More than 60 million people in the United States use septic systems. Septic systems effectively treat and dispose of household wastewaters produced in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry. These systems are made to maintain water treatment for long periods of time, though most systems that fail prematurely are due to improper maintenance. Issues that occur can be minor, like broken pipes or blockages from tree root infiltration. More serious problems can require a replacement drainfield or a new system altogether.
How do I know if I need a new septic tank?
Septic systems should allow efficient treatment of household waste for an average of 25-30 years. Though, an improperly maintained system can potentially cause huge problems. These issues are not usually visible until sewage rises into the yard, or backs up into the plumbing system. If sewage backs up into the house or yard, you can be certain your septic system is having issues. You will most likely need to replace some or all of your system.
Should I repair my tank or replace it?
When replacing or installing a septic system, the first step is consulting a professional. If you’re having issues with a current system, it is smart to contact a plumber (or whoever originally installed it). A professional can advise you of what the issue is and what your options are concerning repair or replacement. You can contact your local health department or environmental agency to help finance extensive septic work. They may know of current tax credits or financing programs.
What to do when installing a new septic system
If you’re installing a new system, a consultation will be needed to determine if your land meets the requirements. The drainfield usually requires at least a 1 acre lot size. Local health departments can issue construction and operating permits to install septic systems. The local permitting agency will also conduct a site assessment to determine whether the soils can provide adequate treatment. They will ensure that nearby ground water resources will not be jeopardized. When deciding where to install your system, keep in mind to leave enough room between your drainfield and future projects like pools, driveways or anything that might interfere with the septic system area.
Is my land right for a septic tank?
If you have a small-sized yard, you may be able to use a more compact system that fits your size restrictions. This is also a great option for homeowners who want to utilize more of their yard space with future projects like additions or pools. In soil types that are too shallow to provide treatment, it may be possible to use an advanced pretreatment unit to add to the soil’s capacity. Several different types of septic systems are available, each with its own design (Gravity System, Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU), Drip Irrigation, etc.) Though, traditionally a conventional system is the most common. It consists of three main parts: the septic tank, the drainfield, and the soil beneath the drainfield.
The size of your tank is mandated by the number of bedrooms in your home.
|Bedrooms||Sq Footage||Tank Size|
|1-2||0-1,500 sq ft||750 gallons|
|3||1,500-2,500 sq ft||1,000 gallons|
|4||2,500-3,500 sq ft||1,250 gallons|
|5||3,500-4,500 sq ft||1,250 gallons|
How to keep your septic system working properly
- Keep water usage low (tanks allow on average about 50 gallons of water per day for each family member)
- Do not flush paper materials (sanitary napkins, applicators, paper towels, wipes)
- Limit the use of your garbage disposal to cut down excess solids
- Do not pour grease, cooking oils or fats down the drain (also stay away from pesticides, paints, paint thinners, solvents, disinfectants and other household chemicals)
- Have the filter in the septic tank cleaned and solids pumped out of the septic tank regularly (every 2-3 years depending on tank size)
- Do not allow the drainfield to become barren (grass growth will insulate the area in colder months)
- Do not park cars or heavy equipment on top of the system
- Use landscaping to direct excess waters away (foundation drains, gutter downspouts, and overflow from paved areas)