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Tyler Howell
09-12-2006, 8:55 AM
Looking at a new house.
You guys can pile it pretty high around here, so I figured this was the best place to to ask a few questions about septic systems.
I've heard the usable life of a drain field (even well maintained is about 25 years.)
Including an inspection and testing I'm not sure what to ask of the seller. The data shows this one is 30 years old.:confused:
TIA

Dave Richards
09-12-2006, 8:56 AM
Tyler, is this the house you sent pictures of?

Dennis Peacock
09-12-2006, 9:18 AM
Tyler,

With a well drained septic field, it really depends on the load on the system. I have 4 kids and we have to have our septic pumped out every other year due to the load on the "system". Now, we live where it's flat and where it's swampy during the winter months. Folks up on higher ground don't have the same problem as we do.

For a good reference point, I'd have it checked/inspected and get the system layout and health department approval from the local authorities from when it was first installed. I didn't do this and I've been paying to maintain what I have now for the last 4 years and the house / system is only 10 years old presently.

Realistically, I think you'll be alright and ain't nuttin wrong with being in the kuntry. Shoot, I'll have to send ya a pair of Bib Overalls to get you broke in right. ;)

Al Willits
09-12-2006, 9:26 AM
Considering this is coming from someone who's only seen a drain field, I've heard they can do a "percolator" test on the drain field to see what kinda shape its in.
Also if the drain field dies on ya, I think they can go to a above ground system, looks like a big mound of dirt/grass, but this will probably cost 10k or more...I think.

Al

Tim Morton
09-12-2006, 9:57 AM
you will want to make sure you have a perc test done for a replacement leechfield and know going in what the cost of replacment will be. I think I would want to have someone look at both the septic tank and leechfield before making an offer. 10k seems really steep to replace the leechfield..here in VT ours about 3500. I think if it were me I would want to build that cost into the morgage and start with a clean slate so to speak.:cool:

Frank Fusco
09-12-2006, 10:03 AM
Do get the septic tank pumped out fairly soon after moving in. That way you will have a reference point. Depending on a lot of factors, the tank needs pumping every three to ten years. If the drain field seems OK now, don't worry about it unles problems arise. Our septic guy says never to use the commercial products for a tank. They will liquefy the 'stuff' but it rehardens in the leach lines. That's bad. Reccomendation is to occaisionally put a couple packets of yeast down the toilets and let the good buggies have a feast. We are going away for a few days and that will be the last thing we do before leaving the house.

Edit: P.S. Welcome to the country. You have added years to your life and will have better children. Below is one of our neighbors on a regular visit to our yard.

Karl Laustrup
09-12-2006, 10:25 AM
Hey Tyler, you're really getting serious about this moving to the country. Good for you.

A lot of variables involved in septic systems. As Dennis pointed out soil has a lot to do with it. In Wisconsin mound systems are required by law, at least in my neck of the woods. The size is determined by the # of bedrooms. It is also a law that the septic must be pumped every two years in our county and surrounding counties. Don't know if that's statewide or not.

Pumping is pretty reasonable compared to a whole new system, which can run upwards of $10k, so I pump my tanks every year. My mound system is only about 5 years old and by keeping it pumped I'm hoping it'll outlive me.

You should check the county and/or township to find out about pumping and what is required for septic systems as I'm sure they have changed over the last several years.

Karl

Jim Becker
09-12-2006, 7:17 PM
The real usable life of the septic system and drain field is a combination of proper maintenance, good design and the opinions of your local Health Department inspector. The latter (or local equivalent) is the authority when it comes to septic system condition and acceptability. And if the current system isn't right, you need to get it into the conditions of sale if you are buying so that the current owners have some skin in the game.

And even then you have to be careful...we just found out that the system installed brand new in 2000 was not designed for the flow that 5 bedrooms require (they base capacity on bedrooms, not bathrooms, around here). Therefore, we have an unexpected expense if we want to go forward with our home addition...that is already in the "ching...ching..." stratosphere...

Scott Donley
09-12-2006, 7:43 PM
Tyler, septic in the country? Thats what the trees are for :D "sorry, I could not pass on this one"

Tony Falotico
09-12-2006, 8:02 PM
Tyler... I Google'd 'septic systems' , check this site, seems to be some good information.
http://www.inspect-ny.com/septic/buyguide.htm

Remember there are many variables in septic systems, most are based on location, soils, water table, how it was originally built, size ......... Also, local regulations vary, make sure you get info relative to your location. The local Building Dept or Health Dept should be able to give you some good information.

And don't be afraid of a septic tank, properly built they are really docile creatures.

Frank Chaffee
09-12-2006, 10:19 PM
Tyler,
Especially with a drain field that old in a county that has not required pumping of the septic tank every two years (if solids overflow the tank leech field life is shortened), I suggest you make your offer with the contingency that a perc test show the field to be up to current standards for your area.

The teaser shot of the shop/garage looks great, BTW! Congrats.

Frank

Bob Weisner
09-12-2006, 11:54 PM
This is a subject I have some experience in!!:eek: :eek: :eek: First thing you need to know is how many bedrooms are in the house and how many gallons is the septic tank.

If the house has 4 bedrooms and the tank is 750 gallons, you need a whole new septic system. When I bought my house, the prior owner saiid they put in a new sand filter septic system 10 years before. That was true, but the septic tank was only 750 gallons for a 4 bedroom house. The code requires a 1,500 tank for 4 bedrooms. Then there was the sand filter itself. What a joke that was. When the contractor dug it up to put the new system in, we found out the "sand filter" , was no bigger than a half sheet of plywood!! 4 feet by 4 feet!! $8,000 for a new septic system.:eek:

Bob Weisner
09-12-2006, 11:58 PM
I suggest you make your offer with the contingency that a perc test show the field to be up to current standards for your area.



But make sure that they don't pump the septic tank out prior to doing the perc test. That would give the perc test a passing grade when in fact the system may not be working.

Jim Dunn
09-13-2006, 8:03 AM
Septic field systems start to fail the moment they are put into use! A well maintained system has a life span of between 15 and 25 years. The soils in your particular area, along with leaky toilets, drippy faucet and excessive laundry loads on the same day, are going to be the determining factor.

Do not, DO NOT!!! use septic additives. These can over stimulate (at my age I could use some over stimulation every once in a while) the process in the tank and cause more, rather than less, material escape. Have the system inspected making sure to include an interior evaluation of the baffles.

I think the word that everybody is using, perc test, should be changed to "stress test". You want to test the existing system, this is done with a stress test. A perc test is done in preperation to install a new system.

Just remember we pumpers like money just as well as the next guy. We installers/manufactures like it even more. In this part of our state a system usually cost $20-25K for a 4 bedroom house. Suprisingly a new obsorption system can cost the same.

Good luck Tyler

Tyler Howell
09-13-2006, 9:05 AM
Thank you all folks so very much for your input. Lots to know but important for this transition to a new way of life.
Jim I don't think I would have chosen your line of work but a valued one none the less.

Greg Ladd
09-13-2006, 10:12 AM
I cannot speak for anyone else but I have been using additives in my septic system for years and have had good luck.

The enzymes in the septic tank can be killed with chorine bleach, dishwashing soaps and laundry detergent. The enzyme additives help break down the solids into liquids and help keep the soil in the leach field loose.

We have not even had to have our septic tank pumped out yet. We have lived here 19 years.

Greg

Mike Cutler
09-13-2006, 1:43 PM
Tyler.

Our septic system is going on 30 years old, and is still in good condition. There are only two of us, and we have always been careful to use soaps that are septic sytem safe. Our washer is a front loader to decrease the demand on the system (11-17gallons per load), and the dishwasher is a water saving efficient model.

The septic system/tank should be pumped and inspected as part of the closing agreement. Ours was stipulated by the mortgage lender.

The only problem we had was that one drywell plugged up and backed up into the basemant. The drywell was specifically for the washer, and the drywell was completely rocked up with non dissolved, powdered detergent from the previous owner.

Take care of your septic system. They are expensive to repair/replace.

Andy Hoyt
09-13-2006, 2:24 PM
Jim Dunn - correct me if I'm wrong, but....

Another element to consider is the type of toilet paper that's used. Those soft comfy multi-ply easy on the delicates TPs do not self destruct all that well in septic systems; and can thusly lead to shorter intervals between pumpings. Switch to good ol single ply and get more life out of the system and your pocketbook.

Bob Weisner
09-13-2006, 3:23 PM
Tyler.

Our septic system is going on 30 years old, and is still in good condition. There are only two of us, and we have always been careful to use soaps that are septic sytem safe. Our washer is a front loader to decrease the demand on the system (11-17gallons per load), and the dishwasher is a water saving efficient model.

The septic system/tank should be pumped and inspected as part of the closing agreement. Ours was stipulated by the mortgage lender.

The only problem we had was that one drywell plugged up and backed up into the basemant. The drywell was specifically for the washer, and the drywell was completely rocked up with non dissolved, powdered detergent from the previous owner.

Take care of your septic system. They are expensive to repair/replace.

The graywater could be separately piped off from the main drainpipe. That graywater can go straight out to a ditch in the backyard or the side of the house.

Jim Dunn
09-13-2006, 8:29 PM
The enzymes in the septic tank can be killed with chorine bleach, dishwashing soaps and laundry detergent. The enzyme additives help break down the solids into liquids and help keep the soil in the leach field loose.

The chlorine bleach in a "normal" load of cloths will not be sufficient to kill enough bacteria to upset the balance of a tanks normal action. Laundry soaps likewise will not harm bacteria action. It is never suggested to dump a whole gallon of bleach down a drain but I doubt that it would hurt anything as it would probably represent only 1% of the tanks volume. Try Googling "septic tank additives" and go to any site hosted as an .EDU or .ORG and read just a sample of what is said in the health industry about additives. As I understand it Canada won't allow the import of tank additives into their country. (They wont' let in cigs, or porn either but I don't really think their thinking of the enviroment with these.:D)

What you are doing when you have the tank pumped is removing the debris, read "waste material", from the bacteria digesting the nutrients in your household waste. Try to imagine a bacteria large enough to hold 19yrs worth of solids deposited in your tank. He would look like the "Incredible hulk":eek: Bacteria produces waste, period, and that is what you want to remove from you tank by pumping.

You haven't said whether or not you have an open discharge or a conventional soil absorption field drain system. Open discharge is usually what I find when someone tells me they never have tank trouble or never have had their tank pumped.

Jim

Jim Dunn
09-13-2006, 8:35 PM
The graywater could be separately piped off from the main drainpipe. That graywater can go straight out to a ditch in the backyard or the side of the house.

In most states "grey water" has to be deposited in the tank along with the normal water from the household plumbing. Is you washing machine water clean. Not hardly, it's classified by most health departments as black water. Grey water literally has no real meaning in the plumbing industry other than to describe where it comes from, not where it's going.

Most people are not educated in the fundimentals of waste-treatment. I understand this and try my best to keep those individuals informed.

I do not mean to offend anyone but water is a non-renewable resourse. We have to conserve and protect it.;)

Jim Dunn
09-13-2006, 8:38 PM
Jim Dunn - correct me if I'm wrong, but....

Another element to consider is the type of toilet paper that's used. Those soft comfy multi-ply easy on the delicates TPs do not self destruct all that well in septic systems; and can thusly lead to shorter intervals between pumpings. Switch to good ol single ply and get more life out of the system and your pocketbook.

Andy in all of my years of looking into septic tanks I could never tell the difference between single and double ply paper.:eek::eek::eek:

The only thing I despise advertisers claiming personal wipes are flushable. Oh and add to that "flushable diapers":mad:

House hold grease is more damaging than a handful of paper. Even newspaper breaks down over time. (that ink stains my undies though):rolleyes:

Jim Dunn
09-13-2006, 8:40 PM
Thank you all folks so very much for your input. Lots to know but important for this transition to a new way of life.
Jim I don't think I would have chosen your line of work but a valued one none the less.

Two kids through college and I can still smell the roses. So long as their real big:D

Matt Meiser
09-13-2006, 10:12 PM
I've lived in houses with septic for nearly my entire life. My parents had to have their system replaced about 6 years ago. It was installed in the mid 60's. The drain field had become clogged and the excavator recommended a new tank since the additional cost was not huge to do it at that time.

Our previous house's system worked well when we left, and I haven't seen them dig it up to replace it. According to health dept. records, it was installed in the early 70's, I assume to replace one installed in the early 50's when that house was moved to where it sits today (or maybe they had to put in a septic system and stop piping it to the nearby creek.) This house is only 15 years old and a record of pumpings shows it has been pumped about every 4 years which is what the company that pumped it right before we moved in recommended for the next pumping.

Andy Hoyt
09-13-2006, 10:30 PM
Andy in all of my years of looking into septic tanks I could never tell the difference between single and double ply paper.:eek::eek::eek: Cool. Just don't tell my wife. Don't want to have to reeducate her.:D

Greg Ladd
09-14-2006, 6:29 AM
Jim,

Our septic system is a 1500 gallon septic tank with a leaching field. The leaching field is divided in two so that we can alternate between the two sides of the leach field.

Greg

Jim Dunn
09-14-2006, 8:11 AM
Greg that's a normal configuration of a system. Is it done manually or mechanically? Manually and the home owner is responsible for remembering to change from zone 1 to zone 2. They usually remember to do this after water is leaking to the surface of the ground which is a health hazard.

People don't seem to realize that waste water can be tracked into your home by the dog, or kids playing in the water. (the dog is the biggest culprit as he drinks the effluent and comes into the house and "kisses" the owner and his kids) Kids play in water all the time. Water on the surface of the ground on your property is a health hazard to the entire neighbor hood. Even if you live in the middle of 50acres clean water is still your responsibility. Runoff can carry effluent into any small stream then into a public waterway.

Ed Breen
09-14-2006, 1:33 PM
Tyler,
My first house, very rural, had been built in 1860. We had the septic tank go out in 1958. It had been built of locust poles!! and just collapsed,
I just had a set up done for my son about four months ago. Perc test was $100. done by someone recommended by the water dept. The tank and field were installed at a cost of $3,000.00. Extra cost since the field has a rock base and they had to install a short/wide tank.
Our regular system has been in for 35 years. We've pumped once when paper gor the best of us.
Welcome to a quieter world.
Ed

David Wilson
09-14-2006, 3:55 PM
Tyler
I remember as a kid growing up on a farm my dad would throw a dead chicken into the septic tank about once a year. He said it fed the bacteria and kept it working.

Tyler Howell
09-14-2006, 5:39 PM
Tyler
I remember as a kid growing up on a farm my dad would throw a dead chicken into the septic tank about once a year. He said it fed the bacteria and kept it working.
Dave, I've heard it all now.:eek:

Frank Chaffee
09-14-2006, 7:08 PM
...It had been built of locust poles!! and just collapsed, ...
Ed
Hey Ed,
Locust poles round here typically outlast their holes by a factor of 4:1. ůMust have been a very septic hole!!!


Tyler
I remember as a kid growing up on a farm my dad would throw a dead chicken into the septic tank about once a year. He said it fed the bacteria and kept it working.
Yup,
Common practice around here as well.

Frank

Steve Clardy
09-14-2006, 8:30 PM
So when's the paper signing party Tyler:confused:

Frank Chaffee
09-14-2006, 9:06 PM
So when's the paper signing party Tyler:confused:
Good one Steve,
Reminds me of when after several years of outhouse use we initiated our new septic system with a Sunday morning berry pie party; BYOTP.

Signed, sealed, and delivered.

Frank

Steve Clardy
09-14-2006, 9:10 PM
Good one Steve,
Reminds me of when after several years of outhouse use we initiated our new septic system with a Sunday morning berry pie party; BYOTP.

Signed, sealed, and delivered.

Frank


Lol. We'll have to arrange a TeePee party for Tyler also.:cool: ;) :rolleyes: :eek: :D

Jim Dunn
09-14-2006, 9:22 PM
Dave, I've heard it all now.:eek:

No Tyler you haven't as yet.

I have customers, quite elderly, that insist on adding all sorts of material, honey, dry yeast, stale beer, coffee grounds, a cup of baking soda and the best of all is blood. I didn't ask where he got it.:eek::eek:

Vaughn McMillan
09-15-2006, 5:20 AM
...Even newspaper breaks down over time. (that ink stains my undies though):rolleyes: You sure it's ink? :D