What additional property inspection(s) is (are) required while buying a house with a well and septic system?

Asked by dj2700, Greenwich, CT Tue Feb 26, 2013

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Mark Pruner, Agent, Greenwich, CT
Wed Feb 27, 2013
In Greenwich new construction is required to have a location for a replacement septic field. If the field was put in quite awhile ago, you want to check to see if land available and suitable for a replacement field. If you are thinking of expanding you want to make sure that the location of the fields won't interfere with the work you want to do. If you are adding a BR you may have to make the septic field bigger.

Also don't assume that just because a property is in town that it is on sewer or has public sewer available. We have some close in neighborhoods that are on septics and don't have sewer lines available. The good news is 99% of the time septic or sewer makes no difference to the homeowners experience. If you are sewered property taxes in Greenwich are a little higher, since the sewer tax is rolled into the mill rate.
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David Carr, Agent, North Haven, CT
Wed Feb 27, 2013
Age of the submersable pump, Gallons/minute over 30 minutes, and full recovery rate are good data points for a well test. General Water quality for hardness and bacteria is essential.
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Greg Hanner, Agent, Waterford, CT
Wed Feb 27, 2013
Hello dj2700,

Jay, Deb and Len have all provided you with good information. I'll add more details so that you understand what you should test for. Remember, the testing is an opportunity for you to confirm that both the well and septic system will provide you with years of trouble free service and also provide you with not only potable (drinkable) water, but with water quality that YOU want to live with.

On the well, you want to evaluate three issues. I'll speak from the prospective of modern drilled wells as that's what's most common in my area and in the new construction that I deal with:

1. Yield: Should be tested to confirm what its yield (GPM - Gallons Per Minute) is and the records on file should give you an idea of the well depth and static level (natural level below surface of ground that water settles at). These two pieces of info give you an idea of how much water your well will deliver. The deeper the well, the more reserve water you might have available for use. In a well with 6" casing, there is 1.5 gallons per foot of water column (drill depth - static level - pump distance off bottom of well = water column x 1.5 = total gallons in ground).

2. Pressure/Output Capacity: This is related to yield because a low yield would limit the best delivery system's capacity to provide you with water on demand. The deeper the well, the larger the pump must be to push the water out of the well when you put stress on it during peak use and when the static level is drawn down. Larger pressure tanks inside the home are generally better in that they will put less cycles on the well pump. If you are planning to add an irrigation system, these two issues need to be evaluated by someone knowledgeable so that you can confirm that the existing well has the capacity to support the load that an irrigation will put on the well.

3. Water Quality: There is a difference between water that is potable (safe for human consumption) and water that is high quality. Learn more about any treatment system that is already installed. If there is an existing water treatment system, its backwash drain line should NOT be tied into the septic system drain. The current public health code prohibits this. The biggest concern I have with water quality is that if the natural water is aggressive, meaning low in PH and other factors are present, that condition needs to be corrected via a treatment system in order to avoid the copper plumbing in the home from getting damaged and failing. If you see green residue in the toilet tank, that's possibly a sign that the copper plumbing may be negatively affected by the water quality. I'll add one test to Len's list and that you might want to test for fluoride if you have young children knowing what the natural level of fluoride in the water is will allow you to set a proper supplemental level of fluoride to provide your children with should you want to do that (it helps with teeth development).

Best of luck with your new home search!!

Greg Hanner, Broker, REALTOR, e-PRO
Web Reference:  http://www.GardenRealty.com
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Jay Cooke, Agent, Newark, NJ
Wed Feb 27, 2013
Deb and Len have covered the well part in great detail.
I usually do the following with a septic inspection:
Pull the "as built" from the appropriate source usually the health department.
Have the septic company pump the tank and do an examination for integirty.
Open the junction boxes and probe the fields.
In the old days, folks did the "dye test" which is informative only if field has failed. A thorough examination will give you a better sense of the health of the fields and the amount available for the continued use. Some time ago I sold a 50 year old home and only 2 of the 4 trenches had been used up! Replacement is an expensive repair, don't cut inspection costs here.

Good Luck, Jay Cooke
Web Reference:  http://www.jaycookehomes.com
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Deb Halsey, Agent, Greenwich, CT
Wed Feb 27, 2013
When interviewing perspective inspectors, make certain that they test the well for the pump and pressure. Well pumps, pressure tanks and creating more depth are much more expensive than filtration and water softening systems. Also, when interviewing ask the question of the number of homes that they have inspected in a specific area. Work with your realtor to help you know which areas of town have well and septic.
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Len Schwartz, Agent, Stamford, CT
Tue Feb 26, 2013
It is advisable to have both well and septic inspections done by an experienced professionals in their respective fields. Be sure that you have the well water tested for all forms of contaminants including but not limited to bacteria, pesticides, nitrate, VOCs, radon and metals.
In the home you will probably want to have an exterminator check for all forms of wood boring pests, along with rodents and other "critters."
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