Approximately a third of Americans treat the waste in their homes via a septic system.The overall design of a septic tank is simple: all drains in a home drain to one pipe that leads to a septic tank. Tanks are buried outside of the home, deep in the yard. When waste water exits your home, it is all combined and drains through the single pipe. When it enters the septic tank, it begins separating into three layers (called “septage”), bottom to top:
- Sludge: heavy, solid waste
- Effluent/Gray Water: clear liquid layer
- Scum: fats, oils, and proteins that float on the top
In an average system, the effluent layer is discharged from the septic tank and into a drain field consisting of several pipes with holes in them, that are responsible for releasing the liquid below ground. The effluent is filtered by the soil, and often acts as a fertilizer for the grass above it; as a result, the drain field is usually directly under the healthiest part of the yard.
Septic tanks require a lot of monitoring by homeowners in order to prevent serious issues. Unfortunately, once septic tanks become problematic, it is too late for a plumber to offer a simple solution. At Best Plumber Seattle, we suggest that our customers who utilize a septic system get routine inspections and maintenance done by a professional to maximize the lifespan and functionality of your system. During an annual check, a plumber will check the water level in your tank, measure the solid levels on the bottom, and measure the levels of scum on top. It is recommended that you pump your tank about every three to five years, but it could be recommended that you pump it more depending on the appliances you use and the size of your household. Between inspections, it is important to check for any signs of septic problems, which can include: backed up toilets and drains, sewer smells in and around the house, or standing water in your yard above the tank. Septic systems require special care and maintenance that, if adhered to, can prevent serious problems from arising. Try to avoid letting certain substances and items enter your system. Some examples include:
Solids: try to limit the amount of solids that are being flushed into your tank. Do not flush feminine hygiene products (in any system, not just septic), paper towels, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, etc.
Garbage disposal: avoid over-using your garbage disposal, as this waste will be disposed of in your system.
Household Cleaners: try to use organic and biodegradable products when possible. Do not use drain cleaners, as the slightest amount can turn your septic tank into a major problem.
Hazardous Substances: do not put gasoline, paint thinners, or motor oil into your septic system.
Grease and Fat: grease and oil can clog a septic system and the drain field, which can pollute the surrounding soil in your yard.
What do you do when your septic system malfunctions? If you do not keep up with the regular maintenance of your septic system, the system can overflow and malfunction. Overflow can lead back to your home, and septic waste can find itself in your toilets and drains. Septic overflows can also lead to unprocessed waste in the drain field. When this happens, water can seep above ground and cause a flooded yard. Flooding can cause issues below ground, as well, especially with groundwater. To avoid contaminating water supplies and your home, be sure to keep up with the required maintenance of your septic system.
If you find sewage in your house, check the water level of your tank. If it is lower than the outlet, call a plumber to inspect. The pipe between your home and tank might be clogged. If the level is higher than your outlet, this is indicative of a more serious issue. We recommend starting with having your tank pumped. In doing so, you will have more time to get your system inspected and to find a rational solution that works best for you and your family.
Be sure to keep people away from standing water or soggy soil around a septic tank. This can be a bio hazard, and should be addressed by a trained professional.
If your drain field is failing, it is often caused because a septic system was not pumped often enough. A drain field failure can be a result of thick sludge and scum layers, which throw off the environment inside a septic tank. If scum gets into the drain field, the oils and grease can clog it, which will result in a sewage smell and possible standing water above your tank. If you are noticing a smell or standing water, the problem is most likely beyond repair and will require a replacement. In general, a drain field will last about thirty years before it begins experiencing natural wear and tear.
Replacing a septic tank can be difficult, and depends on many factors. When replacing a septic tank, we consider the tank size, tank material, surrounding soil chemistry, permits, and installation charges. If you are in the market for a new septic tank or system, call Best Plumber Seattle today. We will send a trained technician to your home and we will work with you to find the best fit for your family. If sewage is backing up in your harm, or you’re smelling terrible odors, this is a telltale sign that there might be an issue with your septic system. Our technician will recommend a replacement or repair, depending on the level of damage. If the problem is as simple as a broken pipe, a repair could be relatively simple. But, if you need a completely new treatment system, a total replacement might be the only solution.
Most issues with septic systems can be solved relatively easily, but tend to be costly repairs. If you are worried about your septic system, call Best Plumber Seattle and get a professional opinion. We will send a trained, licensed professional to your home for a consultation. We promise you will receive the best service in the Seattle area, with our primary goal always being customer satisfaction and a quick turnaround. Call our office at (206) 201-0181 today and let us help you.