You’ve found the perfect home in your price range. It has a layout you love, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need, and it sits on a lovely plot of land—but it has a septic tank. If you’ve never owned a home with a septic tank before, you might be wondering how this might affect your daily life and what kind of maintenance the septic system will require.
Below, we’ll give you a breakdown of some essential information you should know before buying a home with a septic system.
In a home where the plumbing is connected to a municipal sewer, everything that goes down your drains empties out into the municipal sewer. In a home with a septic tank, everything that goes down your drain ends up in the septic tank. Waste sinks to the tank’s bottom (forming sludge) and scum floats to the top. In the middle, there’s a layer of wastewater that gets decontaminated and dispersed into nearby soil by the septic system’s drainfield.
Obviously, you don’t want your septic tank to get filled up with sludge and scum, so every so often, you’ll need to call a plumbing company to pump the waste out of your tank. The tank’s size and how you use it will determine how often it will need to be pumped, but in general, septic tanks need to be pumped every three to five years.
As mentioned above, the drainfield decontaminates wastewater from your septic tank and disperses it into the surrounding soil. It’s essential that nothing interferes with this process. You’ll need to make sure that you never park on the drainfield and avoid planting anything large or invasive near or on top of it.
You should also make sure that none of your home’s drainage systems empty water out in your drainfield’s vicinity. This can create excess water that will slow down the wastewater treatment process or halt it altogether.
Using too much water at once can disrupt how your septic system works. The waste needs time to settle. If too much water is moving through the tank all at once, solids that are supposed to settle at the bottom can flow into wastewater exit pipes and create a blockage.
To reduce the likelihood of a septic system issue, experts recommend running several loads of laundry throughout the week instead of having a designated “laundry day,” during which you run all the loads one after the other. It’s also helpful to spread out your family’s showers if you have a lot of people in your household.
Similar to the human stomach, a septic tank contains beneficial bacteria. These bacteria help break down solid waste. It’s crucial to protect these bacteria so that your septic system will function correctly.
While many cleaning products are compatible with septic systems, using them in large quantities can cause problems. For this reason, it’s best to stick with septic-safe cleaning products. Proceed with caution especially with disinfecting products that might end up down your drains: a couple of gallons of chlorine bleach can wipe out nearly all of a 1,000-gallon tank’s beneficial bacteria.
Septic systems can last anywhere from 15 to 40 years depending on how they’re used and how well they’re maintained. It can be quite costly to replace a septic system, so it’s a good idea to learn how old the system is before buying the home so that you can budget accordingly. If, however, you’re seeing possible septic system trouble during your first look at the house with your realtor, you may want to consider putting septic tank repairs in your contract.
Some common signs of septic system failure include:
- Water that drains really slowly in showers, bathtubs, and sinks.
- Gurgling sounds from the plumbing below showers, bathtubs, and sinks.
- Water backing up into drains.
- Sewage smells near the tank or drainfield.
- Damp areas or puddles of standing water near the tank or drainfield.
- Particularly bright, lush patches of grass near the tank or drainfield.
Since opening our doors over 15 years ago, our plumbing experts have been dedicated to providing top-notch septic system maintenance, repairs, replacements, and installations. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at (615) 645-2322 or contact us online today!