As Steve said, the bucket test won't work on a septic tank system
unless you pump it first. Also, in order to 'pop the cover' in most
septic systems it will take at least an hours work digging the 'cover'
out by hand before you can 'pop' it
Agreed. Also if the drains are in a non-walkout basement and there is no
pump to raise the water to the septic tank level, the drains certainly do
not feed into the septic tank. Probably they go into a drywell or drain out
to a low area covered by bushes or some other plantings. A dye test would be
good and will require some investigating to find where they exit. A
camera/radio transmitter that some plumbers have would help trace the path
and exit. Most certainly a half bath could not be installed using the floor
Then you have a weird system. If installed correctly, the inlent pipe
in the tank ends in an elbow witht he outlet below the "stuff"
surface. I could see hearing water running down the pipe _to_ the
tank though although I have never had one that I could do it.
Maybe 4 'weird systems' in a row? Maybe how it is/was done in NY.
I've owned 5 houses over the last 40 years and none had an elbow.
[well maybe one but I never had occasion to dig it up] I know I could
hear the water run into 3.
I suspect the one I have now is the most 'modern' install. Wild
guess would say sometime in the early 60's. I've talked with the
guy who pumps it every 5 yrs or so & he's never mentioned an elbow-
though we've talked about some other design oddities in this old
Do not know where you live, but around here (N.E. North Carolina) the old septic
tanks are very close to the surface. Not much digging. I know right where my
cover sits. I do not know why you think you need to pump it first to test. My
Line going in sits 6 inches below top of tank. My outgoing lines sit just below
that. When I pop the cover to have it pumped the water level is always below the
inlet pipe. I do not have a distribution box that feeds the field lines. None
of us in my neighborhood have that, unless they have replaced their whole
The previous owner said it was a dry well and showed me the cover.
I popped the cover and it looked like one of the older wells with the
pump under ground in a cinder block hole. Is that what a dry well
I still think it was the original house well. Why would one have a
dry well 5 feet from the house foundation?
The property had a new well put in 8 years ago.
If it is a normal dry well, it would not normally have a pump or
cover. Is there an electric line running to the dry well?? If not,
then it is a true dry well. If there really is a pump, then where
does the output of the pump go??
If there is a pump or was a pump, it would not be considered a dry well. Dry
wells do not pump water out. The way you described it, it sounds like a dry
well, and someone put a pump in it. Which would suggest it was not draining
well. Are there any outgoing pipes or hose? If so where do these go?
My dry well is also about five feet from the house. If we have heavy rains it
does not drain very well and I have hooked up a pump to it at those times.
One thing that we will be doing next year and you may want to consider is
hooking up a gray water filter system and use your water for the garden and lawn.
If you are fortunate enough to have your street drains deeper than
your basement then they go directly to your house drain then off to
the street sanitary sewer (NOT the street storm sewer). If your
basement is below your street drain then they go to an ejector pit
where a pump lifts the water to the main house drain then to the
sanitaion sewer. Same relative-depth theory applies if you have a
On a newer home it is against code to drain them to a sump then out
onto topsoil, (storm sumps can only eject to topsoil or the municipal
storm sewer), NOT the sanitary sewer. On an old house a basement
drain just might be going to the "wrong" place if your municipality
grandfathered the rules.
Any drains inside a home, (with the exception of your french drain
(drain tile to storm sump)), must go to the sanitation sewer, not the
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