How to Maintain Your Home’s Septic System
Maintaining your home's septic system not only makes your plumbing work more smoothly, but can also save you from expensive repairs on down the road. In addition, by properly maintaining your home's septic system, you will avoid not-so-pleasant odors and possible health hazards. Appropriate maintenance can also eliminate the possibility of contamination of your well water, if you have a well.
What You Need to Know About Your Septic System
Many homeowners know very little about their septic systems, only that they have one. Before we go into the maintenance steps that you should take for your septic system, let's look first at the inner workings of a septic system. Waste water from your home is routed to your septic tank which is engineered to retain waste. Heavy solids settle to the bottom where they are somewhat decomposed by bacteria in order to form sludge. From the septic tank, a pipe leads to a distribution box where wasted is routed into perforated pipes that are installed in a gravel trench. The liquid from the waste slowly seeps into the surrounding soil in the septic system's drain field while dissolved wastes are absorbed into soil particles.
Possible Problems and Signs of Trouble in Your Septic System
Oftentimes, the first sign of trouble with your septic tank are standing water or a wet area in your yard. This can be caused when sludge clogs the drain field, when waste water is kept from dispersing throughout the drain field because of broken pipes or tree roots, or when household consumption of water overworks the system and has nowhere to go. Waste water that seeps through the ground can pose a risk to human health and cause serious odor problems as well. Another signal that your septic tank may not be in working order is when your toilet or other drain in the home runs more slowly than usual or becomes backed up. Many homeowners have also experienced the septic tank backing up into the basement, which can be due to a plugged outlet or inlet pipe, stopped up sewage lines, a septic tank that has reached its maximum capacity, or a simple failure of the drain field. However, one of the earliest warning signs of trouble with your septic tank may be odors, either in your home, above the tank's location, or anywhere in the septic system's drain field.
Locating Your Septic System
It is important to know where your septic system is located, not just in case of needed repairs, but because knowing its location will allow you to protect it from damage. Many homeowners do not know where their septic system is located, and thus have no idea where to look (or smell) for possible pending trouble. Wherever the drain pipe leaves your home is a good clue that can point you toward the septic tank, where you will likely find inspection ports or depressions that mark the trenches of the septic system. If you live in an area where you get snow in the winter, your septic tank and the area around it will be the first place that snow melts - which is a good clue to finding the septic tank and lines. Most septic systems are unmarked. If you cannot locate your septic system, check the paperwork that you received with your home - where you will often find a map of the system in relation to the home. You can also check with your local health department that is in charge of regulating septic systems in your area. When you find your septic system, it is a good idea to place a marker on its location for future reference.
Maintaining Your Home's Septic System
These tips will help you maintain your home's septic system to avoid problems in the future: