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With those areas eliminated, here’s some more clues to get you closer:

  1. 1)When a septic system is failing, the grass is really green and the ground is moist over the drainfield, because of the nutrients leaching into the ground that should have been contained within the tank. But even a septic system that is functioning satisfactorily will make the grass above it just a little greener. This is one way that septic tank pumpers begin their search for the tank, which will be located between the slightly healthier patch of grass and the house.

  2. 2)A septic contractor must provide a site plan/diagram to the local office of the Florida Department of Health when submitting the permit application for installing a new septic system. Other states have a similar requirement, but possibly with a different agency. It locates the septic tank and drainfield in relation to the house, with dimensions, and they keep a copy on file that you can request. Also, the previous owner may have a copy of the diagram for you.

  3. 3)If your home is located in a low area with poor soil percolation, the large mound of soil in the yard is an above-ground drainfield, and the septic tank will be near it and towards the house.

  4. 4)A large house, especially one with a ranch-style floor plan that is long and narrow, may have two septic systems at opposite ends of the house. You may need to be looking for two tanks.

    If you are pretty sure where the tank is located, you can probe the ground in that area with a metal rod to find it. The top of the tank is usually 2 to 4 feet down. After you get the first positive hit, you can use the probe to determine the location of the edges and shape of the tank.

    When none of the above clues work and a diagram is not available, it’s necessary to locate the main outflow pipe below ground with your metal rod and follow it to the tank. Sometimes this takes a while. The main drain pipe will start at the outside wall of a bathroom or kitchen, and the most likely location will be where a wall between an adjoining kitchen and bathroom meets the outside wall of the home. If the pipe comes out of the wall above ground, start following it there, but a cleanout in the ground near the house (like in the photo below) is another way to locate the pipe underground.

    Then there’s the easy way: call a septic contractor, order a pump-out, and let them find it for you. A pump-out every five years is recommended and, if you are about to buy the home and within the inspection period, you can request a septic system inspection report for not much more than the pump-out.

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
© McGarry and Madsen Inspection


More Blog Posts on Similar Subjects:

  1. Does the septic tank have to be re-certified if the house has been vacant for a while?

  2. Do I have to get a larger septic tank when I build a home addition?

  3. Do you check the plumbing under the floor slab?

  4. Should I call a plumber or septic tank contractor when my septic tank backs up into the house?

  5. What is well pump “short cycling”?

  6. How much does it cost to replace the plumbing pipe in a house?

  7. This home has galvanized water pipe. Is that a problem?

  8. What’s the flip-up handle on the water heater for?

  9. How come the water has a rotten-egg smell in some empty houses?

  10. My well water test came back positive for bacteria. What should I do?

  11. How old is that water heater?

  12. Do you test the well water?

  13. What is the difference between a regular water heater and a power vent water heater?

  14. How can I tell what type of plumbing pipe I have?

  15. How do you test a shower pan for leaks?

  16. What is a grinder pump?

  17. Why are rubber washing machine hoses a safety risk?

  18. What is a dielectric union?

  19. What is a heat pump water heater?

  20. What is an auto vent, air admittance valve, or check vent?

  21. Why is a European-style bottle trap not approved by the plumbing codes in the U.S.?

  22. What is the average life expectancy of CPVC pipe?

  23. What is an escutcheon plate?

  24. Why is a backflow preventer required on lawn sprinkler systems?

  25. What do the ABS, PVC, CPVC, PB, and PEX plumbing pipe names mean?

  26. How do you find a broken water pipe leak under the floor slab?

  27. My spa tub stopped working. What’s wrong?

  28. Which plumbing fixtures require water shut off valves in a home?

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