Septic system narrative, which one is better?

“The home was connected to an underground private onsite wastewater (septic) system in which sewage drains by a gravity-fed sewer pipe to a tank. Typically, tanks have two chambers. Solids settle to the bottom of the first chamber (and must be pumped out periodically) while liquid effluent from the second chamber drains through a series of pipes into underground trenches a leach field. Effluent is released into the soil of the leach field, and pathogens, bacteria, viruses, cysts, and other pathogens and contaminants are removed by bacterial action and filtration through the soil. These are one of the most expensive home systems to replace and the Inspector strongly recommends inspection by a qualified contractor. The tank pumping schedule varies according to various factors. You should ask the inspecting contractor how often he recommends having the tank pumped.”


“Home sewage was handled by a septic system that will need to be pumped on a regular basis. These are one of the most expensive home systems to replace and the Inspector strongly recommends inspection by a qualified contractor. You should ask this contractor how often he recommends having the tank pumped.”

I think it is to much info for a client, but that is just me. For the clients that don’t know about the operation of the septic system I tell them how it works.
Here is what I put on my reports.

“Recommend the septic system be pumped out and inspected if not done so in the past three to five years. As with all septic systems they should be pumped out and inspected every three to five years as to provide continual proper operation.”

I appreciate your willingness to comment, Roy. I’m just trying to get some perspective other than my own. It’s one of those I’m trying to give a long and short for, but I have to pick one as the primary, since it’s a Styles and Materials link for HomeGauge. Maybe the short one is even too long.
This has gotten about 25 views and you’re the only one who’s commented.

Thank you Sir.
Most of the inspections I do are on well and septic.
I will always try to help if I can.

Afternoon, Kenton.
Hope this post finds you well.

Septic system narratives. It depends upon the type of septic system. There are (3).
1: Sewage treatment takes place within a specific tank before being discharged to a drainage field.
2: Sewage treatment takes place within a specific tank. Additional aerobic secondary treatment stage typically within a small on-site biological package treatment plant before being discharged to a drain field.
3: Specially designed tank capable of treating sewage to produce effluent of a higher quality standard by including disinfection before discharge into the environment via drainage field.

Typically I refer clients to have municipal records disclosed prior purchase. Typically/usually municipal water works or environmental workers perform septic system phase inspections every 2 years. The results are sent to the homeowner.

Other than that I look for ponding water, sinkholes, exposed drainage pipes, damaged tank covers.

Observation: 2 manufactured concrete treatment tanks. Septic field to the , North, South, East, West, Front, Side or Rear of the property.
No adverse conditions observed or Note defects and more on.

So Robert… which of those two narratives do you like best?

It’s very simple… if you explained, in a HI report, how every system and component worked, the report would be 999+ pages long. Who is going to read it? (there is an older, good, post about this, I believe by @dbowers) There are books that explain this stuff. A HI report should be an evaluation of those components and systems, explanations should be limited to what the system does, briefly, and if not self explanatory, and explaining the severity of the issue at hand (what is likely to happen if not corrected). Beyond that, let them read a book if they want to learn how something like a septic system works in detail. I do see reports where HI try to explain how AC works, using terms like “gas compression” Really? how many would understand that LOL How about just the “AC is a system that cools and dehumidifies the house”… When you start teaching in the report how it does so, then the report is no longer a report, now is it. For a new homebuyer… very important maintenance procedures such as pumping and inspecting the septic tank or winterizing an irrigation system are helpful. From there, let them contact a professional (unless they wish to learn it through their own research, experience, and become a DIY’er).

So… second narrative is a better start :slight_smile:

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How about if your client is an engineer?
The first one would be too short. :smiley:

But yep, number 2 it is.

If the client is an engineer… ask him or her to help you with the inspection and just listen :slight_smile:

The home has a private sewer (septic system). I recommend pumping cleaning and examination by a qualified sanitarian prior to close . simple and short works for me…

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I think it’s important to make a client understand how expensive these systems are to replace. The first inspection I ever did alone was a 35-year-old mountain house on a septic system. Buyer (an engineer!) did not want to pay to have the septic system inspected, but by coincidence :roll_eyes: it was scheduled to be pumped at the same time I was doing my 5-hour inspection. :roll_eyes:

The Septic guy’s verdict was “This system is shot!”.

Lessons learned from inspection #1:

  • If you aren’t highly qualified to inspect septic systems, schedule that specialist inspection to take place while you’re there.
  • Make sure the client knows how expensive they are to replace.
  • If a system is super-bad, don’t try to document everything, just recommend a contractor evaluation and move on.
  • Not all engineers are equal in their abilities.
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You should then list a price to replace a furnace, entire wall eaten by termites, differential settlement in foundation that’s ongoing, an oil spill, poorly designed AC system in 3000sqft house with high ceilings and no basement, on and on and on… It’s simple… how old is the house? any house will have issues and ongoing expense to maintain it… everything will get old and require replacement. When someone is buying an old house they should know that old things need replacing and they should do some research on the cost of the items. Again, are you consulting them on how to buy a house that won’t be a money pit or are you evaluating the house? Anything can be expensive… replacing a $3000 boiler is expensive to many. How about… a single statement in the report that encompasses all of this? The house is of age… many major systems of the house appear to be original… replacing major systems often comes at high cost relatively to minor components. If cost is of concern the client is advised to research prices for major systems & components such as… That’s it. Let them do the homework if they want to buy a 50 year old house with cast iron pipes, 20 year old boiler, ac unit, and original cesspool. It’s not possible to cover every angle and 99% of people won’t read such reports. Most cannot even read a 20 page report, let alone 100 page. Now, of course, if you “know”, you are targeting special audience that would appreciate and read an indepth report, by all means. IMO, most, average homebuyers, will not. They don’t care. Yes, even if that means they will get stuck with $20,000 bill to replace a shot septic system. Reality of life. If they cared… they would do research and ask questions! If they ask you, tell them, otherwise KISS (keep it simple stupid).

PS: most won’t even finish reading the above :slight_smile:

Hang on, hang on… I’m still trying to get through your post. Whew… it’s a really long paragraph. And Simon, the point escapes me, unless that’s your point. What’s your point?

Hope you had some tea & cookies while reading it in front of a warm fire :smiley:

Use the shorter one. I’d also note that inspecting the septic system is outside of the scope of this home inspection, or something like that.

Christopher… thank you for a straight forward comment!
Yep, I have a separate disclaimer, but I’m afraid if I combine it with this short narrative the posters will rip me to shreds for an over-long narrative. I’d usually say “overly-long” narrative, but I’d be severely chastised.

Simon… I’m thinking that when you were a child your mother couldn’t figure out whether to spank you or thank you, but I will try to reply to this War and Peace post.

My original post was not about what inspector’s narratives should be in general, it was just about asking inspectors to make a simple choice between two narratives. But you posted a mile-long response ending with something about keeping it simple stupid (KISS)!

In response to what I think you said: Inspectors can provide whatever information they think appropriate. That may vary with local markets and with individual clients.

Lest anyone thinking I’m dismissing Simon’s post, he’s one of the most knowledgeable inspectors on these boards. We just don’t agree all the time (I don’t think… I didn’t really figure out that long post).

People don’t want to read “Gone With the Wind” type reports. Look at whats there, REPORT and move.

A private waste disposal system of some type was present. BECAUSE most of the system is underground and can NOT be seen during a VISUAL home inspection the SoP (Standards-of Practice) for our home inspections, EXCLUDE these type systems They are NOT inspected as part of the General Home Inspection. We are NOT specialists in these type of systems and DID NOT perform any analysis or intrusive septic system or other type testing on the system.

They are EXPENSIVE (can cost $10,000 to $20,000), so we Recommend pumping it and then an open tank inspection, consultation and evaluation by a competent and licensed specialist in private waste water disposal systems prior to leaving your inspection contingency period

Dan… is the second narrative (if a disclaimer is included separately, or included) adequate?

I usually do BOTH in Missouri … On the Kansas side of the state line on a RE transfer its gonna be mandatory because the county requires it BY their own people