Septic System Maintenance – Top Tips

If your home has a septic system, you’ll need to keep it performing optimally to maximize its overall lifecycle and to lessen the chance of unforeseen surprises along the way. Follow these top tips for septic system maintenance.

How Do Septic Systems Work?

When your home doesn’t have a connection to a sewer system, an underground septic system stores all of your household wastewater. A conventional septic system consists of:

• a watertight tank: ranging from 500 to 1,500 gallons , depending on the number of bathrooms in the home commonly made of fiberglass, concrete, or steel in older homes averaging 10 feet square
• a drain or leach field:
• dependent on soil characteristics; determined by the percolation rate, which measures how long it takes for water to drop one inch in a saturated hole dug into your soil
• commonly 1-3 feet wide and up to 100 feet long

Solids enter the septic tank and sink to the bottom forming a sludge that then produces bacteria which slowly digests the unpleasantries. Liquids float to the top and then seep out into the drain field to be naturally filtered within the soil. While a sewer is maintained by your local municipality, it’s your sole responsibility as a homeowner to maintain your septic system.

Regularly Inspect Your Septic System

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a septic system maintenance schedule should include inspecting the mechanical workings of your septic system once a year. If your system utilizes pumps, float switches, or other electrical components, it should be inspected more frequently to ensure all parts are in working order. And remember, if any repairs need to be done to your septic system, chances are you’ll need to obtain a permit before doing any work. As a general rule of thumb, your homeowner’s insurance policy won’t cover the working components of your septic system, but it will cover damages caused by a malfunctioning system.

Septic System Maintenance Precautions

By taking a few precautions as a homeowner, you could save yourself from a future septic system nightmare down the road:By taking a few precautions as a homeowner, you could save yourself from a future septic system nightmare down the road:

  • Always dispose of hazardous household products properly and never dump them into your septic system
  • Dissolve an individual package of baker’s yeast in hot water, then pour into one of your sink drains as this helps to encourage the growth of good bacterial culture to break down solids within the tank; the same can be accomplished by using a commercially available septic tank system treatment product such as Rid-X, while following manufacturer instructions as per the gallon size of your tank 
  • Don’t plant any type of landscaping or let any water accumulate near your septic field
  • Don’t drive or park a vehicle anywhere near the system
  • Ensure gutter spouts are directed away from your septic drainage field
  • Never flush non-degradable items down your toilets
  • Use liquid laundry and dishwasher detergent to lessen the likelihood of forming a clog
  • Use green cleaners throughout your home as harmful chemicals like bleach and drain cleaners

    can alter the microorganisms in the tank and drain field        

Plumbing experts recommend that if you live in a home with a septic system, it’s best to forgo a garbage disposal unit as the added waste will require more frequent septic tank pumping, and could potentially corrode the drain field, which may lead to sewage backups. 

Reduce Your Water Consumption

The EPA advises the average single-family American household uses close to 70 gallons of water per person, per day. Having a few household rules to follow for water consumption can go a long way towards your septic system maintenance routine and the overall health of the system:

•Ask everyone to turn off taps when brushing their teeth, washing their face, or when shaving
• Add faucet aerators to slow down water flow to reduce consumption
• Swap out your shower head for a low-flow version
• Encourage shorter shower times
• Replace older toilets with a low-flow or dual flush models
• Use an Energy Star approved dishwasher and a washer/dryer

When Does Your Septic System Need Pumping?

The EPA recommends having your septic system professionally pumped out every three to five years. However, the frequency of pumping your home’s septic tank can widely depend on the number of bathrooms and people living in your household, as well as the size of the tank, the wastewater generated and volume of solids within it. Wastewater comes from using your dishwasher, washer/dryer, and toilets. Having your septic tank pumped will cost between $300 to $600, according to HomeAdvisor. Not sure who to call? Consult our DomiDocs’s list of trusted nationwide contractors to find an expert near you.

Warning Signs of Septic System Problems

While routine septic system maintenance goes a long way, there are some warning signs of septic system problems you shouldn’t ignore: •Bright green or spongy grass that stays green in a patch over the drainage field, even when it’s dry •Gurgling sounds somewhere in your plumbing system •Slowly flushing toilets •Smelly, black water (sewage) back up in your home’s toilets or drains •Pooling water on top of the drainage field If your septic system fails, it will no doubt be a disgusting problem you’ll need to deal with immediately. Yucky sewage is a breeder of dangerous contaminants and pathogens that can quickly and easily make humans and animals sick, not to mention the horrible odors your family and neighbors will have to deal with until it’s fixed. Some states, such as Massachusetts, provide residential property tax credits if you paid to upgrade your septic system to adhere to government requirements.

Common Reasons Septic Systems Fail

According to the Washington State Department of Health, the failure of a septic system is usually caused by a clog or blockage. The drainpipe from your house to the tank could be impeded, or the inlet or outlet baffles to the tank could be blocked. The drain field could fail if it becomes saturated with water that has no place to go. While the average septic system could easily last up to 40 years if well maintained, the cost of digging out and replacing an entire system could easily cost upwards of $50,000.

Keep a Septic System Maintenance Record

Be sure to keep a copy of any reports provided by a contractor for future reference and/or any new homeowners. You can easily store this report and all of your household documents securely online with our free DomiDocs Homeowner Management platform, then you’ll never have to waste time looking for paperwork again! When it comes time to sell your home, you’ll have an up-to-date log of septic maintenance you can present to your real estate agent to show it’s in good working order.
Besides protecting your home from any nasty issues by following our top tips for septic system maintenance, DomiDocs is committed to protecting your home from fraud. Why? Because according to the Federal Trade Commission, property fraud across the country has increased 6,134% from 2015 to 2020. HomeLock™ offers 24/7/365 scanning and monitoring to keep your home safe from any nefarious activities, including alerting you to any missed payments, unpaid bills, or clerical errors at the county level. 

Learn more about HomeLock™ by reading our HomeLock™ FAQ, and then be sure to sign up today!

For more information on taking care of your home, read:
7 HVAC Preventative Maintenance Tips Made Simple
DomiDocs’ New Homeowner Guide

Author – Connie Motz