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Septic System Questions

We purchased an old house (built in 1915) last August. The previous homeowners, who had lived in the house for 19 years, told us that the septic system was "maybe somewhere on the east side of the house". They had never had it pumped.

We had the home inspected & the inspector did a dye test for the septic system. He looked on the east side of the house & saw no dye, so we were reassured that everything was good.

I contacted our county to see if they had any records of the location of the septic & of course, they don't have any records before 1978 (and definitely nothing about our house).

I have a problem, though: All of our drains are very slow. I also know that you're supposed to get the septic tank pumped every 3-5 years. If the previous owners never pumped it (and I don't have any sewage in the yard), should I just go on like everything is ok? Should I have it located by a professional? Is there a way to do this myself? Is it possible that there isn't a septic system, since the house was built in 1915?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Re: Septic System Questions

More than likely the clean out was just never known by the previous owners. Most likely it's in the direction they pointed in line with your the closest toilet and bathtub drain.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to go ahead and have a pumping company come out and pump it out. If it's properly maintained you really shouldn't have to pump it out very often.

When we last had our pumped the guy said it only needed to be done when there were 18-24 inches of solids in the bottom.

Slow drains indicate that you do need to have it looked at, since you're new to the house and the other owners didn't seem to have it pumped, some auger companies are going to ask you to have the tank pumped first. They'll find your clean out and then you'll need to maintain the location from that point on. They're used to finding them.

Re: Septic System Questions

If you can tell where the sewer pipe leaves the house and what direction, you can get a good idea of where it would be. It will be probably 20' or so from the house. A metal detector should be able to locate the tank.
A septic service probably has experience locating hidden tanks.
After at least 19 years without being pumped, I would expect failure anytime. Their is a good chance the drain field is clogging up.
I don't know what they did back in 1915, but sewage has to go somewhere.
If the septic tank is over 20 yars old, it's probably undersized by todays standards & codes.
I would have it looked at ASAP.

Re: Septic System Questions

In my grandfathers old house, the septic was under the home. The floors(concerte) got a little wet when it needed pumping...

Re: Septic System Questions

Look for where the soil pipe leaves the house, you can usually use a steel rod as a probe to locate the septic tank. Slow drains could also be due to improper or no venting.

Re: Septic System Questions

As stated you can get an idea of the direction to look by seeing where the soil pipe exits the basement. You might look for a depression in the ground in that direction about 10 - 20 ft from the house.

Was the indoor plumbing originally built with the house or was it added later? Depending how rural your setting, outhouses were still common in our area for houses built in the early 1900's. Just curious what your water source is - well or city? If it is a well and you know where the well head is, you should look for the tank / drainfield opposite direction from this (hopefully - you don't want your drainfield perc'ing on top of your well!).

This is a little too late for this situation, but others reading through this may find it useful.

When buying a house with septic you should really get some information regarding the system before purchase. Things like location of the tank & drain field, size of the tank & type of tank, size of the drainfield, performance of the system, age of the system, standing water in yard, timeframe for past pumping. Others can probably add to this list.

If info regarding the septic system on a house is as unknown as it appears it was in this case, my offer on the house would have subtracted out the cost of a new system. They can get fairly costly, our new drainfield alone cost around $10k two years ago and we had to jump through a few hoops for the permitting process.

One of the codes in our county is that before the sale of a house on septic, the tank must be pumped which means you have to know where it is.

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