Septic System Inspections
If you’re purchasing a rural home, a septic system inspection is a must! Our rural home inspection packages include a septic inspection on every home that has a septic tank.
Sorry, we do not offer a la carte septic system inspections at this time.
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What’s Included in Our Septic System Inspection?
Firstly, we’d like to mention we do not offer septic pumping. Our specialty is in ensuring your septic system is functioning safely and efficiently by giving you an honest, third-party evaluation.
Our comprehensive septic system inspection is included in our rural home inspection package. It includes the following checks:
1. We check the lid for cracks and that it covers the opening entirely. If the lid is cracked, rainwater can enter the system, causing a sewage backup in your home.
2. Sludge and scum sampling equipment is then used to check if your tank is working and whether it needs to be pumped.
3. We then look to ensure that the baffles connecting tanks and pumps are intact and sound.
4. Then we determine tank flow and efficacy.
5. Next, we examine the effluent filter (if accessible). Some older tanks may not have effluent filters.
6. Lastly, we check the drainfield to ensure it is up to par and that downspouts are pointed away from the drainfield to avoid flooding.
Septic systems must be maintained and inspected by professionals to ensure their proper functioning. Let’s explore why.
What Are Septic Systems?
Septic systems are private wastewater treatment units designed to handle relatively low volumes of wastewater in rural or suburban locations not served by a public sewer system. They solve an age-old problem: safe disposal of wastewater from toilets, showers, or anything else that goes down a drain from your home.
A properly executed and maintained septic system is a cost-effective way to preserve and protect your watershed and public health. When not properly maintained, a septic system can be your biggest headache and nightmare.
How Do Septic Systems Work?
Septic systems treat wastewater from household plumbing fixtures through both technological and natural processes.
Solids typically settle in a septic tank while wastewater is treated and disposed of via a drainfield.
Periodically, these solids need to be pumped and removed from the tank by a septic services company to maintain a functioning septic system.
2 Most Common Types of Septic Tanks in the Upper Peninsula
There are many different septic system styles to choose from. Which one you end up with will depend on several factors like landscape, soil composition, and the water table.
We typically come across two main types of septic systems in our Upper Peninsula home inspections: raised bed systems and conventional systems. Read on to learn the difference.
Conventional Septic Systems – What You Should Know
With this style of system, effluent is piped from the septic tank to a shallow underground trench containing gravel or stone. A geofabric or filter fabric is then placed on top of the trench, so dirt, sand, and other impurities do not enter the clean stone.
The effluent then filters through the stone, where microbes further treat it before reaching the soil below the gravel/stone trench.
Gravel/stone systems are much simpler mechanically than raised bed systems but feature a relatively large footprint and may not be appropriate for all soil and ground conditions.
The Low-Down on Raised Bed Septic Systems
Raised bed (or mound) systems are often utilized in areas with solid rock, heavy clay, and high groundwater tables. They are comprised of three main components.
The first is the septic tank; this is where pretreatment separation takes place. A septic tank is a large concrete, fiberglass, or polypropylene chamber that’s buried underground. Household wastewater travels down to the septic tank and then naturally separates into three layers.
The solid matter sinks to the bottom and is called “sludge.” The middle layer consists of effluent (liquid waste), with the lighter material or “scum” floating to the top.
The sludge at the bottom of the tank is broken down by anaerobic bacteria that thrive in an air-free environment. The liquid effluent (the middle layer) will intermittently flow via gravity to the dosing chamber.
The dosing chamber or “pump chamber” collects the effluent and is fitted with several safety features—a pump control float and a high water alarm float.
Once the pump chamber reaches a certain predetermined level, the pump will engage, delivering the effluent up to the sand mound above ground level.
The last major component of a raised bed system is the sand mound. This is a drain field that can be artificially created by establishing a raised drainage bed with a perforated distribution system. Effluent is pumped up into the sand mound and then gradually trickles into a bed of gravel and sand. Aerobic bacteria in the sand further remove bacteria before it filters into the groundwater.
Unique maintenance points to consider with raised bed septic systems:
- Pump functionality
- Pump control float
- High water alarm
- Drainage mound
It’s easy to stay on top of maintaining your septic system once you know what to look for—and whom to call.
Why Is Septic System Maintenance So Important?
Septic system maintenance is important because it is a vital system of your home that keeps you and your family healthy.
The best way to ensure a septic system is functioning correctly and safely is to include a septic system inspection with your home inspection. Septic systems are not the place to try D.I.Y solutions—calling a professional is always the best bet.
For resources on septic system safety, maintenance, and care, please visit https://www.epa.gov/septic.
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Questions? Give us a call at (906) 360-3879.