Our Realtor has shown us a few houses with septic systems—which we learned is actually pretty common here—and we hate to admit it, but the houses that have them have moved down our list for that reason alone. We’ve heard some horror stories! We got to thinking about it though and what if we find a house we love, but it’s on a septic system. What do you recommend we ask the seller and have done before buying to save us from having a septic horror story of our own in the future?
Mike and Andrea, Grand Junction
Mike and Andrea,
I completely understand your concerns and reservations. Septic systems are often times a worry, however I believe it is typically due to a lack of education on how they work and how easy it really can be to maintain a healthy septic system. In my opinion having a septic system is not a reason to rule your dream home out or even bump it down the list, unless it is showing signs of distress or failure! Yes, having a sewer hookup is easier and generally safer, but I have seen perfectly functioning septic systems that are 30–40 years old and are showing no signs of failure. Spotting signs of failure should be pretty easy.
Here are some common signs of septic system failure:
Slow drains, gurgling or “stuff” backing up into the home. If the drains are slow, that can be a sign of impending issues.
Unpleasant odors inside or outside your home. You will know the smell when you smell it. It most likely won’t be a, “honey do you smell that?,” it will be a “honey was that you?” odor. All kidding aside, it will be a noticeable sewage odor and something that should be looked into promptly.
Look for soggy areas, puddles or places where your lawn is growing like it is located in tropical rain forest! If you find any of these issues, this is telling you that the drain field is not properly draining and needs attention before your kid’s next birthday party!