Do’s and Don’ts of Septic System Maintenance

People have a certain perception of septic systems. The perceptions are usually fueled by horror stories or personal experiences with the wastewater systems. To be fair, when things go bad with a septic system, they go very bad. As in giant-hole-in-your-yard-sludge-everywhere bad. Despite their bad rap, septic systems are seeing an emergence in popularity among younger homebuyers. This is due in large part to their reputation as a more eco-friendly option for management of the wastewater produced by homes.

Like all systems in your home, septic systems require regular maintenance to function properly and prevent expensive and inconvenient breakdowns.

To understand how to properly maintain a septic tank, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how the system works. Septic tanks are not always an alternative to a municipal sewer connection. In some instances, they are the only choice. Connectivity to the sewer system can be expensive. That expense can be alleviated through the economy of multiple homes being connected, such as in a subdivision or populated neighborhood. The benefit of connection to the municipal sewer system is that maintenance and repair is the responsibility of the city. The downside is that you as the homeowner are responsible for all associated costs, paid in the form of taxes and monthly service fees.

In remote areas where connection to the sewer is not an economical or logistically viable option, septic systems can fill the need. By contrast, a septic tank is the responsibility of the homeowner and the associated costs are generally only clean out of the tank.

A septic tank is just as the name implies—a large tank buried in your yard. The tank is watertight and typically constructed from steel or concrete. As water from your sinks, baths, toilets, dishwasher, or washing machine passes through the drain, it is held in the septic tank. Inside the tank, heavier solids settle to the bottom while lighter solids—such as grease—rise to the top. Water remains between the two layers and as the water level rises, it is eventually released through a baffle into a series of pipes known as the drain field. The perforated pipes are held inside a gravel-filled trench which returns the water to the soil.

Like all of the systems that keep your home running smoothly and comfortably, properly maintaining the individual components can help keep the entire system healthy.

Tips to maintain your septic tank.

Inspect Your Tank Annually

Your tank should be inspected annually by a professional. Between inspections, be on the lookout for indications of  potential problems in the system such as surface wetness, extra vegetation growth around the drain field, or gurgling sounds coming from the tank.

Have Your System Pumped

Typically your septic system will need to be pumped every three years to remove the solids that accumulate. Three years is a great general rule for cleaning, but your system may require more frequent or less frequent cleanings depending on usage. Once the solid accumulation fills more than 25% of your tank, it is time for cleaning. Otherwise, the increased mass may force solid materials into your drain field causing larger problems.

Keep Your Drains Clean

The rules for drain maintenance with a septic tank are the same as with a sewer connection. Avoid placing grease and fat down the drain. With a septic tank, you should avoid using a garbage disposal.Do not rinse coffee grounds, eggshells or fibrous vegetables down the drain. Your septic tank has an ecosystem that consists of bacteria that help break down solids. Because of this, you should not pour abrasive chemicals into your drains at the risk of killing the bacteria.

Practice Water Conservation

You can reduce the stress on your septic system by decreasing overall water usage in your home. Look for simple conservation techniques that can be easily adopted in your household. Do not drain large amounts of water—such as a hot tub or pool—into your septic system.

McElroy’s is the name to trust for repair, cleaning, and maintenance of your home’s plumbing systems. Our exceptional craftsmen can help you keep your home running in top form. Should a problem arise, we will help you find a solution that fixes your problem and matches your budget.

Contact us today to schedule service.

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