Septic Inspections FAQs
We know that understanding how your septic system functions can be confusing. It is advisable to educate yourself about septic systems and your system specifically, especially if you have never had one before.
What type of inspection is the most complete?
The most complete inspections use a digital camera in conjunction with a dye test. A septic inspection is not complete unless the inspection is performed by an experienced and certified inspector. In addition, a complete inspection should include pumping the system, which would be performed at the time of inspection.
Why do you use a camera during the inspection?
Our camera provides many advantages over the traditional form of septic testing. Specifically, the camera allows us to visually examine all important components of the septic system. The camera provides visual confirmation of existing problems deep within the system. Septic inspections without cameras rely on guess work. A septic system may be easily misdiagnosed if a camera is not employed at the site. For example, a minor problem such as a blocked pipe may be misconstrued as a failure of an absorption field. Using a camera at the inspection can avoid these misdiagnosis, which can mean the difference of thousands of dollars in repairs.
A transmitter on the end of the camera helps pinpoint where the problem may be present. The transmitter also helps to locate hard to find parts of the system, such as the distribution box. This capability allows us to locate the components without excavating the yard.
In one instance ATS came across, a client’s seepage pit was located underneath the driveway. Our camera provided the only way to locate this absorption area without excavating the entire driveway.
Why should the tank be pumped at the time of inspection?
The physical condition of the tank cannot be assessed below the waste level. Pumping the tank allows us to completely inspect the tank. We recommend having the tank pumped during our inspection, not before, so that the parts of the system can be evaluated under normal operating conditions.
How long does an inspection take?
Times will vary based on the complexity of each individual system and the field inspector’s on-site findings. Generally an inspection can take anywhere from 45 minutes up to 3 hours.
Are there standards for septic inspectors?
Standards vary from state to state and even some municipalities have their own standards for inspection.
At the very least, make sure that your inspector has gone through extensive training. Our inspectors have been trained by the PSMA which is widely recognized as the leading septic system authority in the area.
Why is it important to have a PSMA Certified Inspector test the septic system?
PSMA is widely recognized as the leading septic system authority in the area. They offer a rigorous training program and require inspectors to pass before they become certified. You can be assured that a PSMA Certified Inspector has received the finest training available in the industry.
I have been told that the septic inspection must be performed by a registered engineer. Is this true?
No, this is not true. The regulation that you may have heard about applies only to home inspectors. It states that a home inspector must be a registered engineer in order to also perform septic inspections. There are no laws or regulations governing other septic inspectors, which is why it is important to make sure that your septic inspector is certified.
Do I need to be present for the inspection?
While it is not required for you to be present, we will need access inside the home. We strongly recommend that you are present for the septic inspection because you can see first hand whether problems are present. You can also see where each part of the system is for future reference.
Can you perform the septic inspection at the same time as the home inspection? How much advance notice do you need?
It’s a good idea to schedule the home and septic inspections for the same time. Neither inspection will interfere with the other and you will only need to make one trip to the property.
How long does it take to generate the written report?
The report will be sent via email or fax by the end of the business day following the inspection date. If you attend the inspection, you can receive a verbal report onsite.
How do you locate all the parts of the septic system?
Our inspectors use a variety of methods. Sometimes they can see where ground has been disturbed above the tank or inspection ports in the absorption (leech) field. They use digital cameras and sophisticated locating equipment for the more difficult areas to locate.
What is a dye test, because I see other companies that use them exclusively?
We do not recommend using a company that relies solely on a dye test.
A dye test consists of running water from the house and adding a colored dye. This helps track the flow of waste through the system and shows how the leech field is draining.
While we incorporate dye testing into our inspection, some companies will “inspect” a septic system when they are only performing a dye test. ATS uses dye testing as part of the complete inspection process. A dye test alone may overlook significant and costly problems with the system.
What is the purpose of a hydraulic load test?
The hydraulic load test determines the volume of clean water an absorption area can absorb under full occupancy conditions. A hydraulic load test shall be recommended during the course of an inspection when any of these conditions are discovered:
- Structure is vacant more than consecutive days 7 days
- New water sources are directed to the system within last 30 days
- Soil fracturing activity is present within last 30 days
- High water conditions are observed
- A significant difference in the current water use in a structure exists compared to the anticipated use of the structure.
What if the house is vacant?
If a house is vacant, the septic system is not operating under normal usage conditions and the absorption (leech) field may dry up. A Hydraulic Load Test is an inspection designed to simulate occupancy of a home so the system can be evaluated under normal usage pressure conditions, specifically checking the drainage of the absorption (leech) field. This test is performed in conjunction with the open pit visual inspection and is strongly recommended to be performed on a property that has been vacant for 7 consecutive days or a home that has low occupancy.
Areas covered by this service
- New Jersey (NJ)
- Westchester, Sullivan, Orange, Ulster, Putnam and Dutchess Counties in New York (NY)
- Eastern Pennsylvania (PA)
- Fairfield County in Connecticut (CT)
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