Sewer – Septic inspections

Water that flows down any drain in the home is waste water. This is water that must be cleaned before it is returned to the environment. Thus, keeping private sewer/septic systems well-maintained is important.

If you live where a municipal system is in place, then waste water will leave your home through a series of pipes below the street. Using gravity, or pumps, the water flows through larger and larger pipes until it reaches a treatment facility to be properly cleaned.

If you do not live in an area where a sewer treatment plant is available, then you may have a private septic system consisting of a large underground tank and absorption field on your property. Wastewater flows out of the house and into the tank, where bacteria work to break down the solids. Liquid waste water is eventually released into a drain field, a series of perforated pipes that allow the water to be released into the soil. Microorganisms in the soil finish the cleaning process.

When purchasing a home with a septic system, you may want to consider having the system inspected. An inspector will attempt to locate the septic tank, drain field and any well on the property and visually examine accessible parts of the system for evidence of problems. Because much of the system is housed underground, the inspector may also perform a dye test or other tests. During a dye test, the tank is hydraulically loaded. The inspector will then check for evidence of problems. The inspector must recheck the site in 48 hours to look for evidence of dye around the septic tank and drain field. Following the second inspection, a written report and recommendation is provided.

Septic systems should be pumped and serviced periodically by a certified technician to remove solids and help microorganisms clean the waste water more effectively. Prior to selling the home, you may want to have the system pumped and serviced.

August 2017: Foundation Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Foundation Inspections

Q: What Will my home inspector check on my home’s foundation?

Ask The Inspector

A. The structure of a home’s foundation depends on several factors, including soil type, climate, structural materials, building footprint, topography of the area and age of the building. Whether you have a basement or a slab, a good foundation is essential to a safe structure.

A home inspector will visually inspect the interior and exterior of the house to determine what type of foundation was used, including the materials. The inspector will also assess the current condition of visible areas of the foundation, including noting cracks, leaks, and areas where shifting or settling are visible.

Here are some elements an inspector will be on the lookout for:

  • Bowed or leaned foundations
  • Excessive water around the perimeter of foundation
  • Gaps and major cracks in the foundation
  • Crumbling or missing mortar joints
  • Decayed brick
  • Peeling stucco
  • Rock or brick piers that have begun to disintegrate
  • Wood columns that are rotted at ground level
  • Concrete piers that have major cracks
  • Rotting skirtboards at ground level

Home inspectors are not engineers and are not licensed to discuss the structural integrity of a house or areas that cannot be visually assessed, so in some cases your inspector may recommend further investigation by a structural engineer.

What your home or commercial inspector can do is point out problem areas, check the grading slope, assess the drainage of areas around the foundation where water ponding may cause leaks, and point out conditions that may become dangerous. For example, standing water in a basement or crawls pace, evidence of previous water damage, or water damage near electrical elements can be safety issues for anyone occupying the home.

Be Advised

Be Prepared For Future Home Projects

When you’re a homeowner, remodeling and repair projects seem like they never end. The process of home repair is daunting and the planning phases can often be stressful. Here are some tips to help you stay organized and prepared for your future projects:

Be Advised

Keep a notebook of repairs. List the date the work was completed, the cost and company you used. This can be an asset when it comes to building confidence in buyers if you ever decide to move and a quick resource when you need the next repair.

Mark electrical, water and gas shutoffs. If you plan to do the work yourself, make sure the appropriate utilities are off before you begin to work.

Call the national diggers hotline 8-1-1 if you plan to do any digging at all. Area utility representatives will come out and mark the locations of underground utility lines so that you can avoid hitting electrical lines, gas lines, telephone lines and cable service. One call can help prevent injury and costly property damage.

Keep a house savings fund. A good rule of thumb is to save 1-3 percent of the market value of your home each year for future maintenance.

Taking on these remodeling projects is always an excellent way to add value to your home. It makes your house more livable and turns it into the space you’ve always wanted. With a little planning, you can be organized and get your projects off the ground.

Snapshots From The Field

What Does This Photo Depict?
Snapshots From The Field

  1. This is the way to properly stair-step the shingles.
  2. Staggering the shingles this way helps shed rain water faster.
  3. This is a brand-new roof installed improperly.
  4. Tar on the flashing around the chimney is a permanent repair method.

Correct Answer C. This is a brand-new installation of a roof laid improperly.

Noteworthy News

Tips for Indoor Lighting

Indoor lighting serves both functional and ambient purposes. Some people prefer bright, overhead lighting while others are more at home in dimmer, lamp-lit settings. Regardless of your preference, you can certainly save money on your monthly electric bills by changing the way you light your home. Here, we offer several tips that will keep your home lit and inviting, as well as reduce energy use and costs:

Noteworthy News

  • Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room, or consider installing occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
  • Instead of those bright, overhead lights, use task lighting — focus the light where you need it by using lamps and under – cabinet lights.
  • Three-way lamps and bulbs allow you to set light bright when you need and save energy by setting the bulb for less light when you don’t need it.
  • Replace conventional light fixtures with 4-foot fluorescent fixtures in your garage, workshop, unfinished basement and laundry area.
  • Switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in all of your light fixtures and lamps. If you dislike the harshness of fluorescent light, look for CFLs marked “soft white.”
  • Maximize the sun’s light by choosing window coverings that allow light inside. Consider blinds that open and close, and try using light — colored, loose — weave curtains.
  • Compact fluorescent torchieres use 60 to 80 percent less energy than halogen torchieres. They also can produce more light and the bulbs stay cooler than halogen.
  • When you purchase light fixtures and lamps, look for the ENERGY STAR® label.

Using the right lighting means lower utility bills and more livable spaces. Find the lighting options that make for a more comfortable home, while benefiting from lower electrical usage.

Maintenance Matters

What You Need To Know About Your Foundation

In addition to having your foundation inspected by a qualified professional, there are also important foundation must-knows and must-dos that home owners should be familiar with:


Here are some key things you should look for:

  • Understand the type of foundation that supports your home
  • Protect your foundation from water damage by never allowing water to pool around it
  • Protect your foundation (and the rest of your home) from insects
  • Understand the basic structure of your home
  • Never modify or remove structural framing without an expert’s advice
  • Excessive cracking or movement may indicate potential problems that need to be further investigated
  • Keep gutters clean to prevent plugging and overflowing of downspouts and storm sewer lines
  • Keep window wells clean and free of all plant material. Fill the bottom of the well with gravel to allow for good drainage and stop plant growth

The foundation needs to be regularly checked and maintained like any other part of your home. It’s one of the most important components of any house and when taken care of, your home will stand strong for years to come.

Did You Know?

Focus on Your Fridge

Today, the average refrigerator lasts between 14 and 17 years, but the replacement cost can range from $900 to $8,000, so you’ll want to keep your fridge working efficiently as long as possible. Here are a few fridge tips to maximize the appliance’s life:

  • Check and clean door seals twice a year. To see whether your fridge seals are sealing properly, close a dollar bill in the door; if it slips out easily, have the seals checked by a professional.
  • Clean the condenser coils twice a year. Coils covered in dust and pet hair keep a fridge from running efficiently. To clean the coils, unplug the fridge, pull it away from the wall and vacuum the coils with the brush attachment.
  • Clean the condenser fan. While you have the fridge unplugged and pulled out from the wall, to clean the coils, remove the lower back cover with a screwdriver and then brush and vacuum the fan.
  • Keep the fridge full. A fridge needs thermal mass to maintain low temperatures, so if you don’t keep a full fridge all the time, store a few jugs of water inside.

Monthly Trivia Question

What is considered the ideal conditions for a buyer’s market?

  1. There are more houses for sale than buyers, homes take longer to sell, and sellers may have to cut prices.
  2. When there are more buyers than homes for sale, home prices rise higher than they normally would, and homes tend to sell more quickly.
  3. A transitional period when housing demand and supply are approximately equal and pricing typically stabilizes.

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.