A home with a septic tank in Canada can be a smart choice for any homeowner looking to cut down on their environmental impact. The odds of a raw sewage spill are lower than that of other plumbing systems. Still, there are a few things that homeowners should understand prior to buying a property with a septic system. The most important one is to research the specific building codes in the area to better understand the homeowner's responsibilities to the community.
Septic Tanks 101
Buyers should start with the most important facts to know about septic tanks:
- Lifetime: Septic systems rarely last for longer than 25 years. If the tank is starting to edge closer to its expiration date, the buyer may need to negotiate with the seller.
- Impediments: Are tree roots growing toward the tank? Could the drainage from the downspouts impair the system? Certain threats may not be apparent until after a homeowner moves in.
- Changing priorities: Building codes aren't static, so homeowners may to do some research to anticipate the changes. For example, if a neighborhood official is proposing more stringent tests for homes with septic tanks.
- Lifestyle: These delicate systems aren't built to handle anything but waste. Anything else put into the septic tank could severely damage it. Young families with small children may not want to take the risk.
Inspections Twice a Year
Even the most well-built and well-maintained septic tanks won't always function at full capacity. Experts recommend twice-yearly inspections to ensure water is flowing properly away from the home. Remember, however, that a septic inspection is specialized, whereas a home inspection is not. And while homeowners can likely get away with fewer inspections, it may not always be advisable given the sensitivity of the septic tank. New home buyers should follow the inspector around and ask questions about how the tank works and whether the soil can support it. If the ground has too much clay, this can potentially spell trouble for the homeowner.
Some of the more common repairs a buyer may run into is the labor necessary to divert backwash and the costs of replacing the filters and risers. If the septic system is located in an inconvenient spot on the property, it will be more expensive to repair. Buyers can and should talk to the seller (prior to making an offer) about the immediate costs of the septic system. They should also consider how a septic system will impact their future plans. Should the buyers want to add on a sunroom or a guest house in the next few years, their options may be limited by the location and size of the septic tank.
Septic tanks typically require maintenance at least once every three years (in addition to the inspections). Buyers should think about how they might stress the system differently than the previous residents did. A family of six may cause the septic system to buckle under the weight, especially if there were only one or two people living in the home prior to the sale.
If a family has visitors coming to stay with them, they'll need to consider if the septic tank can handle their guests. Experts recommend preparing a sketch of the septic system and having it ready for both scheduled and emergency service visits. Finally, homeowners should also document any repairs made on their septic systems. Future owners will certainly want to know how it functioned over the years and how well it was maintained.
When Stony Plain home buyers fall in love with a property, it's hard to see past its benefits to its drawbacks. But it's not worth it for buyers to overpay for a home that may need more time and attention than the owners are ready to give.
By Justin Havre