Septic System Inspection 101

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Guerilla Realty 628217 & 35816

Are you selling a property that has a septic system? It will need to be inspected prior to settlement. Yesterday I went on a septic inspection and learned the basics for real estate professionals.


                                            septic test 1

We started the appointment by turning on a bathtub facet in the house and letting the water run to get an accurate test. Next we had to locate the Septic manhole cover, which proved challenging. The owner was not on-site with us, so we only had a general sense of the location. Luckily the septic tech had brought equipment to help him find the cover including a metal detector.

Our manhole cover was buried underground, so the tech had to dig to gain access. The tech let the buyer know that he had the option of installing a ground-level access cover, known as a manhole riser, to make it easier to access the tank in the future. For aesthetic reasons most homeowners prefer to have the cover below ground level.

Here is how a Septic System works:


Sewage from the house enters the tank and after separating into 3 layers; scum, wastewater, and sludge, the treated wastewater goes to the drainfield.

The drainfield, which is made up of limestone rock, is projected to last 30 years before a second drainfield will need to be added to alleviate the first field. The second drainfield will be used for 30 years, after which the wastewater can be routed back to the first field. This reminds me of the idea of crop rotations.

The tech found that the concrete near the top of the tank was failing (it looked crumbly) and suggested that the new owner may want to replace it was a PVC plastic which should endure a bit better than the concrete. This was not considered a “significant” issue, but it seemed apparent to me that it was a good idea for the future.



                                           septic test 2


In conclusion the tech said the new owner had another six months to a year before they needed to have the septic tank pumped. This estimate of time was based on the amount of sludge measured in the tank and the projected use based on the amount of occupants in the home. In general a septic tank should be cleaned every 1-5 years based on usage.

 Additional maintenance suggestions included a recommendation to install an effluent filter to further protect against solids entering the drainage area, and a suggestion to use liquid laundry and dishwasher detergent.

 It’s not the most appealing subject, but it sure is important to have a basic knowledge before you purchase a property with a septic system. I think of it as the bowels of the house.

 It was very hot and buggy out, and it was obvious that the job of septic inspection and maintenance is not for wimps. I can only imagine the obstacles in the dead of winter!

 We worked with Eric Garret of Home Land Septic Consulting, LLC. If the property is located in Maryland, I would not hesitate to give him a call.

 The scheduling number is 443-995-5385, or

 They offer Septic evaluations; water sampling and well yield testing.



Posted by

Rachel Rabinowitz

Broker / Owner Guerilla Realty  and

Vice President Tranzon Fox Auctions

443.841.5916 direct /





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Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

There are a lot of products you can add to a system to help the bacteria. The EPA here says once a month a simple packet of yeast flushed into the system is as good as any of the more expensive brands

Jun 21, 2011 09:29 AM #1
Marge Piwowarski
Phoenix AZ Horse Property - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC
In Arizona, the tank must be pumped at time of inspection when a property sells. Our laws require the tank to be pumped, inspected and certified for the new owner. Good to know what is required!
Jun 21, 2011 09:56 AM #2
Rachel Rabinowitz
Guerilla Realty - Baltimore, MD
The Baltimore Realtor

Marge, I think the AZ law is a good law. Thank you for sharing.

Jun 22, 2011 03:02 AM #3
Jessica Dailey

Home Land Septic and Well is who I am using next week to do Septic Inspection, Well Yield, Bacterialogical and Chemical and Radium. I like one stop shopping.

Jun 30, 2011 09:24 AM #4
Betsy Schuman Dodek
Washington Fine Properties - Washington DC Area Real Estate - Potomac, MD


Thank you for the explanation of how a septic system is tested. I am working with buyers that are making an offer on a property with well and septic and your primer was great. I also love the humor "bowels" of the house!!!




Sep 16, 2011 11:29 PM #5
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Rachel Rabinowitz

The Baltimore Realtor
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