>Septic System<

Hi Everyone,

I have my first inspection this coming Friday on a house with a Septic System. I know the SOP says we don’t inspect septic systems, but what do you guys do when inspecting a house with a septic system? Anything in particular I should look for? Anything special you guys do when inspecting a house with a septic system? Any hints, or tips would help!:eek: Thanks in advance.



I am sure others will chime in but when I am looking a house that has a septic system I for one defer someone else to check it out…BUT…

But here is some good info for you…enjoy


While wearing your boots, walk the approximate area of the drain field. Any swamp or odor, report it. Without a pumping, you cant inspect the tank anyway.

Texas allows us to do a visual inspection of the Septic System. Be sure to let the customer know this a very limited inspection. Then run the water in all the fixtures and flush the toilets for approx. 20 min. (this will send approx. 200-250 gal. of water into the system for a normal 3 bedroom house).

Then go outside and look for seepage or odor. This test works well if the system has already been in normal use. If the tanks are empty, then you may be filling the tanks only and have a flawed test. 50% of the systems I inspect fail this test. I recommend further inspections by a licensed Professional if the systems fails my test. Below is some text that I include in my Texas inspection report.

Septic Systems
Comments: Inspection includes tank(s) and systems that proceed out of from the tank(s) only. Also be advised that septic systems need to be cleaned out and(or) maintained as needed./ Tip - Septic System installed after 1988 should have a State permit./ Tank(s) should be accessible and records of system maintenance verified./ This is a VERY LIMITED visual inspection and much of the Septic System cannot be seen because it is underground (our opinion should not be taken as an exhaustive evaluation and we suggest further inspections by a Licensed Septic Professional if a higher level of inspection is needed… Please read the following information put out by the EPA to obtain more information: http://cfpub.epa.gov/owm/septic/homeowners.cfm )./ Check with local athorities to see if they require further inspections according to their requirements before closing on the sale of property

Thank you so much for replying to my post John and Paul and Steve. That is very helpfull information for me! I am just wondering what the laws here in Colorado would be. Thanks again!


wow that is an interesting test for a septic system. I watched while the last guy pumped our tank and was amazed it really wasn’t offensive or gross. I mean I wouldn’t want his job…but it was very interesting and profitable. He made 350.00 in less than an hour.

Interesting John. In my opinion sending 200-250 gal of water through the system in 20 min is stressing the system beyond what it would typically be required to do. Do you ever hear back from the licensed Professionals where there was not a problem after all?

If you check with the local health dept. in your state,
a septic systems is suppose to handle a certain amount
of gallons (per bedroom) per day.

On a busy weekend, at full capacity, it is plausible that
people can run a lot of water for 20 min. and still not reach
this limit. Watch your water meter during this test to
check the gallons if you need to verify this.

On a busy weekend after swimming, everyone comes in
and starts the shower, flushes toilets, starts the
dishwasher, starts the washing machine, washes some
veggies for supper, washes their hands, clean the
house, wash the table, run some water for cooking, ect…

3 Bedroom x 2 people = 6 people (a lot of water when
everyone goes after it).

I have run this test on proper systems and they have
no problem. Compromised systems will show their weakness.

This is the purpose of the test and helps the buyer go into
the deal with their eyes open.

Professional installers have had no complaints about my test
and agree that it is fair field testing method. It is crude,
but its fair. You will not read about this method in a book,
but it is a “real world” testing method that I learned from
other inspectors and my own research.

The worst that will happen is a “system fails”, and then will be
inspected by a Licensed Professional Installer.

If you know what a Licensed Installer does, you will know that
my test looks like a walk in the park. I have never had anyone
pass a system that I marked as “failed” in 8 years of testing.

Approx. 50% of these old septic systems in the country fail this test.

I’m more worried about the systems that I pass than the ones I
mark as “failed”. I want to go home at night and know for sure the
thing really works.

Oh and BTW… the septic system is suppose to work on rainy days
too… just in case the Realtor tells you it was too wet outside from
the rain to run the test… smile.

Yeh, try and get rid of that S%*t, big bucks on disposal

Greg, If you aren’t trained to do Onsite Wastewater Treatment System inspections, don’t fool with them. Recommend a qualified inspector. Big liability in these inspections as septic systems can cost $10,000-$20,000 to replace.

Forget dye testing, forget flooding, forget pumping, forget learning septic system inspection in one night from the message boards.
Trained inspectors don’t use dye.
You cannot inspect the tank if it has been pumped. You will not see a crack. If the tank should be full and it’s cracked, effluent level will be at the level of the crack.

There are specific inspection techniques for inspecting the various systems. Get training and know what you’re doing. Don’t guess or listen to those who do. Ask your local authority for the best place to get training in your area.

State in your report that home is served by a private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System which is the responsibility of the owner of the home. Inspection of this system is requires a specialist.

You might download some basic information on septic systems to include for their benefit.


Good point!

One more file with more info.

Here is a good article about the volume of water and dye to use
on a load test for a septic system.


Check you local regulations. Here in Alberta all septic systems have to have an effluent tank that is sized to fit the volume to the absorption rate of the soil the field is in.

Just wondering how you made out with your “…inspection this Friday”
and wording on the septic system?