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Old 01-31-2017, 09:50 AM   #1
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Septic System & De-Winterizing


Hello all,
Can anyone tell me what does an inspector do to check on the operation of a septic system? The house I am about to purchase has also been winterized, so what would be the costs involved to test the system including de-winterizing and then winterizing if needed?
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Old 01-31-2017, 10:07 AM   #2
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


How the septic is check would depend on what style it is.
Reason I ask is in most areas the tank will need to be pumped out anyway, as there pumping it out there going to be watching for water running back into the tank from the drain lines.
If it does there may be an issue with the drain field.
Some newer systems use filters, air pumps, one uses Peat Moss in a huge tank.
As far as cost you'll need to make some local calls to some plumber on that one, any thing you get on any DIY site will just be guesses.
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Old 01-31-2017, 11:28 AM   #3
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


The house is two hours away by car. So the real estate agent is looking into that area for someone who can test and certify that it is in good working order. The certification is required by not just me but also the mortgage company. I should be hearing from him later today. Thanks.
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Old 01-31-2017, 03:21 PM   #4
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


Up here, I am not aware of a septic inspection being part of a home inspection. It may be different for newer systems that have readily-accessible components, but I've not owned one of those. Normally, a septic inspection is conducted by a pumping service during a pumpout. It is usually simply a visible inspection of the tank.


There is really no way to test a septic system. If a house has been winterized, the septic system will continue its bacterial digestion until it runs out of organic material, then it simply goes dormant.

I would check with your mortgage holder and clarify what there expectations are.
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Old 01-31-2017, 03:33 PM   #5
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


Not a standard as part of the home inspection services around here, but any good real estate agent will recommend that you have it checked as a separate inspection. They aren't cheap to fix.
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Old 01-31-2017, 03:45 PM   #6
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


The real estate man tells me the person they have in mind to certify the septic tank uses their own water. I suppose they empty the tank and then inspect it somehow and then flush their water into it. As joecaption mentioned, water could flow back from the drainage field. If it does, then the deal I have with HUD is off the table.
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Old 01-31-2017, 05:15 PM   #7
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


There own water for what?
Last person I'd be listening to is a real estate agent that has the house listed.
There only goal is to sell the house.
I would not even use anyone they suggested.
How many times do you think they would use there services again if they failed it?
I used to work for an exterminator long ago.
When I'd be sent out to do an inspection I'd be told before I even left it needs to past no matter what I found because it was a big account.
Mold, mildew, termites, powder post beattles, dryer vent just blowing into the crawl space, shower drain never hooked up to the drain.
I had to quit, no way could I do this to people.
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Old 01-31-2017, 06:11 PM   #8
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


Normally the local health department does the testing. But they usually want the system under use. I would contact them.
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Old 01-31-2017, 06:59 PM   #9
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


Quote "There own water for what? " Unquote

I have no Idea but just a guess. In the basement, the former owner started a third bathroom and just the rough plumbing was installed. There's a drain for a sink and toilet drain that is capped off. So instead of messing with the de-winterizing solution, the plumber can use the toilet drain to flush his water to see if the drainage field does not back it up. I know nothing about septic systems.
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Old 01-31-2017, 07:19 PM   #10
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


This is new ground to me. Flushing a few gallons down a drain would only be able to show that if it comes out the discharge at the tank then the line is clear. If they want to check the action of the weeping lines, they would have to drain the tank which contain several hundred gallons. If they run water down the lines, of course some will come back - it's a weeping bed not a drain. There might be some science to it, who knows.

If the house is truly winterized and you end up using the waste system to do some kind of test, make sure that you either drain or replace the plumbing anti-freeze in the traps or you will be on the hook forany freezing damage.

Take your advice from your insurance company or mortgage holder or whoever is wanting this inspection done, not the real estate agent (or us for that matter).
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Old 02-01-2017, 11:49 AM   #11
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


So no one has ever heard of a hydraulic load test? These are most often used when the house hasn't been occupied for a period of time as the OP states about this property. Since the house hasn't been occupied you have no idea if the system is working correctly. So they simulate a "load" and then come back on the second day to verify the absorption rate of the drain field. That's a simplified version, but is basically what happens.

These are common where I live, but again only on houses that have been vacant. If the house is occupied it's pretty obvious the system is working (usually).

Perhaps it's a regional thing?
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Old 02-01-2017, 01:27 PM   #12
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


A septic inspection is done usually at the time of pump out. A quick visual to make sure the baffle is not chipped or cracked. I think the homeowner meant they "use their own water" to test means they run the water inside to make sure it all drains into the tank as it is supposed to.

The load test is too see how saturated the ground is and if it can absorb the water from normal household use??

You can always just ask the owner if in his experience did the showers or laundry back up ?? When your system is malfunctioning you know it in a hurry
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Old 02-04-2017, 04:03 PM   #13
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


I had a septic inspection done with our house inspection and all they did was fill up the sinks and bathtub and dump the water all at once to make sure it drained. I thought they would do more than that, but it wasn't required by the mortgage company, this was just part of our home inspection. But in our case, the house wasn't vacant and was built in 1995, so it's not that old. I do plan on having it pumped out this spring to see what it looks like. We've owned it for a year and a half and haven't had any issues.
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Old 02-04-2017, 04:33 PM   #14
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Re: Septic System & De-Winterizing


I would first check with the local township to see what regs they have. Around our area you have to have the system pumped every three years, and the pumper certifies with the township it was pumped, and if there are any issues noted during pumping.

You can also see if any permits were ever pulled for repairs

Any time we bought a home, the system was inspected, and the tank pumped. They do some sort of testing, like sticking a rod in the drain field, If the top part is wet, it means the field is not operating as it should. At least thats what the fellow explained to me.

We bought one home that was winterized but the owner did not want us todewinterize. They don't want every potential buyer to dewinterize because of the cost to winterize after the inspection. It was important for me to do a full inspection, so I told the seller if I did not buy the home, I would pay for the cost if it had to be rewinterized. They accepted that, and I ended up buying the home anyway.

What area of PA???
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