Septic Tank Inspections
What to Expect During A Septic Tank Inspection from Halls Septic in Maryland
If you have a septic tank on your property, you’ll need to become committed to regular pumping and scheduled inspections to keep your system safe and efficient. Homeowners with septic tanks should know that failure to maintain your system can cause damage to your system, to your property, and even to your family’s health and safety. So, make sure you work with Halls Septic to schedule regular inspections by a qualified professional. At Hall’s Septic, all our inspectors are licensed, insured, and bonded for the state of Maryland.
Regular Pumping is Required for Good Septic Tank Maintenance
Septic tank care starts with regular pumping. Halls’ Septic recommends that you have your septic tank pumped and cleaned at least every two years, for an average family of four. Some households will need more frequent pumping based on water usage. Pumping and cleaning your septic tank will prevent issues with the system that may become costly to fix over time.
Hall’s Septic Services provides back-flushing of the septic system to break down the sludge and solids in the tank. Hall’s also offers a full septic system inspection to makes sure your septic system is functioning correctly and is free of sludge and solids. In fact, Hall’s Septic is the number one source for residential and commercial septic tank inspecting, cleaning and pumping in Baltimore, Harford and Cecil Counties in Maryland.
Don’t wait until you see these telltale signs that your septic tank is past due for pumping:
- Sinks and toilets drain slowly
- Backed-up plumbing
- Gurgling sounds coming from the plumbing
- Sewage odors in the house or yard
- Wet or mushy soil in the yard
- Standing water that is greyish
- Grass growing faster and greener in one particular area of the yard
- Bacteria in well water
Regular Septic Tanks Inspections Identify Issues Early
Inspections are different than pumping. Pumping removed solids and sludge in your tank, but inspections check out the state of your equipment to ensure all parts are sound, safe, and in good working order. That’s why it’s essential for homeowners to invest in regular septic tank inspections by a licensed, insured, and bonded professional. Complete inspections are one of the best ways to manage the efficiency and safety of your septic tank system.
It’s also important to know that there are two very different levels of septic tank inspections – visual inspections and complete inspections.
Visual septic tank inspections are quick and superficial, usually employed in mortgage home inspections. They are used by realtors and bankers, but not recommended by Hall’s Septic.
Complete inspections are thorough evaluations that check out the integrity of your septic tank, test all aspects of your system, and ensure your septic system will continue to work reliably and efficiently for years to come. Complete inspections are critical to avoid embarrassing, costly and often dangerous failures in your septic system.
The Shortcoming of Visual Inspections
A visual inspection of your septic tank is a quick and relatively top-line examination. Occasionally, visual inspections may be completed on behalf of homeowners or mortgage companies as part of the overall home inspection.
Visual inspections may be as basic as turning on the water inside the house and flushing the home’s toilets to test water and sewage function. The septic tank inspector (often a general home inspector) may locate the tank but won’t open the tank or inspect the condition of the overall system.
Because of these limitations, putting your trust in a visual inspection is risky for the buyer or homeowner. Visual inspections simply confirm that the system exists and is currently functioning. But these types of examinations unable to identify a long list of potential issues that include leaking, overfull tanks, roots in the tank, backflow issues, the soundness of a dividing wall, corrosion issues, or even the size and capacity of the tank.
Visual inspections are also unable to identify significant septic system problem such as regulatory non-compliance. If these problems are not detected until after the house is purchased, a new homeowner may have to invest in major repairs or even buy a new septic tank system.
For these reasons, Halls Septic recommends you always require a complete inspection on septic tank systems on any home or property you are considering. If you have purchased a property with an existing septic system, and you have not scheduled a complete inspection, now is time to do so.
What Happens in a Complete Septic Tank Inspection?
Many elements of your septic and sewage system are examined in a complete septic tank inspection, including checking the integrity of the tank, the septic tank cover, and the pipes connecting your house to the tank (inlets) and pipes connecting your tank to the absorption system (outlet). Septic tank inspectors will check the baffles inside the tank, which regulate flow, and the composition of sludge, surface scum, and the net free area of the liquid. All pipes will be inspected and checked for blockage, and the drain box and absorption field (or drain field) will be examined to ensure all elements are in safe working order, and likely to continue to work efficiently until the next inspection.
Each element of your septic system plays a critical role in maintaining the performance of your overall sewage system. Because of the sometimes-deadly consequences of mistakes or missteps, this is not a DIY project and should only be completed by a licensed, insured, and bonded septic tank inspector.
To help homeowners understand the importance of each step, Hall’s Septic has outlined each element of the process.
Inspecting Your Septic Tank or Riser Cover
A thorough tank inspection starts with the cover. Your septic tank inspector will examine the tank’s lid to make sure its tight, regulation weight has a secure seal, and is otherwise in good working order. If your septic tanks cover is loose, insecure, or even missing, the opening presents a potentially deadly danger to people and animals in the area.
Inspecting Your Septic Tank’s Structural Integrity
Septic tanks are designed to permit the beginning of bacterial action in ways that promote the transformation of sewage into clarified effluent, settled sludge and floating scum within the septic tank. If this process isn’t working, or the tanks structural integrity is compromised, that will have implications on every other part of the system.
It’s also important to remember that no septic tank will last indefinitely and that all septic tanks wear out over time. It is the inspector’s job to figure out how quickly your tank is aging, and how many years you have left before you must replace your septic tank.
The safest way to examine a septic tank’s structural integrity is by having a licensed inspector pump the tank and conduct a visual inspection. This type of investigation is the only way to confirm your septic tank’s capacity and condition accurately. Probing is discouraged because it may damage the tank, especially is the tank is already compromised or in a state of decline.
Caution: Only licensed, equipped, and trained professional should test the integrity of your septic tank. Inspecting unsafe or rusted tanks may result in collapse and loss of life. Never enter your septic tank, in any condition, for any reason. Fumes can be lethal.
A licensed and insured septic tank inspector from Hall’s Septic can evaluate the materials and components used in your system and advise you of any issues. A septic tank inspector will also examine the areas around the tank for signs of collapse within the system, including depressions, soft soil, wet areas. If you notice soil depressions or inconsistencies anywhere on or around the property, rope-off these areas and call in a septic tank inspector to ensure they are safe.
If you have a steel septic tank, you are presented with particular issues. While steel tanks can last for 25 years or longer, once they are in decline, they can quickly rust and collapse. Steel baffles on the tank may rust and fail. The tank’s top may become rusted or unsafe. In some cases, steel tank tops are replaced, leaving the bottom of the tank in place. For this reason, limiting inspections to the top of the tank is unreliable.
If you have a concrete septic tank, they may be at least partially visible, which makes them easier to inspect in some ways. However, damaged baffles or cracks in concrete tanks are common issues and can result in effluent seepage around the tank or even in the drain field. If your concrete tank outlet or absorption system has been blocked, the blocking may result in non-working baffles.
Inspecting The Septic Tank Baffles
A fully-functioning septic tank will have baffles at both the inlet (incoming) and outlet (outgoing) pipes. Baffles are specialized paddles that can direct the flow from the house sewer, via the inlet, downward into the septic tank to allow for the longer detention time needed for the sewage to separate and settle into solids or rise into scum. Once the scum floats to the top, baffles also work to keep that floating scum layer from washing back into the incoming pipe.
The outlet baffle has the job of allowing sewage effluent to flow out of the tank through the outlet or outgoing pipe. Broken or rusted baffles can cause issues in both inlets and outlets. If baffles are damaged, rusted, or broken, a Hall’s Septic professional can repair or replace them.
Most codes now require the addition of an effluent screen at the outlet baffle to help prevent sludge and scum or other floating material from seeping out the outlet. Your Hall’s Septic tank inspector will make sure your screen is up to code and working efficiently.
If your septic tank inspector finds that your system’s baffles were broken, non-functioning, or rusted, it is possible that excess seepage, sludge, or scum may leak into the absorption system. If this happened, this seepage might have clogged or damaged drain field pipes, or even polluted the drain field in ways that necessitate clean up or moving the drain field completely. Once you have a compromised absorption system, it’s very likely that it has decreased the life expectancy of your septic tank and system. Ask your Hall’s Septic tank inspector to evaluate any damage and advise you on the best course of action.
Inspecting Outside Waste Piping for Septic Tanks
While your septic tank and baffles are at the heart of your septic systems, the pipes that flow into and out of your tank are also essential parts of the system. That’s why your Hall’s Septic tank inspector will also spend time testing and evaluating your outside waste piping from the building to the tank, and from the tank to the distribution box. In addition to testing your pipes’ composition, blockages, and structural integrity, your septic tank inspector will also make sure your system’s pipes are installed and angled correctly, and that the pipes are sound enough that mechanical damage or malfunctions are improbable in the near future. Your septic tanks inspector may advise you to mark the placement of your pipes and system, with paint, flags, or stakes to protect buried or low-visibility pipes against accidental damage through digging, driving, or construction. If your home is located close to the ocean or the shoreline, you may be required to make specials accommodations or adjustments to meet local codes and building requirements.
Inspecting Accumulated Solids, Sludge and Floating Scum in Septic Tanks
Hall’s Septic licensed tank inspector will review and evaluated the waste composition within your septic tank to ensure the systems is working correctly.
Our inspector will check to make sure solids, scum, and the net free area, or effluents, are in balance.
Solids settle at the bottom of the septic tank and turn to sludge. Sludge is intended to remain at the bottom of your tank. When the sludge reaches a certain level, it’s time for your septic tank to get pumped out.
Your septic tank will also contain scum and grease floating near the top of the tank. These materials naturally rise to the top but can be problematic if too much gets into the outlet or the drain field. That’s why baffles are used as a way to keep these solids, scum, and grease in the tank, and out of inlets and outlets.
The remaining contents are called the “net free area” of liquid, also referred to as effluents. When the net free area becomes too small, the proportion is thrown off, and there is insufficient time for waste entering the tank to settle out bottom sludge or rise as top floating scum. When this happens, the frequent entry of solid and liquid waste will keep the tank debris agitated, thus forcing floating debris into the absorption system or the drain field, where the and soil, clog or overload the system. In essence, the mixture becomes too thick, and it’s time to pump out the tank.
It’s essential to keep ahead of this cycle of overloaded septic tanks. If you wait until problems occur or postpone pumping, the stress on the system is likely to damage the absorption system severely.
Inspection of Drain Field Piping
Some septic systems use a “drain field” of perforated pipes buried in gravel-filled trenches. In these setups, the inspector will examine the drain lines to ensure they are structurally sound, free of blockage, and in good working order. Your inspector will also make sure your drain lines are free of tree roots. It’s wise to avoid planting tree and shrubs in the drain field to prevent root damage. Driving over the area, even once, can damage or destroy outdoor waste piping, so make sure no one drives over your drain field or any other septic system components
Inspecting the Septic System Distribution Box
The distribution box (or boxes) connects a line from the septic tank to a network of absorption system components such as drain field or a network of seepage pits or galleys. These openings manage the effluent output and can usually be adjusted to regulate the flow to the absorption system.
Your licensed Hall’s Septic tank inspector will check to see if your distribution box is level and all pipes are clear. Tipping and uneven pressure of the box can result in clogs. This pressure and the resulting backups can block some parts of the system and create an overload in other parts of the absorption system. When this system is overloaded, it can lead to effluent and sewage seepage at ground level.
In addition to observing current performance and conditions, our septic tank inspectors will also look for signs of current and past flooding in the drain box. Past floods are an indicator that the absorption system is malfunctioning under certain conditions and needs repair or replacement.
Inspection of the Liquid Level in the Absorption System
The absorption system or drain field is designed to dispose of liquid effluent by permitting it to seep into the soil below. The system distributes bacteria which sufficiently sanitizes the effluent to prevent groundwater contamination.
However, without careful monitoring, even well-designed drainage fields can eventually clog the surrounding soil with grease and debris. Make sure your septic tank inspector spends time with your drain field and measure contaminations in the ground and the surrounding area. If your drain field has reached capacity, it may be time to move and replace the system. Your inspector will suggest replacement at the appropriate time. Your septic tank inspector will also remind you that frequent pumping reduces the distribution of debris and grease into a drain field, thus extending its life substantially.
Although this article may seem lengthy and details, the information, and advice given here is general in nature, and not all information or advice applies to all septic tank systems. Because conditions and requirements vary widely at individual sites, and regulations and requirement vary by municipalities, counties, and states, then you must obtain qualified advice and inspections for your specific system before making any decisions about your septic system. Remember that relying on your own skills as a home repairman may result in serious harm to you, your system, and even your family, so please don’t attempt inspections, pumping, or repairs without the help of a licensed professional.
Danger: If You Detect any of These Issues, Call a Professional Immediately!
When you have a septic system, and you have a small problem with your sewage and waste disposal system, it could result in significant problems. There are so many types of septic system failure. You can’t postpone fixing these kinds of issues because a failure can result in your or your family being exposed to raw sewage and toxic fumes that can cause illness or death. That’s why it’s so vital for you to recognize the danger signs of a septic tank failure. Once you see one of these one of these signs, it’s time to act fast and contact your Hall’s Septic professional.
- Backed up toilets or plumbing
- Overflowing toilets
- Dishwasher and/or laundry waste draining into your yard
- Drains which make strange gurgling noises
- Sinks which backs up into your shower or bathtub
- Strong odors coming from your drains or outside
- Wet waste visible on your land
If you experience any of the symptoms above, call a professional at Hall’s Septic Services right away. Waiting until you have a significant problem might accelerate the issue and cause harm to your system or your family’s health.
At Hall’s Septic, we know septic tank issues can be intimidating. Our professionals are licensed, insured, and bonded in Maryland. We understand the inconvenience of a potential septic problem, and we know that you must address your septic issues quickly. That’s why our team is committed to identifying the root of the issue rapidly, accurately, and efficient. We’re on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We’re there when you need us.
So, don’t wait to call Hall’s Septic Services until you see signs of a septic problem, contact us today for your septic system inspection!