septic tank

As a new homeowner you often go through a learning process. Often there are things about maintaining your home that you had not thought of or may not have had to worry about before. If your home has a private septic system there are a few key things you need to do to ensure your system works as effectively as possible.

If properly maintained and cared for, your septic system can provide you with many years of effective disposal of your household wastewater.

If your septic system isn’t maintained, you may end up needing to replace it, which can cost you thousands. It is my intent to help you better understand your septic system and to let you know about some simple things you can do to ensure your system works well for the long term.

A normal septic system is made up of four basic parts:

  • Pipe from your house
  • Septic tank
  • Drain-field
  • The soil.

All of your home’s wastewater exits your house through a pipe to the septic tank. The septic tank is buried under ground and made to be watertight. It allows the waste coming from your house to be held in one area long enough for the solids in the wastewater to settle while other parts of the waste float/rise to the surface. The septic tank then holds the solids/sludge and keeps it from draining into your drain-field lines. Most tanks have risers with lids at grade level to accommodate inspections and pumping of the tank.

The remainder of the wastewater leaves the septic tank and is discharged into the drain-field. Sometimes your drain-field can become overloaded with too much liquid and it will flood, causing sewage to get into the ground or by creating backups into your home. This is also another reason why you should have your septic tank pumped on a regular basis and your main line running from the house to the tank cabled/snaked as preventive maintenance.

Root intrusion is when roots grown into the line coming from your house to the tank or often times at the baffle (connection point between tank and line) running from your house to the tank can interfere with the disposal process of wastewater, and can also prevent your septic systems from working properly. You should have a typical septic system inspected at least every 3 years by a professional, and your tank pumped every 3-5 years, depending on the number of people in your household and your water usage. Some systems may require annual service.

Here are some things that can impact how often you need to pump your tank: the number of people in your household, the amount of wastewater used, the volume of solids in the wastewater (be conscious of what you are putting down your drains – garbage disposals will increase the amount of solids going into your wastewater), and the size of your tank.

drain field

The last part of maintaining an effective septic system is the drain-field. The drain-field is an important part of your system, and if it fails or becomes ineffective, your tanks and lines will be impacted substantially. Make sure to only plant grass in close proximity to your septic systems. As I mentioned before roots from trees or shrubs can cause damage to your drain-field lines. Try to avoid driving or parking vehicles on any part of your septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in your drain-field or damage the pipes, tank, or other septic system components. During winter months it can also push the frost down further into the ground causing your lines to freeze. Also try and keep excess water from draining near your drain-field. Re-routing roof drains, sump pumps and other drain systems can help prevent flooding or excessive water saturation in the soil which can prevent the drain-field lines from working properly and will again lead to backups in your home.

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