Louisville Septic Inspection

Why would you need a septic inspection?

Anyone who has a septic installed and not hooked up to city sewer should have their septic system tested. If it is a brand-new construction that’s just been tested by the county, then you’re good to go. The older the system and the longer the home has been vacant; the more important it is to have a septic inspection. Septic is nasty and it is expensive to fix those problems, it’s just a headache that no home buyer wants to deal with. Septic testing is rarely passed up by home buyers who are buying a property that has septic located on it.

What is a septic inspection?

Septic inspections come in different types. If it’s an old house and has been vacant for an extended amount of time – have a reputable septic and drain company come in and do the inspection rather than a home inspection company. Why do I say that? I want to be honest. I would love to take your money but the fact is, I have to sleep at night. For septic systems, we are not allowed to physically inspect. Our septic testing is strictly visual, what we call a push test, or dye test, where we introduce dye into the system. Whereas a septic and drain company, they will be charging you a lot more, of course, but they will do a physical inspection and  do the push-dye test as well.

In our area it’s very, very common to have septic systems, we do a ton of septic testing’s, when we feel that we can give a valid result. But if we’re in doubt, or we can’t determine its location – we are going to refer you on to that specialist. Just like how we would refer you on to any other specialist during the point of the home inspection.

When should I get a septic inspection, and how often?

Great, both those questions are good. When you should get it of course, is prior to purchase. Make sure you have valid documentation that that system was checked out. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with septic and the best time to do it is at purchase.

How often? You should actually have that system pumped out every three to five years, depending on the usage of it. A family of three or four, every three to five years would be smart. If you have a larger family you might go a little sooner. If it’s just the two of you there, you might wait till the five-year mark. Having it pumped out, and inspected by the septic company is important. I’d also add that, that’s a great time to add what we call a riser, or the access cover because these septic companies charge quite a bit to dig that system up.

While it is being dug up, it’s not that much more expensive to have a riser or lid installed. You don’t have that cost each and every time we want to have it cleaned out or inspected.

What septic tank companies do you refer in your area, in Louisville?

In our area there are several, Losson is one L-O-S-S-O-N, that’s local here. Estes is another one, E-S-T-E-S. I’m trying to think of the other one, Greenwell is another one, we have several actually in our area that are pretty reputable for that.

Is the dye test for septic tanks generally effective?

Yes, the dye test is very effective. It has it’s downsides because we’re not physically digging up things and going beyond our standards of practice. But I’ve done thousands of these and they’re affordable. Typically, throughout the whole process we check the whole system – the tank, around that tank, the distribution box, perimeter drains, all parts. I’ve found so many breaches.

What does a septic inspection consist of?

The septic dye test is what we do when we arrive at the home. We typically do this during the complete home inspection. We do a lot of them that are stand-alone septic tests. Protocol is that you squirt the red dye, and you flush those commodes. It doesn’t take a lot, just enough to tint the water, of course. You’ll turn on some faucets too, tub, shower, and you want to introduce water to the system for at least 30 minutes. Sometimes that will consist of filling up a couple of tubs, if you’ve got a spa tub or something you want to test during the home inspection, we’ll be sure we drain that into the system. Introduce at least a good 30 minutes worth of running water into the system with the dye introduced.

Everything then is inspected. The venting, to make sure that it spit it out from the roof of the house or at least above the roof line. There’s no clogging, gurgling, odors being picked up, and everything seems to be flushing, flowing fine.

Then, we’ll go to the exterior. We typically locate the holding tank by determining where the main drain leaves the house. That will tell us if it’s taking off out of the right-hand side of the foundation. Chances are, the septic is going to be located in that direction.

In 1989 – 1990’s, is when the Health Department got involved and started requiring then that the Health Department did inspections during installation. You had to have the riser or access cover I spoke about earlier.

A lot of cases it’s pre-1990, there may not even be any records of the system in the Health Department. Then it’s kind of a hunt and search. That’s why we try to determine where it leaves the home to give us a general idea of where to locate. Locating, again, it takes experience, time, you’ve got to do a hundred of these or so before you get really good at saying, “Okay, that’s where it’s at.” just by looking at the topography of the yard and the ground around the house. In the summertime it’s super easy because your lateral lines are carrying the sewage out. There’ll be pretty nice green strips running around over the top of those, so they’re kind of easy to see.

Where the pipe exits the house, we make sure there are no breaches from there to the tank. Then around the perimeter of the tank itself, is there any displacement of dirt or low spots? Are we seeing any breaches where there’s water coming out or the dye? Does it look level and all that?

From there, it then travels to the distribution box, this is where all your different lateral lines that run underground dissipate the sewage. There is our most common problem. The distribution box is typically small; it may be an 18, 20-inch square box. So it’s easy for that to settle in one direction or the other and it’s the most common defect that we find. So that distribution tank will typically, one way or the other, start feeding the majority of the water to a single line or two lines and they bleed out. There’s just too much water for the ground to absorb and so it becomes saturated and percolates up to the top.

That’s basically the inspection; we want to make sure where that has a perimeter drain around the lateral fields so that ground water isn’t entering into the system. So it will hit the drain and drain away and out instead of running into the lateral field itself. I’m glad that most people do ask us for this testing. The majority of the homes check out just fine, but I have a whole list. I’ve found it bleeding out and running out across the horse fields. I’ve found it just no holding tank or distribution box at all, just one straight pipe. In several occasions I’ve had this happen, where it just runs out into a pit or down over the hill. The unknowing home buyer is clueless to these kinds of things.

Especially if it’s running out 100 feet from the home down over a hill, you’re not going to know until some warm muggy day, and you’re, “What’s that smell?” Then you’ll discover something like that. So it’s very important to do that test. That’s pretty much what it consists of; again, you let that run for a good 30 minutes. You don’t want to let the water run too long because you can blow out the whole system. On a septic system you can’t just walk away and leave the water on for days and days, you can damage the system.

How much does a septic inspection cost? Should I get it with the home inspection?

The cost is very affordable; again we try to keep our costs down. We’re there doing a home inspection anyway. Any service that you order through us with the home inspection, comes at a much better rate than as a stand-alone service. We have what we call our five-star package that covers all of our services and saves the client quite a bit of money. Typically, with a home inspection it runs $77 and then stand-alone you’re looking at about $175. Again, it is so much cheaper to do it during the home inspection. These septic companies, I think a common charge around here would be about $325, $350. To have them do just the septic inspection, just the tank inspection itself. That’s not cleaning it out or any of that. It’s typically another $125 or 50 bucks to have the lid dug up.

All in all, we recommend all the time to have a septic and drain company come and do it if we’re unsure. What do I mean by unsure? If the house has been vacant for like a year, we have no way of knowing how much water we can introduce. Is it flowing through the tank? Is our dye getting out there? We’re not going to take someone’s money. I would much feel much better; of course, that you actually have a septic and drain company in that circumstance, to do the test. You got to have a little ethics to what your do in business, so we do advise our client on the best route for them, regardless of whether we’re doing, or recommend that a specialist do it.