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Septic tanks: Inspections, operation, & maintenance

Septic Systems

Septic systems treat and disperse relatively small volumes of wastewater from individual and small numbers of homes and commercial buildings. Septic system regulation is usually a state and local responsibility. The EPA provides information to homeowners and assistance to state and local governments to improve the management of septic systems to prevent failures that could harm human health and water quality. 
 
Information for Homeowners

If your septic tank failed, or you know someone whose did, you are not alone. As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Proper septic system maintenance will help keep your system from failing and will help maintain your investment in your home. Failing septic systems can contaminate the ground water that you and your neighbors drink and can pollute nearby rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

 Ten simple steps you can take to keep your septic system working properly:
  1. Locate your septic tank and drainfield. Keep a drawing of these locations in your records.
  2. Have your septic system inspected at least every three years.
  3. Pump your septic tank as needed (generally, every three to five years, but there are many variables & factors).
  4. Don’t dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.
  5. Keep other household items, such as dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, and cat litter out of your system.
  6. Use water efficiently.
  7. Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the system. Also, do not apply manure or fertilizers over the drainfield.
  8. Keep vehicles and livestock off your septic system. The weight can damage the pipes and tank, and your system may not drain properly under compacted soil.
  9. Keep gutters, sump pumps, and other forms of clearwater from draining into or near your septic system.
  10. Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to your system.
How does it work? 
A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a  drainfield, and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest and remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater. The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge), and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area. Screens are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drainfield. The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drainfield for further treatment by the soil. Micro-organisms in the soil provide final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

Your septic system is your responsibility!

Did you know that, as a homeowner, you’re responsible for maintaining your septic system? Did you know that maintaining your septic system protects your investment in your home? Did you know that you should periodically inspect your system and pump out your septic tank? If properly designed, constructed and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system isn’t maintained, you might need to replace it, costing you thousands of dollars. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. And if you sell your home, your septic system must be in good working order.
Pump frequently…
You should have your septic system inspected at least every three years by a professional, and have your tank pumped as necessary (generally every three to five years).
Use water efficiently…
Average indoor water use in the typical single-family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day. Dripping faucets can waste about 2,000 gallons of water each year. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system.
Flush responsibly… 
Dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, paper towels, and other kitchen and bathroom waste can clog and potentially damage septic system components. Flushing household chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, anti-freeze and paint can stress or destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system, as well as contaminate surface waters and groundwater.
 
How do I maintain my septic system?
  • Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the drainfield.
  • Don’t drive or park vehicles on any part of your septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in your drainfield or damage the pipes, the tank or other septic system components.
  • Keep roof drains, basement sump pump drains, and other rainwater and surface water drainage systems away from the drainfield. Flooding the drainfield with excessive water slows down or stops treatment processes and can cause plumbing fixtures to back up.
Why should I maintain my septic system?
 
A key reason to maintain your septic system is to save money! Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your septic system inspected (at least every three years) is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping every three to five years, depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property’s value and could pose a legal liability. Other good reasons for safe treatment of sewage include preventing the spread of infection and disease, and protecting water resources. Typical pollutants in household wastewater are nitrogen phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Nitrogen and phosphorus are aquatic plant nutrients that can cause unsightly algae blooms. Excessive nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water can cause pregnancy complications, as well as methemoglobinemia (also known as “blue baby syndrome”) in infancy. Pathogens can cause communicable diseases through direct or indirect body contact, or ingestion of contaminated water or shellfish. If a septic system is working properly, it will effectively remove most of these pollutants.
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Mudjacking

There was a time when the only fix for sinking sidewalks, patios, driveways, or uneven foundations was to rip out the old slab and pour a new one, and spend a great deal of time and money in the process. However, today, a less intensive & invasive alternative known as mudjacking (also called concrete leveling, pressure grouting or slabjacking) pumps a masonry A sunken concrete sidewalk in desperate need of repairslurry underneath a sunken/compromised concrete slab to raise it back into place.
Concrete sinks or settles because its underlying support, for various reasons, gives way. The original concrete may have been installed on dirt or other underlying materials that hadn’t been compacted sufficiently, for instance, or soil erosion may be responsible. And some soil simply settles naturally over many years. Regardless of the cause or issue, sunken concrete can lead to many structural defects, including failed retaining walls, foundation settling, uneven junctions of concrete, sunken sidewalks, uneven concrete pads, cracked foundations, and bowed basement walls. If left uncorrected, these defects can lead to unwanted water runoff and major structural problems.
And, aside from the shabby appearance and hindered functionality of an uneven sidewalk, steps or walkway, sunken concrete can create major trip hazards for which the owner is liable.
The mudjacking processGrounds - mudjacking
First, small holes are drilled into the concrete, through which a slurry is pumped that may be composed of various materials, such as sand, cement, soil, limestone, bentonite clay, water or expanding polymers. The particular mixture is based on the type of application and the mudjacker’s preference. The slurry then fills any gaps and forces the concrete to rise back into place before the drilled holes are plugged up with cement, leaving the only visible evidence of the repair. Over the next day, the slurry solidifies and stabilizes the subsoil, making further sinking unlikely.

While this is not an overly complicated procedure, it should be performed only by a trained professional, as amateur workmanship may cause even more extensive damage. Drain pipes, sewers and utilities must be located and avoided, and the area must be adequately evaluated as to whether it can survive the mudjacking process.

Some advantages of mudjacking over re-pouring cement include:The only evidence left of mudjacking is the patched hole through which the slurry was pumped. Photo produced by InterNACHI member Mike Morgan.
  • Efficiency. Mudjacking requires less equipment and fewer workers. Adjacent plants and landscaping are also disturbed less, as are neighbors, tenants and passersby by the loud noise, dust and cumbersome equipment;
  • $. Mudjacking typically costs roughly half as much as concrete replacement because there is little need for new cement or the removal of old concrete. The overall cost is based on the area of concrete that must be lifted, which may be as little as $5 per foot. Thus, for a 5×4-foot job, it might cost just $60 or so, although the mudjacker may charge more if the area is in a hard-to-reach location;
  • Speed. Mudjacking takes hours, while certain concrete pours may take days; and
  • Environmentally friendly. Mudjacking makes use of perfectly good concrete, which would otherwise be sent to a landfill.
Limitations of Mudjacking
Mudjacking may be an ineffective waste of resources in the following situations:
  • The concrete surface is spalling or otherwise damaged. The mudjacking process might further damage the surface, which will still be defective even after it’s raised back into place.
  • The concrete has risen, caused by clay or expansive soil, which is prevalent around Defiance and Northwest Ohio. Typically, the only solution for this defect is to bust out the old, discard, & then re-pour the cement.
  • The cause of the settling is not addressed. If the soil has settled due to some external factor, the problem must be fixed or the soil will sink again in the future. For instance, a gutter downspout that drains onto a concrete edge must be corrected in order to avoid the need for future repair.
  • The underlying soil is swampy.
  • There is a sinkhole beneath the concrete.
In summary, mudjacking is an inexpensive, fast and clean way to level a sunken concrete slab.
by Joshua Frederick & Nick Gromicko

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The “Savvy” Homeowner – Chimney Repair

Chimney repair – certainly not a DIY job, in the majority of cases.  IMO, the only thing a homeowner should be doing is punching in a phone # on their cell phones for a chimney professional, especially if the chimney is masonry.  Of course, there’s always going to be “that guy.” You know, the one who insists on doing it all.  A MacGyver mentality. Saves the money. Defines macho.

Enter the Savvy Homeowner.

Problem: Masonry chimney has a hole that needs filled because there’s a new furnace that doesn’t need to vent into it anymore.  Additionally, the bricks and mortar are deteriorated from moisture due to your savvy rooftop repairs.

Savvy homeowner answer: Duct tape.  Lots of duct tape. Enough layers will seal off those dangerous water heater gases from entering the building envelope.  It also helps hold all the deteriorated masonry together.

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Everyone with half a brain knows magical flex tape should have been used instead 😉

Flex-Seal-Flex-Tape-Patch

 

Buying a house that you think may contain some “savvy” homeowner workmanship/repairs/contraptions? 

Call 419-782-8924 or visit aspecresidential.com 

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Josh Frederick, CPI®

 

 

 

 

The REAL Spiderman

Peter Parker? Don’t think so. The true Web-Crawler can be found traipsing underneath homes throughout Defiance and Northwest Ohio. Does whatever a spider can (except swinging between buildings).

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The real Web-Head

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The Savvy Homeowner

Each post in this blog series will feature tips or tricks from the “more-than-just-ordinary” homeowner, the Savvy homeowner.  The Savvy homeowner is one who’s creative…different….special.  Always thinking outside the box.  Always wanting to save money, by not hiring those crooked, expensive contractors. Savvy homeowners are frugal homeowners.  Their brilliant minds often corrupted with social media posts along with the ever-so-far-from-reality TV shows (they always make it looks so easy and fun, don’t they?) The Savvy Homeowner is full of faith – they believe in themselves, and the idea that anyone can do home repairs and improvements with a Home Depot ‘Let’s do this’ attitude, a “sleeves rolled up” look, and “anything can be done with a little elbow grease” mentality. And they always have friends or family to support their cause and help them to get those daunting, bigger home repairs and tasks completed. A high-five support network, if you will. There’s also always backup or the ultimate help: a super-handy Uncle who won’t take your money, but will happily accept payment in the form of Pabst (6, 12 , or 24 packs, depending on the job) to help shingle the roof or to wire up the hot tub.

Hire expensive professionals to do the job?  No way. Not for the Savvy Homeowner.  Not when there’s duct tape, spray foam, multiple types of caulking, and buckets of roofing tar for sale at the big box home improvement store.

caulk

They simply know how to save time and money.

They git er’ dun. Their way.  The only way.

 

Josh Frederick is a Home Inspector in Defiance, Ohio and frolics throughout Defiance,

savvy-look

The look, when in the presence of genuine savviness

Napoleon, Bryan and all of the surrounding areas in Northwest Ohio. He has extensive knowledge and training in identifying the works and practices of the Savvy Homeowner.  He sees and experiences these less-than-professional practices, amusing attempts, SMH travesties, WTH contraptions,  “Give me a break”  situations, Are you kidding me? ideas, Am I dreaming? endeavors, & failed aspirations on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.  In fact, the Savvy Homeowner, often gets him thinking on how he maybe should have taken a different career path, like an accountant or pool cleaner. It is what it is though, and in the grand scheme of things, the Savvy Homeowner ensures that he has work and can put food on the family table.

 

Buying a house that you think may contain some savvy workmanship/repairs/contraptions? Contact 24-104638-jpeg-t104638ASPEC Residential Services, LLC – Northwest Ohio Home Inspections – the “savvy homeowner specialists.”

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Why Get a Home Inspection If You’re Buying “As Is”?

Some sellers – often, those working without an agent – want to sell their home “as is” so they don’t have to invest money fixing it up or take on any potential liability for defects.  There is nothing wrong with buying a home “as is,” particularly if you can buy it at a favorable price, but if you are considering buying an “as is” home, you should still hire a competent and professional home inspector to perform an inspection.  There are several reasons for this.

First, you don’t know what “as is” is, unless, of course, it looks like this:

bad-house

In all seriousness, sure you can probably walk through the home and get an idea of its general condition.  You may even spot some defects, conditions, or items in obvious need of repair or “TLC” (as these properties are often advertised.)  Please understand though, and let me unequivocally assure you – you won’t obtain the same detailed information you will receive if you hire ASPEC for your home inspection.  I am trained to look for things you are not likely to notice.

as-is

As if “as is” is written in stone for every possible condition and concern

Being an InterNACHI home inspector, I must follow InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and check the roof, exterior, interior, foundation, basement, fireplace, attic, insulation, ventilation, doors, windows, heating and cooling system, plumbing system, and electrical system for certain defects.  Armed with our detailed report, you will have a much better and clearer idea of what “as is” means regarding that home, which means you’ll be in a better position to know whether you want to buy it.  You may also be able to use information from the home inspection to negotiate a lower price, regardless if the “as is” catchall moniker keeps getting thrown at you.

Second, the state of Ohio requires the seller to provide you with a written disclosure about the condition of the property.  Sellers often provide little information, and a few even lie.  A home inspection can provide the missing information. If there is evidence that a seller concealed information or lied to you, that may be a sign that you don’t want to buy a home from that seller.

Finally, if you buy a home “as is” without hiring a home inspector and then later discover a defect, all is not lost.  A home inspector may be able to review the seller’s disclosure and testify as to what the seller knew or should have known about.  The inspector may find evidence that the seller made misrepresentations or concealed relevant information from you.  Even the seller of an “as is” home may be held liable for misrepresentation or concealment.

But the better choice, obviously, is to hire a home inspector first.  Remember:  The cost of a home inspection is a pittance compared to the price of the home.  Be an informed consumer, especially when buying an “as is” home, and hire your Defiance and Northwest Ohio InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector®, Joshua L. Frederick.

Article by Mark Cohen, J.D., LL.M., InterNACHI General Counsel,
Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI Founder, and Joshua L. Frederick, CPI®

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Your Defiance & NW Ohio Home Inspector

Soaring temperatures – Maintaining your AC system

It’s been a brutally warm summer so far throughout Northwest Ohio. During these times, nothing works harder than your AC. Make sure you’re checking/maintaining them to avoid any surprises. Here’s a few helpful suggestion to keep your system running at peak performance:
  • Ensure the duct taping and plastic visqueen is secure/intact to avoid any wasted            energy.
  • Make sure the extension cords are all well secured and not showing signs of overheating.
  • Look over the 2 x 4 supporting structure to make sure it’s solid and that there are no loose/broken drywall screws.
  • Make sure the kitty litter drip pan is not full of water and the condensate pump is working properly.
  • If you can find the filter, replace it every month.
These simple, proactive tips will ensure you and your family are kept cool and comfortable during these scorching summer days.Homemade AC