The ABC's of septic systems and drilled wells


If you are searching for a home to buy int he Northwoods, you will find there are several differences between rural living and suburbia.

One area that is significantly different when buying a home in rural areas is that more than likely there is no city water and sewer to hook homes up to.

First, It is important to know what type of septic system and the condition of that system before you buy an existing home.

Similarly, if you are building your own home, you will need to determine what type of system you will need to install before you can get a building permit.

On most real estate listing sheets, the type of system for an existing home most often will be listed. However, it is a good idea to ask specifics about the installed system.

Most conventional septic systems are good for 20 - 40 years, depending upon how many people lived in the home and how well it was maintained. If there is a garbage disposal, water softener, or non-low volume toilets, these items can shorten the life of the system and require more frequent pumping of the septic tank.

What is a septic tank? The tank is a major component of the septic systems and serves to contain and break down solid waste material before it drains into the septic field. It must be pumped or inspected by a licensed master plumber at least every three years.

The septic system is composed of four major components; a pipe running from the house to the tank, a  septic tank, a pipe running from the tank to a drain field and a drainage field and soil.

There are several different styles of systems. The conventional system is described above and utilizes concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene materials in septic tank construction The number of people and the quality of the soil will determine how large the system needs to be.

It may be possible a Mound system or a Holding Tank may be the type of system required. The mound system may be required depending on the type of soil on the property. If the soil shows evidence poor drainage or has a high water table, a mound system will be constructed using the required materials to filter water before it reaches the groundwater level.

If there is insufficient land or there is no way construct a drainage field, a holding tank is necessary. With a holding tank, all waste goes into a contained tank and must be pumped to get rid of waste effluents. The size and amount of usage will determine how often the tank will need to be pumped.

There are also At-Grade systems, Pressurized Distribution systems, Drip-line Effluent Dispersal systems and Non-plumbing system.

To determine what type of system is suitable for your land, you must obtain a Certified Soil Test, also called a Perc test. These are performed by licensed master plumbers who will conduct the test, draw up plans for the septic system and, on your behalf, obtain the sanitary permit required before any septic system construction can begin.

If the previous owner of the property had one done prior to 1981, the county may require you to have a new one performed due to new standards that are currently in place.

If the soil test was done between 1981 and 1990 the county may allow the use of that test, depending upon the results. Test from 1991 to the current day may be used as long as the soil has not been changed in any way.

The Zoning Department for each county is responsible for septic system oversight and will conduct an onsite inspection of the septic system prior to approval.

Well water

You also need to dig a well to bring water into your home. A well is drilled by a state licensed well driller/pump installer who will construct the well and run the water pipes to the house.

Effective June 1, 2008, a new requirement went into effect that if a drinking water well inspection is performed for a real estate transfer, it must be done by an individual licensed as a well driller or pump installer.

A little bit of knowledge about the above before purchasing can avoid a lot of headaches and unexpected expense in the future.

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