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Old 08-15-2007, 04:37 PM
 
Location: 127.0.0.1
62 posts, read 396,309 times
Reputation: 50

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Always go for sewer if you have the viable option. It only takes one problem to put a sore spot in you that you may never forget. If you find the perfect house and the only thing lacking is sewer, I wouldn't base my decision on it but if you we're on the fence between two properties with the option, I personally would put some weight on the matter.
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Old 01-15-2008, 11:37 AM
 
1 posts, read 8,609 times
Reputation: 10
Why do you say that?
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Old 01-15-2008, 11:43 AM
 
9,124 posts, read 32,102,485 times
Reputation: 3519
Quote:
Originally Posted by missy34 View Post
Why do you say that?
Because 99% of the time (especially with newer homes) you don't even have to think about your sewer if it's city sewer. With a septic tank, you've got to consider what you're throwing in the garbage disposal, what kind of toilet paper you use, when the last time the tank was pumped, etc. Usually, by the time you realize you have a septic problem, your backyard is already a smelly swamp, and it's not a pretty sight.
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Old 07-25-2009, 07:24 PM
 
Location: Washington DC
625 posts, read 879,154 times
Reputation: 141
Yeah, just throw all that trash into the sewer system where it magically disappears...

A good septic system is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than any municipal sewer system. You just have to stay on top of things, and since most people are lazy, they screw it up.
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Old 10-13-2009, 06:42 PM
 
4 posts, read 19,348 times
Reputation: 10
Also be aware that most new sewer systems now being installed are "low-flow" which adds additional pump and maintenance cost to the home owner. Added to the fact that most municipal sewer systems in the east are cracked with age and draining into the local aquifer and those in more tectonically active areas are cracking from constant shear and stress thus causing them to drain into the aquifer, municipal sewers are poisoning your drinking water faster that you can fill your glass.

On the up side it makes larger and larger cities possible enriching both politicians and “sanitation” corporations, costing the tax payer billions and paying minor lip-service to this problem in the form of surveys and reports. The afore mentioned surveys and reports used to force more taxpayers to link into an already failed system.

After all, wouldn’t you rather be forced to pay $20,000 amortized over the next 20 years (about $1200 per year) rather than fixing or even installing any one of the new septic system technologies?
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Old 10-13-2009, 06:55 PM
 
4 posts, read 19,348 times
Reputation: 10
[FONT=Verdana]Also be aware that most new sewer systems now being installed are "low-flow" which adds additional pump and maintenance cost to the home owner. Added to the fact that most municipal sewer systems in the east are cracked with age and draining into the local aquifer and those in more tectonically active areas are cracking from constant shear and stress thus causing them to drain into the aquifer, municipal sewers are poisoning your drinking water faster that you can fill your glass.[/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana] [/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana]On the up side it makes larger and larger cities possible enriching both politicians and “sanitation” corporations, costing the tax payer billions and paying minor lip-service to this problem in the form of surveys and reports. The afore mentioned surveys and reports used to force more taxpayers to link into an already failed system.[/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana] [/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana]After all, wouldn’t you rather be forced to pay $20,000 amortized over the next 20 years (about $1200 per year) rather than fixing or even installing any one of the new septic system technologies?[/FONT]
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Old 11-05-2010, 06:34 PM
 
6 posts, read 19,793 times
Reputation: 11
Default Septic vs. Sewer and other tidbits

I hate this is late for some people considering a home on a septic system or need to know more about their systems and care.

Alot of good responses to sweettea question a few years back.

Here's more to consider.


[SIZE=3]Before purchasing a home that has a septic system, get the on-site sewage inspection report from the County Health Department. Check to see how many bedrooms is on the permit versus the number of bedrooms the seller is advertising. If the amount of bedrooms the seller advertises is more than the number of bedrooms approved on the septic permit, this is a cause for concern. You might want to ask the local health department if there were any septic complaints on the property. You or your real estate agent (if you have a good one) should be able to fill out a Freedom of Information Act document and get the needed complaint. The complaint, if still open, cannot be released. It has to be closed. The complaint may give details as to what happened – high water usage; maybe someone drove a moving van over the septic system and caused component failure. Please bear in mind, “out of sight, out of mind”.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]Why get the on-site sewage inspection report? There apparently were upgrades done to the home without proper permits. The lot may be approved for a maximum three bedrooms due to soils limitations and the house is being advertised as five. The lot might not be able to accommodate five bedrooms. The house may be advertised as having a garbage disposal but the septic tank on the property might not be big enough to accommodate one. [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]Buying Rid-X and other "magical" cures to pour down your septic tank only mask current and future problems. Consider putting those funds towards a septic pumping. It's best to check for unnecessary leaks, such as toilet fill & flapper valves, that are faulty. Don't pour/flush paints, grease, solvents, nuclear waste, Barbie dolls, toy boats, tampon applicators - you get the picture - down the toilet. Typically, a person in the home should produce 50 to 75 gallons of wastewater per day. So, a family of four should produce 400 or gallons per day. I typically use 50-65 g.p.d. and yes, I do not bathe or wash clothes in a creek. I've have had some families on septic systems fill a garden tub nightly so the kids could play with their toy boats. This constant filling/draining of the garden tub to the rim is abnormal water use. It ultimately caused them septic problems.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]Keeping you septic tank pumped out every 5 years is the way to go for septic care in addition to observing "normal" water usage. A soil scientist preeminent in this field compares this practice to "changing the oil regularly in your car". A septic pumping should cost approximately $400 dollars. I know some people who have paid $1500 to $3600 for a septic pumping out. Why? The customer was probably quoted $195 over the phone and then when the company arrives; there are all these add-on fees. Popular hidden fees are "it'll cost $150/ft. to dig down to the septic tank lid or manhole. Also, "it'll cost $100/ft. to pull the hose from the tank to the truck". This alone might cost an additional $1000. Last, some firms offer $600 a can “super bacteria” that’ll you’re your tank and drainfield work better. Again, a tank pumping should cost about $400 unless there are some unusual circumstances. Be sure to have the outlet filter cleaned at this time, if your tank has one. Only two-compartment tanks should have a filter![/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]Unusual circumstances might include a driveway or patio that was poured over a septic system, a deck built over the tank, or excess fill put over the tank. If there is a long distance from the tank to the pump truck (e.g., you don't want the pump truck in your driveway, there may be additional fees).[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]If the home has an aerobic treatment unit in addition to a septic tank, you might want to have it serviced yearly.[/SIZE] [SIZE=3] [/SIZE]

[SIZE=3]Some additional thoughts:[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Generally, if the lot/house is lower than the road/cul-de-sac, you may have marginal soils and few soils good for septic systems. This is not true in every instance but in some cases. [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*A certified soil scientist can do a Level 3 soils analysis on the lot before you buy the home. This might cost around $350. This way, one can get an idea of how am I going to fix this lot if the primary system fails. It may be the lot has such poor soil conditions and lack of public sewer accessibility for repair where you need to "run" from this listing. I can generally look at an existing home and size up what type of repair scenario might be involved.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Sometimes the lot cannot be expanded to accommodate swimming pools, detached garages, or footprint expansion.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Wells or springs on adjoining properties or on the property always cause hardships for the above activities.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*You can get a septic inspection from the health department prior to closing; this only determines if the system is working properly or if there is an apparent sink or laundry line running into the backyard. Usually this condition means the existing system is not working properly. Sink and laundry drains are supposed to be run into the septic system. Also, the health department’s inspection will note differences in bedrooms or whether or not the system was designed for a garbage disposal. The bedroom issue is a major concern; the garbage disposal can be removed or a larger tank be installed.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*A septic contractor can pump the tank, clean the filter, and check the conditions of the “tees” or inlet/outlet baffles. Sometimes the “tee” or inlet/outlet baffle is called a “tail out”.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Some homeowners have paid $1200 for a “tee” or inlet/outlet baffle or “tail out” replacement; it should cost around $200 per fixture.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*A really good DVD is available at most Environmental Health offices in Georgia that shows the homeowner the basics about a septic system.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*It is necessary to check to toilet for leaks in two ways - observing the fill valve to make sure it cuts off and water doesn’t continue to flow out of the overflow tube. Next, add red or blue food coloring to the tank, stir the holding tank water so there is a good coloration of the holding tank water, and do not flush the toilet ‘till the next 24 hours. Check the bowl to see if food coloring has migrated to it. If so, the “flapper” valve needs replacing. Faulty toilets can cause septic failure. I’ve seen homeowners spend $3000 to $4000 on septic field addition when they just needed to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and replace the toilet’s fill and/or flapper valve.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*It is fraud to advertise a home for more bedrooms than approved for on the on-site sewage inspection report. Again, it is a “red flag” if the report says, for example 3 bedrooms and there’s 5 bedrooms being represented by the seller.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*If you have an unusual septic failure due to poor soils, I do know of two top notch soil scientists that deal with septic failures where poor soil conditions exist. Their approach is unconventional sometimes for a repair. Please understand some lots cannot be expanded for bedroom numbers or additional structures due to soil conditions or lot size or well/spring buffers.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*I don’t think there are many home inspectors that will be able to spot these items/potential issues.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*A quick way to determine your water usage is to look at your monthly water bill. Divide the total gallons usage by the number of service days (e.g. 2800 gallons/30 days to get gallons per day). For those of you on an individual well, you’re SOL but checking the well pump to see if it cycles on and off frequently may be a sign of a leak. This would be true of course if no one is using water in the home (e.g. the shower or washing machine is not on).[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*It is wise to spread out laundry chores during the week rather than doing it all on say, Saturday.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*It is never a good idea to connect gutter or yard drains into your septic system.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Be sure your gutter downspouts do not empty on/over any septic component. Use solid corrugated tile if needed run on top of the lawn to divert water away from septic components (if you don’t mind moving it for grass cutting). If you decide to run it underground and the pipe may be near a septic component, you might consider using glued PVC pipe. We don’t want possible leakage saturating the drainfield which needs to be focused on the home’s wastewater. Just be sure you do not cut/dig through any septic component! Get the septic diagram before proceeding. Ask septic experts questions before commencing this type of work Before running any pipe underground, always call for a utility locate!!!! You’ll be surprised where and how some utilities are run. Some utility locates are not exact…[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Septic repair permits are required for repair and a certified septic contractor must do the work. There is usually a fee for the permit. I cannot tell you how many botched systems I’ve seen by “Bubba’s Home Fixin” whose advertisement says “Yea, we can work on anything”. Some states require certification. You might want to see if the repair contractor has proof of insurance and a general contractor’s license.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Some health department septic drawings are like cartoons (per one septic installer). Some will have good detail or at least give you an idea if the septic system is in the front or the backyard.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*If you have a septic system that has a pump and pump chamber in conjunction with a septic tank, sometimes the circuit breaker to the pump “trips” and the high water alarm will sound. A simple fix is to reset the circuit breaker on the electrical panel so the pump can work again. The alarm should go off. If you don’t have an alarm for some reason, get one. If the pump’s circuit breaker “trips” frequently, get a qualified electrician to investigate and correct the problem.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Don’t run anything heavier than a riding lawnmower over your septic components. If possible, let the yard dry over the components to minimize any compaction.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Thinking of landscaping? I’ve seen systems destroyed by site preparation for grassing/sodding and the planting of shrubs/trees. Proceed carefully; be careful when installing irrigation lines.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*IT'S NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO PLANT A WILLOW TREE ON YOUR LOT IF YOU HAVE A SEPTIC SYSTEM. Discourage your next door neighbors from doing so if possible. Remember, ultimately it is their property.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Always do a utility locate before digging. Please.[/SIZE]

*Septic drainfields come in either conventional or alternative products. The conventional (gravel or tire chip aggregate) is a robust system. I've seen some gravel systems last 30 years for a family of 3 with a 3 bedroom system. The other type of septic drainfield is the alternative system. These are typically chamber or EZ Lay or EZ Flow products. If the house was built after 04/2006 in GA the alternative system has become more robust. I've seen some alternative systems struggle with larger families. Too much detail to go into for now.

*Drainfield lines are not resistant to utility cuts when the gas, electric, cable, or phone companies install their lines. Be careful here. Again, I've seen good systems underutilized by utility severances. They can be adequately repaired by some "by pass" surgery if you have a good septic repair person. On the flip side, alot of septic installers would rather install you a new field rather than do the "by pass" surgery. You may buy a home on a septic system and not know you have this problem. One way to see is get a septic drawing for the home and call for a utility locate. From there you can see where the gas, electric, phone, and cable lines are relative to the septic lines and maybe guess if you might have a problem. This of course would be dependent upon the install depth available on the septic inspection. The shallower the system, the greater the possibility of a severance. Some systems are now shallower due to better percolation rates and the increased availabilty of oxygen.

I've noticed the utility company contractors who are paid by the foot would rather go from the front yard then through the backyard to get to the other side of the home. It seems more logical to make a "bee line" from the roadside to the side of the home but it doesn't always work that way.

Some counties have required utilities to be routed in separate conduits, minimizing drainfield line severance.
[SIZE=3] [/SIZE]
[SIZE=3]*Sewer is always the way to go if you plan to live there for long time and it will add to your property’s value (my opinion). If you do not have sewer, having a lot over 0.5 acres with good soils and public water is the next best alternative. This of course would vary for the home's bedrooms, home's footprint, and other detached structures. More bedrooms, more footprint, and more detached structures dictate an increase in lot size where a home is served by a septic system. Homes with wells that are on septic systems need an acre or greater. So, if you find this cute lake house with a small lot and a well (or the neighbor has a well), the hassle factor increases exponentially for ownership.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=3][/SIZE] [SIZE=3]Feel free to ask other questions I haven’t addressed as this is only a primer. I hope this saves some headaches when purchasing a home on a septic system and it wasn’t overkill.[/SIZE]
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Old 11-11-2010, 10:08 AM
 
6 posts, read 19,793 times
Reputation: 11
Default Septic vs. Sewer and other tidbits

This is more from an earlier post. Trying to clean up all the bleedover stuff from Word as found in a previous post! Also, typos were cleaned up and more stuff added. Happy reading.

Before purchasing a home that has a septic system, get the on-site sewage inspection report from the County Health Department. Check to see how many bedrooms is on the permit versus the number of bedrooms the seller is advertising. If the amount of bedrooms the seller advertises is more than the number of bedrooms approved on the septic permit, this is a cause for concern. You might want to ask the local health department if there were any septic complaints on the property. You or your real estate agent (if you have a good one) should be able to fill out a Freedom of Information Act document and get the needed complaint. The complaint, if still open, cannot be released. It has to be closed. The complaint may give details as to what happened – high water usage; maybe someone drove a moving van over the septic system and caused component failure. Please bear in mind, “out of sight, out of mind”.

Why get the on-site sewage inspection report? Maybe bedroom upgrades were done to the home without proper permits. The lot may be approved for a maximum of three bedrooms due to soils limitations and the house is being advertised as five. The lot might not be able to accommodate five bedrooms. The house may be advertised as having a garbage disposal but the septic tank on the property might not be big enough to accommodate one.

Buying Rid-X and other "magical" cures to pour down your septic tank only mask current and future problems. Consider putting those funds towards a septic pumping. It's best to check for unnecessary leaks, such as toilet fill & flapper valves, that are faulty. Don't pour/flush paints, grease, solvents, nuclear waste, Barbie dolls, toy boats, tampon applicators - you get the picture - down the toilet. Typically, a person in the home should produce 50 to 75 gallons of wastewater per day. So, a family of four should produce 200 to 250 gallons per day. I typically use 50-65 g.p.d. and yes, I do not bathe or wash clothes in a creek. I've seen some families on septic systems fill a garden tub nightly so the kids could play with their toy boats. This constant filling/draining of the garden tub to the rim is abnormal water use. It ultimately caused them septic problems.

Keeping you septic tank pumped out every 5 years is the way to go for septic care in addition to observing "normal" water usage. A soil scientist preeminent in the soil science field compares this practice to "changing the oil regularly in your car". A septic pumping should cost approximately $400 dollars. I know some people who have paid $1500 to $3600 for a septic pumping out. Why? The customer was probably quoted $195 over the phone and then when the company arrives, there are all these add-on fees. Popular hidden fees are "it'll cost $150/ft. to dig down to the septic tank lid or manhole”. Also, "it'll cost $100/ft. to pull the hose from the tank to the truck". This alone might cost an additional $1000. Last, some firms offer $600 a can “super bacteria” that’ll “make your tank and drainfield work better”. Don’t buy it. Again, a tank pumping should cost about $400 unless there are some unusual circumstances. Be sure to have the outlet filter cleaned at this time, if your tank has one. Only two-compartment tanks should have a filter! Never use a septic pumper who insists on knocking a hole in your tank to access it! Be sure both tees are checked by removing each lid or port. Make sure the pumper removes everything; it’s okay to leave an inch or two of liquid.

Unusual pumping circumstances might include a driveway or patio that was poured over the septic tank, a low to the ground deck built over the tank, or excess fill put over the tank. There may be some instances where a home’s footprint was expanded unknowingly over the tank. If there is a long distance from the tank to the pump truck (e.g., you don't want the pump truck in your driveway), there may be additional fees.

Several additional thoughts (maybe stuff you were afraid to ask about septic systems):

*If the home has an aerobic treatment unit (ATU) in addition to a septic tank, you might want to have it serviced yearly. If you are purchasing a home with an ATU, check/ask for service records. There may be an existing service agreement available. The ATU will have an alarm box. Assuming the home has the power on, find a clear plastic tube leading to the alarm box. Pinch it with your fingers. There should be an audible buzz. Some alarm boxes have both a light and buzzer. Be sure both the light & buzzer work. You can usually find the ATU alarm box in the garage, utility room, basement, or sometimes on a pedestal near the pump chamber. If the alarm doesn’t work, the air pump may be fried. It is important this component is serviced and operating properly to extend drainfield life.

*Generally, if the lot/house is lower than the road/cul-de-sac, you may have marginal soils and few soils good for septic systems. This is not true in every instance but in some cases. Some lots like this have pockets of good soil areas; some don’t.

*A certified soil scientist can do a Level 3 soils analysis on the lot before you buy the home. This might cost around $350. This way, one can get an idea of how am I going to fix this lot if the primary system fails. The report may reveal limitations for bedroom number expansion. The report may reveal a trash pit on the lot that could interfere with the septic system’s performance. It may be the lot has such poor soil conditions and lack of public sewer accessibility for repair where you need to "run" from this listing.

*Sometimes the lot cannot be expanded to accommodate swimming pools, detached garages, or footprint expansion.

*Wells or springs on adjoining properties or on the property always cause hardships for the previously mentioned activities.

*You can get a septic inspection from the health department prior to closing; this only determines if the system is working properly or if there is an apparent sink or laundry line running into the backyard. If there is a sink or laundry line running into the backyard, this condition usually means the existing system is not working properly. Sink and laundry drains are supposed to be run into the septic system. Also, the health department’s inspection will note differences in bedrooms or whether or not the system was designed for a garbage disposal. The bedroom issue is a major concern; the garbage disposal can be removed or a larger tank be installed.

*A septic pumper can pump the tank, clean the filter, and check the conditions of the “tees” or inlet/outlet baffles. Sometimes the “tee” or inlet/outlet baffle is called a “tail out”.

*Some homeowners have paid $1200 for a “tee” or inlet/outlet baffle or “tail out” replacement; it should cost around $200 per “tee”.

*A really good DVD is available at most Environmental Health offices in Georgia that shows the homeowner the basics about a septic system.

*Leaking fixtures in the home can cause septic problems. Toilets in disrepair are notorious. It is necessary to check toilets for leaks in two ways - observing the fill valve to make sure it cuts off and water doesn’t continue to flow out of the overflow tube. Next, add red or blue food coloring to the tank, stir the holding tank water so there is a good coloration of the holding tank water. Do not flush the toilet ‘till the next 24 hours. Then, check the bowl to see if food coloring has migrated to it. If so, the “flapper” valve needs replacing. Faulty toilets can cause septic failure. I’ve seen homeowners spend $3000 to $4000 on septic field addition when they just needed to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and replace the toilet’s fill and/or flapper valve.

*It is fraud to advertise a home for more bedrooms than approved for on the on-site sewage inspection report. Again, it is a “red flag” if the report says, for example, 3 bedrooms and there’s 6 bedrooms being represented by the seller.

*If you have an unusual septic failure due to poor soils, I do know of two top notch soil scientists that deal with septic failures where poor soil conditions exist. Their approach is unconventional sometimes for a repair. Please understand some lots cannot be expanded for bedroom numbers or additional structures due to soil conditions or lot size or well/spring/creek/lake buffers.

*I don’t think there are many home inspectors that will be able to spot these items/potential issues with septic systems.

*A quick way to determine your water usage is to look at your monthly water bill. Divide the total gallons usage by the number of service days (e.g., 2800 gallons/30 days to get gallons per day). For those of you on an individual well, you’re SOL but checking the well pump to see if it cycles on and off frequently may be a sign of a leak. This would be true of course if no one is using water in the home (e.g. the shower or washing machine is not on).

*It is wise to spread out laundry chores during the week rather than doing it all on say, Saturday.

*It is never a good idea to connect gutter or yard drains into your septic system.

*Be sure your gutter downspouts do not empty on/over any septic component. Use solid corrugated tile if needed run on top of the lawn to divert water away from septic components (if you don’t mind moving it for grass cutting). If you decide to run it underground and the pipe may be near a septic component, you might consider using glued PVC pipe. We don’t want possible leakage saturating the drainfield which needs to be focused on the home’s wastewater. Just be sure you do not cut/dig through any septic component! Get the septic diagram before proceeding. Ask septic experts questions before commencing this type of work Before running any pipe underground, always call for a utility locate!!!! You’ll be surprised where and how some utilities are run. Some utility locates are not exact…

*Septic repair permits are required for repair and a certified septic contractor must do the work. There is usually a fee for the permit. I cannot tell you how many botched systems I’ve seen by “Bubba’s Home Fixin” whose advertisement says “Yea, we can work on anything”. On the other hand, sometimes look can be deceiving, as in the company is a chain. Some states require certification. You might want to see if the repair contractor has proof of insurance and a general contractor’s license.

*Some health department septic drawings are like cartoons (per one reliable septic installer). Some will have good detail or at least give you an idea if the septic system is in the front yard or the backyard.

*If you have a septic system that has a pump and pump chamber in conjunction with a septic tank, sometimes the circuit breaker to the pump “trips” and the high water alarm will sound. A simple fix is to reset the circuit breaker on the electrical panel so the pump can work again. The alarm should go off. If you don’t have an alarm for some reason, get one. If the pump’s circuit breaker “trips” frequently, get a qualified electrician to investigate and correct the problem. If you’re buying a new home where the septic system has a pump & pump chamber, find the high water alarm box. The alarm box will have a test button. Assuming the home has the power on, press the “test” button on the alarm box. There should be an audible buzz. Some alarm boxes have both a light and buzzer. Be sure both the light & buzzer work. You can usually find the alarm box in the garage, utility room, basement, or sometimes on a pedestal near the pump chamber.

*Don’t run anything heavier than a typical riding lawnmower over your septic components. If possible, let the yard dry over the components before mowing to minimize any compaction. A big John Deere, capable of pulling a 2 shank subsoiler, (outfitted with a bush hog instead of the subsoiler) is not a typical riding mower.

*Thinking of landscaping? I’ve seen systems destroyed by site preparation for grassing/sodding and the planting of shrubs/trees. Proceed carefully; be careful when installing irrigation lines. Be particular.

*IT'S NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO PLANT A WILLOW TREE ON YOUR LOT IF YOU HAVE A SEPTIC SYSTEM. Discourage your next door neighbors from doing so if possible. Remember, ultimately it is their property.

*Always do a utility locate before digging. Please!

*Septic drainfields come in either conventional or alternative products. The conventional (gravel or tire chip aggregate) is a robust system. I've seen some gravel systems last 30 years for a family of 3 with a 3 bedroom system. The other type of septic drainfield is the alternative system. These are typically chamber or EZ Lay or EZ Flow products. Some homes may have a dripper system or low pressure bed or mound system. If the house was built after 04/2006 in GA the alternative system has become more robust. I've seen some alternative systems struggle with larger families, high water users, and hour + long shower users. Too much detail to go into for now.

*Drainfield lines are not resistant to utility cuts when the gas, electric, cable, or phone companies install their lines. Be careful here. Again, I've seen good systems underutilized by utility severances. They can be adequately repaired by some "by pass" surgery if you have a good septic repair person. On the flip side, a lot of septic installers would rather install you a new field rather than do the "by pass" surgery. You may buy a home on a septic system and not know you have this problem. One way to see is get a septic drawing for the home and call for a utility locate. From there you can see where the gas, electric, phone, and cable lines are relative to the septic lines and maybe guess if you might have a problem. Sometimes the septic components are installed before the utilities. Some builders are not proficient enough to make sure no damage is done. The severance possibility is dependent upon the install depth, which is available on the septic inspection. The shallower the system, the greater the possibility of severance. Some systems are now shallower due to better percolation rates and the increased availability of oxygen.

*I've noticed the utility company contractors who are paid by the foot would rather go from the front yard then through the backyard to get to the other side of the home. It seems more logical to make a "bee line" from the roadside to the side of the home but it doesn't always work that way.

*Some counties have required utilities to be routed in separate conduits, minimizing drainfield line severance.

*Sewer is always the way to go if you plan to live there for long time and it will add to your property’s value (my opinion). If you do not have sewer, having a lot over 0.5 acres with good soils and public water is the next best alternative. This of course would vary for the home's bedrooms, home's footprint, and other detached structures. More bedrooms, more footprint, and more detached structures dictate an increase in lot size where a home is served by a septic system. Homes with wells that are on septic systems need an acre or greater. So, if you find this cute lake house with a small lot and a well (or the neighbor has a well), the hassle factor can increase exponentially for ownership.

*Charmin vs. John Wayne toilet paper. The Charmin is more pleasant on the bottom end. I have noticed one household that exclusively used Charmin and when it came septic pumping time, there was still a lot of Charmin that seemed to not have decomposed. The problem was exacerbated in the household by having two females in the house (no offense, but think about guys vs. women in these endeavors…). The problem was minimized by the homeowner asking the females, after doing numero uno, to dispose of the christened Charmin by disposing it in a covered trashcan.

*I’ve seen some backups in homes caused by GI Joe caught in a 22 ½ degree bend. If you have a backup and one of the children notices GI Joe is AWOL, he may have gone scuba diving. Other items may cause blockages. Investigate with a plumbing snake or qualified plumber.

*Grease & septic systems never mix. I’ve seen the combination of grease and un-dissolved laundry powder make a 4” diameter pipe reduce down to a 2” diameter pipe. Be particular.

*It is hard to test a system by turning on the faucets and then looking in the yard where the drainfield area is located. Too complicated to explain all the what ifs and how to’s here. Before you purchase, see if there were any sewage complaints on the property. Analyze previous owner’s water bills to see if they abused the system (50-60 g.p.d. is a target per person). A three bedroom home on septic using a total of 500 g.p.d. + continuously has been maxed out. This 500 g.p.d. could be misleading/temporary as some water bills include irrigation usage, pool filling, etc. See if an irrigation system is present and see if the usage correlates to the summer months. See if laundry or sink water has been taken off the septic tank and run into the yard.

*Septic fields can dry out and possibly go back to normal use. See the garden tub scenario as to what is abnormal use.

*If you have a “diverter valve” or “bull-run” valve with your septic system (or with the house you’re considering purchasing), you probably have two drainfields. The diverter valve allows switching from one drainfield to the other, allowing one to dry and hopefully reduce/eliminate biomat. The home should have two septic system sketches on record. It’s a good idea to switch the valve every year or two.

*If you find yourself stuck with a home that has a garbage disposal and an undersized septic tank, minimize garbage disposal use. If your “better half” insists on using the disposal, consider pumping the tank more often. Consider 3 years instead of 5 years.

*If your home has a septic system and you have a family member who suffers from bulimia, you’ll have to have your tank pumped more frequently.

*When finding your septic record at a local health department, it is good to know the following: exact street address, subdivision name, lot number, lot size in acres, the year the home was built, and if possible, the original owner and builder. Some records pre-date the 911 address system and you may need more data to get a good match. To find out the original owner and builder, you may have to go to the courthouse and examine the original deed and plat.

*Gwinnet Co. Environmental Health has a good on-line brochure at the following link:
http://www.eastmetrohealth.com/Env_Health/SepticPumping There are some good reminders there for what not to flush down into the septic system. In a nut shell keep it to numero uno y numero two y toilet paper.

*If you’re considering purchasing a pre-owned home and you decide to have the tank pumped before purchase, consider being on site for the pumping. Stand upwind of the process as much as possible as the smell might make you lose your breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. Try to see what’s in the tank before anything’s pumped. If there’s lots of condoms in the tank, I’ve seen them breakdown and form a “goo” in the pipe extending from the tank to the drainfield and reduce effluent movement. Potential bad omen if a lot is in there. If tampon applicators exist, they sometimes will flow out into a drainfield if the tank has precast inlet & outlet tees rather than the Schedule 40 PVC tees. Another potential problem for the drainfield.

*If your septic tank has risers and you’re concerned about child safety, consider having a guard installed in the riser so a child cannot fall in. Most risers are secured by screws; sometimes the screws may not have been reinstalled.

*”Jetting”, if offered as a fix for your drainfield woes, won’t really buy you any time. I've seen some conventional drainfields filled with plastic tampon applicators. Why push all this stuff further downstream?

*Sewer is always the way to go and it will add to your property’s value in my opinion. This is especially true for small lot size and really poor soil conditions.

Feel free to ask other questions I haven’t addressed as this is only a primer. I hope this saves some headaches when purchasing a home on a septic system and it wasn’t overkill.

septicprowannabe
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Old 11-11-2010, 05:27 PM
 
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Worst Post Ever!
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Old 11-16-2010, 02:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bdawk View Post
Worst Post Ever!
LOL, I was thinking that too. Too bad, as the info seems useful.
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