How to locate an old septic system
By Barry Stone
Q: When we bought our home, we didn't know the property has a septic tank, rather than a sewer hookup. Our agent also didn't know, so she never recommended a septic inspection. Now that we're planning to build an addition, we can't get a permit because we don't know the location of the septic tank. The title company says they are not responsible for this disclosure. The county has no pertinent records and our home inspector says septic systems are not within the scope of a home inspection. How can we determine the location of this tank?
A: Although it is important to know the location of the tank, of far greater concern are unanswered questions regarding the condition of the tank and leach field. Old septic systems are likely candidates for deterioration and other defects, some that might require replacement of the entire system. Therefore, it is essential you retain the services of a licensed septic contractor.
Locating the tank is a routine process for an experienced professional. Standard procedure is to explore the ground with a long metal probe, inserted into the soil until the top of the tank is detected. If this method fails, the septic contractor can flush an electronic transmitting device down the toilet. The transmitter broadcasts a signal from the septic tank, where it is then located by a radio receiver.
Once the tank is found, it is excavated and the contents are pumped out. This enables a full inspection of the interior to determine its condition and adequacy. The leach field is then tested to observe the rate at which water drains from the tank. The leach field is that portion of a septic system that allows liquid effluent to drain into the earth.
If the location of the tank interferes with your planned addition, it may have to be abandoned, and another tank may have to be installed, However, if sewer service is available at the street, installing a sewer connection will be a worthwhile upgrade to the property.
Q: Our new home is under construction. Unfortunately, the roof leaked during the last rains, and mold showed up on some of the wall and floor surfaces. Should the drywall, insulation and floor materials be replaced in these areas, or can the problem be corrected in some other manner?
A: Mold has become such a major concern in recent years that some insurance companies refuse to write homeowners policies for any home that has had a mold problem. Therefore, total removal of all affected materials is recommended. It would also be prudent for the builder to have a mold survey performed by a qualified expert so that you will have professional documentation to verify that there is no residual mold contamination in the home. This could be important when you eventually sell the home to someone else.
As a side note, be sure to hire an experienced home inspector before completing this purchase. A qualified inspector can find a list of defects in any newly built home.
• To write Barry Stone, visit www.housedetective.com.
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