Septic tanks are used in rural areas or where municipal connections are not available. In the State of Florida, only a licensed septic contractor can inspect a septic tank. Some mortgage companies require certification of the system, such as FHA Mortgages. Because of the potential expense related to a faulty septic tank, we recommend all Buyers have the septic system inspected prior to closing. Here are some maintenance tips for your septic system:
- Flush only toilet paper and human waste in your system. Never put grease, oil, diapers, or feminine toiletries into the system. Minimize the use of non-biodegradable detergents and avoid in general the use of drain cleaners;
- Never flush septic tank additives or chemicals (those claiming to “improve” the septic tank system) into the system. They may kill the helpful bacteria that processes the waste material, or may carry the trapped grease from the tank into the leaching area, leading to system failure;
- The septic tank requires periodic cleaning (recommended every two to six years) depending on the size of the septic tank and frequency of use. We recommend having the system pumped and evaluated before purchasing the house. We recommend having the system pumped and evaluated before purchasing the house. The service company that pumps the tank may be able to determine if the drain field has failed, or is on the verge of failure. If the tank has been allowed to overflow in the past, solids may have entered into the drain field causing it to fail or clog up reducing its efficiency. Replacement of a leaching field is costly;
- Very old waste disposal systems consist of a cesspool, which is little more than a hole in the ground lined with stones. All the waste is drained into the pit and the water is allowed to seep out between the stones. Most of these pits contain built-up solids that block the drainage and prevent the water from leaching into the ground. These systems are outdated and will need replacing in most cases
- Most waste systems operate by gravity, requiring no pump to move the waste. However, if the grade (slope) of the lot does not allow gravity to do its job, or because of watertable/jurisdiction requirements, a pump may be required to move the waste. Typically, just the fluid is pumped, the pump being located in a tank just past the septic tank. Solids are trapped in the tank, making for easier pumping. These systems should have alarms on the pump tank to indicate if the pump is not functioning. In Florida, they are normally associated with raised drain fields which may look like burial chambers;
- NOTE: If the house has a garbage disposal unit, the septic tank requires pumping more frequently.
- Where large trees are near the tank/drain field, root damage may occur especially with older systems. Vegetation should be kept away from the septic tank area.