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Old 04-21-2009, 08:21 PM
33 posts, read 116,858 times
Reputation: 29


Please educate me! Several of the homes we are interested in seeing this weekend in western Mass. have city water, but are listed as private sewerage - which I am assuming means septic tank. Would you/have you bought a home with a septic tank? What have your experiences been? I have a toddler as well - do I need to be concerned about soil contamination?

If it makes any differences, the homes that we are looking at that do have septic tanks are fairly new (6 years old or newer).

In my hometown, there are some proposals to force several subdivisions of homeowners with septic tanks to tie their homes in with the city sewer system - I am guessing this is an expensive proposition. What are your thoughts on this - seems like being on a septic tank could expose you to having to pay for this in the future?

And thank you in advance to all of you who reply and share your stories and give advice! It is so cool to be able to reach out for help on a forum like this - thank you!
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Old 04-21-2009, 08:31 PM
Location: Central Texas
19,428 posts, read 35,510,098 times
Reputation: 19861
We've been on a septic tank system for the past 12 years - and it was an old one when we bought the place.

We've had it pumped a couple of times, and we did have an issue once because we're on clay soil and it moved sufficiently with our drought/flood weather here that we had a separation of the pipe to the tank that needed to be put back in place - but we had worse with our city sewer situation when we lived in Austin, necessitating the city coming and digging a giant hole in the street with giant equipment and blocking the whole street.

Given that city sewers are a relatively new invention and people have used septic systems (and systems nowhere near as good as the ones we currently have) for quite a long time now, I suspect you don't need to worry about your toddler (else we wouldn't all be here to discuss it) - everything is below ground.

It IS an expensive proposition to be forced to hook up to a city sewer system when you've got septic. But that wouldn't be a reason not to buy a house you love - just figure it into the cost.
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Old 04-21-2009, 09:21 PM
Location: Baltimore, MD
205 posts, read 716,126 times
Reputation: 169
At home I use both a septic tank and well water. The septic tank was fine for 15 years until it was decided to have it pumped out. That's when the trouble started. It backed up about a year later, although the problem was caught before it became visible (the alarms were not installed properly unfortunately). Since then it was pumped again, the alarms were fixed, and a ton of bacteria and other "stuff" was poured in there. For the past 5 years since that little episode it's been fine again. The initial pumping really screwed things up, but if there's enough bacteria in there the system is self-sustaining.

City water is gross. Well water drilled right into a spring is much better! That and private septic tanks and sewers either don't carry their own monthly cost or have costs that are under your control and not those of politicians seeking to raise revenue.
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Old 04-21-2009, 09:55 PM
Location: Central Texas
19,428 posts, read 35,510,098 times
Reputation: 19861
One thing to remember (that I didn't know for years). Those boxes and bottles of bacteria that you're supposed to pour down the toilet monthly if you have a septic tank? Don't do a lot of good. As an old plumber pointed out to me once, if you're using the septic system for its intended purpose, it's getting plenty of bacteria and doesn't need more poured in.
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Old 04-21-2009, 11:14 PM
18 posts, read 118,790 times
Reputation: 25
In Mass to the best of my knowledge there has to be a Title 5 test done on septic within the last 2 years of selling a home. I have a septic and I have had no issues with it. I get it pumped every year , I throw some yeast down the toilet once a month.
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Old 04-22-2009, 05:11 AM
Location: N of citrus, S of decent corn
32,539 posts, read 40,856,671 times
Reputation: 53218
Fear not. Millions of us live with septic systems. As a city girl, I was afraid of it at first, but it's been fine. Have it thoroughly inspected before you buy and get on an annual maintenance program with a good local company. It's not expensive and you'll have peace of mind.
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Old 04-22-2009, 09:44 AM
211 posts, read 819,927 times
Reputation: 120
We bought a home last summer with septic and well. I was relucatant about both, having had neither in my life but so far no troubles. My grandpa was a farmer and had septic and well his whole life. One good thing I've learned is no flooding from the sewers backing up when it rains too much. We had it pumped once. I think it was $200 and they said every five years or so but theres only two of us so maybe more if you have a bigger family.
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Old 04-22-2009, 10:06 AM
Location: Halfway between Number 4 Privet Drive and Forks, WA
1,516 posts, read 4,068,614 times
Reputation: 650
I will tell you about my recent septic experi..er, nightmare, because I previously had no qualms whatsoever about buying a house with a septic tank since we had one BEFORE we moved to our new home. I'm not so sure I'll buy a house with another septic again...

We just had to install 120 feet of high capacity chamber since our drainfield was failing after a steady rain. We just got finished laying new sod over 50% of our lawn where the new trench was dug. We're still afraid to use our water at normal capacity (we have 1000 gallon tank) and we freak every time it rains now. Our soil here sucks and does not perk well at all (cecil & rion soil aka red clay).

I will be very hesitant to buy another house on a septic in the future. If I were you, I'd have it inspected AND get a copy of the plat of the septic system AS well as a copy of the original soil test that was done so you can know what you're dealing with. I would insist the sellers have the tank pumped and bleeder lines drained prior to purchase.

I sure wish I'd had the advice or knowledge to do that before we bought our house, because these repairs have NOT been cheap.
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Old 04-22-2009, 11:02 AM
596 posts, read 2,450,818 times
Reputation: 200
Here is a link with basic info and sketch of a septic system: Price County

The best info I find usually comes from going to www.google.com, selecting the "images" link (so I get a good photo or drawing along with the explanation, etc) and typing in whatever I'm looking up.

We are buying a home with a septic system, too, and its our first. DEFINITELY get a FULL septic inspection in addition to your home inspection. We were told the sellers were getting it inspected and pumped, which was nice, but we insisted on a "full" inspection because the one that is done when the system is pumped is barely significant. Guess what? The full inspection showed roots growing in 3 out of 5 leach lines, wires running underground but overtop of the tank, etc etc. I'm so glad we had the full inspection because we were able to subsequently have the sellers fix these issues which were several hundred dollars in total. Now, our system will be good for many years without us having to worry.

Key things I've learned:
1. If you have a basement and need to have sewage pumped to a hire level where the tank may be located, you want a "lift tank pump ALARM" to notify you of problems before they occur! (so you dont end up with a basement full of ... well, you get the idea!)

2. Never pour fatty stuff down the drain or toilet. Very bad for your septic system. (We cheated and did this all the time on the city system, we're so bad)

3. Even if your place comes with the handy little insinkerator thing (mulches up food waste in the sink), its better not to use it because it will lead to quickly filling your septic tank. You CAN use it, but you might want to have the septic pumped more frequently.

4. You no longer want to pour chemicals into the toilets, sinks etc (bleach, cleaning products) with careful consideration. These things kill the bacteria living in the tank - which is doing an excellent job of breaking down and eliminating gross stuff in your system! Go green! :-D
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Old 04-22-2009, 11:24 AM
Location: Barrington
39,734 posts, read 30,264,189 times
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My zip code is about 100 square miles and much of it is acreage with septic systems. Our standard contract requires the seller to have the system inspected, at the seller's expense. When desired, I will write in that the buyer wants to be present for the inspection because it is an opportunity to learn about the system. I also write in that we require evidence of a pump out, within the last X months as well as copy of the plat showing the system and field. The latter is very important should you plan to alter the property or install a pool, going forward.

I am aware of some septic systems that are more than 50 years old and function well. I am also aware of newer systems that failed because the owner did not have them pumped and/or put inappropriate stuff into their systems.

In most places, septic systems are sized to the number of bedrooms and occasionally, baths in a house. This means that should you want to add-on, at a later date, chances are you will need to revise the system or install a new one.
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