Info & comments please

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by annie, Sep 28, 2007.

  1. annie

    annie Monkey+++

    Need some info / help here. We made a low offer on a home with 10 acres. Just perfect for us. Here is situation: Roof had recently been reshingled (layer added), inside damaged drywall replaced and painted. There is an abandoned (not being used) hand dug well close to the house & not properly covered. Outside of safety (20 foot drop if a person fell in), what if any problems does this present ? Underground erosion ? HOUSE IS ON RURAL WATER. Behind the house there is a small sinkhole 3 ft across -- 2 -3 ft deep. Cant find a cleanout for septic. How likely is it that there are laterals to a lagoon & no septic ? Broken or deteriorated lateral causing the sinkhole ? The home is about 30 years old, in farm country north east of Kansas city. I have no idea how long septic tanks have been around. Does anyone else know ?
    There are some repairs needed before inspections. Seller has not lived on property & seems to be no help at all. Realtor says property priced appropriately for buyer to make repairs. I don't mind hard work, but getting in over my head could be a financial disaster.
    Sure hope soneone sees this & responds soon. annie

    The offer was declined & countered back at full asking price, my best guess is that price is about 2/3 of value, serious opportunity for sweat equity unless there is more than meets the eye. Seller wishes an answer tomorrow morning to his counter ! lol pun intended--sinkhole [flag]
  2. sheen_estevez

    sheen_estevez Monkey+++

    Many years ago in my area they use to put in drywells for septic collection, basically they were larger holes dug and then covered with some type of cover, in the case of my property it was a wood cove, so after about 30 years a sink hole started to show, we ended up having to have it dug up and filled in

    I would be asking questions about it
  3. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member


    Sink holes are nothing to mess around with.
  4. annie

    annie Monkey+++

    Thank you for the warning. Will do my best to heed. annie
  5. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    If there is a lagoon then it would be possible that the sink hole could be a septic tank. Lagoons have only been popular, at least here in MO to my knowledge at least for about the last 10-maybe 20 years, septic tanks comonly came along with the indoor plumbing. I know at my moms house where I grew up we had a septic tank that we quituseing and hooked into the city sewers but apparently when it was checked before we switched over the lid got left open or something and a 'sinkhole' about 4' across and a foot or so deep developed and we kept filling it and it kept sinking for years then finaly stoped, presumably when the tank got full. So while it could also be a more serious problem it could also be that it had a septic tank but problems arose and rather than fix it they went over to a lagoon and the septic tank is filling in or falling in. About the only way I would know of to know for sure would be to get someone with sonar equiptment out there to 'look' under the ground and be sure.

    As far as the well, that would be a great thing most likely. If it was me I would run a weight on a rope down to see how deep it is then rent a high capacity pump capable of pumping that height and pump it dry then let it refill and send the water that refills to the DNR or county to be tested and see what all is in it and if it is potable or how bad it is so you know then so long as it isnt highly toxic put a hand pump on the well with the cover, then if things go bad and the rural water goes down you still have a water source.

    If you dont mind me asking, what are they trying to get for it and what town or area is it? I know out our way the values have gone up some but if building on your own, contracting the building or doing a mobile/modular home or some such is an option for you, there is semi unimproved land available here and there and at least when we got our about 5-6 years ago unimproved land (no house or utilities) went for around $1k/acre or just a bit more on small acerages (20 acres or less) and a little cheaper per acre for larger acerages.
  6. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Before septic tanks, there were cesspools. Nothing more than a hole in the ground, lined with brick, field stone or something with lots of holes in it to allow the liquid to percolate into the ground while holding the solids. Illegal since well before my time (and I've been above ground for a bit) and I'm not sure why since they serve the same purpose as a septic tank, just a different means of distributing the leachate. I have seen them with caved in covers and refilled.

    Make sure the well is a LONG way from the leach field. There are code minimums that (IMHO) are too close.

    MM is right about getting the well tested, both for delivery and quality. Don't stop with the mandated health department testing, go for the less obvious as well, heavy metals as well as bugs. If it does not test OK, then it will still serve as a backup, and you'll know what treatments you'll need to provide when SHTF. In the meantime, use it to water the lawn (and garden, if tests OK for that) and test again in a couple years. Sometimes using the water will flush out some contaminants.
  7. poacher

    poacher Monkey+++ Founding Member

    You need to have a sewer/ plumber check the line. When we bought our house I thought I was being an ass and had a plumber check the septic. I found out that the solids had plugged two of the laterals and it wouldn't work completely right. Also around here laterals run about 2500 per lat. They also put in new code so you now have to run longer laterals.
    The sink hole is a warning sign. Whatever is there is collapsing. Do some investigating and find out what was there. Ask the seller, go to the county and see if they have a layout of the sewer. You can check out alot of things about the property this way. Ask neighbors, they may not be close but they will know about the family. Ask at the local coffee shop, just hang around for a morning or two and ask. You may very well find out about alot of things that way.
    If the well hasn't been covered assume that it is non potable. Like Monkeyman said take a rope and drop it down. I would say put a small bucket on the end then you can find out the depth and also get a sample.
    If they just added a layer to the roof then they more than likely didn't fix the problem they just delayed it. How many layers are allowable by code in your area? Here the max is three. After that you strip it down and start over. Have you climbed up into the attic and looked at the roof from the bottom side? you may find huge issues that way. Read a whole new roof, sheathing and all.
    If drywall was damaged due to the leak then you need to look at the walls. There could be a good chance of mold if the leak was prolonged.
    I would suggest paying a few hundred bucks and getting a plumber, roofer, framer etc to come look at it. You can pay a home inspector about 200 and he'll come look at it but I've had 50/50 shots with those. Call someone in the trade and tell em you'll pay their gas and 50 bucks to come look at the place. They may wave you off after they get done.
    Lastly I know this is kinda common sense but make the next offer or contract say "pending inspection of the house" that gives you an out without law suit if it doesn't meet specs.
    Take care Be safe Poacher.
  8. annie

    annie Monkey+++

    OK, great info & good tests I hadn't thought of:

    In my mind a septic would be placed a) close enough to house to minimize pipe footage say 20-30 ft ? and b) yet in position with easy access for cleanout. OTH I have been told that they rarely need cleaning IF functioning properly. yea/nay ?
    I will start researching lagoons.

    MONKEYMAN, on the well, that is great & I will prob be sinking some kind of vessel to get water and we agree on back up water supply, actually there are two wells, the second one with a pump (condition unknown) so one would assume that the first was bad or dry ?

    GHRIT, guessing here, unsuitable for lawn or garden would be germy bugs ? I like idea of using & retesting later on. To best of my knowledge this county has little or no zoning, so guess I have to search for state standards ? regarding distance of laterals from wells.

    POACHER, You really gave me something to think about. 1. when I first entered house I smelled musty moldy type air but door was left open & it quickly went away. The damaged drywall was actually ceiling about 1ft x 2ft maybe. Have never seen a setup like this before, fireplace in living room the backside of which is in garage, a little warmth for the vehicle ? 2nd fireplace below it in basement. So, while we were there it rained pretty good & I found water on backside of chimney in garage and a little stream of water running across garage floor (had forgotten about that). Oh & one of three chimney caps is missing.

    Can't thank you guys enough for this, for one thing in going thru your posts it helps me to remember & think about all that I saw & try to organize it. annie
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    I think you might well be advised to get your own inspections done. RE agents always have inspectors on tap, and you are paying the bill either way. Go independent, get referrals from someone not associated with the RE agent.
  10. RightHand

    RightHand Been There, Done That RIP 4/15/21 Moderator Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    My septic system is a cesspool my grandfather built in 1938 and it still functions fine. Granted, I don't use a dishwasher and I'm careful about wasteful use of water but other than that, no problem. I have it pumped every year or two, the same as I do at my other house. I use a dry well in both places for the washing machine. I have an drilled artesian well so it's pretty safe from contamination but the house with the septic tank has a dug well - 8 ft from ground to bottom of well - spring fed. I have that water test every year. Although it is a good 200 ft from the septic, it also gets a lot of run off. That's the well that the deer fell in last year!

    Our state code mandates 75 ft from septic to well and I agree with ghrit, it's way too close.

    For water testing, if you don't have any private labs locally, contact your nearest university. Some, like Univ of CT, have labs who will test for a modest fee. The commercial labs charge about $30 per standard test around here.
  11. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Ok, sorry for the rambleing post but may be useful for folks not accustomed to wells.

    Also like I mentioned, pump out the well BEFORE you take the sample for testing. The weight on the rope is to find out depth so you know what kind of pump you need (different pump if pumping up 20', 50' or 200') when you pump all the water out this will do about 3 things at least for you. First it will pump out old stagnant water since if the water has sat there for years it wont be the same quality as if it is being filled and used regularly. Second its not to uncomon for animals from mice and small rodents all the way up to coyotes or deer to fall into wells especialy if uncovered, if there are carcases in there then obviously they would contaminate the water and need to be removed, when its empty you can tell better if theres anything like that in there and if so remove it. Third is that you pump out all the water and then you can see how quickly it refills. This will let you know how much water that well produces, at least at present but this can change if its surface water rather than something like spring fed. Its possible that with the second well this one could have gone dry then recovered, been contaminated, etc. or it could just be that it dosent/didnt produce enouph for their needs which could be that it actualy didnt produce enouph or could be that the person just didnt know how to maximize its output.

    A lot of wells will only raise the water level to a certain level regardles of how long they have and may produce say a gallon per minute. So if it only raises the level to a point where you have say 50 gallons standing and you have say 3 people liveing there. In the morning they get up and each uses 4 gallons to flush the toilet then take long showers, brush teeth etc and use another 10 gallons each so theres a total of 42 gallons. Now this has all taken 30 min so you had 8 gallons left and are adding a gallon/min are back to 38 gallons. Now you fill the kitchen sinks to do dishes and use another 10 gallons, down to 28. You go out 10 min later with the wate back up to 38 gallons and fill the animals water tanks and use up 20 gallons. So far that has worked fine, but then you go in and over the next 10 minute that would only put you up to 28 gallons, use the restroom again flush 4 gallons then try to start a load of laundry that uses 30 gallons...your well ran out of water looseing prime in the process but not before pumping the bottom water with the sediment and crud through your pump causeing excess wear and pumping it into the washer.

    Now if you have the well set up to pump up into a holding tank with one shutoff that stops it if the holding tank (say a 500 gallon tank) is full and another that turns the pump on (if the tank is low) when the well fills to a certain point and stops it before it pumps it dry. Now you always have the 500 gallons in reserve PLUS the 50 in the well and its renewed at a rate of 1 gallon per minute and it would be very hard, short of filling a swimming pool, to ever run out of water.

    So basicly the short version is that it could be that they just did a new well that was closer for convenience or produced faster rather than conserve/schedule on water use or didnt know how to maximize the usefuloness of the wells capacity for output. It dosent NESICARILY mean there was anything wrong with the well, but knowing its output will tell you how you need to use it for whatever it is safe for.
  12. annie

    annie Monkey+++

    TY MM, not what I would call rambling & the numbers are perspective for me and I appreciate it. Just another one of those things we don't think about. annie
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