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Everything You Need to Know about Buying a Home with a Septic System

Everything You Need to Know about Buying a Home with a Septic System

If you’re purchasing a rural home, you may find yourself inheriting a septic system.

While most people understand how a conventional septic system works, depending on how new your home is and the lay of the land the system may be different and require more maintenance than expected.

Our first, and most important, tip when buying a hope with a septic system is to have it inspected to ensure it’s in good working order and learn to use the system properly while being on the lookout for any warning signs or possible problems.

Every Septic System has a Tank

Do make note that the manhole cover must always be accessible so do not build a deck or lay concrete over this area. We suggest covering the manhole with turf as it’s easy to cut away and replace after the tank is pumped. You may even want to put a potted plant or another type of moveable landscape over the manhole, which will also serve as a great reminder of its location.

If you’re purchasing an older home with a wood or metal septic tank, be aware that this must be replaced. Fiberglass, polyethylene, and concrete are the only allowable materials for these tanks now. We suggest speaking to your agent about negotiating the costs of this replacement with the sellers prior to finalizing the deal.

Tank to the Field Drain

In a gravity-fed system, the liquid is released through an outlet port on the opposite side of the tank to a drain field. The drain field is also known as an absorption field because it absorbs pollutants and decontaminates the water through natural soil percolation.

If the tank is at a lower elevation than the drain field, the system must include a lift pump. This pump may be located in the septic tank or in a separate chamber on the outflow side of the tank.

It is imperative to maintain this piece of equipment to avoid soil contamination.


With regular use, you should only need to pump your septic tank once every 3-5 years.

Fortunately, the drain field doesn't require a lot of maintenance. However, you do need to keep an eye on it and what may be growing on it. The roots of trees and large bushes can infiltrate the drain pipes and cause a clog, therefore must be removed as soon as possible. If you happen to notice an accumulation of surface water on the drain field during periods of heavy rain, you might have to install a drainage system to divert water away.

Proper Use

For the most part, you won’t have many worries as most septic systems are anaerobic, meaning they process waste without oxygen, but to ensure its best used, follow these tips:

  • Flush only bodily waste in the toilet — no chemicals, food waste, diapers, or paper products other than toilet paper should be flushed into the system.
  • Do not install or use a garbage disposal system in the home as ground-up food waste can disturb the ecological balance inside the tank.
  • Do not pour oil or grease down the drain.
  • Limit your water use.
  • Turn off faucets when you're soaping up in the shower or washing dishes.
  • Take shorter showers
  • Equip your home with leak-free, low-flow toilets.
  • Don't use septic system cleaning additives. A septic system works best when it only has to digest waste from the human body.
  • Use septic-safe drain-cleaning chemicals.
  • Use phosphate-free laundry soap and dish soap.

System Backups

Never open the tank and try to find the problem yourself, always hire a professional.

The gasses within the tank are highly toxic and can be lethal.

Immediately stop using all water and contact a professional. Be sure to check your drain field as well, it may be too saturated and require you to establish a new one. 


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