Septic Tank Inspections

Will a paid home inspector check out the septic tank of the house I am considering buying?

Septic Tank Inspections for Home Buyers

There are a number of reasons why the standard home inspection does not include a detailed inspection of septic systems. The article below gives insight into some of the problems a home inspector would run into if he or she attempted to inspect septic systems. 

Only a specialist can thoroughly examine a septic tank system for tank integrity and leach field functionality

Often homebuyers, clients of home inspectors, wonder why a standard home inspection does not include a full inspection of the septic system. As a realtor, who has studied this issue, I can answer that question for you. The truth is that the home inspector is not equipped to do a septic inspection. This job needs to be done by specialists with equipment designed for working on septic systems.

Why can’t the home inspector provide an opinion on the septic tank?

Below I have listed a few of the problems that take the septic inspection out of the realm of the standard home inspection. 

  • First, the tank is usually buried in the earth, so no view of the system is available. The specialists who pump septic tanks require specific training and are equipped to inspect the tank once it is EMPTY. Obviously, they also have the equipment for pumping the tank.
  • A home inspector is not set-up to locate, excavate the soil covering the lid, measure the scum mat or sludge depth, or pump the tank — which is required to do an internal inspection.
  • A home inspector is not prepared to dig up the distribution box, determine the groundwater level or research the system’s installation and service history.
  • A home inspector is not equipped to safely deal with the biological processes taking place and the odors being created, once the cover on the tank is removed. The health issues are not to be taken lightly as the septic tank inspection is potentially dangerous, and certainly unhealthy and very unpleasant, unless one has the proper protective gear.
  • A home inspector, who is looking at hundreds of issues at each home, does not have the time to also run hundreds of gallons of water and run dye tests, a complete process often done by specialists as they look for signs of leaks in the system or around the tank. 

So what plumbing items will a home inspector check?

It is noted that, the home inspector WILL, as is possible, assess the plumbing in the home, including checking for adequate water flow and functionality. Also, he or she will check the drainage at sinks, tubs and toilets. Toilet tanks, or faucets, that run constantly and will not shutoff are pointed out as deficiencies that can lead to overloading the septic system.

About the Author

This article was produced by the writing team of Eric Badgley & Angee Gardner; specializing in Lake Whatcom Real Estate and Bellingham Wa Real Estate, along with Bellingham Home Inspector. Making sure buyers are protected.


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