QDEAR BARRY: When we bought our home, the real estate listing showed the property as having a septic tank, rather than a sewer hookup. We didn't notice this, and our agent never recommended a septic inspection. Now we want to build an addition in the back yard, but we can't get a permit because we don't know where the septic tank is. The title company says it was not responsible for this disclosure, and our home inspector says that septic systems are not within the scope of a home inspection. How can we determine the location of this tank? -- Dena

ADEAR DENA: Your agent should have recommended a septic system inspection before you completed the purchase of the property. Although it is important to know the location of the tank, of far greater concern are unanswered questions regarding the condition of the tank and leach field. Old septic systems are likely candidates for deterioration and other defects, some of which might require replacement of the system. It is essential that you hire a licensed septic contractor now.

Locating the tank is routine for an experienced professional. Standard procedure is to explore the ground with a long metal probe, inserting it into the soil until the top of the tank is detected.

If this method fails, there are electronic means, employing a transmitting device that is flushed down the toilet. The transmitter broadcasts a signal from the septic tank, which is located by a radio receiver.

Once the tank is found, it is excavated and pumped dry. This enables a full inspection of the interior to determine quality, adequacy and physical condition. Observing the rate at which water drains from the tank indicates the condition of the leach field (that portion of a septic system that allows liquid effluent to drain into the earth.)

If the location of the tank interferes with your planned addition, it may have to be abandoned, and another tank may have to be installed. However, if sewer service is available, installing a sewer connection would be a worthwhile upgrade to the property.

DEAR BARRY: Our new home is under construction. Unfortunately, the roof leaked during the last rains, and mold showed up on some of the wall and floor surfaces. Should the drywall, insulation and floor materials be replaced in these areas, or can the problem be corrected in some other manner? -- Sandra

DEAR SANDRA: Mold has become such a major concern in recent years that some insurance companies refuse to write homeowners policies for any home that has had a mold problem. Therefore, total removal of all affected materials is recommended.

It would also be appropriate for the builder to have a mold survey performed so that you will have professional documentation to verify that there is no residual contamination.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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