasing a home that has a septic tank? Do you worry that caring for the whole system can be a chore and that you're better off looking for a home hooked up to a city sewer system? If you've never had to deal with a septic tank before, it's not unusual to feel apprehensive regarding the situation. But in spite of whatever fears you may have, most of the time a septic tank doesn't substantially differ from a city sewer system. In order to ensure that the system is healthy, there are a few questions that you should ask of the sellers before buying the place. These include:
1. How long has it been since the tank was pumped out? The purpose of a septic tank is to collect the sewage solids while allowing the liquid to flow into the ground nearby. This is not "dirty" or "unsanitary" as long as the whole septic system is properly maintained. Part of this maintenance is having the tank pumped out approximately every three to five years. This will depend on the size of the tank itself and how much use it gets on average. If it's been more than a year or two since the last pumping occurred, you may want to consider stipulating that the seller has it pumped out before you take ownership so that you won't have to deal with that right away.
2. What company usually performs the pumping? In some areas, a particular house may only be serviced by one company. In other areas, there may be multiple companies available, but one has a better rate or better service than the others. You may ultimately decide to use a different service, if available, but having someone to contact just in case will be helpful in the event of something going wrong with your septic system.
3. When was the tank installed? Generally speaking, a septic tank should last three or four decades, if not longer. However, this can also be impacted by various environmental factors. This is why it's important to not only have your tank pumped out but to have your septic system inspected in the process. This helps to ensure that the whole system is functioning properly and that your septic tank has no cracks or leaks in it that could cause soil contamination issues. While sewage liquids can quickly be made safe by percolating through the soil, as is standard practice with this type of system, sewage solids take much longer to be made safe and can contaminate an area for years if not properly handled. This is why the solids are pumped out of the tank regularly and are taken elsewhere for processing.