Septic Inspections for Home Buyers

Home Inspector with Bendix Home Inspection, Inc


     I recently had a client call me to ask if I could get their septic tank pumped out. I replied, "Yes, I'll have the tank pumped as part of my inspection." The reply was, "The system was inspected already, and they just needed the tank pumped out."

    WOW! This is a big "Red Flag" It's like diagnosing a cars' engine without opening the hood!

     When it comes to septic systems, there are two basic types of inspections:  

      The County Inspection - Also called the Time of Sale Inspection, is done to fulfill the counties requirements. Every county is different, some have their own reporting criteria, and some don't inspect at all. It's possible to pass a county inspection without having to inspect the tank, and I believe many problems would be missed with this type of inspection.

     The Bendix Inspection - I recieved my septic education with Michigan State University, at the Michigan Onsite Wastewater Training and Education Center (MOWTEC).
     Using a detailed checklist, and with the countys info (if there is any), I will locate and open the septic tank, observe and record the conditions in the tank, inspect the condition of the baffles and tees, take a soil boring of the drain field, and I'll have the tank pumped.

     They said a report they have states the tank was opened, conditions observed were normal, and they took a boring sample of the drainage field and it was normal.

     The two ways a system can fail is at the tank and in the field. The problems associated with the tank are: The baffles are cracked, the cement tank is cracked, or there are tree roots penetrating the tank. Any of these would fail an inspection, but you will never know without having the tank pumped out.

     After explaining this I asked, "Are there any trees within 50' of the system?" And the answer was "Yes."

     I'm glad to say I sold them on a proper inspection!!!

Posted by

Rick Capps
Bendix Home Inspection, Inc
37315 Bendix
Wayne, Mi. 48184
Cell: 734-377-5616
Fax: 734-578-0440

Comments (4)

Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

rick, we also have the home inspector do a 'stress' test of the system in ri by pumping huge amounts of water in & seeing how long it takes to drop...always tell a seller that they can not pump it right before putting it on the market because that is a red flag too.

May 20, 2010 11:51 PM
Kathryn Maguire (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

It is amazing how many false assumptions there are about septic systems ("You don't need to do anything to your system as long as you use a product like RidX each month.").  Just had mine pumped last week...first time in the house.  And yes, there is a big birch tree right next to the tank.  Luckily, the roots had not caused any problems...yet.  The tree goes down next week!  Thanks for the description of the two types of inspections!

May 20, 2010 11:52 PM
Scott Coslett
National Property Inspections - Berwick, PA

All those involved in Real Estate need to understand the septic system is THE MOST EXPENSIVE 'APPLIANCE' attached to the home.  As such, proper inspection procedures are a must.  Simply pumping the tank or performing a dye test are woefully inadequate.  Only a complete inspection of the tank(s), pump(s), absorption area, and plumbing lines will yield a proper assessment of the health of the system.


Have a great day!

May 21, 2010 12:31 AM
Rick Capps
Bendix Home Inspection, Inc - Wayne, MI

 Hi, Thanks for the comments.

     I'd like to add: I personally do not recommend stress tests or dye tests as part of a normal inspection. I believe they could cause damage if the field is over saturated. If the inspector is very meticulous, then yes they could be benefitial, but if "all" aspects of the inspection are normal, I do not recommend it.

 Another falicy is "septic safe toilet paper", the reason they say it is septic safe is because they use a larger pulp size for the paper, so that it decomposes faster. I believe it only breaks down faster and then you have all this wood pulp that adds to the sludge and you would need to have the tank pump more freqently.

Thanks Again.



May 21, 2010 12:37 AM