If you’ve never owned a home or cottage with a septic tank, the prospect of doing so may seem overwhelming. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. A properly installed and maintained system can be efficient and hassle-free—which is why knowing the basics is key.
Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about buying a property with a septic tank…
What is a Septic System?
While cities tend to have centralized sewer systems, less-populated areas usually don’t. When that’s the case, home and cottage owners depend upon on on-site septic systems to treat their wastewater safely.
Most septic systems have two primary components: a watertight tank, and a drain field. A pipe carries wastewater from your home to the tank, where solids sink to the bottom and oils rise to the top. All of the liquid in between is carried out to the drain field, an area that’s usually concealed by grass but contains pipes, gravel, and soil. These components work together to effectively filter out contaminants!
While the process may sound gross, we assure you that the results aren’t—so long as you take proper care of your system. Here’s how.
Like a furnace or air conditioner, a septic system requires ongoing care to function efficiently. The most important step is having it inspected and pumped every three to five years, depending on your household size and usage.
Septic tanks are set up to break down much of the solid waste and grease that accumulates inside of them. That said, having yours pumped regularly by a local professional will prevent issues such as clogging (which can lead to overflow). As part of this process, the effluent filter should also be cleaned (if you have one).
Be aware that some—usually advanced—systems may require more frequent maintenance. That could mean once a year.
There are a few other basic tips you can follow to prevent significant issues. To start with, protect your tank and drain field from damage (from construction and tree-root growth, for example).
Make sure you dispose of grease, food, compost, solvents, and potentially-harmful chemicals properly (i.e. don’t pour them down your drain). Avoid relying heavily on anti-bacterial or otherwise harsh cleaning products, and try to spread out loads of laundry throughout the week to prevent overload.
Before You Buy…
If you’re thinking of purchasing a home or cottage with a septic system, it’s important to do your due diligence. First off, for any property you’re seriously considering, ask the right questions. You should know the type of system in question, how old it is, and whether there are any issues that could impact its performance.
It’s also a good idea to have the septic tank professionally inspected before you decide to buy. Often, this isn’t part of the general home inspection process. Fortunately, an agent with local expertise can connect you to someone who will do the job right!
For many home and cottage buyers, the prospect of caring for a septic system is a turnoff. It shouldn’t be! By doing your homework and following a few common-sense maintenance tips, you can ensure that your system runs smoothly for years to come.