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Home Improvement 101: Septic Tanks

Plumbing Systems

Learning the Basics of Septic Tanks and Plumbing Systems

Here’s the thing: only 20 percent of homes have septic systems. Homeowners will likely never see one, as they’re buried deep underground. Septic systems partially treat wastewater before it goes to the drain field, where it’s treated further.

Yet, homeowners with septic systems should have a basic understanding of how they work. Doing so can prevent problems from threatening the home’s plumbing system and operations.

What Is a Septic System?

As noted, a septic system partially treats wastewater that leaves the home. Here’s a brief explanation of what it does:

  • Wastewater travels through the plumbing system
  • The water enters the septic tank
  • The water sits in the tank as waste (such as feces) settles to the bottom
  • Anaerobic bacteria cleans the water (to some extent)
  • The water leaves the septic tank and enters a drain field
  • The water is treated further at the soil absorption field

Septic tanks are usually underground chambers made of concrete, rock, and other material. They’re usually present in homes that use well water or do not use water meters. Also, if one’s neighbor has a septic system, their home does, too.

The Signs of Septic System Failure

Pooling water on the lawn

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one should take immediate action if their septic tank:

  • Backs up into sinks and bathtubs: If a septic tank gets too full, the water could back up into the home. As one can imagine, this water (usually containing food residue and feces) is not sanitary. The EPA notes that one should flush their septic system once every three years to avoid this problem.
  • Pooling water on the lawn: Sometimes, septic tanks don’t back up into homes. Instead, the water backs up into the lawn, causing foul-smelling, soggy patches.
  • The lawn looks healthier than usual: Lawns thrive off the nutrients in fecal matter and other wastewater bacteria. This can cause algae bloom, excessive weed growth, and discolored areas.

A septic system repairs specialist can evaluate one’s plumbing system and apply the necessary repairs. They can also share the other signs of septic tank issues.

Septic Tank Maintenance Tips

Septic Tank Maintenance Tips

As noted by the EPA, one should flush their septic system every three years. This is more complicated than pushing a lever and calling it a day. It requires one to have an understanding of how plumbing systems work. Many professionals discourage homeowners from DIY septic cleaning measures. In that instance, it’s wise to consult a professional rather than risk causing further damage.

Other septic system maintenance tips include:

  • Keep septic tank lids tight and secure: This prevents water from leaving the plumbing system.
  • Use less water: The less water a home uses, the longer its septic system could last. A septic system, with proper maintenance, can last up to 40 years without any problems.
  • Limit using garbage disposal: Garbage disposals are tough on septic tanks. They allow grease, oils, and fats to accumulate in the system. Over time, this could lead to clogs, leaks, and other serious issues.