How to Prepare for Septic Inspection: Basic Step-by-Step Guide


Regular well and septic inspection and maintenance are essential to keep your septic system functioning at its peak and secure your family’s health in living in the house. This, however, is easier said than done. Septic systems are installed underground, and people either forget about them or are intimidated by the tasks involved in the inspection.

The primary function of a septic system is to dispose of solid waste and treat wastewater from a building, household, or any facility’s plumbing system. These solid wastes partially break down in the septic tank.

Over time, the solid waste separates from the scum composed of oil and fat, grease, and effluent. Effluent, however, continues to drain from the tank to the drain field regularly. Bacteria feed and break down particles in the effluent, effectively filtering it. Water then enters into the ground and adds up to groundwater.

Scum, on the other hand, doesn’t go with the effluent and must not exit into the drain field as it can compromise the draining capability of the field. Periodically, they could build up and must be pumped out, as well. Also, a full septic tank runs the risk of draining the scum to the drain field, as well. Thus, the tank needs to be inspected regularly.

Failure to maintain a septic system to its bare minimum will result in property, surface, and water pollution. This, in turn, could result in outbreaks of diseases. 

Furthermore, one has to check for a faulty septic system that no longer serves its intended purpose. A failing septic system needs to be replaced immediately. This can cost more money, however, compared to regularly maintaining it. Thus, a regular well and septic inspection and aerobic septic system maintenance are necessary.

Parts of the Septic System

If you haven’t had an experience with septic systems, this information might come in handy. If you are already familiar with these, you can skip to the next section.

Drain Field

The rule of thumb is that solid wastes stay in the tank until the bacteria break them down. Wastewater, on the other hand, exits the tank to the drain field. The drain field is a designated area for breaking down microscopic particles in the effluent where it is drained to. It is also known as the absorption or leach field.


Below the drain field is the soil that serves as the disposal area and the final treatment part of the septic system for wastewater treatment. Organisms in the soil feed on and break down the effluent before it goes deeper into the ground to enter the surface or groundwater. The rest of the water evaporates into the upper atmosphere, too.


The tank separates solid waste from the wastewater. It is where solid waste is stored until broken down by the bacteria. Effluent or partially treated wastewater exists in the drain field, as well.


When to Have Well and Septic Inspection

If you purchased a house that was used for some time by its former occupants, you must seek the help of a professional inspector to check and make sure that your septic system is working correctly. A professional inspector will assess for any pest, potential damages, and issues with your septic system. They will also advise on whether to retain, upgrade or replace an existing septic system altogether.

If you’ve been occupying the same house and using the same septic system for a time, here are some things to remember to know whether it’s time to have a septic inspection or not:

  • Unusual problem with your septic system. This could include a sluggish toilet or weak flushing, wet spots or plant grown in your drain field, and weird and unusual odor from your drainage system. These could indicate a problem with your septic system or its part/s.
  • Upgrading or remodeling your house. Before you do any work with your house, inspect your septic system first. Upgrading or remodeling your house could also mean a change in the lifestyle of people living inside: the amount of water use, waste disposed of via the septic system, frequency of waste and water drainage, etc. These factors need to be compatible with your septic system.

What to check during septic system inspection?

Before you acquire a previous owner or transfer a property to a new one, insurers and banks require that the septic system is checked first. If the septic system is not working correctly, a professional needs to locate and deal with the issues before resulting in disaster.

These are the steps included in the standard inspection process:

  • First, the professional inspector will locate the septic tank.
  • Second, they will remove the covers.
  • Afterward, they will check the outlet baffle, inlet, and partition wall.
  • They will then inspect the operational level of the sewage.
  • Finally, they will locate the pump chamber, CK pump, float, and alarm operation.

Additionally, the inspector will dig test holes in the bed area to determine the below-grade effluent level of the sewage and inspect the trenches’ condition.

A septic inspector will check the following, too:

  • Last date of pumping the tank. It is vital to keep tabs on the dates of septic system inspection as a tank inspector will require them. If this is not available, the inspector will have to rely on the level of sludge, approximate the duration between the last pumping to the present and decide whether the tank needs to be pumped or not. 
  • Sludge level. An inspector will use a sludge judge or a similar device to check the sludge level. Sludge that settles to the tank bottom must not occupy a third of its volume. In addition, it must not rise equal to or above the baffles’ level.
  • Distance of drain field and septic tank from the sources of water. An inspector will make sure that the septic tank and drain field are, as far as necessary, to wells, streams, and other sources of water.
  • Size of the tank/system relative to the size of the household. A septic system must always be proportional in size to the extent of the house or household usage. The standard measurement is computed by multiplying the volume of the tank by 7.5. The resulting number corresponds to the capacity of the tank in gallons. 
  • Liquid waste on the ground surface. This indicates an overloaded septic system and is considered unsanitary. A septic tank needs to be watertight to keep the wastewater inside and protect the groundwater from unnecessary contamination. In addition, the groundwater must not seep or enter into the tank. A poorly build septic system like this would result in it being overfilled during rainy periods.
  • Placement and security of riser lids. The inspector will check whether the riser lids or placed securely and adequately or not. Also, they will look for cracks and other potential damage that may compromise the septic system.
  • Connection of baffles. An inspector will check whether the baffles are connected to the outlet and inlets of the tank firmly and securely.
  • Distribution of wastewater in the drain lines. A properly build drain field will have each drain line contain an equal amount of fluids. The inspector will open and examine the distribution box. A clogged or tipped box will result in the disproportional allocation of wastewater to the drain lines. This could result in the flooding of the drain field.

Source: Image

Preparing for the Septic System Inspection

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for a septic system inspection:


  • Prepare the designs. Have the septic system/tank design ready. This is the first thing an inspector will need to check before doing the steps outlined above. It will help them perform the process easier if the design is ready. This will also orient the inspector in the location of the parts of your septic system.
  • Make access to your septic system easy. Have the cover of the septic tank removed beforehand. This will speed up the process since the inspector can then proceed to check the tank. Most septic tank maintenance providers charge an extra if they have to remove the septic tank cover themselves. 
  • Survey your septic system ahead of time. Although you don’t necessarily have to be familiar with everything about your septic system, at least try to pinpoint areas with problems and mention/refer them to the inspector. The inspector will then have to check these areas and assess whether they need repairing, fixing, or replacement.



If done correctly and regularly, Septic system inspection minimizes the chance of having problems and issues with it. Nonetheless, even if you do a regular inspection, there is still a chance that something could run amiss.

The best way to have your well and septic system inspection is via a professional. Their training, skills, and experience afford them the necessary tools to check and institution solutions should there be a problem. 


Leave a Comment