Is a Septic Inspection Important when Buying a Home?
Yes, you should have a Septic Inspection when buying your home!
Hawaii does not require that sellers of a home have their septic (or cesspool) system inspected or pumped before selling the home. Septic inspections will be paid for by the buyer.
Here’s everything you need to know about septic systems and inspections and why they’re so important and worth the cost.
How does septic system work?
Rather than a sewer connection, septic systems are on-site waste management systems. Septic systems work by using a tank to separate into separate layers of solids, effluent, and scum. The solids settle to the bottom, where microorganisms decompose them. The scum, composed of waste that’s lighter than water, floats on top. The liquids then flow into a drainage field.
What is a septic inspection?
As you may have noticed in your Kauai home search, most households are not on sewer systems, but rather households are fitted with their own septic system. These systems treat and dispose of wastewater from your toilet, shower, sinks, and washing goods.
Modern septic systems have a working life of approximately 25 -30 years. If well maintained, the lifespan can be longer.
Although they are designed for long-term durability, problems in the septic system can occur, with common problems including blockages in plumbing or clogged sections of drainfield.
For this reason, I encourage home buyers to hire an inspector to check the septic system during the J-1 home inspection contingency period.
As the name suggests, a septic inspection is characterized by a formal check-up of your home’s septic system.
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What happens during a septic inspection?
What happens during a septic inspection will depend on the type of septic inspection you’re paying for.
At minimum, you’ll want a visual only inspection.
Visual Only inspections can be performed by a licensed home inspector and consists of a visual assessment of the septic system. During the visual inspection, an inspector will access your septic system by opening your septic tank manhole and taking some high definition photos of the interior. This visual inspection will provide basic inspection and also gauge the level of waste/sludge in the system and whether it should be pumped.
f you opt for a more comprehensive septic inspection, the inspector will have time to conduct a top-to-bottom examination of your septic system, from its electrical components and mechanical plumbing to its effluent screens and scum/sludge levels. (For more information on more comprehensive inspections, keep reading.)
How often should you schedule a septic inspection?
In addition to taking proper care of your septic system, it is recommended having your septic system inspected at least once every five years
Types of Septic Inspections
In order to inspect your septic system more in depth than Level 0, you’ll need to contract the services of a licensed septic inspection company.
Beyond the visual inspection, there are more intensive septic inspection levels available, ranging from a brief visual inspection to a thorough pump, soil, and engineering evaluation. While higher grade septic inspections are more expensive and time-consuming, they are your best chance for the early detection of functionality issues or potential hazards.
To give you a more informed idea about the pros and cons of each of these inspection levels, we’ve briefly described each type below. Please note, these grades are cumulative, meaning that higher-level inspections also complete the steps outlined in the preceding levels.
Visual Only Septic Inspection
Also known as a visual-only inspection, Level 0 septic inspections can be performed by a licensed home inspector and consists of a visual assessment of the septic system and, in some cases, a quick loading and dye test. Please note, some municipalities do not allow home inspectors to fiddle around with the septic system — if this is the case in your neighborhood, you’ll need to contact a licensed, third-party septic contractor
Level 1 Septic Inspections
During a level 1 septic inspections, a septic inspector will open the manhole cover and conduct a limited assessment of the effluent screens and waste pipes. In some jurisdictions, state law requires a full septic tank pump out before a level 1 inspection can be carried out.
Level 2 Septic Inspections
A level 2 septic inspection involves a thorough survey of the conditions inside your septic tank. In addition to testing the thickness of the scum layer over the effluent, they’ll also inspect the septic distribution boxes for leaks or cracks. Due to the demands of a level 2 inspection, almost all level 2 septic contractors will require that the tank be pumped prior to the inspection.
Level 3 Septic Inspections
A level 3 septic inspection is the most comprehensive type of inspection on the market. In addition to everything outlined in the level 0,1 and 2 inspections, level 3 inspectors will also assess the soil conditions around the septic leaching area and drainfield.
After your septic inspector has finished reviewing your site, you’ll receive an in-depth written report detailing the current conditions inside the tank.
This is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide professional advice or expertise about septic systems. As always, consult with a septic professional for additional details, estimates, advice or work.