Do You Have a Septic Tank or Sewer System?

Knowing if you have a septic tank or are connected to a municipal or public sewer line is something you want to know before purchasing a property. Septic tanks require maintenance and finding out that’s what you have because a problem has occurred rather than knowing beforehand could cost you thousands of dollars to repair.

On top of that, if a septic system collapses, there is a possible danger to anyone nearby.

How can I tell if my house has a septic tank?

So how do you find out if you have a septic tank instead of being part of the public sewer system?

The easy way to determine whether your home has a septic tank or a public sewer system is to look at your water bill. If your house uses a septic tank for wastewater management, then you’re likely to see a charge for wastewater or sewer services from the utility company.

Ask Questions

Before anything else, while you are still looking at the property as a possibility for purchase, ask the owner and realtor if there is a septic tank.

They should be able to tell you the answer in most situations.

If not, ask if a city or county sewer system serves the neighborhood and, specifically, your street.

Also, ask if the building is connected to the public sewer system. If the home was built before the public sewer system was installed, it might have a sewage line running past the property, but the property and system may never have been connected.

Or, in the case of an older building, it may have been connected to the public system. But that does not mean the old septic tank was removed. If not, there could still be some cost or danger associated with that old tank.

Dig Deeper

If you could not get a definite answer, it’s time to do some further investigation. Check to see if a public sewer line is even available to the property. If not, then you’ll need to arrange for an inspection of the private system being used on the property if you decide to proceed.

The next thing you want to learn is if there are plans to install a public system in that neighborhood soon. If so, it will help determine what kind of sewer maintenance and repairs you’ll need to plan.

If you still do not know the answer to whether you have a septic tank, do research or make a few phone calls to:

  • Local plumbers and contractors. They may have a record of any work done on the property for such issues.
  • The City Planning Department to see if they have any records of your property being connected to the sewer lines.

You’ll also want to inspect the ground around your property for indentations, odors, tank markers, or a spot for waste removal. The last resort is to trace the pipes to see whether they lead to a public line or a private tank.

Watch some tips on finding your septic tank if you have one.

How to find my septic tank?

So, now you know there is a septic tank on the property, what do you do next? First, find out as much as you can about the tank location and how old it is.

Determine if it is a cesspool or a dry well. You’ll also want to know about any problems that have happened with the tank and if any issues remain unresolved. Again, a great source to check is local plumbers who worked on the property in the past.

If no one knows anything about the septic tank, it probably has not been regularly maintained. So, you could be looking at a huge bill to have the tank dug up, repaired, or replaced.

Next, hire a home inspector who knows how to inspect septic tanks and have him perform a Septic Loading and Dye Test. Depending on the results, the next step you want to consider is pumping the septic tank to look for other clues. If the waste levels are higher than usual, it could indicate that the tank is failing.

If these issues are still concerning, then you may need additional physical inspections of the tank. You might also consider talking with the immediate neighbors to determine their history with the septic systems on their properties.

All of these inspections may cost some extra cash initially. But it is worth it to keep you from purchasing a property that could cost 10-20 times that amount to fix the problem.

There are many ways to tell if your house is served by whether a septic tank or sewer line. If you already own a property with a septic tank, make sure to contact a professional plumber to schedule regular maintenance for your system to keep it running effectively for years to come.

Mas Broto

Written by: Mas Broto

Mas Broto is a small business owner with 30 years experience in the real estate industry. He is the founder and editor of, the most comprehensive free home improvement website on the planet!