The Beginner’s Guide to Septic Tank Maintenance

How important is septic tank maintenance, you ask? Well, considering that a functioning septic tank is what keeps your property from flooding with sewage, we’d say it’s pretty important.

So the other question is, how are you supposed to maintain your septic tank? And we’re about to answer that one, too. 

Below is a complete guide to help homeowners like you understand septic tank maintenance. It gives you specific steps you need to follow in order to keep your septic system working right. And it explains how your septic tank works so you can get an idea of why these steps are important.

To learn all about it, read on. More importantly, if you’ve never performed these maintenance steps, get started on them right away.

How a Septic System Works

Your septic system has two main parts: the tank and the drainfield. Here’s what they do.

The Tank

The tank itself is basically a big, underground container. Everything that goes down any drain in your house flows into the tank. Once collected there, these contents separate into three distinct layers. 

The heavier solids will sink to the bottom, forming a layer of sludge. Oils and other buoyant solids will float, forming a layer of scum on top. What remains in the middle is a layer of partially treated wastewater.

The Drainfield

The drainfield is what it sounds like. It’s a field that the partially treated wastewater drains into.

This process doesn’t happen on the surface of the field, though. The water is released underground, deep enough to prevent the surface from becoming a big, muddy mess.

When the wastewater is pushed into the soil, the soil treats the water a second time. This process removes contaminants from the wastewater before it reaches the groundwater beneath the soil. Essentially, it’s a lot like the process of running tap water through a carbon filter.

Alternative Systems

Speaking of manmade filter systems, alternative treatment systems are necessary on properties where the soil is inadequate for use as a drainfield. The special filtration system might require extra maintenance of its own.

Why Is Septic Tank Maintenance Necessary?

As you can see, septic systems are quite adept at taking care of themselves, for the most part. Still, the sludge and scum will build up over time. This can cause the system to fail if these layers of waste increase beyond the tank’s capacity. 

Besides that, other problems can occur unexpectedly. It’s important to have your system checked once in a while to make sure everything’s working properly.

Septic Tank Maintenance Steps

Fortunately, these systems are not very high maintenance. To prevent system failure, here are the steps you need to follow.

1. Professional Inspection/Pumping Your Septic Tank

The most basic step of septic tank maintenance is clearing out the buildup of sludge and scum. On average, this should be done about every 3 years. But that’s not a one-size-fits-all rule.

After all, houses and septic tanks come in different sizes. Depending on those factors, plus the number of people using the home, you might need to have yours pumped more often than that. To know for sure, you’ll need a professional inspection.

If you’ve never had your septic tank inspected, get this done right away. Otherwise, plan to have it inspected every three years or according to the instructions of the one who inspects it.

What to Expect When You’re Getting an Inspection

First of all, you should be prepared to record what the inspector says about your septic system. Be sure to include the date that the inspection takes place.

Hopefully, your tank is easy to access. But it may require a little digging to get to it.

The septic worker will inspect the levels of sludge and scum to see if the tank needs pumping. If you have a record of the previous inspection, the inspector can tell you how long it will be before you’ll need to pump again. So, this time around, make sure you record how many inches the scum and sludge layers are from the outlets.

The inspector will also look for any cracks, leaks, or other problems that could lead to system failure. Such problems can also be hazardous to the environment.

2. Don’t Flush That!

There are a lot of items that you should never flush because your septic system isn’t designed to process them. A lot of these items can also clog your plumbing. Clogs cause pressure buildup, which might cause sewage backup.

The basic rule for toilets is that you should only flush human waste, liquid waste, and toilet paper. You should never flush:

  • Hair
  • Facial tissues
  • Plastic
  • Dental floss
  • Menstrual hygiene products
  • Contraceptives
  • Cigarette butts
  • Gum

Don’t put items like these down any drain. Also, avoid putting eggshells, potato peels, and coffee grounds down the kitchen sink drain. 

Harsh chemicals should never go down your drain, either. Examples include paint thinners, lighter fluid, pesticides, oils, and automotive products.

These chemicals can kill the beneficial organisms and enzymes that break down solid waste in your septic system, leading to blockages and system failure. Only chemicals that are specified as household cleaners should ever go down your drains.

3. Don’t Waste Water

Your drainfield can only treat so much water at a time. Using more water than you really need to will give your septic system more water than it can handle.

So, keep your septic system working efficiently by conserving water. For example, use a high-efficiency dishwasher and washing machine. And never leave the water running if you’re not using it.

4. Drainfield Care

If you don’t know where your drainfield is, find out now. You can’t maintain it if you don’t know where it is.

After that, you basically just leave it alone. Never park or drive motor vehicles or heavy machinery on your drainfield. 

Keep trees several yards away from it so the roots won’t interfere with it. Also, keep gutters and all other drainage/irrigation systems from flowing into your drainfield.

Don’t Neglect Septic Tank Maintenance

Don’t let septic tank failure happen to you. Keep this list and follow these septic tank maintenance steps as often as necessary.

Is your septic tank in need of service or repair? Don’t hesitate. Contact Klein Excavating and Septic right away before disaster happens.

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