Most of us don’t have to worry too much about maintaining a septic system for the simple fact that the water and other plumbing waste produced in our homes is sent to a collective sewer system for our neighborhood or the city at large. However, some homes have their own, private septic tanks. You may encounter this if you buy a home that lies outside of city limits, that is part of a new development, or that has been built on privately owned land rather than as part of a larger development. And if you end up with a home that has its own septic system, you will have to maintain it if you want it to keep working properly.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts that should help to ensure you don’t end up with septic problems when your home features its own system.
1. Make sure you have the right tank. Tank size is generally based on the number of rooms in the home rather than the number of people living there. But more people means more usage, so if you have a large family or you build an addition, you’re going to want to increase the size of your septic tank to account for the increases. You also need to make sure your tank isn’t meant for temporary usage. Some are used during construction with the assumption that the home will switch to the city’s sewage line later on. If this doesn’t happen, it’s important to replace your tank with a more permanent (concrete) solution.
2. Provide easy access. Your septic system is buried underground, so it might not be that easy to get to for cleaning, emptying, and other needed service and repairs. For this reason it’s probably a good idea to install some kind of access to the tank for ease of use. You’ll be glad you have it should any problems arise.
3. Regulate water use. The average person is estimated to use around 50 gallons of water a day. If your family members are exceeding this amount, you could start to see septic issues like standing water on your drain field. And this can cause health concerns, not to mention a bad odor and other issues. So you need to lay some ground rules concerning conservation and usage for family members in order to preserve your system.
1. Allow harmful products into the system. There are all kinds of items that can lead to problems when you have a dedicated septic system. Sanitary napkins and other feminine products are a pretty well-known issue, and they should obviously not be flushed. But you can also get into trouble if you pour grease and oil down your drains and if you run a lot of food through your garbage disposal. So be careful about what goes down the drain.
2. Keep the drain field clear. You cannot park your cars, erect outbuildings, or place anything above your drain fields, including vegetation. For one thing, these areas can become marshy, leading heavy objects to sink. But even beyond this, there is some risk of health hazard. And of course, you may need to access all parts of your system for maintenance, cleaning, and repairs.
3. Contract for regular service and cleaning. In order to properly maintain your septic system it is imperative that you have it cleaned, emptied, and otherwise serviced or repaired by professionals regularly. Securing appropriate equipment from a national tank outlet is a good start, as is making sure that the layout of your tank and drain field is right for your area (up to code, etc.). But if you fail to maintain your system, you’ll have nothing but trouble with your home septic.