Buying a Home With a Septic Tank? What You Need To Know

Home Ownership With A Septic TankWhen purchasing an Eden Prairie home, a prospective home buyer may find that instead of being connected to the local sewer system, the home has a separate septic system. A septic tank is an underground tank that holds wastewater from the home. Septic tanks are common in rural areas and in small towns that do not have their own sewer systems.

Many home buyers are intimidated by the idea of purchasing a home with a septic tank, if they’ve never owned one in the past. They know that septic tanks are different from sewers, but they’re not sure how different, or what needs to be done to maintain a septic tank. Understanding the differences between these two systems can help home buyers after they purchase the house.

How Is A Septic Tank Different From A Sewer Connection?

A home sewer connection is an underground network of pipes and conduits that connects all the homes in a community. The sewers carry wastewater away from the home and to a water treatment plant, where the water is cleaned and either made usable once again or disposed of. Sewers are typically maintained by the city or community. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their home’s connection to the sewer, but not for maintaining the sewer itself.

A septic tank is a standalone wastewater treatment system that services an individual home. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their own septic tank as well as the connection to the septic tank. Septic tanks do not carry waste water away from the property, but instead return the waste water to the ground, where it is cleaned by the soil.

How Does a Septic Tank Work?

Waste water enters the septic tank through the home’s main drain line. After entering the tank, the water slowly separates into three layers: solid particles at the bottom (known as sludge), water in the middle (refuse) and fats and oils at the top (scum).

When the water level in the tank reaches a certain height, it empties into the drain field. The water flows downward through the soil, which serves as a filter to clean the water. Most older septic systems work only by using gravity. More modern systems use electricity for various pumps and often have spray systems to help disperse the septic water within the drain field.

What Must A Homeowner Do To Maintain Their Septic Tank?

Sludge builds up in the bottom of the tank over time. When the sludge reaches a certain level, it must be removed. This build up of sludge typically takes years, because bacteria in the tank are constantly working to break down the sludge and turn it into liquid. After a few years, the tank must be pumped.

The frequency with which a septic tank must be pumped depends on its size and the number of people in the household. If the septic tank is too small, it will fill up quickly. If the septic tank is large for the number of people in the household, it will take longer. When buying or selling a home with a septic system, it’s important to know the size of the septic system in relation to the size of the home. Homeowners who have questions about how often they need to clean out their septic tank or how large or small it is in relationship to the home, can find out more by talking to a qualified professional.

Septic tanks are also sensitive to the type of materials that enter the tank. According to zero waste living blog Escape Waste, bacteria-killing products (like bleach) can slow the breakdown of sludge, which can necessitate cleaning out the tank more frequently. Homeowners must avoid flushing products like bleach, medicines and antibacterial soaps.

What Are the Signs That A Septic Tank Is Too Full?

When a septic tank gets too full, the homeowner will notice problems such as:

  • Odor in the yard.
  • Swampy area in the yard.
  • Sewage backup in the house.
  • Strange noises in the pipes.

Homeowners who notice problems like this must contact a septic tank professional as soon as possible to have their tank serviced.

If you’re a homeowner who is thinking about buying a home with a septic tank, contact a septic tank professional about your questions. Your septic tank professional can help you determine whether or not a house with a septic tank is right for you.

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