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The French are considered the first to use an underground septic tank system in the 1860’s. By 1880, two-chamber septic systems were being used in the United States. Today, nearly one in four households in the United States depends on an individual septic (onsite) wastewater treatment system or small community cluster system to treat waste water. When used properly, an onsite system can function very well for many years. If used improperly, the system will fail and cause conditions that threat human health and the environment. Inspection and maintenance is key to ensuring that septic systems function properly.
The term “septic” refers to the anaerobic bacterial environment that develops in the tank and which decomposes or mineralizes the waste discharged into the tank. Septic tanks can be coupled with other on-site wastewater treatment units such as biofilters or aerobic systems involving artificial forced aeration.
A septic tank generally consists of a tank (or sometimes more than one tank) of between 4000 and 7500 litres (1,000 and 2,000 gallons) in size connected to an inlet wastewater pipe at one end and a septic drain field at the other. These pipe connections are generally made via a T pipe which allows liquid entry and exit without disturbing any crust on the surface. Today, the design of the tank usually incorporates two chambers (each of which is equipped with a manhole cover) which are separated by means of a dividing wall which has openings located about midway between the floor and roof of the tank.
A typical house will have all wastewater discharge through a single pipe, called the building sewer pipe, which delivers the wastewater by gravity to the sewage disposal system, typically the tank. The sewer lines that carry solids form the house to the tank should have sufficient slope to maintain velocities that carry solids. A slope of between 1 percent (1/8 inch per foot) and 2 percent (1/4 inch per foot) is generally recommended. The last 15 feet of sewer line before the tank should not slope more than 2 percent (1/4 inch per foot). The sewer line from the house to the tank, all fittings and the pipe in the tank, all extensions to the surface from the top of the tank and the first 10 feet exiting the tank must be schedule 40 PVC pipe or heavier.
As solids enter the tank, the clear zone is reduced. If there’s not enough of the clear zone, then the wastewater entering the tank will push the stuff out of the tank before it gets enough time to separate. Wastewater with unsettled solids will be pushed out of the tank and can clog a soil absorption system.
To prevent this from happening, tanks need to be pumped to maintain a good “clear zone.” Failure to pump regularly will cause the absorption field to fail. Routine pumping of the treatment tank is the best way to prevent system failure.
In most areas, a newly installed septic tank is required to be a minimum of 1,000 gallons in size. The minimum septic tank capacity is based upon the number of household bedrooms. For 3 bedrooms, the minimum size is 1,000 gallons. For 5 bedrooms, the minimum size is 1,500 gallons.
Treatment tanks should not be entered during a typical septic inspection. Treatment tanks are hazardous environments. Work carefully and safely. Sewage contains germs that can cause diseases. Never enter a septic tank. Toxic and explosive gases in the tank present a hazard. Do not bend over or stick your head towards an open tank. The gases that come out of the tank may cause you to lose consciousness. You may lose your balance and could end up falling into the tank. Do not reach with your hand into the tank. Old tanks may collapse. Secure the septic tank lid so that children cannot open it. Do not enter cesspools. Do not work alone. Do not bring sewage-contaminated clothing into the home.
Methane and hydrogen sulfide gases are produced in a septic tank. They are both toxic and explosive. Hydrogen sulfide gas is deceptive. It can have a very strong odor one moment, but after exposure, the odor may not be noticed.
The absorption area is the most critical component of the onsite treatment system. Breakout of septic effluent to the ground surface is a system failure. The system in this condition has failed and is not functional. If you observe or have reason to believe that the system is discharging directly to the surface of the ground, or to the surface or ground waters, such conditions should be noted in your report. The inspector does not have to continue the inspection as the system’s condition can be described as “failed” and “non-functional.”
The Barrie Home Inspector recommends that you have a licensed septic system installer inspect and pump your system prior to taking possession of your new home. The installer will inspect the inlet and outlet baffles after pumping the tank. The inlet and outlet baffles are somewhat susceptible to damage and should be treated with caution. They will break if they are hit with an instrument like a shovel. Do not tap or pick at the baffles. If the baffle appears to have damage such as a crack or a missing piece then report the condition. The baffles are designed to protect the absorption area from solids entering it. The baffle holds the solid materials in the tank and blocks them from entering the pipe that runs towards the field. If a baffle is missing or deteriorated, the baffle should be repaired or replaced by a professional contractor. The inspector should then discuss with the client about the potential problems associated with a broken baffle allowing solids to enter the absorption area.
Siding is the outer covering or cladding of a house meant to shed water and protect from the effects of weather. On a building that uses siding, it may act as a key element in the aesthetic beauty of the structure and directly influence its property value. Siding may be formed of horizontal boards or vertical boards (known as weatherboarding in many countries), shingles, or sheet materials. In all four cases, avoiding wind and rain infiltration through the joints is a major challenge, met by overlapping, by covering or sealing the joint, or by creating an interlocking joint such as a tongue-and-groove or rabbet. Since building materials expand and contract with changing temperature and humidity, it is not practical to make rigid joints between the siding elements. Siding may be made of wood, metal, plastic (vinyl), masonry , or composite materials. It may be attached directly to the building structure (studs in the case of wood construction), or to an intermediate layer of horizontal planks called sheathing.
Natural Stone Veneer is made from real stone that is either collected i.e. Fieldstone, or from quarried stone. The stone is sawn so that it is a consistent thickness and weight for use as a veneer. This stone is often called Thin Stone Veneer. Manufactured Stone Veneer is a decorative building material manufactured to replicate the look of natural stone. The names artificial stones, stacked stone veneer, manufactured stone, flexible stone veneer are also used for stone veneer. Stone veneer is fabricated by pouring a lightweight concrete mix to rubber forms of different style and then painted with a coloring process which makes it resemble real stone. The stone veneer produced is then attached to walls with special mortars. Flexible stone veneer is fabricated by pulling a thin layer of stone from a slab of slate, sandstone, or mica schist. It is backed by a composite material.
As a building material, stucco is a durable, attractive, and weather-resistant wall covering. It was traditionally used as both an interior and exterior finish applied in one or two thin layers directly over a solid masonry, brick or stone surface. The finish coat usually contained an integral color and was typically textured for appearance. Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as a coating for walls and ceilings and for decoration. Stucco may be used to cover less visually appealing construction materials such as concrete, cinder block, or clay brick and adobe.
Fiber cement is a composite material made of sand, cement and cellulose fibers. In appearance fiber cement siding most often consists of overlapping horizontal boards, imitating wooden siding, clapboard and imitation shingles. Fiber cement siding is also manufactured in a sheet form and is used not only as cladding but is also commonly used as a soffit / eave lining and as a tile underlay on decks and in bathrooms. CSR Fiber Cement sheet cladding – dwelling addition, Hardys Bay, NSW, Australia. Fiber cement siding is not only used as an exterior siding, it can also be utilized as a substitute for timber fascias and barge boards in high fire areas.
Vinyl siding was introduced to the exterior cladding market in the late 1950s. It was first produced by an independently-owned manufacturing plant in Columbus, Ohio. The process was originally done through mono-extrusion. At that time, blending of colors was done manually, and the product was little more than a replacement for aluminum siding. This original process made it difficult to produce and install a consistent, quality product. Beginning in the 1970s, a transformation of the product began, with the industry engineering formulation changes. These changes affected the product’s production speed, impact resistance, and range of colors. In the following decade vinyl siding grew steadily in popularity in large part due to its durability, versatility, and ease of maintenance. Today, vinyl siding is the most commonly used siding product in the United States. As the product continues to grow, the Vinyl Siding Institute regulates manufacturers and sponsors installation certification programs for contractors.
Engineered wood siding is easier and less costly to install than real wood siding. It is lighter in weight than wood and features advances that make installation easier, like LP’s SmartLock self-aligning edge design. Engineered wood siding can be purchased pre-primed, ready to paint, or pre-finished in any number of finish options, which reduces the field and labor time once installed. The boards are coated with a moisture-resistant overlay that is embossed with a cedar-grain pattern for an authentic appearance. The process of treating each wood wafer with zinc borate, using a heavy-duty exterior glue, and pressing the product under heat and pressure, results in one solid piece of wood.
Having a Professional Home Inspector inspect your home prior to purchase will allow your new homes cladding to be inspected by a Professional like the Barrie Home Inspector. He will inspect for cladding of siding failure or poor installation techniques. Having all the information available is paramount prior to purchasing real estate, whether for investment or for your new home.
A vent is a pipe or pipes install to provide a flow or air to or from a drainage system to provide a circulation of air within such system to protect trap seals from siphonage and back-pressure. This has a two fold purpose, one to prevent sewer gases from entering home and also to allow air into system for better drainage.
Direct venting of plumbing fixtures is permitted if a plumbing fixture is close enough (eight feet or less) to the main waste stack pipe (vent), the fixture does not usually require its own plumbing vent piping, and it is considered a direct-vented plumbing fixture.
Wet venting is using a drain from another fixture to supply adequate venting to another fixture, usually a toilet. The theory for wet venting is that the flow in the wet vent portion of the piping will be low because there will only be one occupant in the bathroom and only one fixture being used.
Plumbing smells or noises can be caused by improperly installed drains and vents. There a many cases where improper glue and venting has resulted in sewer gas entering an unsuspecting homeowners property. Improper use of glue, loose connections and vents not vented to exterior can all be attributed to work being performed by un-licensed workers. Always used a trained a licensed plumber when renovating or repairing your homes plumbing system.
There are many different types of choices when it comes to plumbing your home. For water supply, there is PVC, CPVC. PEX, Galvanized Pipe, and copper. Copper and CPVC are the most popular. CPVC is the easiest to install. CPVC tubing is ideal for water supply lines. It’s easy to cut and assemble, using compression of cemented fittings. It’s durable too. Harsh water won’t harm the material, unlike copper, which will erode from acidic water.
That “blub blub” or “glug glug” noise you hear from a building drain might mean that there is a problem with the drain system itself, such as a partial drain blockage, a drain venting problem, a drain odor problem, or even a failing septic system. If a gurgling sound is heard at a sink or shower drain only when a nearby toilet is flushed, or at a sink or shower when a nearby tub is draining, we’d suspect that the building drain-vent system is inadequate.