7 Steps Everyone Needs To Know About Basic Septic Maintenance

Woman works on garbage disposalMany homes throughout the country are considered “off the grid” when it comes to being part of their local municipalities sewer system. These homes typically have septic tanks installed on their property while building the home.

With the septic tank, a septic field is also allocated in the yard that will help the homeowner notice if there are any problems with the tank itself. Although many homeowners may think a septic tank is void of any maintenance, there are several steps you can take to increase the longevity of the tank.

How Septic Tanks Work

On average, a septic tank will last 25 years if maintained properly. Most if not all tanks are buried underground which can lead to forgetting about maintaining them. A septic tank has one large pipe that connects to multiple pipes from inside the home. While solids tend to fall to the bottom, grease and fat will rise to the top of the tank. Water separates the two layers of sludge from one another inside the tank.  Anaerobic bacteria will break down some but not all of the sludge contained within the tank and it will be dispersed into the septic or drain field.

If a septic tank is not maintained and pumped on a regular basis, the opening for the sludge to flow into the drain field will become covered, causing a back up into the home. This is a major repair expense and can be avoided by taking proactive measures. Other issues could be causing a soggy lawn.

Seven Ways to Help Keep Your Septic Tank and Field in Working Order

  1. A septic tank should be pumped once every 3 to 5 years and this depends on the gallon size of the tank and the number of people in the home.
  2. Don’t ever drive a vehicle over the drain field. This can cause damage to the gravel tile used to filter the flow from the septic tank into the ground.
  3. Check your levels on an annual basis through the inspection pipe installed with most if not all septic tanks. See where the level of sludge is to help determine if it is time to pump.
  4. Don’t use a garbage disposal if at all possible. This will add more solid waste in the septic tank and can help clog the opening. If you must have a garbage disposal, use a screen filter over the opening at the sink to help catch the larger pieces of food.
  5. Putting grease down your kitchen sink is not recommended ever. Have a grease can that you can filter any cooking grease into, freeze it and when full, throw the grease away.
  6. Use only cleaning chemicals that are recommended for use with a septic tank. Other chemicals can destroy the bacteria in the tank that breaks up the solids.
  7. Keep an eye on older trees around the septic tank. If necessary, get a tree removal quote. Typically, older trees will have larger roots which can penetrate the tank, pipes or drain tiles causing a major repair or replacement of the equipment.

Keeping your septic tank and field in good working order does take some monitoring. Preventative maintenance is imperative to ensure that your septic system will not become clogged and back up into your home. If your system does back up into your home, contact a plumbing contractor that specially has a septage permit and can help you arrange for excavation, repair, clean up and disposal of the sludge according to disposal guidelines.

By Steph McGuinn

Carolyn Dobson enjoys writing about proper home maintenance. In her spare time, she enjoys caring for her garden and riding her horses.