Septic Inspections


Why have  an On-Site Septic System Inspection:

If you are buying a home with a septic tank, you should consider having it inspected. A standard home inspection does not include this type of a specialized inspection. Some Home Inspectors do offer it as an extra ancillary service. Licensed Septic Tank inspectors will have the required qualifications to perform a comprehensive septic inspections on your prospective property. Licensed Septic installer – (BCIN # Issued by) Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH)


What is a Septic System:

A Septic System is an on-site treatment and disposal system buried in the ground. A septic system consists of a septic tank and a soil absorption area.

A functional septic inspection is an objective evaluation of the onsite wastewater treatment system based upon the inspector’s experience and knowledge. It’s an evaluation of each inspected component of the system, and a conclusion about the system’s condition.

A functional septic inspection is NOT a Warranty or Guarantee that the system will function properly for any period of time in the future, or a certification of the system’s installation or performance.


Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association:

Septic Tank InspectionsThe Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association noted in their publication Septic Smart that investigators in Ontario estimate 30 per cent of the one million household septic systems installed are failing to adequately protect the environment. When a change must be made to a septic system, such as repairs, replacements or installations, it is very important that you are familiar with the legal limitations imposed upon you in relation to where the system can be located with respect to your house, your well, your neighbour’s house/well and any bodies of water within the vicinity. Knowing the distances required is important in order to help ensure that wastewater from septic systems is unable to reach and contaminate any nearby water supplies, therefore, keeping our environment cleaner and our water safer.

In Ontario, all residential septic systems are regulated by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (“MMAH”) under the Building Code Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 23 (the Act). One of the main requirements of this Act is that any individual who plans to engage in construction, installation, extension, enlargement or alteration of any sewer system or building connected to the system, must obtain a building permit from their local Building Department.

What is involved:

Depends on the level of septic inspection you request. We offer different types of septic inspections.  Most Septic Tank inspectors strongly recommend tanks being pumped at time of inspection.  This is the only way that they can verify the integrity, composition and capacity of the tank.

Because of time constraints or time of year it may not be possible to pump the tank.

A septic inspection will typically add  1 plus hours to a building inspection. As a home inspection  it is non-invasive by nature, if the septic system is to be inspected, it is the responsibility of the home owner to ensure access covers (hatches) to the treatment tank are visible, accessible and open-able. Prior to the pumper arriving on site  we will put a stress load of waste water on the system . From there we will do a visual inspection of the entire bed and mantle of the septic field. At the time of pumping we will closely observe the liquid levels within the tank to ensure that there is no flow back from the bed into the tank. All of the visible components of the septic tank are inspected for their structural integrity and ensure that the tank size is adequate to service the building.

At the end of the inspection all findings are documented in a reporting system. A septic inspection can be booked at the same time as your home inspection.

What Reports will your Inspector provide:

They will provide you with a report that has Descriptions, Limitations, and Recommendations of your Septic System

 –  others may only provide you with levels of effluent or sewage in tank. ( not the complete picture)


Types of Inspections Handley Home Inspections Can Perform

1) Basic Real Estate: (Tanks are not pumped). Due to time constraints or time of year it may not be possible to pump the tanks.


2) Maintenance Inspection Phase One Plus: 
 (involves tanks being pumped we recommended)

(part of Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH).

 Typically All inspections generally begin with a review of available material, including material collected in  the identification phase, and reports from previous inspections. The Seller should provide any and all documentation relating to the sewage system, within the Seller’s possession, or which may be made available to the Seller by the appropriate authorities.

Scope of the Septic Inspections is to:

  1. a) Obtain the most recent information on the system, as well the size of the building and the number of fixtures and bedrooms that it is servicing
  2. b) Locate the sewage system’s components.
  3. c) Identify any obvious or outward signs of malfunction or failure.
  4. d) Identify systems that are at risk of malfunction or failure. 

Inspections avoid significant disturbance to the system and the surrounding soil area. During the coarse of a Septic Inspection, would normally identify:

  1. a)The type of occupancy to determine the source and type of the sanitary 
  2. b) The source of the water supply( municipal, well, lake, etc);

    The use of special devices such as garbage grinders or water softeners;

  3. c) The general nature of the system (class, components, type, layout, etc); 
  4. d)The location of the system’s components with respect to wells, surface water,
    and other environmental features;
  5. e)The approximate level of ground water,if where possible, this may be achieved by:  
  6. Reviewing other material and records of ground water elevation observed on site or nearby properties, including local assessment report if available;
  7. Observing the conditions of the septic tank and the distribution box for
    indications of ground water

iii. Observing the elevation of nearby water body, or ground water infiltration in other surface structures;

  1. f) The size, material and the condition of the septic tank, or the holding tank; 
    Tanks  that are not pumped  at time of inspection – only a small amount at top portion of tank components will be visible. 
  2. g)Things that we look for in the of tanks are as follows visible area’s: 

  Condition of hatches

  Type of tank composition

–  Proper baffle operation

–  Level of sewage in tank

–  Inlet and outlet pipes are free of obstructions

–  Depth of sludge and scum

–  Perform a flow test from plumbing appliances in home to the tank

–  Note any Foreign objects in the tank

–  Excessive corrosion of concrete caused by hydrogen sulphide coming out of the sewage

  1. h)The frequency of tank pumpout and  the last time the tank was cleaned;
      if records are available
  2. i)Any indication of sewage system failure, including: 
  3. Evidence of backup of effluent; 
  4. Signs of hydraulic failure
    (breakout of sewage, wetting conditions in the leaching bed area); 

iii. Condition of surface vegetation; and 

  1. Odour problems


Inspections of leaching beds may also consider: 

  1. a)Clearance distances to environmental features,
    wells and surface water intakes; 
  2. b) Soil type and its permeability; 
  3. c) Additional sources of hydraulic loading (e.g. surface discharge, roof drains); 
  4. d)Evidence of ponding; 
  5. e) Encroachments into the leaching bed area (e.g. building additions, patios, driveways, pools)  
  6. f) Trees and deep rooting shrubs in the vicinity of the bed. 


3) Home Owner’s Maintenance Inspection

Some inspectors can perform a Functional Maintenance Septic System Inspection to verify that the system is currently working properly. A simplified hydraulic load test is performed to confirm that wastewater is properly flowing from the house into the treatment tank, and flowing out at the tank’s distribution outlet. Barring any evidence to the contrary, if the wastewater leaves the tank without the level in the tank significantly  Septic System changing when a heavy load is introduced, it is assumed the lines to the drainage field are flowing and the soil is not saturated. We will also measure the sludge and scum levels to determine if the tank needs pumping, and visually inspect the drainage field for abnormalities.

Septic tanks and other treatment units shall have the scum and sludge measured in all chambers at least once during every 24 month period, not less than 18 months and not more than 24 months from the previous measurement with a record kept of the information for submission to the chief building official upon request.