February 24, 2020

What Happens During a Septic Inspection (And When Do I Need One)?

Ace Acme Services - Septic System Inspection
It’s easy to forget about maintaining something that’s hidden under your yard. Most of the time you can just go through life without worrying about what you flush away. But like most other parts of your home, you do need occasional maintenance to keep your septic tank in good working order.

If you don’t maintain your septic system, you will eventually end up with a stinky problem that requires costly repairs far beyond what you would have spent on preventative maintenance. Scheduling a simple inspection like the kind we discuss below will save your family a lot of hassle down the road.

How Often Should You Have Your Septic Tank Inspected?

In most cases, you should have your septic system inspected at least once every three years. You might want to schedule inspections more often if you have a large number of people in your household or a more complicated septic system, such as one with a garbage disposal or electronic components.

It’s also a good idea to have a septic inspection before you sell your house, or before you purchase a home if an inspection hasn’t been done recently. A recent inspection will usually raise the value of your home a bit and help you avoid any liability issues that might come up.

What Needs to Happen Before a Septic Inspection?

Before an inspection, you need to find out where your septic tank is. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. The septic professionals can help you locate your tank.

Newer septic tanks often contain risers that are visible above the ground. If you see a round plastic lid that is large enough to stand on somewhere in your yard, it’s probably the top of your septic riser. Another giveaway is an area in your yard with particularly green grass.

In most cases, you can contact the previous homeowner to find out where the septic tank is. You can also check with your local health or zoning agency to see if they have a record of the “as-built” drawing of your house. These drawings usually include the location of the septic tank.

If you’re really stuck, the septic inspector can probe the area where you think the tank might be.

What Will Be Checked During the Inspection?

During the inspection, septic service professionals will go through several steps to check all the components of your septic system to make sure they are in good working order.

Most inspections include:

  • Making sure the septic system as a whole should be properly set up to avoid issues with the surrounding environment. The tank and drainfield should be a good distance away from any wells or streams, and any landscaping over the drainfield should be limited to short-rooted plants and grasses.
  • The inspector should check to see if you will need septic pumping anytime soon. They will use a “sludge judge” or similar tool to check the sludge level and find the date that the tank was most recently pumped. As a general rule, sludge shouldn’t take up more than 1/3 of the tank or reach the baffles, which are the components that prevent solids and scum from entering the drainfield.
  • The inspector will determine if the septic system is still the right size and type for your home. If your family has grown or your usage has increased, you might be filling up your tank too fast or overloading the drainfield.
  • The inspector should make sure the tank isn’t leaking so your wastewater doesn’t contaminate the groundwater or surface.
  • The drain lines should each receive the same amount of wastewater so you don’t get a disproportionate amount of effluent in one part of your drainfield, which could cause a flood.
  • If your septic system has risers, the inspector should make sure they are secure and check the lids for any cracks.
  • The baffles, which slow wastewater entry to make sure that solids are distilled and prevent scum from getting into the drainfield, should be checked for problems. Solids covering the baffles indicate an overflow, sludge levels above the baffle are a sign of blockage, and too-low level could be a sign that there’s a leak. The inspector should also check for baffle erosion.

Are Septic Inspections Really Necessary?

You may be able to put off septic maintenance for a while, but eventually, it will come back to haunt you — probably in the form of an unpleasant-smelling health hazard.

Regular inspections help you avoid major problems with your septic tank. If you keep your septic system in good condition, you will save thousands of dollars that you would have otherwise spent on emergency repairs.

Do I Need to Hire a Septic Professional?

Unless you happen to be a licensed septic technician, you should always hire a professional to do your septic inspection. Your septic tank contains methane gas and other fumes which can cause rapid asphyxiation and death. A licensed professional will have the proper equipment and training to deal with any health hazards (both expected and unexpected!) that await below ground.

Ace Acme is a family-owned septic service company serving Snohomish, Skagit, Island, and North King counties. We provide septic inspections and are here to help with any septic problems you may have. Contact us today to get your septic questions answered.

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