How to Get a Septic System Inspection
LESLIE: Derrick in Arkansas, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DERRICK: Well, I’m buying a lake house and it’s a house that has a lot of things I’m not used to dealing with. So I was going to try to get some advice on what you guys would recommend for, first of all, it has a well.
DERRICK: But it’s a really sulfury water source.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
DERRICK: And I was wondering what, if anything, can be done for that. And also, it’s a septic system and I’m not – I’ve never had a septic before so if there’s anything special I could be thinking about on that as well.
TOM: OK, have you bought the house yet, Derrick?
DERRICK: No, I have not.
TOM: Alright, good. A couple of things. First of all, you’re going to need both a well test and you’re going to need a septic system inspection. Because there’s no telling what kind of condition these mechanical systems are in. And when you have private wells and private septic, then you’re kind of your own utility authority, you know what I mean?
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. There’s nobody there to make sure the maintenance is correct.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah. And repairs can be costly; they can be unhealthy. So – if it’s done wrong. So you need to get this inspected.
With the well system, you’re going to have a water test done. Based on the water test you’ll be able to determine what type of treatment is needed, if any. If you’re lucky, the water’s pure but just smells bad. Then there’s different types of treatment systems that can be put on that will make it not smell so bad anymore.
With respect to the septic system, especially being near a lake, that has to be thoroughly inspected. There’s a type of test called a dye test. There’s also an open pit inspection where the tank is opened. A good inspection company is going to do a very thorough examination and make sure the septic system is not flawed. You know, if you have a bad septic system in a lake, I’ll tell you, one – you know, I remember this distinctly, some years ago, Leslie, when I was in the home inspection business.
TOM: I did a dye test where you basically introduce this green dye like into a toilet and you run a lot of water through a house. Well, it was along a lake. I remember going out into the back, standing on the deck and seeing the plume of the green dye work it’s way out into the lake from the septic system.
LESLIE: (gasping) No!
TOM: Yeah. It was totally failed. So that’s why you’ve got to have a really good inspection done to make sure the system is working properly.
LESLIE: And it’s interesting because a septic system, you know, it’s so delicate and it really relies on the stone and the dirt to sort of filter everything out once it sort of passes through the original tank. So it’s got to work well and all sort of work together.
TOM: Derrick, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors. It’s ASHI – A-S-H-I.com.
TOM: And enter the zip code in for the area that you’re going to be buying this house. They will kick back a list to you of these ASHI-certified members. These guys are the best in the business. They really know what they’re doing. Off of that list of inspectors make a few phone calls; find somebody you’re really comfortable with and get a good home inspection done. And that’s the best way to protect yourself and also to familiarize yourself with these unfamiliar systems.
DERRICK: Now Tom, I do have an option to bring in city water to this place. It’s already stubbed out and just needs to be metered and brought to the front of the house. Would that be something you think I should really (INAUDIBLE)?
TOM: Absolutely. Absolutely.
TOM: If city water’s available I would absolutely take advantage of that. You may want to keep the well working; especially if you’re ever thinking about putting in a sprinkler system.
TOM: That would be a good option for that. But if city water is available it’s definitely a better option than well water, in my opinion.
DERRICK: Perfect. Well, thank you so much, you guys.
TOM: You’re welcome, Derrick. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.