Septic Systems and Sewer….whats the difference?

Dirty Jobs

I love Mike Rowe’s show “Dirty Jobs”. I don’t mind getting dirty but at the level he gets into, I try to avoid if possible. One of those areas is when we talk about septic systems. In my area of eastern NC, we are for the most part, a rural community. There are some areas that have sewer provided, but by and large, most of the homes we have are on septic systems. They are much more common!

How does it work…

Its a tough subject to tackle but from time to time, I will have a buyer who is uncertain of what it is. Its not a cess pool in the back yard where things just go (although that was a thing a long time ago), rather it’s a system that holds and filters waste to make things much more sanitary. 

All the waste from the home move to the septic tank. Simply put, when you flush or put something in the drain, it goes through the plumbing and ends up in the septic tank. Solids sink to the bottom and fluids rise to the top. They are filtered and then move to the “D-box” and finally to the drain field. 

Septic Permit

When installed, the county issues a septic permit. That permit takes into consideration the size of the entire system (tank, lines, drain field, etc) and that determines the amount of people that can safely occupy the home and ultimately the bedroom size of a home. In NC, the number of advertised bedrooms has nothing to do with closets or windows but everything to do with the size of the septic system. If a home is equipped with space for 5 bedrooms but is permitted for 3, it is legally a 3 bedroom home and must be advertised as such. 


A septic system should be regularly pumped and inspected by a licensed professional. Its the owners responsibility to make sure the system is functioning properly….the city or county has nothing to do with that part. Any reasonable buyer is going to want to have the septic inspected, so a seller would benefit from having it checked and pumped before listing the home. I have another video on the importance of these inspections for sellers on an earlier blog post. 

If you are getting value from these post, I’m sure there are others in your circle that coudl do the same. I hope you will help me in helping them by passing them along or sharing them on your own social media. Unitl next time……

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Chris Whitehurst

Rose and Womble Real Estate

252 312 2263