When you’re looking at homes, you may encounter a few properties on the market that have completely different types of mechanical systems than the others you’ve looked at. This can include anything from how the house gets its water supply to how bathroom waste is managed. Before you buy a home, it’s helpful to understand what types of water and septic systems are in place. If you’re shopping for rural homes, you may encounter private systems, like private wells for water and septic tanks.
Here are the key things to know about different types of private water and septic systems:
Private septic (gravity based): If you’re shopping for homes in a rural area, you will probably encounter properties with their own septic systems. A septic system is a sewage disposal system below ground that takes and holds solid household sewage waste and discharges the liquid portion to the ground (leach field). A properly designed and installed septic system with regular cleaning and maintenance of the septic tank can last indefinitely. Septic tanks should be pumped once every year or two to clean out the solid waste held in the tank.
Pump-up septic system: Pump-up systems are exactly what they sound like and become necessary when the elevation of the disposal area or "leach field" is higher than the elevation of the septic tank. A pumping station or pump chamber is required to move the wastewater up to the disposal area. This type of system is very common in New Hampshire.
Drilled wells (most common) are constructed by percussion or rotary-drilling machines. Drilled wells can be thousands of feet deep and require the installation of casing. Drilled wells have a lower risk of contamination due to their depth and use of continuous lining (casing).
Driven wells are constructed by driving pipe into the ground. Driven wells are cased continuously and shallow (approximately 30 to 50 feet deep). Although driven wells are cased, they can be contaminated easily because they draw water from aquifers near the surface.
Dug/Bored wells are holes in the ground dug by shovel or backhoe. They are lined with stones, brick, tile, or other material to prevent collapse. Dug wells have a large diameter, are shallow (approximately 10 to 30 feet deep) and are not cased continuously.
It’s important to note that contamination can occur through the underground channels that feed well water, so testing is a wise choice for any homeowner. Testing the water will also tell you what those contaminants are, and how you can mitigate the risks – for example, by adding a filtration system.
It is important to understand exactly what you are buying when shopping for a home, and this includes the basic systems like water and septic that keep the property functioning. If there is terminology you don’t understand, ask your Realtor. Your agent is there to represent your best interests as well as explain any terminology that you haven’t encountered before.