Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

Title 5 Septic systems and Bedroom Counts

- Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System

One other important matter concerning the Title V and septic systems is the proper representation of bedrooms in a home.

Title 5 Septic System MisrepresentationAccording to errors and omission insurance for Massachusetts Realtors, one of the areas that have drawn the most recent litigation is the misrepresentation of bedrooms when a septic system services the home.

Septic systems are rated according to their bedroom capacity. When someone says the septic system is “rated” for four bedrooms, it means that the system will handle the waste generated by four bedrooms.

It has nothing to do with the number of bathrooms in a home! This makes perfect sense because a septic system gets taxed by the number of occupants, not the number of bathrooms.

Where sellers and Realtors put themselves into a potential legal bind is when rooms in a home are counted and marketed as bedrooms when they are not.

For example, you could have a home with three bedrooms on the 2nd floor and another room on the 1st floor that is marketed as a “bedroom.” It may by all definitions meet the requirements of a bedroom, such as having a closet and a window large enough for a person to fit through.

However, the problem is if the home has a septic system that is rated for only three bedrooms, it is not a four-bedroom home and should not be marketed as such.

The misrepresentation occurs when the seller or Realtor represents this room as a bedroom through various marketing channels such as the multiple listing service (MLS) or other written material.

The buyer relies on the information provided, only to later find out through town hall, the title v or other means that the home is, in fact, not a four-bedroom home. There are certainly differences in market value between three and four-bedroom homes regardless of the house’s overall size.

Another example would be a home that has an addition, and the room that was added is called a bedroom, but there has been no corresponding “upgrade” to the septic system.

Whenever there is any doubt about the bedroom count, a Realtor should verify the records to determine the correct information. This information can usually be found at the local board of health records or on the septic design. If there has been a Title V inspection already done on the property, it will be in the report as well.


Massachusetts Septic Tax Credit

- Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Septic System Construction - Fiskdale, MA

When failing a title 5, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides a tax credit of up to $6,000 over four years to defray the cost of septic repairs to a primary residence.

Forms are available from the Department of Revenue (DOR) to allow homeowners to claim up to $6,000 in tax credits for septic upgrades. The credit cannot exceed $1,500 in any year and may be spread out over four years. The tax credit will only be issued for work done on a primary residence and not an investment property or 2nd home. Tax Form Schedule SC is the correct form for the tax credits. You can get the form at the MassDOR Web site.

You may be wondering how this all applies to cesspools. Cesspools are much harder to pass in Massachusetts. Does every single cesspool automatically fail? NO.

Only those cesspools that exhibit signs of hydraulic failure are located very close to private or public water supplies or otherwise do not protect or pose a threat to the public health, safety, or the environment will need to be changed to septic systems. Also, cesspools must be upgraded before an increase in the design flow. As an example, if there is a bedroom addition put on the home.

If you decide not to sell your home, a Massachusetts Title 5 is good for two years from the date it is completed. It can also be extended for a 3rd year if it is pumped in both years.


Septic Smells in Your Home

- Wednesday, September 08, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction

When it rains, rainwater runoff has to go somewhere when it falls. Because of gravity, it will usually go to the lowest point it can, pouring into any available culvert or break in the tank. As the water collects, it takes up space, causing the gas to move upward to accommodate the increasing volume of water. That’s because the fumes have a lower density, so they’ll begin to come out of sewers and cause a bad smell in the process.

If you’re on a septic tank and notice a foul odor inside your home when it rains, the cause may be any — or a combination — of the following reasons:

Raining often causes atmospheric pressure changes, which can lead to the air becoming heavy. As such, the methane gases typically found in the septic tank don’t flow through the vent as they normally would. Instead, they stay low to the ground, causing a foul smell similar to rotten eggs.

Cold temperatures can cause downdrafts from plumbing vent stacks. In this case, you will notice the odor varies during the day, especially if the weather is windy. If the odor tends to subside as temperatures go up, downdrafts are the most likely cause of that terrible sewer smell in your house.

If the septic tank is full, it can cause the pump to fail. As such, new wastewater will not come in to replace the old wastewater, producing a foul smell as a result.

A blocked venting system in the septic tank is another possible cause of a sewer smell in your house. This often happens if you’ve had work done on the home or to the landscaping, and the vents are no longer working properly. The result will be sewage gases that can’t escape from the wastewater, accumulating in your house instead and causing a foul smell.

For more information on septic tank inspection, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


How to Prepare Your Septic System for Rain

- Thursday, September 02, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction -  Sepic System

The best way to prevent damage to your septic system during a massive rainstorm is to maintain your system properly. There are a few things you can do to prepare your system for a storm:

  • Have your system pumped every three to five years. To ensure your system is prepared to handle more water than usual, make sure you pump as recommended. A full septic tank is a recipe for disaster during a heavy storm, especially if it floods.
  • Have your system inspected as recommended. To always be prepared for a downpour, have a professional inspect your septic system every three years. This routine check will ensure that all major problems are fixed before the weather gets bad.
  • Watch what you put down your drains. As mentioned above, sending non-biodegradable materials down the drain can cause clogs. Make sure to toss food scraps into the trash. Never pour grease or oil down the kitchen sink. Always dispose of sanitary products and diapers in the trash, not the toilet.
  • Keep runoff water away from your drainfield. Make sure that gutters aren’t spilling out onto your drainfield. This will cause excess rainwater absorption in the soil and make it hard for your drainfield to filter wastewater.
  • Keep vehicles off your drainfield. Try your best not to park or drive over your drainfield. The added weight will weaken the soil and decrease its ability to filter wastewater.

Can Rain Cause My Septic Tank to Flood?

After heavy rainfall, it can be difficult to determine if flooding is causing issues with your septic tank. This has to do with the fact that the symptoms of a flooded tank are very similar to those of a tank that needs pumping or a pipe that’s clogged.

However, if you recently received a substantial amount of rain and are having problems with water draining in your home’s drains, it’s possible that your tank may be flooded. If this is the case, you may want to contact a professional to inspect and diagnose the issue.

In the meantime, your best course of action is to reduce the use of faucets or appliances that use water in your home. This will give your drainfield time to dry out. Pumping the tank or adding chemicals to help ease draining are not viable solutions. Unfortunately, all you can do is limit your water usage and set up an appointment with a septic tank specialist to determine solutions and evaluate any potential damage.


Reasons Your Septic System Can Fail in Heavy Rain

- Monday, August 30, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Overflowing Cespool

The likelihood that heavy rain will damage a properly maintained septic system is slim. However, if you’ve been neglecting your septic system recently, you’ll be more susceptible to excess damages from rain.

The following are a few problems your system may be experiencing, causing it to crack under pressure:

Physical Damage

If any element of your septic system has sustained damage, it won’t work as it should. Several different situations can cause damage to your system, such as tree roots growing into the system.

If you drive over the area where your system is installed, there can also be significant damage. Whether there’s heavy rain or not, damaged pipes cannot filter wastewater at their usual rate and efficiency.

Irregular Inspections

The average septic system should be inspected every three years. If it’s been more than a few years since you’ve last called a professional, this is a problem.

Inspections are necessary to catch and fix small problems as they occur. Getting regular checks will ensure that your septic system can survive day-to-day activities and heavy rains.

Waiting Too Long Between Pumpings

The average septic tank should be pumped every three to five years. Waiting longer can spell disaster for you and your home.

Your septic system will stop filtering water as well as it should. The buildup of sludge in your tank will also clog your pipes.


Clogs can be a result of waiting too long between pumps or sending improper things down your drains. Sludge can clog your pipes after years of neglect. However, sending other forms of waste down your drains can create massive clogs much faster.

Cigarette butts, sanitary napkins, and diapers should never be sent down your drain. If it isn’t biodegradable, don’t flush it. You should also avoid using your garbage disposal, as food scraps accumulate and form clogs quickly.

Inadequate Installation

If your septic system was installed improperly, this could cause you lots of problems in the long run. Improper installation can include poor construction and system design, or installing in impermeable soil, thin soil or heavily-saturated soil. Any form of inadequate installation can make it hard for your septic system to function, especially in heavy rain.

An Overloaded System

A septic system is built to handle a specific amount of water at a time. If you’re always running your dishwasher, shower, and washing machine at once, this can overload your system.

Avoid using too many appliances at the same time during a heavy rainstorm. The combination of your overloaded system and flooding can cause sewage backup into drains and groundwater.

To prevent an overloaded system during a storm, take shorter showers and only run full loads of laundry and dishes. Overall, do your best to conserve water by limiting non-essential use.


Septic System and Too Much Rain

- Thursday, August 26, 2021
Morse Engineering and Industries - Septic System

If where you live has been experiencing frequent rain, it is natural to be concerned about your septic system. During heavy rain, drainage systems often get overwhelmed and streets flood. But can the same be said for your septic system?

Heavy rain shouldn’t damage your septic system or cause major drainage issues if it is properly maintained. However, you may experience problems if the rain causes your drainfield to flood.

A flooded drainfield won’t allow wastewater to drain properly, often forcing it back into your home’s drains.

Ways Flooding Can Affect Your Septic System

If the heavy rains in your area cause flooding, you may notice a few septic system issues. During a flood, the following problems can occur:

  • Drainage backup. When your drainfield gets clogged, excess wastewater gets pushed back into the septic tank and your home. This backup causes sewage to appear in drains.
  • Flooded drainfield. During a flood, your drainfield will become heavily saturated. You’ve especially got a problem on your hands if there’s standing water above your drainfield.

The drainfield’s purpose is to filter the remaining wastewater into the soil. When the ground above your drainfield is too soggy, it can’t filter properly. This sogginess can cause a whole host of problems like sewage backup, foul odors, and gurgling pipes.

  • Groundwater contamination. If wastewater can’t be filtered properly, it will leach out of pipes before it has been purified. Then, the wastewater mixes with the groundwater, trickling into nearby water sources.

Buyers Need To Check The Septic Tank

- Friday, August 20, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Checking Septic Tank

Most prospective home buyers want to know as much as possible about the condition of the house they are buying. Few would be willing to buy a house with a leaking roof or a heating system that could fail at any time without at least getting an adjustment in the sale price to compensate for the problem.

But even careful buyers often overlook a critical system in the house that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace: the septic system.

A lot of people don't realize that a good part of the value of a house may be buried outside in the yard. In most cases, since a septic system is out of sight, it's out of mind, too.

Many buyers pay too little attention and ask too few questions about the condition of the septic system when they are buying a house.

People think that if the toilets flush and the water drains out of the sink that everything is working fine. But that doesn't necessarily mean that everything will be working fine tomorrow.

To make an informed decision about a house with a septic system, prospective homeowners first need to understand how such a system works.

In most cases, the system consists of three basic parts: the septic tank into which waste from the house is deposited; a distribution box on the outlet side of the septic tank; and a drainage field.

The septic tank will be built out of either concrete, steel or fiberglass and is generally a rectangular box that can hold 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of waste. The tank is usually buried a few feet below the surface and has a covered opening through which it can be cleaned. One end of the tank is connected to the main sewage line coming out of the house and the other end is connected to the distribution box.

In a properly operating system waste water from the house flows into the tank through the sewage line. Once there, the solids fall to the bottom of the tank as the level of liquid in the tank rises. When the liquid rises to the outlet port -- which is always lower than the inlet port -- it then flows out of the tank and into the distribution box. From the distribution box the effluent is then evenly distributed into the drain field through perforated plastic pipes buried underground.

Though such a system may seem foolproof, several things can go wrong. For example, if the solids in the septic tank are allowed to rise to the level of the outlet port, they can clog the distribution box, the perforated drainage pipes and the drain field itself.

Too much use can overtax a properly functioning system. If too much waste water drains into the system too quickly, for example, the drainage field may be unable to accommodate the volume. In fact, adding too much water to a system too quickly can stir up solids in the tank and allow them to migrate into the distribution box and the drainage pipes, thereby exacerbating the problem.

Remember the saying: "The grass is always greener over the septic tank?" Well, if the grass is greener over your septic field, that probably means that there is water pooling underneath. And if that water breaks the surface, the local health inspector can shut you down immediately.

Those buying a property with a septic system should do two things: get as much information as possible about the maintenance of the system from the current owner and then hire an expert to inspect the system.

If you're going to move into a house with a septic system, you want to make sure that the system can handle what you need it to handle. While a particular system might function correctly when handling 400 gallons a day, that same system could be seriously overtaxed if subjected to twice that amount.

And that could easily happen if a large family takes up permanent residence in a house that was originally intended for only seasonal use -- something that happens frequently in resort areas.

You would also want to know how well the system was maintained. Under normal circumstances a septic tank should be pumped clean every two years or so.

Very few people maintain their tanks the way they should. And even if you find a house that has a tank that was cleaned regularly, you should still have the system inspected by an expert.

Just hiring a home inspection service to inspect a house will not necessarily produce an adequate inspection of the septic system.

Most home inspection companies are not going to do a really thorough inspection of the septic system. The most commonly used test -- in which a fluorescent dye is introduced into the system to determine whether any effluent is surfacing in the drainage field -- will only show problems with systems that already have fairly serious problems.

The best test is what is known as an open pit test. And that can cost as much as $600.

With an open pit test, the home inspection company calls in a septic system cleaning company to pump out the tank so that it can be inspected. Doing so, he said, will generally require removing the dirt from on top of the tank and the distribution box so that the covers can be removed and the inside of the tanks inspected.

Some companies will use mirrors to inspect the inside of the tank and some will use video cameras and fiber optics to inspect the system. Metal septic tanks are especially prone to rust damage.

Metal tanks are generally only going to last about 25 years. If you have to replace a septic system, you could easily be looking at a cost of anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on whether or not the drainage field has to be replaced at the same time.

Accordingly, it is critical, at the very least, to have a home inspection or septic system expert determine, as accurately as possible, the area used as the drainage field and to inspect that area for signs of a problem.

This is one of those tests where no news is good news. There should be nothing about the surface above the drain field that would indicate there is a drain field beneath.

If you use a dye test, you want to walk the surface of the field to see if any of the dye has surfaced. And you don't want to smell anything that you shouldn't be smelling.


Ways to Sell a House with a Failed Septic System

- Thursday, August 05, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction - Failing Septic System

If your septic system has failed and you are trying to sell your home, you have a couple of options.

Repair or replace the septic system

When it comes to achieving the highest possible sale price for your home, repairing or replacing your septic system will likely be your best option. However, you’ll need a decent chunk of change to be able to accomplish this. Septic tank cost can vary based on the size of your home and your location.

It’s also possible you could connect your home to a sewer line in your area, but this comes at a cost as well. However, keep in mind that a new septic or sewer system will be considered a capital improvement by the Internal Revenue Service, so you can add those charges to increase your cost basis. That means you may pay less in taxes on the profits from the sale.

While you can usually get a repair or replacement complete in a matter of days or weeks, it’ll require some time, energy, and money on your part. On the bright side, a new septic or sewer system will open up the pool of potential buyers considerably, and you should be able to get a fair offer price for your home.

List on the market in ‘as-is’ condition

If you can’t afford to prepare your home for sale, you can list it on the market in its current condition. Some buyers may see this as an opportunity to get a good deal, but most buyers want turnkey homes. There are pros and cons to going this route.


  • Save money on repairs
  • Save time on negotiations
  • Move quickly if you find a prospective buyer
  • Reach a smaller group of buyers
  • Receive a lower offer price
  • Potentially wait while your house sits on the market
  • Keep in mind that most lenders won’t provide a mortgage for a house with a failed septic system, so you’ll most likely be working with a cash buyer. Furthermore, you’ll still pay real estate commission fees and closing costs. You can avoid spending any money preparing your home for sale if you sell off-market.

For more information on septic tank replacement, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Signs of a Failed Septic System

- Friday, July 30, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

Before you declare your septic system a total failure, consider hiring someone to inspect, pump, and clean the system. This should be done every three to five years for most septic systems. So it’s possible maintenance neglect could be the culprit. In fact, the International Association of Home Inspectors recommends annual inspections to keep your septic system functioning properly. That’s because a malfunctioning septic system poses health and pollution risks.

The good news is, getting your septic tank pumped is relatively inexpensive. And when selling your home, most lenders and some local laws require an inspection anyway.

In some cases, however, your septic system could be beyond repair. It could be the age of the system, faulty installation, or damage from nearby landscaping or construction. In any event, here are some signs your septic system has failed:

  • Water and sewage backing up into your home through the toilets and drains
  • Slow-draining bathtubs, showers, and sinks and slow-flushing toilets
  • Gurgling noises in the plumbing
  • Wet or damp areas or bad odors near the septic tank or drainfield
  • Lush grass growth over the septic tank or drainfield; grass should be brown

If you notice one or more of these red flags, it’s likely your septic system has failed. For more information on septic tank inspections or replacement, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Selling a Property With a Septic Tank

- Thursday, July 22, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction

If you are listing the home on the open market, you should be sure that your septic system is up-to-date and in good working order. Increasingly, mortgage companies have been wanting septic tank inspections so they can know whether or not there’s a potential issue.

A septic inspection might not be necessary, though, if a seller can show that the tank has been serviced and pumped recently.

A home inspector also might request a septic system inspection if they notice that there are some signs of issues. This includes things like backflow in the drains or slow-flowing toilets.

For more information on septic tank inspections, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.