Septic Types

Prospective buyers should know there are many different types of septic inspections. Systems installed since 1989 require permits and are checked by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved inspectors during installation. But when a property is sold, the TCEQ does not inspect the system.

Lenders usually require a complete home inspection that includes verifying that plumbing drains properly and that the drain field shows no visible overflow. This type of inspection may not detect faulty septic systems, particularly if property has been vacant for a while.

Before buying a property, prospective buyers should ask questions about the septic system.
For conventional systems, ask:

What kind of ongoing maintenance has the septic had? Ie: When were the tanks pumped last?
Was the system actually issued a permit? When? Is if for the same house being sold?
Can plans or any other documents be obtained from the permitting agency?
Where is the tank? If the owner does not know, the buyer can assume it has not been pumped in some time.

For advanced systems, ask:

Will the system be able to function harmoniously with your lifestyle?
Is there an inspection agreement/maintenance contract? Is the agreement/contract transferable?
Is there a warranty or service plan, and is it transferable?
What are the ongoing costs such as repair, consumables, pumping, and electrical consumption?

There two basic types of septic systems: a conventional system that consists of a tank with a drain field and an advanced system, like an aerobic system that adds air to the tank, creating a highly oxygenated environment in which bacteria work. Aerobic systems break down organic matter rapidly. The effluent from an aerobic system is usually chlorinated and then sprayed on the surface of the ground or may be dripped subsurface into the lawn.

Conventional systems are relatively inexpensive to operate; the only expense is pumping out the tank every three to five years. Pumping a 500-gallon tank costs from $150 to $200. Advanced system costs vary widely from little to a lot.

Aerobic systems use energy constantly, and owners of these systems are required by the state to maintain them in proper working order. Homeowners can either be trained to maintain the system or they can sign a maintenance contract with an approved contractor. Maintenance contract costs vary widely from $150 to $450 per year, generally representing ranges in service from none to extensive.

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